As utilities prepare for a series of air pollution regulations coming out of U.S. EPA, what impact will the new rules have on job growth and the economy? During today's OnPoint, Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, discusses new research that points to job growth under EPA's Clean Air Act regulations. She explains why she believes industry is misguided in thinking that new power plant regulations will negatively affect the bottom line.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to On Point. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres. Mindy, it's great to have you back on the show.
Mindy Lubber: Great. Thank you for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: Mindy, Ceres just released a new report that focuses on the impact of EPA air regulations, air pollution rules, on jobs numbers, and the findings are somewhat surprising. Overall, you see job growth under these regulations. Talk a bit about the numbers.
Mindy Lubber: Well, that is absolutely the case. And while we were delighted to see the numbers, and the study was done by a academic institution, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, we probably shouldn't be that surprised. The numbers were very compelling. They tell us the following: that over the next five years, the changes in the Clean Air Act that are about to come about will create 1.46 million jobs, or we could look at it over five years, or about 290,000 jobs a year each year for the next five years. And when utilities change, when new technology is required, scrubbers or the ability to make utility facilities cleaner and safer for our health, you need jobs. You need technology. That's all good for the economy. What the studies showed us when we looked at 36 states, Eastern and Midwest states, that jobs are across the board. They're at all levels of the economy. It is not just one level of jobs. It is high paying jobs, medium paying jobs, lower level jobs, but jobs that we desperately need now, and moving forward with the Clean Air Act changes now, and not five years from now. It's not only about our health, but it's about the economy.
Monica Trauzzi: So the study takes two rules in particular into account, and that's the Transport Rule and the Utility MACT, also called Boiler MACT. Could greenhouse gas emissions regulation skew the game a bit and the numbers when it comes to job growth potential?
Mindy Lubber: Well, we'll see when there are new and added regulations, but this - these two rules alone will have an impact on greenhouse gases, perhaps indirectly. But when utilities take dirty facilities offline, old plants, they're not only keeping some of the toxic chemicals out of our air, but they're also keeping carbon pollution out of our air. So no doubt these two rules will have an impact on toxics in our air as well as carbon pollution, but they're going to have a positive benefit as it relates to health, and a positive benefit as it relates to jobs and the economy.
Monica Trauzzi: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa recently unveiled a list of regulations that industry believed should be removed for the sake of jobs in the US, and air rules are on that list. Why do you think there's such a disconnect between what you're reporting in this study and what industry is saying about job potential?
Mindy Lubber: Right. Well, one is I think it should be about facts. This study, and there are other studies that are consistent with it, show the very clear and specific facts. The Clean Air Act has been traditionally good for the economy as well as good for our public's health. The future of the Clean Air Act is good for the economy. And I do challenge those who are saying that everything the EPA does or the Clean Air Act is bad for the economy, to take a look at the numbers that we're providing, numbers that are endorsed by utility companies, by labor unions. People have read this study and say, "It looks right." We will take, and we want 1.46 million new jobs, and how anyone could suggest that's bad for the economy, in my judgment they are not looking at the facts.
Monica Trauzzi: But these changes are expensive. How can the utilities necessarily afford to keep up with all these changes and bring all of these new employees on board?
Mindy Lubber: Well, change is going to happen one way or the other. Whether it happens at a time when energy prices are low and we make the changes and there will not be a major impact on consumers or rate payers, all of us, now is the time to do it. And utilities, utilities have found ways to keep up with new regulations, number one, and eventually pass it on to their rate payers, all of us. Now that pass through will be minor, and it ought to happen at a time when energy prices are very, very low. If we wait five years from now and energy prices are higher, the impact will be greater. So - but the bottom line is for the naysayers who say somehow in aggregate get rid of all the EPA rules on clean air because it's bad for the economy, they should look at the numbers. The numbers suggest otherwise. And I want to say one more thing. The fact that some people are making clean air and the health of our families, my kids, my aunts, my uncles, a partisan issue, is really unfortunate, and it's beyond me. I've looked at these issues for 30 years. Having healthy families should be about Democrats and Republicans and blue states and red states, and in this instance, we're talking about a cleaner environment for our families, better health, as well as new jobs.
Monica Trauzzi: There are some reliability concerns, according to NERC, if these rules were to be implemented. Do you think that that could have a negative impact on job creation, if the utilities were not able to bring as much energy on the line for consumers?
Mindy Lubber: Yeah. You know, we had an executive from Constellation Energy, a utility company at a press event earlier this morning, it wasn't his concern. We've talked to dozens of utility companies. The utility companies are smart. They've met the rules of the game in the past, and I'm convinced they could do so again. And in fact, they've done well when the rules have changed.
Monica Trauzzi: So are these construction jobs only? And if so, once the construction is completed, do the jobs go away?
Mindy Lubber: No, that's a great question. First of all, they're all level jobs, so they're jobs that are about designing new technology to help utilities burn cleaner energy with less impact on the environment. They're designers, they're engineers, they're production lines, they're operations and maintenance. So they go up and down the food chain in terms of the type of jobs. And while some of the jobs will vary, if you're retrofitting a new facility in Minneapolis, that will be done in two or three years. But there'll be jobs across the country. The interesting thing about the study is we saw huge job gains in states that desperately need new jobs, Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, North Carolina, and Indiana, some of the largest places of job gains. So they're not all permanent, but there certainly is a decade of installing new technology that will create a whole new sector of jobs.
Monica Trauzzi: OK, we'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show again.
Mindy Lubber: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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