Study finds good environment, good jobs go hand in hand

Posted: Monday, November 20, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A study finds that states that do a good job of protecting the environment also do well drawing and holding jobs.

The study by the Institute for Southern Studies, concluded that the environment and economy are linked, and not just in Alaska.

The institute found that environmentally sound policies and healthy economies tend to go hand in hand. It also found that states with poor economies do less to ensure clean air, water and other environmental benchmarks.

''States that invest the most and protect the environment end up with the best jobs and the best economy,'' said Chris Kromm, the institute's director and co-author of ''Gold and Green 2000.''

''This shows that if you enact strong environmental regulation, it's not going to cost you jobs,'' Kromm told The Anchorage Daily News.

The institute relied on publicly accessible sources of information for its study, citing the U.S. Labor Department, the Small Business Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Energy Department, among others.

Alaska economists and environmental experts said it make sense the two are linked but disputed whether the economy or the environment is the driving factor.

State labor economist Neal Fried noted that prosperous states may be in a position to do more to protect the environment, just like wealthy nations.

On the other hand, businesses locate in cities that have good environmental quality and a strong education system, said Alaska Conservation Foundation director Deborah Williams.

''It's not a perfect correlation, but on the whole it seems to debunk the myth of jobs vs. the environment,'' said Brad Meiklejohn, Alaska representative of the Conservation Fund.

The study ranked Vermont, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Colorado, Maryland, Maine and Wisconsin among the highest for combined performance in both areas. The worst performers were most of the Southern states and Indiana.

Alaska ranked 23rd out of 50 states on the report's 20 economic indicators, down substantially from 13th in 1994. On the environmental indicators, Alaska came in 30th this year, compared with 31st in 1994.

Alaska economists said the economic picture sounds about right. Fried noted that the state is lagging in growth while many states in the Lower 48 are booming.

''The rest of the country has been doing extremely well, and we can't keep up,'' added Matt Berman, a professor of economics at the University of Alaska's Institute for Social and Economic Research.

''Everyone else has gone up in pay when we've held real steady,'' said Jeff Pakorny, research director with the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

Some of the worst areas for the environment included air quality because both Fairbanks and Anchorage sometimes exceed Environmental Protection Agency standards and because of the large amount of gasoline and energy Alaskans use per person. Alaska ranked last on energy and gas consumption and 48th on recycling.

The state's poor environmental rating should be a wake-up call that ''we do have some urban environmental concerns'' that need attention, Williams said.

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