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Conservative Health and Safety Bull’s Eyes by the Numbers

The Truth About the House Leadership’s Nonjobs Agenda

SOURCE: AP/Carolyn Kaster

PPL's Brunner Island, a three-unit coal-fired power plant, is seen in York Haven, Pennsylvania. Seven out of the 10 regulations on the GOP’s hit list are intended to fulfill the requirements of the Clean Air Act. In addition to preventing 2 million premature deaths between 1990 and 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act gives all Americans the luxury of breathing without smog masks.

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Republican House leadership this week plans to begin holding hearings and scheduling votes attacking public health and safety rules and workers’ rights—masking their assault as a way to address our very real jobs crisis. Don’t let yourself be fooled by their rhetoric. Eighty percent of the regulations the GOP propose “repealing” haven’t even been enacted yet. Claiming that preventing these rules from being enacted will create jobs is nothing more than Kabuki theatre—at a time when the economy needs real action.

You should expect to hear a lot about “regulatory uncertainty” preventing businesses from hiring new workers. But the proposed rules being attacked by the House GOP aren’t new and unexpected—some have been in the works since long before the Great Recession. Even business owners say that these regulations are not standing between them and hiring new workers, no matter how often politicians claim otherwise. And they’re certainly not standing in the way of enormous corporate profits.

There will be a lot of numbers thrown around about “costly” and “burdensome” regulations in the weeks to come. Here are some other important numbers to know in the House Republican leadership’s war on regulation.

4: The number of regulations targeted by House Republicans that were proposed or revised by the George W. Bush administration

It’s an inconvenient truth, but even Republican administrations issue health and safety rules. The so-called Boiler MACT, a series of interrelated rules limiting dangerous emissions from industrial boilers and process heaters, was first proposed in 2003. The Environmental Protection Agency rules governing smog-creating ground ozone were revised in 2008. And the Bush EPA originally issued versions of both the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Utility MACT, a similar set of rules that regulate emissions from utility plants. These latter rules were later struck down by the courts; they have since been revised.

7: The number of “Top 10” regulations that are designed to protect the air we breathe

Seven out of the 10 regulations on the GOP’s hit list are intended to fulfill the requirements of the Clean Air Act. In addition to preventing 2 million premature deaths between 1990 and 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act gives all Americans the luxury of breathing without smog masks. But even with the Clean Air Act, 11 Americans die from asthma every day. The EPA estimates that five of the regulations targeted by House Republicans will prevent 68,100 deaths and 52,000 hospitalizations annually.

8: The number of large utilities and energy companies that urged adoption of strict mercury and air toxics standards for coal-fired power plants

If House Republicans really want to listen to job creators, they should start here: Eight companies, including Exelon Corp., the nation’s largest utility, published a letter in The Wall Street Journal debunking attacks on proposed emissions standards for coal-fired power plants. “Contrary to the claims that the EPA’s agenda will have negative economic consequences, our companies’ experience complying with air quality regulations demonstrates that regulations can yield important economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability,” they wrote.

1: The number of items in their “Top 10” list that aren’t actually regulations

For a caucus that brands itself as solidly antiregulation, House Republicans apparently have a hard time actually finding regulations to oppose. Number one on the GOP’s list of 10 “job-destroying regulations” is an ongoing investigation by the National Labor Relations Board into alleged unfair labor practices at The Boeing Company. The NLRB was created by Congress 75 years ago to investigate such practices and moderate union elections. It’s worth remembering that when unions were at their strongest, the U.S. economy was at its strongest, too.

13: The number of years since the EPA began considering the “Cement MACT” rule limiting emissions from manufacturing Portland cement

House Republicans like to decry the Obama administration’s supposed regulatory rulemaking spree. But the odyssey of the Cement MACT, a set of rules designed to limit harmful emissions from the manufacture of Portland cement, illustrates just how long it takes to pass environmental regulations. Industry lobbying, lawsuits, and public comment periods delay proposed regulations for years, if not decades. Shares of the U.S. subsidiary of Cemex, one of the largest cement manufacturers in the world, have risen as much as 305 percent in the meantime, putting the lie to the House Republican claim that regulatory “uncertainty” stifles economic activity.

$15.5 million: Lobbying expenditures by the Portland Cement Association between 1998, when the Cement MACT was first proposed, and 2010

$3.5 million: The amount spent on lobbying by the Sierra Club over the same period on its entire legislative agenda

13: Number of states and cities that sued the EPA to require them to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act

The states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, along with the city of New York and the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit to qualify carbon dioxide pollution under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the states in 2007 and the EPA has since been formulating rules to limit greenhouse gas pollution from coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.

17: Number of states that have their own limits on mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants

The first state to enact its own limit on mercury pollution was flinty New Hampshire back in 2002. The state currently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, at 5.2 percent. And more than 50 percent of power plants in these 17 states have already installed pollution controls to limit mercury emissions.

$5 million: The amount Texas-based NRG Energy Inc. would add to its revenues every year thanks to the impact of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rules on its coal-burning plants, according to Bernstein Research

Not only is there a Santa Claus, Virginia, but regulations can help companies save money and create jobs. Not only will the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths but some utility companies are poised to make money from trading sulfur credits. This rule, combined with new limits on airborne toxic pollution from power plants, will help create an estimated 1.5 million jobs over the next five years, according to the Political Economy Research Institute.

0: The number of new jobs that will be created by the House Republicans’ antiregulatory agenda

Serious action is needed to get the jobs crisis under control. There are less than 40 days remaining on the 2011 House legislative calendar. Spending those days “repealing” regulations that aren’t currently in effect could make for compelling C-SPAN programming. But as any unemployed worker will tell you, what we really need is a little less conversation—and a lot more job creation.

Kristina Costa is a Special Assistant with the Doing What Works project of the Economic Policy team at the Center for American Progress.

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