Group says Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan will boost jobs

PORTSMOUTH, Va (Reuters) - Mandatory pollution limits will create rather than kill jobs in the Chesapeake Bay region, according to a new study by an environmental group working to restore and protect the nation’s largest estuary.

A federal cleanup plan requires the six bay states -- Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia -- to cut pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay by 25 percent by 2025.

The nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation said national agricultural and homebuilder lobbyists branded the pollution limits issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 as “job killers.”

But the group said an analysis of official data and previously published material, as well as interviews with economic experts, business owners and workers, showed the cleanup would allow so-called green jobs to flourish.

It would also spur growth of traditional jobs in areas such as fisheries and tourism, according to the study.

“If history is any guide, environmental regulations will once again nourish job creation, not bury it,” said the study, released on Tuesday.

Federal and state governments have spent more than $5 billion trying to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, which has a watershed of more than 64,000 square miles and is home to commercial quantities of fish and crabs, as well as oysters.

Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus flow into the bay from treated sewage, fertilizer and animal manure, leading to unnatural algae blooms and using up oxygen needed by other inhabitants. As a result, the bay and its tidal waters are stricken by dead zones where sea creatures cannot survive.

Don Parrish, senior director of government relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the Chesapeake Bay foundation’s claims about job creation were “almost laughable.”

He said pollution limits would make it impossible to create jobs for the 250,000 new people moving to the watershed every year.

“If regulations create jobs, then this administration would have put policies in place and have a below 5 percent unemployment rate by now,” he said.

Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston