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Speeches - By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the 2011 Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference, As Prepared

02/08/2011
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As prepared for delivery.

Thank you for inviting me and my administration colleagues who will be here to speak with you. We are deeply appreciative for the opportunity to weigh in on some of the critical issues we’re facing.

As you all know, as President Obama has said many times, as anyone in any community in America will tell you, the top priority of this administration is to spark the creation of good jobs for American workers. Today I want to talk about why protecting human health and the environment is an important part of that broad effort. The fact is that updating environmental standards – which we do to protect American families from mercury, acid gases and other toxic pollutants that cause asthma and lung disease especially in children – create a good economic climate for investment and good jobs for American workers.

Since EPA’s inception, we have heard concerns that the costs of meeting reasonable health standards hurt bottom lines and prevent job creation. But in truth updating environmental standards not only close pollution loopholes but level the playing field and provide certainty to business. In fact, we have reaped widespread economic benefits by facing our health and environmental challenges. And we have the opportunity to continue to do so today.

Take an obvious example like energy efficiency. A 2009 study estimated that $520 billion invested in energy efficiency today would net $1.2 trillion dollars in energy cost savings through 2020. $2 in savings for every dollar invested. That is one reason President Obama visited Penn State last week, where they’re working to make America home to the most energy efficient buildings in the world. There, the President announced the “Better Buildings Initiative,” which aims to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. That initiative – which will significantly reduce pollution in our air – is set to reduce companies’ and business owners’ energy bills by about $40 billion per year. It will save energy by reforming outdated incentives and challenging the private sector to act. And when we talk about “challenging the private sector to act,” we’re talking about creating good jobs.

For those reasons and more, we want to make environmental protection and environmental technology a central piece of our effort to win the future. Along with some very difficult spending cuts, the President is calling for investments in our schools and teachers, our innovators and small businesses, and the infrastructure that keeps our economy running – essential ingredients to a robust green economy. Like any good business, we want to invest in the places that will bring the highest return.

To win the future we need the best-educated workforce – like the students I just met at St. Philips College in San Antonio, Texas. This community college is training students in cutting edge clean energy technology and putting it to work to help power their school – all to prepare for the clean energy jobs we can help create.

To win the future, we need the strongest infrastructure – like across the state of Texas in El Paso, where they are pioneering the installation of charging stations for electric vehicles. That kind of infrastructure is going to be critical to meet this Administration’s goal to have one million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015. And of course, that’s just the beginning. We will need the best roads, bridges and airports to carry products and people. We will need a reliable smart grid to efficiently carry clean energy. We will need a robust information infrastructure to connect students and teachers, innovators and entrepreneurs, companies and consumers – and to unleash the possibilities of collaboration and exploration. And while we’re at it, it’s critical that we have a modern environmental infrastructure to safeguard clean water and air, and protect the lands where we build homes and schools and businesses.

Winning the future also means winning the race for innovation. The history of environmental protection has been a history of innovation. Innovation made everything we do cleaner, healthier and more efficient – and led to the creation of good jobs. The catalytic converters that are manufactured to reduce toxic air pollution from our cars, the invention of more effective water treatment mechanisms to free our drinking water of lead, or smoke stack scrubbers that are installed to keep sulfuric acid pollution out of the air we breathe mean new orders for American companies and jobs for American workers.

Innovation is our future as well. I saw that on display a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, where I joined Administrator Karen Mills from the US Small Business Administration to announce a Water Technology Innovation Cluster – a partnership between EPA’s labs and a cluster of local entrepreneurs and businesses working on water technology innovation that will address contaminants and better protect our health. It’s what I saw the next day too, when I traveled to Ann Arbor with the CEO of Chrysler to announce that EPA is teaming up with the auto maker to develop hydraulic hybrid technology in American vehicles – an innovation that can increase fuel economy by 35 percent – not to mention decrease air pollution.

EPA’s plays an important role in each of these efforts. But we have another unique and important role in job creation. Our most fundamental responsibility is protecting the health of the American people. And it’s something they would refuse to do without. When people turn on the shower or make a cup of coffee, they want their water protected from industrial pollution and untreated sewage. They want to be able to drive without breathing dangerous lead pollution. When each of us sits down to eat lunch, I’m sure we prefer our food with more, not less, protection from pesticides.

