By Kevin Rudden Staff Reporter/Columnist
August 27, 2010
I had the opportunity to spend nearly three weeks this summer meeting folks from all over the country gathered as volunteers at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree in Virginia, and I discovered that – regional accents aside – Americans are pretty much the same. [back]
For example, everyone is suffering from the impacts of unemployment and a poor economy. In fact, some areas of the country are a lot worse off than the Northeast.
Most people are unhappy with how "government" (at all levels – local, state and federal) is responding to help improve the economy. It was pretty much a general consensus that President Obama will be a one-termer if things don't improve by the time his term ends.
And, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pretty much treating other communities in other states the same way that it is treating the towns of Milford, Bellingham, and Franklin.
Here, it's the issue of phosphorus levels from stormwater runoff into the Charles River. In Virginia, it's nitrogen levels from sewerage going into the James River.
But, from reading the local Richmond newspaper, you couldn't tell whether the EPA officials were from Boston or down South. Their attitude is identical.
I'd sum that attitude up as "We don't care how much you have to pay. You will fix the problem now, and we have no money to give you to help you out."
That attitude doesn't seem to take into account my first point about everyone suffering from the impacts of a poor economy and is definitely a factor in my second point about dissatisfaction with government.
With all the unemployment and lack of pay raises going around, the EPA seems to be in its own little world in which you can mandate things with no regard on how to pay for those mandates.
Raise sewer use fees in Richmond, Virginia? Not the agency's problem. Institute a "stormwater utility" (the fanciest phrase for "user fee" that I've ever heard) in Milford, Bellingham and Franklin? Again, not the EPA's concern.
Maybe it should be. Here are a few sentences from a document* to which the EPA referred folks attending one of its local meetings earlier this month on the new mandates: Cost is another critical component when optimizing various BMP [best management practices] setup scenarios... The construction cost information for this study was mainly intended to help compare different BMP implementation alternatives. That is, the optimization process was based on relative costs, and the cost values should not be taken literally. When added together the resulting totals were total relative costs. Actual costs could be higher, though economies of scale are hard to predict.
"Cost values should not be taken literally... Actual cost could be higher." In other words, when an EPA official stands up and tells local businesses that their cost of complying with these mandates could range from $5,100 to $117,600 per acre, that EPA official really doesn't have a clue.
Makes you wonder about the rest of the "facts" the federal agency is relying on, doesn't it?
*Read "Optimal Stormwater Management Plan Alternatives: A Demonstration Project in Three Upper Charles River Communities" – Final Report – December, 2009 – prepared for United States Environmental Protection Agency – New England and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection by Tetra Tech, Inc., Fairfax, VA – at http://www.epa.gov/region1/topics/water/pdfs/OptimalSWMngtPlanAlternativesUpperCharlesPilotStudy.pdf.