Report: Bay regs create jobs

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Extensive government regulation of Chesapeake Bay pollution would create jobs, rather than kill them, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation claims in a new report.

The report, “Debunking the ‘Job Killer’ Myth: How Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the Chesapeake Bay Region,” was released today. It claims that the rhetoric surrounding environmental regulation is all wrong.

“For years, we have seen that environmental protection policies and programs and even regulations really can stimulate the economy and create jobs,” said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Clearly, the rhetoric is coming from those forces that want to slow down or stop pollution control.”

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The report comes after new agreements were signed in 2010 to attempt to reduce the amount of pollution the Chesapeake Bay. This is the third try at the goal — other attempts as far back as 1987 were unsuccessful.

The difference this time, Baker said, is that there are milestones to meet every two years, rather than setting one goal 10 or 13 years in the future.

“Nobody seemed to pay much attention until the last year,” Baker said. “Now, there are two-year increments that have to be met, have to be reported on. If those milestones are not met, there can be penalties imposed or consequences such as a reduction in funding from the federal government. That’s why we think people now believe this is a serious and real effort to save the Chesapeake Bay.”

In December 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the new pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay to accelerate its cleanup. States in the watershed — including Virginia — must reduce pollution by 25 percent by 2025.

The new report states that the number of environmental clean-up and monitoring jobs in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia has risen 43 percent during the last two decades. Furthermore, about 11,751 new temporary jobs are expected during five years if Virginia and the federal government invest $804 million in farm runoff-control projects like planting trees and building fences along streams, according to a University of Virginia report.

The report also includes anecdotes about workers in the watershed states that were laid off from other jobs and struggled for months before getting employment on an environmental construction project.

One Virginia worker, Brandon Stevens, is quoted in the report saying he is “happier than ever, and glad to be making a difference with the environment.” He is employed in Lorton renovating a sewage treatment plant to meet the water-quality limits.

Stevens says in the report that he was unemployed for six months with a newborn daughter before he found the job at the sewage plant.

“Despite rhetoric to the contrary, environmental regulations have a documented history of causing no harm to the economy, with job losses often more than balanced by jobs created by environmental cleanup,” the report states.

“Despite the current economic downturn, state and local governments in the Chesapeake region should view the Bay pollution limits as an opportunity to invest in their local citizens as they clean local waterways.”

Local governments, however, might say “not so fast.”

In November 2010, Suffolk Public Works Director Eric Nielsen told City Council that complying with the regulations would be a “budget-buster.”

According to a study by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, complying would cost area communities a total of about $1 billion, or $45 million annually for Suffolk.

The HRPDC also estimates implementing the regulations could cost Suffolk up to $628 million — more than its entire annual budget.

Agricultural groups also have expressed concern about the regulations, with some groups even suing the EPA in federal court.

Baker said there are many benefits to farmers helping to meet the regulations, including cost savings on fertilizer by using only the amount truly needed.

“It just takes time and it takes good education,” he said.

To view the full report, visit