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Jobs and the environment

June 20, 2012 - Jim Anderson
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., believes that having clean, healthy air and water is “just plain dumb.”

OK, that’s not what he said directly.

What he did say, in a press release, is that it would be wrong for the Environmental Protection Agency to implement its proposed Mercury and Air Toxics (MACT) Standards Rule.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, by the way, supports implementation, and offers this analysis:

“The Center for Disease Control estimates that as many as one in six women of child bearing age have enough mercury in their blood stream to harm a developing baby. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that imperils the brain development of infants and young children, affecting their ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. Each year over 400,000 infants are born with mercury contamination exceeding safe levels.

“Because they are so densely populated, cities are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of hazardous air pollution. Once fully implemented, EPA expects that the rules will prevent up to 11,000 deaths annually. Additionally, the health protections of these rules, including the prevention of heart and asthma attacks, will save the average American $3 to $9 in health costs for every dollar spent to reduce toxic pollution.”

Some people, including Sen. Johnson, reject those arguments. In explaining his vote today to prevent implementation, Johnson claimed the MACT standards will have an annual cost of nearly $10 billion, kill the jobs of approximately 200,000 Americans currently employed, and kill jobs that might have been created over the next several years.

“In the worst recession in 70 years, who would actively destroy American private sector jobs, increase the cost of energy and American products, and deter future hiring and creation of new jobs?” Johnson asked in his press release. “The answer is President Obama and his EPA. It is not only an outrageous action, it is just plain dumb. It is another example that our President lacks a basic understanding of how the American economy operates and how jobs are created.”

Arguments centering on the environment versus the economy are difficult and long-standing.

Critics of the MACT standards say the regulations will cripple the coal industry, causing dozens of coal-fired power plants to close.

Supporters of the rules, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, say they are entirely reasonable and have already been delayed 22 years.

It may be that there are no easy choices.

I do take offense when Sen. Johnson describes the actions of President Obama and the EPA to protect lives and the environment and reduce health care costs as “just plain dumb.”

It taints and diminishes whatever merit the senator’s arguments might have.



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