Environmental Rules Help Jobs, Study Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Republicans launched a legislative attack on environmental controls, a study ordered by the state Senate's Democratic leader dismissed as "largely mythical" the notion that environmental regulations cost workers their jobs.

"Rather than dooming domestic employment, environmental protections spawn their own jobs, focused heavily in blue-collar work," 85% of them in private industry, asserted the study by the Senate Office of Research. It said such controls in California and the nation create jobs in the manufacturing, transportation, communications and utilities industries.

The study was conducted at the request of Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward) to determine whether there was "empirical evidence" to support the argument that strong environmental controls conflict with a strong economy.

Scheduled to be made public today by Lockyer, the study also argues that in the recession-hammered Los Angeles region, air quality regulations are not to blame for job losses, a major argument of Republicans in the Legislature.

"At first blush, a case might be made that the Los Angeles Basin absorbed the brunt of the recession's job losses because its air pollution regulations are the most stringent in the nation. But the evidence does not bear out that theory," the study said.

From 1960 to 1990, the basin outpaced the nation in overall job growth, 85.5% to 52.7%, the report said. Likewise, employment in the heavily regulated Southern California manufacturing sector pressed upward during the same period.

Citing a 1995 study by the Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies at Cal State Fullerton, the Senate report said manufacturing in Southern California accounted for 5.1% of all manufacturing jobs in the country in 1972, increasing to 5.9% in 1979 and to 6.3% in 1990, the document said.

In a conclusion that seems certain to stir controversy, the Senate report found that "fears or assumptions are largely mythical that government regulations to protect natural resources extract a toll in lost jobs."

It said that other studies have failed to document correlations between environmental controls and economic issues, such as the state's long recession, a nationwide shift from manufacturing to service jobs, overall losses in productivity, reduced jobs in construction and a declining gross state product.

The legislative report was completed as Republicans in Congress and the Legislature are launching initiatives to weaken or scrap environmental protection controls they blame for standing in the way of economic expansion.

The state Senate document analyzed dozens of studies by federal, state, academic and independent searchers to reach a finding that environmental regulations were not responsible for job losses created by plant closures and the relocation of businesses.

For example, the report cited a multiyear survey of employers by the federal Department of Labor that found that "just 0.1% of mass layoffs were triggered by environmental protections--and those tended to be in highly polluting industries."

"At worst, research suggests, the role environmental protections play in manufacturing job losses has been insignificant."

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