Ambitious but costly plans to clean up the Chesapeake Bay could provide hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region over the next five years, according to a study by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
But critics of the plan are aghast at the diet's price tag and say it will damage economies that thrive around the Bay. Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia and three other states are on the hook for billions of dollars over the next decade to implement the regulations.
At some point, that price is going to be passed to citizens and businesses, according to Glynn Rountree, environmental policy analyst for the National Association of Home Builders.
"The federal government has no money, the state has no money," Rountree said. "And the amount of money we're talking about for this rule is unprecedented."
The Environmental Protection Agency's "pollution diets," designed to restore the Bay's ecosystem by 2025, should create more jobs than are lost, said William Baker, president of the foundation, an environmental advocacy group.
The report estimates environmental programs would create about 178,000 full-time jobs and 60,000 construction jobs over the next five years.
"If history is any guide, regulations that reduce pollution will create jobs, strengthen local economies, and restore the health of our national treasure," Baker said.
Locally, efforts in counties such as Prince George's have been estimated to cost about $800 million. And members of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration have criticized the plan's hefty price tag.
As much as 20 percent of the agriculture industry in the Chesapeake Bay watershed may have to move or be lost for good to comply with the EPA's diet, said Don Parrish, senior director of government relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The group was joined by the National Association of Home Builders in a lawsuit to halt the EPA's regulation. The case is pending.
"If regulations created jobs, then the Obama administration would have created an economic tidal wave and we'd have full employment right now," Parrish said. "Any time you force people to spend money, the impact new regulations have is going to have a dramatically negative impact on the economy."