Fri. Dec 4th, 2020

Following the path Tax reform legislation in December, President Donald Trump promised to honor many Campaign promises And chase a Bipartisan infrastructure deal. It makes sense: some speculate that 14 million Jobs are directly related to infrastructure in the United States. Now, thanks to the administration Infrastructure legislative framework, We can see some details. The plan calls for $ 200 billion in financing in hopes of sparking $ 1.5 trillion in infrastructure upgrades across the country.

But the mere act of allocating federal funds for infrastructure projects, while important, does not guarantee success. To transform into a useful infrastructure, local and private entities that actually build it must navigate a labyrinth of red tape, courtesy of many federal regulatory agencies with overlapping jurisdiction, separate and independent permitting processes and Must be accompanied by multiple veto points. This complex path to success can delay meaningful projects for years, or even kill them.

The experience of Logan City, Utah, is an accurate case study of how regulations can also be crippled in projects with a simple and environmentally friendly infrastructure.

A little more than a decade ago, city planners in Logan felt their water system needed some upgrades, including new pressure reducing valves to accommodate the increasing pressure of water. Instead of just replacing the valves, he had a great idea: install a micro-hydro turbine inside the pipeline in question. This will solve the pressure problem, but it will simultaneously generate low-cost, renewable energy.

It was a victory. Or so they thought.

Under normal circumstances, this project – with no seepage or any disturbance in the stream – should take some time to implement and about $ 375,000. Instead, Logan spent four more years $ 3 million Navigating the complex nexus of relevant federal regulations and their associated permitting procedures.

Mostly it was also not relevant. The turbine was to be installed inside an existing structure that did not require any new construction, yet city planners had to show that no historical structure would be negatively affected by the project, and to show that No potentially threatened species will be harmed. While the project would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 3.7 million pounds per year, even environmental regulations met.

Political cartoon on economy

The root of the problem is not a specific regulator or regulation. It is an accumulation of rules in dozens of different agencies, such as the Army Corps, Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency and particularly the complex Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to name just a few. Each has made rules in response to the integrity list of Congress mandates and authorities.

Some are familiar to most people, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Others, while more obscure, are equally relevant: the federal Deepwater Port Act of 1974, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act, and the wild and Scenic Rivers Act. And those are some of the functions of Congress that are relevant to FERC.

The end result for Logan was not environmental benefits, it was piled on top of costs.

Although the city ultimately installed the turbine, after navigating and complying with all related regulations, many said they would not be interested in pursuing additional infrastructure projects, particularly projects related to renewable energy.

Perhaps change is on the horizon. President Donald Trump’s recent actions may be the necessary motivation to correct the jungle-gym surrounding infrastructure projects. While taxes, immigration and health care are in the headlines, the administration is also working on infrastructure-related reforms.

For example, last year, the President issued executive Order Designed to streamline the permitting process for infrastructure projects. It set targets and established performance priority targets and deadlines to meet the “Environmental Review and Authority Decisions for Major Infrastructure Projects within two years”.

Trump’s “Legislative Framework for Reconstruction in America” That executive order improves. Fifteen of the 55 pages are devoted to eliminating or streamlining unnecessary rules. From a strictly regulatory perspective, this is a step in the right direction.

In addition, the framework introduces the concept of “one agency, one decision,” that is, to set up a lead agency for each individual infrastructure project, instead of distributing and distributing multiple veto points to several different agencies Looks for

Even if all infrastructure considerations of governance bear fruit, like all regulations, infrastructure regulations will require constant trends and improvements. Ultimately, this is the lesson: Red tape decisions from multiple agencies affect both infrastructure and the overall economy. Red tape is undesirable, unnecessary, and avoidable, but it will always resurface unless regulatory processes lead to regulatory accumulation.

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