Financing Environmental Infrastructure

DSC00626For a number of years, the American Society of Civil Engineers has been issuing an annual report card on the condition of the nation’s infrastructure. Generally speaking, those grades have not been good: In 2013, the nation’s grade point average was a D+. It is not my intent in this short post to review all the deficiencies that ASCE describes, although I will note that part of the problem is a penny-wise, pound-foolish national politics that is so concerned about lowering taxes that it has lost sight of the value of investing wisely in the nation’s future. National, state, and local economic development all depend crucially on well-functioning infrastructure. The fear of raising taxes to pay for important infrastructure repair is short-sighted and ultimately unpatriotic.

Essential pieces of the national infrastructure are and should be environmentally related: water and wastewater treatment plants, sewer and water delivery pipes, green infrastructure that helps to mitigate stormwater runoff, and so on. Much of that environmental infrastructure also serves to mitigate natural hazards and thus reduce damages from major storms and other disasters. Regions affected by prolonged drought have learned the hard way, in many cases, that water-conserving infrastructure is critical to drought resilience.

How do we find new ways to pay for all this? The real point of this short blog post is simply to link the reader to a video interview by me with Dr. Jack Kartez, a long-time professor of urban planning at the University of Southern Maine. Dr. Kartez also serves as director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 1 Environmental Finance Center, which is hosted at the university but serves all of New England. This is the second of two interviews we conducted during the July 20-22 Natural Hazards Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado, this summer under the auspices of the American Planning Association’s Hazards Planning Center. I think he offers some valuable insights into solving some of our problems in this arena.


Jim Schwab

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