Do environmental regulations harm the economy?

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One of the main themes of the Republican Presidential primary campaign has been that government regulations- specifically, regulations designed to protect the environment and public health from industrial pollution- is damaging to the economy. Nearly all of the Republican Presidential candidates have expressed this view: Rick Perry wants to “lock the doors and turn off the lights” at EPA headquarters, Michelle Bachmann thinks it should be called the “job-killing organization of America“, and both Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain want to abolish the agency entirely.

Is there any truth to the idea that environmental regulations cost jobs and are slowing the economic recovery? On it’s face, the idea makes sense. A business has a finite amount of money, and the more money they have to spend on complying with environmental regulations, the less money they can spend on hiring workers. If a business has to pay for new technology to reduce the amount of pollution their manufacturing process produces, the money spent on that technology is money that can’t be spent on new workers. The real question, though, is not whether there are costs to environmental regulations- there obviously are, and they can sometimes be quite high to particular industries. The real question is whether the benefits of these environmental regulations outweigh the costs.

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