Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cutting a Bit of Fat from the Federal Budget: Do Away With the National Register of Historic Places

Maintaining the National Register of Historic Places – self-described as the nation’s official list of significant historic sites, districts, buildings, structures, and objects – is one of the minor non-park-related duties of the National Park Service. It doesn’t cost a great deal of money in terms of direct costs – just the salaries of some Park Service employees and associated administrative expenses – but that money could certainly be more fruitfully used for other things, and eliminating the Register would also result in significant indirect savings by simplifying and streamlining federal environmental impact review.

The Register serves three functions, none of them critical to government operations or the welfare of the American people:

1. Owners of income-producing properties included in the Register get federal income tax credits for rehabilitating such properties in such a way as to extend their lives and maintain their significant architectural qualities. If there were not a register of some kind it would be impossible to determine which properties should and should not receive such benefits. But “a register” does not have to be a central national register, maintained at considerable expense by the federal government. State and local lists would do just as well. Most states and many local governments already maintain their own lists of places they want to preserve; why not support them rather than maintaining a redundant national list?
2. The information in the Register can be and is used for educational and touristic purposes, but again, state and local lists, as well as Indian tribal and Native Hawaiian lists, could serve these purposes just as well as or better than the National Register. So could databases maintained by federal land managing agencies.
3. Federal agencies are required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to consider the effects of actions they plan – things they want to undertake or that others want to undertake with their assistance or permission – on places included in or eligible for the National Register. In my experience – and I’ve been working with Section 106 for over 40 years, inside and outside the federal government – tremendous amounts of time and money are wasted on argumentation over whether endangered places are eligible for inclusion in the Register. Not only is the time of highly paid specialists wasted in such arguments, but often important and expensive projects have to be delayed while they are conducted. The arguments almost never focus on serious questions about the cultural, historical, or architectural significance of such places; they almost always involve differing interpretations or understandings of the technical criteria for eligibility issued by the National Park Service. I believe we would have a much stronger, more efficient, more sensible procedure for managing federal impacts on historic places if we focused Section 106 review on whatever people concerned about a given proposed project thought was historically, culturally, or architecturally significant in the affected environment – always with the understanding that, as today, if agreement couldn’t be reached about how to deal with a project’s impacts, the responsible agency could get the recommendations of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (or some equivalent body) and make its final decision about whether to go forward with the impacts or not. With such a system, of course, we would not need a National Register, and we would save the federal, state, local, and private money that goes into arguing over eligibilty for it.

We actually do not “need” a National Register today – it’s simply something that the National Historic Preservation Act created back in 1966 and we’ve gotten used to and stuck with. The Register today serves only as a distraction from the real work of preserving the heritage of the nation, its regions, states, tribes, and groups. It imposes upon us the obnoxious perception that the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, has to verify what is historically, culturally, and architecturally significant. Why is the Secretary qualified to do this, particularly with regard to what, say, the people of Gallup, New Mexico or Nyack, New York may think is part of their heritage? And why should the Secretary spend even a small chunk of his budget making decisions about such things? Why not let the people decide -- and save a bit of money, simplify government, and improve management of the environment in the process?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Impacts of the Stimulus Package

The Proposed Stimulus Package, Environmental Impact Assessment, and Cultural Resource Management
Thomas F. King: January 17, 2009


As of January 15, 2009, we began to get a reasonably clear view of what the Obama Administration is proposing as a package of programs to stimulate the staggering economy. The package, as outlined in a paper entitled “Summary: American Recovery and Reinvestment” issued on the 14th, includes quite a number of projects and programs that could have negative effects on the human environment, both natural and cultural. This is not to say that they are not good programs and projects – only that like most things we do, they may do injury to some aspect of the environment.

