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 caused by massive underinvestment in water infrastructure and the growing threats that poses to public health and water quality.

The specific questions that NAPA has been charged with answering are difficult. Over the years, EPA has developed an ever-evolving set of guidance documents with an increasing degree of complexity for state and federal regulators and the regulated community of municipal agencies and water utilities. A certain degree of complexity is inevitable in order to respond with sufficient flexibility to the myriad and unique fiscal and engineering challenges that each community faces.

Despite the complexity of EPA's framework for determining and applying affordability guidelines in practice and the severity of our nation's deteriorated water infrastructure, I would argue that NAPA should deliver a concise and straightforward message to Congress: There are no silver bullets that will resolve our water infrastructure crisis, and no corners that can be cut. Only when lawmakers reckon with the scale and importance of the issue can ...

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 ...

The Silica Standard: A Case Study of Inequality in Worker Health and Safety Standards

by Katie Tracy | May 19, 2016
Back in March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized its long-awaited silica standard, requiring employers to reduce workers' exposure to the toxic, cancer-causing dust so common to construction and fracking sites, among other workplaces. OSHA estimates that the new standard will prevent more than 600 deaths and 900 new cases of silicosis annually. That is certainly commendable, but the kudos would be more heartfelt if the new standard had been adopted decades earlier and if it fully addressed ...

Renewed Public Investment in Water Infrastructure Promotes Equality

by Evan Isaacson | May 18, 2016
Clean water: We can't take it for granted, as the people of Flint, Michigan, can attest. And they're not alone. In too many communities across the nation, drinking water fails to meet minimum safety standards, forcing consumers to buy bottled water and avoid the stuff coming out of their taps. We cannot say that we didn't see this coming. Part of the problem is that, as a society, we have always undervalued clean water. Municipal water rates only pass along ...

Want to Address Economic Inequality? Strengthen the Regulatory System

by James Goodwin | May 17, 2016
The growing problem of economic inequality in the United States continues to draw significant attention – and for good reason. By 2011, America's top 1 percent owned more than 40 percent of the nation's wealth, and ours ranks as one of the most unequal economies among developed countries. Meanwhile, the median wage rate for workers has remained largely unchanged in real terms over the last 40 years – even as worker productivity has grown at a steady clip – contributing ...

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