Our view: Kill jobs or kill the planet?

DKS Staff

The U.S. Senate recently held a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. By all accounts, Gina McCarthy has tremendous expertise in environmental health — she is currently an assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation — but you wouldn’t know it from the way Senate Republicans turned the hearing into a lengthy spell of weeping that logical policies to protect the planet are alleged job killers.

“Since you’ve taken office, 10 percent of coal-fired generated power in the United States has been taken offline,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. “Do you see the EPA having any responsibility for the thousands of folks who are out of work for these plant closures?”

He went on to list the names of coal miners he’s met who are out of work, asking, “How many more times, if confirmed, will this EPA director pull the regulatory lever and allow another mining family to fall through the EPA’s trapdoor to joblessness, to poverty and to poor health?”

Similarly, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., expressed worry about climate change — not how it will harm the planet, but whether solving it will harm the economy.

“I become really troubled by the EPA’s actions when the agency uses discretion it has to further a climate change agenda,” he said.

Thankfully, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., set the record straight.

“If you care about this economy, there’s one basic fact,” she said. “If you can’t breathe, you can’t work.”

It’s true that requiring companies to pollute less often costs money they could otherwise spend on generating more revenue, developing more products and, yes, hiring more workers. But a much more permanent job killer would be to let pollution run rampant. That would reduce air quality and our coastlines, as well as our health, lifespan and, thus, our ability to perform those jobs.

We admire the Republicans’ efforts to create jobs — just not the way they are doing it. As college students, we very much want the unemployment rate to be lower by the time we enter the job market. But the goal cannot be to create as many jobs as possible regardless of any consequences; sustaining the planet needs to be first and foremost.