For Republicans, the EPA ranks up there with the IRS as one of the most-reviled agencies in Washington, calling it a 'jobs killer.' The record of the Obama EPA, though, is more nuanced.
Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann want to abolish it. Rick Perry vows that he would declare a moratorium on all its activities the moment he becomes president. Herman Cain wants it replaced by an independent commission.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), clearly, is not on many Republicans' Christmas card list. In their debates and in speeches, the GOP presidential candidates have crystallized conservatives' charge against the agency: Its regulations kill jobs.
Under a Democratic president – and at a time of economic turbulence – the EPA faces harsh criticism from the political right for being heavy-handed. But unraveling its actual impact on the economy suggests that its influence is more nuanced, according to several economic analyses.
To be sure, President Obama's EPA has undertaken several key environmental initiatives, such as ozone and greenhouse-gas regulation. But attempts to paint these new rules as economic game changers often overstate their importance, say several independent economists.
"There's certainly a lot of use of this phrase that 'new environmental regulations are job killers' or the flip side: We can 'grow the economy by focusing on green jobs,' " says Wayne Gray, an economist at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. "But either perspective misses the scale of the cost of environmental regulations, which just are not a very large scale of costs for most in the economy."
Among the moves by the Obama EPA that businesses say are most damaging:
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