Aging Dams, Forgotten Perils

by Daniel Farber | October 11, 2019

Originally published on Legal Planet.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Critical U.S. infrastructure is dilapidated and unsafe. Regulation is weak, and enforcement is weaker. Everyone agrees on the need for action, and climate change will only make the problem worse, but no one seems to do anything about it. Sadly, this has become a familiar story.

Take dams, for instance. A year ago, I noted that the federal government regulates the safety of only a small proportion of dams in the United States, while it owns less than 5 percent. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, in 2015, there were more than 15,000 dams classified as "high-hazard potential," a number that had increased by a third since 2005. The federal government issues dam safety guidelines, but they are not mandatory. The national flood safety program is established by 33 U.S. Code § 467f and includes provisions for training and other support of state programs. According to FEMA, nine states (Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Vermont, and Wyoming) lack the power to require owners of high-hazard dams to prepare emergency action plans covering evacuation and other responses. "Clearly," I said, "more needs to be done to ensure the safety of our country's dams," which was only stating the obvious.

You may be shocked to learn that the situation seems to be unchanged ...

What President Trump's Infrastructure Agenda Gets Wrong

by Alejandro Camacho | May 08, 2019
Originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. At the outset of the Trump Administration, policymakers of all stripes hoped infrastructure might be an issue on which Congress and the President could reach bipartisan agreement. President Donald J. Trump stressed infrastructure needs during and after the 2016 election, and members of Congress from both parties asserted that repairing and upgrading infrastructure was a top priority. Recently, President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats claimed to make progress over the possibility of ...

The Environmental Injustice of Declining Budgets for Water Infrastructure

by Evan Isaacson | February 15, 2018
This year more than most, it bears repeating that a budget is a moral document, or at least that it has moral implications. It's particularly important to remember not just because President Trump's budget is so appallingly skewed in favor of military spending – this looks to be one pricey parade – but also because of the administration's puzzling infrastructure proposal.  It is no surprise that the Trump administration would craft an infrastructure plan heavily tilted toward the shiny objects ...

The Message Congress Needs to Hear As It Debates Our Water Infrastructure Needs

by Evan Isaacson | June 22, 2017
Last fall, the Senate directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to conduct an independent study on affordability of municipal investments in water infrastructure. As someone who spent several years within the halls of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, I was honored to contribute to NAPA's research efforts by responding to a survey with suggestions for public administrators and communities struggling to meet the challenges ...

Tax Credits and Public Spending on Infrastructure

by David Driesen | January 30, 2017
Donald Trump based his candidacy on the claim that he would serve working-class people who established politicians have neglected. He promised $1 trillion of infrastructure investment over 10 years, which could generate a lot of blue-collar employment while potentially repairing crumbling bridges and roads, replacing antiquated wastewater treatment systems (in Flint and elsewhere), and creating a mass transit system that could move us into the 21st century in that realm. A sound infrastructure program, unlike anything else that Trump has ...

Trading Away the Benefits of Green Infrastructure

by Evan Isaacson | May 10, 2016
In the world of watershed restoration, there are multiple tools and tactics that government agencies, private landowners, and industry can use to reduce pollution and clean up our waterways. In Maryland, two of those approaches seem destined to collide. On the first track is nutrient trading, a least-cost pollution control concept predicated on the idea that if some distant entity can reduce the same amount of pollution at a lower cost than a facility with a water pollution control permit, ...

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