Numbers of Convenience

Oct 25, 2011

EPA logoIn a recent op-ed appearing in the Los Angeles Times, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson rejects the notion that her agency’s Clean Air Act regulations have a negative impact on jobs. In fact, Jackson claims just the opposite, saying that proposed EPA regulations requiring older utilities to be retrofitted  will create jobs. She cites come very specific job estimates:

By contrast, the nation's first-ever standards for mercury and other air toxic pollutants which the EPA will finalize this fall — and which the Republican leadership aims to block — are estimated to create 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term jobs in the utility sector through modernizing power plants.

Forget for just a second the existence of research that refutes Jackson’s claim (the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity says that the rule in question and three other coal-fired power sector regulations will result in an annual loss of 183,000 net jobs). We’d like to know where Jackson got her numbers because, as the EPA has very publicly admitted, it claims no responsibility to have to evaluate the impact of its regulations on jobs, citing the difficulty of estimating labor market changes with any degree of accuracy.

This position runs afoul of the Clean Air Act and at least four other environmental laws. The Clean Air Act states:

"The Administrator shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of this Act and applicable implementation plans, including where appropriate, investigating threatened plant closures or reductions in employment allegedly resulting from such administration or enforcement.”  42 U.S.C. § 7621(a).

The EPA can’t have it both ways. It can’t tout positive jobs data to support its regulatory agenda while refusing to evaluate potential job losses with a dismissive “that’s not part of our job.” In fact, the law states that’s exactly what it must do.

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