Regulation or Job Creation: The Debate Over The Environment


There’s a heated debate churning in Washington right now: do environmental regulations destroy jobs, or create them?

In a time of high unemployment and a struggling economy, many politicians are arguing that environmental laws and regula­tions need to be cast aside. They claim that these regulations will force companies to cut back on production, lay off workers or relocate production to another country with more lax standards.

The debate was raised in part because of President Obama’s decision, announced on September 2, to delay the implemen­tation of stricter air quality regulations. The proposed law, brought forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would have forced companies to significantly reduce the amount of ground-level ozone each could emit. The government didn’t pass the law, claiming that in the current economy, the United States could not risk the possibility of reduced production and job loss.

Many agree with this idea that stricter environmental regula­tions – usually aimed at reducing certain pollutants – will only hurt the economy. After the EPA implemented the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule in July, a law that would cut back on sul­fur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, companies protested. Most significantly, Luminant, the largest power company in Texas, recently filed a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming that the restrictions would hurt production. Luminant claims that the regulations will force the company to lay off 500 workers and reduce their generating capacity by 9%, according to an article by the New York Times. When looking at cases such as these, it’s easy to see why the government is too nervous to implement many new environmental laws.

Yet many argue that environmental regulations will actually create new “green jobs,” rather than hurt the economy.

According to a study done by Economics for Equity & Environ­ment entitled “Climate Policy and Jobs: An Update on What Econo­mist Know,” environmental regulations don’t actually increase unem­ployment by any significant means. The study claims that only about 0.001% of all layoffs are caused by environmental regulations.

And many people are claiming that environmental regulations will actually create jobs.

An article from The Economist called “Smashing windows, getting fresh air,” writes that for companies, “profits are at 60- year highs, and they’re sitting on mountains of cash. They’re not spending it, not because they can’t afford to, but because the prospects for growth are too weak to justify investment in new equipment or employees. This is entirely rational behavior on their part; but if the economy is going to get moving again, somebody has to start spending.”

Regulations on the environment are the perfect way to force companies to spend money. Implementing the regulations will mean new equipment and technologies, and this new demand will spur more production and therefore jobs. Stricter laws will not just increase our air and water quality, but actually help the economy as well.

An article from the New York Times, “A Debate Arises on Job Creation and Environment,” argues that not only do regulations create jobs, but they also increase real estate values, lengthen lives, and decrease federal money spent on health benefits and hospitalization costs.

So did President Obama do the wrong thing by shying away from increased regulations on air quality? Although many think that that it was the right choice for the economy, even more are convinced that the regulation would have helped both the ailing economy and environment.

Contact Cassidy Holahan at [email protected]