Focus Point - Nonsense Environmental Incentives

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. A recent U.S. conference of mayors report shows how perverse our environmental enforcement has become.

About 82,000 acres of land in 200 cities are so polluted they're either deserted or underused. But bankers, real estate developers and others who might otherwise be interested in cleaning them up and developing them won't do it, because they're afraid of lawsuits if the cleanup isn't to everyone's liking.

These so-called brownfields, if rehabilitated, could be a source of more than 550,000 new jobs and $878 million in tax revenue, according to the mayor's group. But the threat of legal proceedings against owners who clean up the land means they sit unused, sometimes for decades. Instead of being productive, they're just polluted eyesores. And the situation's probably worse, since the total brownfield acreage is almost certainly higher than the report suggests. As long as policy threatens rather than reward the cleanup -- nothing will change.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, tax cuts! Just not for you.