WASHINGTON— Influential environmental leaders and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency touted the benefits of “green jobs” on Tuesday.

Conference attendees look on as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson talks about environmental protection and economic growth. (Photo by Lauren Schwartzberg/ Medill News Service)

“Environmental protection and economic growth can and do go hand in hand,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said assertively.

Jackson emphasized that the EPA understands the needs of businesses and will use its powers to aid these businesses, clearly preparing for criticism likely to come from Republicans on Capitol Hill this week.

The GOP-controlled House has said it wants to examine the administration’s regulations, which it says are “job killing” and too onerous for businesses.

Jackson will appear Wednesday at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on legislation to block EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases. Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., has already pledged to focus on EPA rules he claims will cost jobs and burden the economy.

However, Jackson, perhaps anticipating the arguments in Congress, made her case at the “green jobs” conference hosted by the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition that includes such unlikely partners as the Sierra Club and the United Steel Workers.

Regardless of the upcoming struggle, a confident, even optimistic, vibe emanated from the conference room when Jackson took the stage.

“The fact is that updated environmental standards…create a good economic climate for investment and good jobs for American workers,” Jackson said.

Jackson talked about previous EPA accomplishments to outline benefits to business from good environmental policy. The Clean Air Act, she said, saves $40 for every $1 spent on it – and environmental protection has already created 1.7 million jobs since 2008.

Gene Sperling, the director of the National and Economic Council and assistant to the President for Economic Policy, also talked about the connection between the economy and environmental efficiency.

“Green jobs are where the nexus between the jobs now and the jobs of the future come together,” Sperling said.

The ideal goal is to create jobs that matter to America’s long term environmental and energy security goals, Sperling said.

Much of President Barack Obama’s ambitious economic agenda depends on the advancement of green jobs. Officials carried that torch of “winning” on the issue throughout their speeches.

Sperling explained that on a tight federal budget “we are going to have to fight for investments that matter,” but green jobs are a key to “winning America’s future.”

In a vast conference room lined with hundreds of chairs and four overhead screens Jackson outlined four requirements for establishing successful green jobs.

  1. Operating pollution control technology.
  2. Generating jobs from all skill sets from scientists to construction workers.
  3. Locating job opportunities in industrial centers in communities where many are unemployed.
  4. Creating jobs on American soil.

Jackson believes the government needs “common sense regulations to spark innovation,” yet various EPA regulations have emerged as a top target for groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chemistry Council.

“We can protect the health of millions of American families and do so in a way that will benefit the American economy,” Jackson said.

A panel on the clean energy economy featuring John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, and Nancy Sutley, chair of the While House Council on Environmental Quality, followed the keynote speakers.

Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood are scheduled to appear at the conference on Wednesday morning.

On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on “regulatory impediments to job-creation,” which likely relate to EPA regulation and the creation of green jobs.