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A Cleaner Environment, a Stronger Economy

2014 August 13
Tom Reynolds


August 13, 2014
2:21 pm EDT

When we last heard from the Chamber of Commerce, they were releasing a report that made unfounded assumptions about EPA’s commonsense standards to cut the harmful pollution from power plants. The Washington Post Fact Checker later gave those citing the study a “Four Pinocchio” rating.
Yesterday, the Chamber had another blog post that both misrepresents EPA’s analysis of the economic impact of its regulations and misleads about a recent GAO study.

EPA is keenly aware that our economy is on the rebound and that policy makers are concerned about impacts on employment — that is why we have increased the amount of employment analysis we perform over the last several years, particularly for economically significant rules.

EPA customizes our analysis to each regulation, quantifying employment impacts when data and techniques are available, and noting the challenges with any approach we use. GAO’s report acknowledges that “limited methods, studies, and models [are] available for assessing the potential effects of regulation on employment.” While GAO notes that one peer-reviewed study which EPA used for some rules had limitations, GAO noted in their report that “EPA acknowledged in the Regulatory Impact Analyses that the study has these limitations.” GAO does not identify any other peer-reviewed studies that EPA could have used to attempt to quantify employment impacts at that time and EPA continues to look for new approaches to better characterize economic impacts, holding workshops and seeking input from independent experts.

The big picture is that industry has cried wolf about job losses for almost every major EPA standard. And those doomsday predictions are always wrong – Americans have shown time and time again that we can innovate to reduce pollution and grow our economy at the same time. For more than four decades, the nation has cut air pollution by 70 percent and the economy has more than tripled.

By contrast, in 1990 utilities warned of thousands of layoffs, industry shutdowns and “the potential destruction of the Midwest economy.” Business groups sponsored studies that claimed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 would cost up to 2 million jobs. Those predictions never came to pass. Instead industry innovated, pollution was reduced, and the economy grew. While the Chamber of Commerce and others continue to produce analyses that undercount the ability of our economy to innovate and ignore the benefits of a cleaner environment, history confirms that we don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and economic growth. The two go hand in hand.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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