Reg­u­la­tions kill in­fra­struc­ture projects.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

In ex­plain­ing his plans for re­build­ing Amer­ica dur­ing “In­fra­struc­ture Week,” Trump pro­posed that “a few sim­ple pages” of rules could re­place the cur­rent com­plex reg­u­la­tions, boost­ing in­fra­struc­ture projects. Trump’s prom­ise echoed long-held con­ser­va­tive dogma that reg­u­la­tions, par­tic­u­larly en­vi­ron­men­tal-review re­quire­ments, sti­fle ma­jor projects. For in­stance, in a re­port de­tail­ing al­ter­na­tives for gen­er­at­ing $1 tril­lion in in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment, the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion sug­gested “re­form­ing reg­u­la­tions that ham­per in­fra­struc­ture projects.”

But if job data is any in­di­ca­tion, reg­u­la­tions do not re­sult in an over­all re­duc­tion of ac­tiv­ity in the in­fra­struc­ture sec­tor, though they may change what kinds of projects are un­der­taken.

Since the pub­li­ca­tion of Rachel Car­son’s clas­sic book on en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism, “Silent Spring,” 55 years ago, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of reg­u­la­tions — specif­i­cally en­vi­ron­men­tal rules — has spurred in­fra­struc­ture projects all over the coun­try, from air pol­lu­tion con­trol to so­lar-power in­stal­la­tions and more. In 2012, for ex­am­ple, a Mary­land-based en­vi­ron­men­tal group an­nounced that clean­ing up the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay by up­grad­ing sewage sys­tems would cre­ate 240,000 jobs. And more reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing, for ex­am­ple, smart grids to dis­trib­ute re­new­able power would re­sult in ex­ten­sive project starts.

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