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This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new air standard that will finally reduce mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollutants from power plants.

This is great news for every American who breathes, and I’ve yet to meet one who doesn’t. 

This new standard came under a court-ordered deadline thanks to Earthjustice litigation after a Bush administration proposal to deal with the problem failed to meet legal muster.

A part of this story you may not have heard about is how many jobs will be produced in cleaning up mostly older power plants.

According to the new report New Jobs - Cleaner Air: Employment Effects under Planned Changes to EPA’s Air Pollution Rules, the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst found significant employment benefits under the new toxic air and pollution transport rules for power plants:

  • The power sector will invest almost $200 billion in capital improvements over the next five years, total employment created by these capital investments is estimated at 1.46 million jobs, or about 290,000 jobs on average in each of the next five years.
  • Installing modern pollution controls and building new power plants create a wide array of skilled, high-paying installation, construction and professional jobs, as well as jobs at companies that manufacture pollution controls and other required construction/maintenance equipment.
  • Among the states that will see the biggest job gains from this construction activity are Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, North Carolina and Indiana.
“Our research demonstrates that robust employment growth will take place alongside efforts to reduce harmful emissions,” said Dr. James Heintz, PERI's Associate Director and Assistant Research Professor. “The Eastern and Midwestern states we studied will experience a net gain of jobs, once all investments in pollution control and new generation capacity are completed. We need to move beyond the outdated idea that environmental protection compromises the ongoing growth of our economy.”

To see estimates of new jobs by state, view these background sheets by the investor group Ceres: Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio , Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia.

To take action in defense of strong standards that protect our Right to Breathe, please join our campaign.

We’ll keep you updated if these new health rules face attacks by polluters or their friends in Congress.