Story highlights

Anti-pollution advocates dispute job loss from regulations

Report cites job gains because of environmental upgrades

Power company executive agrees new rules created jobs

Curtis Bay, Maryland CNN —  

With a coal-fired power plant in the background, an environmental group released a report Tuesday disputing any link between tighter anti-pollution laws and a loss of jobs.

“Environmental regulations do not kill jobs,” said William Baker, the president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, “environmental regulations actually create jobs.”

One example was on display at the Constellation Energy Brandon Shores power plant, where a “scrubber” is taking smokestack emissions from the burning of coal and is cleaning the output in compliance with a state law known as the Maryland Healthy Air Act of 2006.

Power company Vice President Paul Allen told reporters, “Indeed, there are more people employed here now than before the project was undertaken, and that’s all to the good.”

Allen, the company’s top environmental policy executive, said about 1,400 people were hired to work on the two-year upgrade, and that more than two dozen permanent staff were added to run the new equipment.

The report from the environmental group, called “Debunking the ‘Job Killer’ Myth,” is filled with data and examples of where efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay region have encouraged job growth.

Baker told reporters, “We’re showing the analysis, the evidence, the data, (that) people are gonna start believing the truth that environmental protection and a good healthy economy go hand in hand.”

The report provides a variety of projects and mitigation related to the Bay initiative, and if the potential job creation pans out to the high side of estimates, the group says the environmental improvement could generate as many as 240,000 jobs in the Chesapeake Bay region.

The study cautioned “it is difficult to predict exactly how many job opportunities will spring up” as the Chesapeake Bay region prepares to comply with a federal anti-pollution mandate.

And Baker, the head of the environmental group publishing the report, acknowledged the release comes partly in response to repeated claims, mostly from conservative Republicans, that increased regulation leads to job cuts as companies struggle to comply.

“You have prominent elected officials, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who just this past summer called environmental regulations ‘job destroyers which would hurt the middle class.’”

Baker called on Cantor and other critics to back up their claims, saying that so far they’ve offered no proof. The report cites an economist who analyzed federal data and concluded there have been fewer than 3,000 layoffs per year from the 1970s through the 1990s that could be blamed on tighter environmental law.

“When losses do occur, many are balanced out buy jobs created by the manufacture of pollution control equipment and other environmental projects,” the report said.

Within the utility industry, the study cites the Constellation Energy project as a way to forecast as many as 4,000 new jobs nationwide that could be spawned by proposed federal regulations requiring scrubbers at coal plants across the country.

In a broader initiative to improve water quality around the Chesapeake Bay, the group predicts employment growth involving tens of thousands of jobs from a federal environmental mandate issued in 2010 to cut pollution as much as 25 percent by 2025.

Complying with the “pollution limits over the next 14 years will likely provide a lift to the financial well-being of thousands of working people” in the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia region around the Chesapeake Bay, the report concludes.