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Why Rick Perry's Moratorium Proposal for the EPA Is a Bad Idea

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EPA CONSPIRACY THEORIES
AP File

GOP presidential hopeful Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) recently stated that EPA regulations are killing jobs all across America. As he discussed on WHO radio in Iowa, he believes that President Obama should put a moratorium on all regulations, especially environmental-related rules, for at least six months. Another presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) has expressed like sentiments and has reportedly noted that she would actually "lock the doors and turn off the lights at the EPA," if elected President.

There was a time (not so long ago) when air and water pollution and waste were considered solely a local matter and were not high on the national agenda until the early 1970s. Major disasters (e.g., Cuyahoga River fire, Love Canal, etc.) and heightened consensus across all groups for a better quality of life bore witness that local authorities were unable to handle environmental hazards and impacts, which ultimately led to the creation of the EPA and the issuance of major laws during Nixon's presidency. Interestingly, throughout the 1970s, there was also a general concern over the costs and economic impacts of federal public policies.

Will new EPA regulations related to greenhouse gases, drinking water, mercury and air toxics derail the nation's still-sluggish economy, lead to million or more lost jobs in coming years and result in economic losses that exceed $75 billion? Resoundingly, no. History has consistently illustrated the opposite of these unsubstantiated claims. Eban Goodstein, director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, noted that "widespread predictions of massive job losses preceded EPA's move in the early 1990s to curb sulfur-dioxide emissions from power plants," which did not occur. Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy & Finance at Stanford University, expressed that "experience since the 1970s makes clear that well-conceived and executed carbon regulation will not only stimulate technological innovation but can be implemented cost-effectively."

There is simply no evidence in the history of the existence of the EPA that its purpose is to pass cost-prohibitive regulations and to kill jobs. To be sure, there are some policy choices that may place some jobs at risk and raise the expense of doing business for certain industry sectors. But, the overall benefits of improved long-term public health, reduced premature deaths and sustainability far outweigh the costs. The idea of placing a moratorium on regulations that result in the betterment of citizens around the country is simply not prudent, especially when it evolves from the governor of one of the nation's dirtiest states.

Data has shown that the EPA has actually been instrumental in generating jobs, while tripling its 1970 GDP level. The PEW Charitable Trust recently estimated that "as many as 85,000 jobs per year have been created as a result of the expanding alternative clean energy markets." A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute has indicated that two new air quality rules issues will create nearly 1.5 million jobs, or nearly 300,000 jobs a year on average over the next five years. These new employment opportunities, which will include engineers, project managers, electricians, boilermakers, pipefitters, millwrights and iron workers, will arise from the need to retrofit older plants, capital improvements and the installation of pollution control devices.

Governor Perry has indeed favored green initiatives in Texas, but he has also been a huge advocate of his state's huge petrochemical sector. With a cleaner environment, better health and more jobs as a result of EPA's safeguards, one has to wonder whether Perry's proposal is really focused on allowing polluters to emit and to discharge to the environment as they please while aiming to make record profits.

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