For several decades we have had laws requiring that the environmental impacts of federal proposals be reviewed in an orderly manner, so that they can be lessened if feasible, sometimes avoided altogether, or at least accepted with full knowledge of what we are doing. Notable among these laws are the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Compliance with NEPA is a type of environmental impact assessment (EIA); EIA is conducted by governments and international bodies throughout the world in an effort to control environmental damage. Compliance with Section 106 of NHPA is an important aspect of what is commonly referred to as cultural resource management (CRM) – assessing and controlling impacts on the historic and other cultural aspects of the environment.

As discussed in my forthcoming book, Our Unprotected Heritage (Left Coast Press 2009), neither EIA nor CRM is performed very well in this country, but their performance is nevertheless a suggestion that project proponents and overseers have given some thought to the impacts of their actions. Such thought-giving takes a certain amount of time; it commonly requires some study, and it should (though seldom does) involve good-faith consultation with affected parties.

Whenever the federal government proposes a new program, a new infusion of money into society, there is the danger that the time will not be taken to give the impacts of the program the consideration that caution and discretion commend. This can have costly, damaging results. This danger is exacerbated when it is perceived, rightly or wrongly, that the money must be spent quickly.

As a long-term practitioner of EIA and CRM, I thought it might be useful, both to me and to interested colleagues, to go through the proposed stimulus package piece by piece and speculate about where problems are and are not likely to arise between implementing its terms and protection of the human environment. In doing so, below, I do not pretend to offer judgments about the appropriateness of the package’s components. I merely apply my knowledge of how the EIA/CRM systems have worked in the past, in an effort to be forewarned about where problems may arise in the near future as the stimulus package goes into effect.

Below, each “item” is derived verbatim (though with explanatory material and some lengthy descriptions of low potential impact programs deleted in many cases) from the summary paper alluded to above. Each “item” is followed by my assessment of the likelihood that it will present conflicts with protection of the natural and cultural environment, sometimes with brief elaboration on the kinds of conflicts I anticipate. What to do about these conflicts will be the subject of a subsequent paper, assuming I come up with any good ideas.


Item: Reliable, Efficient Electricity Grid: $11 billion for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds for the Smart Grid Investment Program
My assessment: There is a tendency to think that “green” projects are by definition “clean” projects that have no environmental impacts. Of course, this is by no means true, but such projects often get “fast-tracked” through EIA/CRM review, without full consideration of impacts, mitigation measures, and alternatives that would reduce impacts. One result of this is unnecessary damage to the environment; another can be costly last-minute delays when some serious impact is identified too late to be dealt with effectively and too dramatically to be ignored. To the extent the projects financed by this part of the program may disturb the land, buildings, viewscapes, or neighborhoods, or introduce visual, auditory, or other elements into the environment, and to the extent they haven’t been subjected to thorough, systematic, professionally responsible and transparent EIA/CRM review, they may produce a high level of conflict and damage.

Item: Renewable Energy Loan Guarantees: $8 billion for loans for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects.
My assessment: May be a particular problem because loan guarantees are subjected at best to rather sporadic EIA/CRM review. It is easy to imagine last-minute unanticipated conflicts.

Item: GSA Federal Buildings: $6.7 billion for renovations and repairs to federal buildings including at least $6 billion focused on increasing energy efficiency and conservation.
My assessment: The quality of GSA EIA/CRM historically is rather mixed, but GSA has a high level of expertise in building management and rehabilitation, so my guess is that these projects will mostly present few problems.

Item: Local Government Energy Efficiency Block Grants: $6.9 billion to help state and local governments make investments that make them more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions.
My assessment: Block grants historically have not been subjected to federal EIA and CRM review. Whether this is good policy is debatable, but it does eliminate the potential for much technical conflict with federal EIA and CRM laws.

Item: Energy Efficiency Housing Retrofits: $2.5 billion for a new program to upgrade HUD sponsored low-income housing to increase energy efficiency, including new insulation, windows, and furnaces. Funds will be competitively awarded.
My assessment: HUD has a relatively abysmal record of EIA/CRM review, and things like window replacement are historically problematic in terms of impacts on historic buildings. My guess is that most individual projects will be of sufficiently small scale as to be non-controversial, but at minimum I’d expect a fair amount of unnecessary damage to historic buildings and neighborhoods.