Those health protections mean a more productive workforce, fewer sick days for employees and consumers that are spending less on medical bills and more on the economy. The Clean Air Act alone – just one signature environmental and health law – has provided trillions of dollars in health benefits to the American people. And since its inception, air pollution has dropped over the last 40 years while our national GDP has risen by 207 percent. The total benefits of the Clean Air Act amount to more than 40 times the costs of regulation. For every one dollar we have spent, we get more than $40 of benefits in return. Say what you want about EPA’s business sense, but we know how to get a return on an investment. The irony is that one of the most economically successful programs in American history is also one of the most economically maligned. It is a perfect example of why we must shift this conversation.

In a time of such polarized debates, we need to take a step back and recognize that environmental protection and economic growth can – and do – go hand in hand. At this very moment, EPA scientists and technicians are working side-by-side with innovative small businesses in Cincinnati and developing technology in collaboration with one of Detroit’s Big Three. EPA thrives on the innovation and entrepreneurship of our open markets, which have given us products like the catalytic converter and smokestack scrubbers. Rather than harming growth, EPA’s health standards help create opportunities and certainty for business to grow and thrive.

This is not just a theoretical idea. Recent EPA research on a number of reputable economic studies has shown a clear connection between reasonable health safeguards and job creation. Our research indicates that environmental protection – in the form of safeguards and standards that protect our health, and that the American people demand – is responsible for net positive job gains all across the country. In other words, environmental protection creates jobs – 1.7 million of them as of 2008. The environmental protection industry has grown steadily between 2000 and 2008, yielding approximately $300 billion in revenues.

Recognizing these job creating possibilities is critical in this moment.

It is important as special interests try to gut safeguards – like the Clean Air Act – that EPA has worked under for decades - and find loopholes for big polluters to skirt other commonsense health protections.

It is important to recognize these possibilities at a time when American companies have a record amount of cash holdings and liquid assets. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that number as $1.93 trillion dollars. Even a portion of those funds invested in developing and installing new pollution control technology would result in good jobs for American workers.

But we know companies need regulatory certainty before they will invest and create those jobs. It’s something we’ve seen before. A 2010 study from the Institute of Clean Air Companies estimated that since 2003 the implementation of CAIR Phase 1 resulted in 200,000 jobs in the air pollution control industry alone. The number of boilermakers in the United States increased by 6,700 – 35 percent – from 1999 to 2001 as a result of the EPA’s standards to implement the Clean Air Act. Or consider the auto industry. For many years they faced a patchwork of state regulations, with little long-term clarity. President Obama brought together all the stakeholders – from the auto companies and autoworkers to the environmental groups and state governments – to find a path forward. And now, the clean cars program will result in cleaner air, savings at the gas pump for American drivers and certainty for auto companies. Not long ago, Chrysler committed to adding 1,000 new engineers and technicians to work on small and midsize cars. General Motors plans to hire 1,000 people in Michigan to develop low-emission electric vehicles.

That could be the story across any number of sectors of our economy. Many American CEOs have made clear that they don’t object to sensible standards out of hand. But if they don’t know where and when to invest their dollars, they will hold back job-creating resources. The alternative is to provide that certainty, and encourage the hiring of new workers to build, install, maintain and operate clean technology.

And let me say a few words about the jobs that are created.

First, the labor-intensive jobs installing, maintaining and operating pollution control technology at American facilities can’t be sent overseas. Second, they create opportunities for individuals with a wide range of skills. Workers that will be needed in everything from research, design and engineering to construction, installation and maintenance. There will be opportunities for laboratory scientists, as well as pipefitters, welders and iron workers. One study explained that environmental protection resulted in broad economic stimulus, including “standard jobs for accountants, engineers, computer analysts, clerks, factory workers.” Third, many of the facilities that would invest in upgrades are located in industrial centers – communities where good jobs are needed most. Investments in clean tech for those facilities would create opportunities for the unemployed and under-employed in many struggling communities.

Finally, creating those jobs on our shores can help us sell new technology overseas. Huge markets await firms that develop and produce innovative clean tech. The annual world market for environmental goods and services has been estimated above $700 billion, making it comparable with the aerospace and pharmaceutical industries. America currently leads the world in this industry. We should not forfeit that lead and miss out on the extraordinary opportunities to supply the world with environmental technology stamped “Made in the USA.”

The bottom line is this: we can protect the health of millions of American families and do so in a way that will benefit the economy. We can do that by out-educating, out-building and out-innovating our competitors. And by using commonsense regulations to spark innovation, reduce toxic pollution, and put people to work protecting our health and our environment. Thank you for all you’ve done and are doing in this effort. I look forward to continuing our work together. Thank you.