If there is one indisputable and troubling fact to be gleaned from the Obama administration, it is that their idea of reasonable regulation extends far beyond what most people consider even sensible. The administration has been accused, with some justice, of trying to price oil, coal and now natural gas out of existence, a stance that has cost them inordinate amounts of support in energy producing states such as West Virginia, and which has cost thousands of blue collar workers their jobs. In fact, even high ranking officials within the EPA admit that driving entire industries out of business in those very states is their goal to begin with.
But perhaps most infuriatingly of all, even in the face of all this evidence, the Obama administration has retained an absurdly oblivious stance on its behavior. "What do you mean, we're hurting people," their response usually goes, "don't you want us to have clean air and water? Think of the children!"
And today, this condescending refusal to acknowledge that their agenda could hurt people has reached its peak. In an interview with Roland Martin on TV One's "Washington Watch," the head of the EPA herself, Lisa Jackson, made the jaw-dropping claim that the EPA has never been blamed for a loss of jobs. Video and transcript, courtesy of the Washington Free Beacon, are below:
ROLAND MARTIN: Some people will say that by pushing these various rules that it’s impacting jobs–that it’s taking jobs away. I always say that that becomes the Kryptonite for any conversation–that the moment you say, “Jobs will be lost,” people go, “Oh, no, then we can’t do it.” So how do you respond whenever that’s always the answer given, that measures EPA’s taking that’s taking away thousands and millions of jobs? I see the coal commercials on these Sunday morning news shows targeting the EPA.
LISA JACKSON: Well, they’re going after EPA but the facts don’t bear out the claims they’re making. First off, the EPA’s been around for 40 years. There hasn’t been one economic downturn or loss of jobs that’s ever, in this country, been blamed on the fact that we insist you don’t pollute our air, or that you don’t pollute our water–the fact that we have strong environmental laws and an EPA. So that’s number one, the facts aren’t there. Number two, we’re very mindful–because the president has asked us to be–that this nation is trying to grow jobs in this economy. One of the ways we believe you do that is set standards that are actually job creating. Our mercury and air-toxic standards create 41,000 short-term construction jobs–net positive for jobs–create thousands of longer-term jobs. What we’re doing is investing in our energy infrastructure here– removing arsenic, removing mercury, removing cadmium, removing lead–and at the same time, creating jobs. That’s actually how the environmental movement has developed, and there are millions of Americans who work in fields that are related to cleaner air and cleaner water.
The emphasis above has been added.
Now, let's parse what Jackson says in this rather extraordinary response to Martin's question. First of all, note her wording - the EPA has never been blamed for an economic downturn. Not that the EPA has never caused one, just that they've never been blamed for one. This is rather like saying that because OJ Simpson wasn't convicted of killing his wife, he not only must have been innocent, but because he was never convicted of a crime, we can't ever suspect him of one in the future. Besides which, no one is accusing the EPA of causing the current economic crisis, merely of prolonging it. To that, Jackson has no response.
Secondly, and this is a more wonky issue, but one that needs to be mentioned nonetheless - even Jackson's example of a "job creating rule" is a bald-faced mistruth. Her mention of mercury standards, specifically, could jeopardize thousands of jobs. How do we know? Because even the labor unions said so:
Several unions with strong influence in swing states are pushing for U.S. EPA to soften new regulations aimed at pollution associated with coal-fired power plants. They say roughly half a dozen rules that are expected to come out within the next two years could jeopardize thousands of jobs.
"If the EPA issues regulations that cost jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Republicans will blast the president with it over and over," said Stewart Acuff, chief of staff to the president of the Utility Workers Union of America. "Not just the president. Every Democratic [lawmaker] from those states."
The Obama EPA has long been a target of many U.S. companies, from coal and oil firms to manufacturers. They say a new regulation targeting mercury and other toxic pollutants, slated to be proposed this week, could mean higher electric bills, billions of dollars in new costs and the shuttering of plants that employ thousands of workers.
So both Ms. Jackson's counter-arguments appear to have fallen flat. What a surprise. Still, it's courageous of her to come out and state her piece, and probably productive for the public conversation. Solar power might still be an overpriced pipe dream, but sunlight is still the best disinfectant.