Item: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Research: $2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities to foster energy independence, reduce carbon emissions, and cut utility bills. Funds are awarded on a competitive basis to universities, companies, and national laboratories.
My assessment: Much as with the housing retrofit projects, the problems with things like demonstration projects and “deployment activities” are likely to fly below the radar of public controversy over environmental impacts. Such impacts will probably occur, but be ignored unless a university, company or national lab that fails to get funds chooses to use the EIA/CRM laws to challenge a project that IS funded.

Item: Advanced Battery Loans and Grants: $2 billion for the Advanced Battery Loan Guarantee and Grants Program, to support U.S. manufacturers of advanced vehicle batteries and battery systems.
My assessment: EIA/CRM issues might arise around the manufacture of batteries, acquisition of raw materials, and disposal of wastes, but my guess is that these will be relatively rare and controllable.

Item: Home Weatherization: $6.2 billion to help low-income families reduce their energy costs by weatherizing their homes and make our country more energy efficient.
My assessment: Same potential problems as with HUD housing retrofits. A lot will depend on how the money is distributed, and by what agencies.

Item: Smart Appliances: $300 million to provide consumers with rebates for buying energy efficient Energy Star products to replace old appliances, which will lower energy bills.
My assessment: Probably not a problem.

Item: GSA Federal Fleet: $600 million to replace older vehicles owned by the federal government with alternative fuel automobiles that will save on fuel costs and reduce carbon emissions.
My assessment: Probably not a problem.

Item: Electric Transportation: $200 million for a new grant program to encourage electric vehicle technologies.
My assessment: To the extent this mostly stimulates research in existing labs and factories, probably not a problem.

Item: Cleaning Fossil Energy: $2.4 billion for carbon capture and sequestration technology demonstration projects.
My assessment: To the extent this finances modifications to existing power plants and research in laboratories, probably not a problem except to the extent it fosters a continuing reliance on coal, and hence on mining with all its adverse environmental effects.

Item: Department of Defense Research: $350 million for research into using renewable energy to power weapons systems and military bases.
My assessment: The military services have relatively robust, if not always very efficient or transparent, EIA/CRM systems, and the funding proposed here won’t support much, so I would anticipate few problems.

Item: Alternative Buses and Trucks: $400 million to help state and local governments purchase efficient alternative fuel vehicles to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.
My assessment: Probably few problems.

Item: Industrial Energy Efficiency: $500 million for energy efficient manufacturing demonstration projects.
My assessment: To the extent this involves upgrading the efficiency of existing factories, probably few problems.

Item: Diesel Emissions Reduction: $300 million for grants and loans to state and local governments for projects that reduce diesel emissions.
My assessment: Probably few problems, but the description is too vague to allow much confidence.

Item: Wireless and Broadband Grants: $6 billion for broadband and wireless services in underserved areas.
My assessment: Probably not a problem except to the extent it results in expansion of fiber-optic networks that require trenching and other potentially environmentally damaging activities. These are usually small-scale impacts, however, which should be fairly easily handled IF they are identified in a timely manner.

Item: National Science Foundation: $3 billion, including … $400 million to build major research facilities that perform cutting edge science, $300 million for major research equipment shared by institutions of higher education and other scientists, (and) $200 million to repair and modernize science and engineering research facilities.
My assessment: NSF, probably because it assumes that whatever it does is “good,” has a rotten track record in EIA/CRM. Wherever NSF funds new construction or renovation, there is the potential for unconsidered EIA/CRM conflicts. The rest of the $3 billion is to be allocated to relatively innocuous activities that should have few if any impacts.

Item: National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research: $2 billion, including $1.5 billion for …biomedical research… and $500 million to implement the repair and improvement strategic plan developed by the NIH for its campuses.
My assessment: No likely problems except with the $500 million campus upgrade – which also may not be a problem IF the strategic plan has been subjected to responsible EIA/CRM. This is by no means assured, however.

Item: University Research Facilities: $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities and help them compete for biomedical research grants.
My assessment: Universities are well known for their insensitivity to some EIA/CRM issues, notably historic preservation and respect for neighborhoods surrounding university campuses. To the extent this program funds improvements to existing facilities, the problems will probably be minimal, but new construction could trigger serious conflicts.

Item: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: $462 million to enable CDC to complete its Buildings and Facilities Master Plan, as well as renovations and construction needs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
My assessment: The potential for conflict depends on whether and how well the Master Plan and NIOSH construction plans have been subjected to responsible EIA/CRM review.

Item: Department of Energy: $1.9 billion for basic research into the physical sciences
My assessment: To the extent this supports research in existing labs, probably few problems.

Item: NASA: $600 million, including $400 (for) climate change research, $150 million for research, development, and demonstration to improve aviation safety and Next Generation air traffic control (NextGen); and $50 million to repair NASA centers damaged by hurricanes and floods last year.
My assessment: NASA is another “good” agency with a rotten record of EIA/CRM review, but to the extent this funding supports research with existing facilities and spacecraft, it should produce few problems.

Item: Biomedical Advanced Research and Development, Pandemic Flu, and Cyber Security: $900 million to prepare for a pandemic influenza.
My assessment: Probably no problems.

Item: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Satellites and Sensors: $600 million for satellite development and acquisitions, including climate sensors and climate modeling.
My assessment: Probably no problems.

Item: National Institute of Standards and Technology: $300 million for competitive construction grants for research science buildings at colleges, universities, and other research organizations…
My assessment: The proposed grant recipients typically do a bad job of considering EIA/CRM issues, and NIST has little or no experience with EIA/CRM. As a result there may well be conflicts, though the program is small enough that it will probably result in a lot of relatively small grants with low potential for impacts.

Item: Agricultural Research Service: $209 million for agricultural research facilities across the country.
My assessment: This money will apparently be used mostly to correct problems arising from deferred maintenance on existing facilities, so probably won’t present many problems.

Item: U.S. Geological Survey: $200 million to repair and modernize U.S.G.S. science facilities and equipment.
My assessment: A pretty small program, probably little potential for problems.

Item: Small Business Credit: $430 million for new direct lending and loan guarantee authorities.
My assessment: Will probably finance some environmentally damaging activities, but SBA has mostly gotten away without much if any EIA/CRM review in the past, and will probably continue to do so.

Item: Rural Business-Cooperative Service: $100 million for rural business grants and loans to guarantee $2 billion in loans for rural businesses.
My assessment: “Rural businesses” like industrial agriculture can have a wide range of environmental impacts, which tend to be rather poorly managed, so the potential for uncontrolled environmental impact by this program is probably high, but the potential for controversy and conflict is probably low because such impacts tend to occur where no one is really watching.

Item: Industrial Technology Services: $100 million, including $70 million for the Technology Innovation Program to accelerate research in potentially revolutionary technologies … and $30 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships to help small and mid-size manufacturers compete globally by providing them with access to technology.
My assessment: Probably no problem.

Item: Economic Development Assistance: $250 million to address long-term economic distress in urban industrial cores and rural areas. EDA leverages $10 in private investments for $1 in federal funds.
My assessment: A small program with big potential impacts on the environment because of its leveraging effects. To the extent projects it funds get EIA/CRM attention at all, they are likely to raise contentious issues concerning the extent to which the federal tail can wag the dog of a mostly non-federal development project.

Item: DTV Conversion Coupons: $650 million to continue the coupon program to enable American households to convert from analog television transmission to digital transmission.
My assessment: No problem except what’s going to happen to all those old TVs?

Item: Highway Infrastructure: $30 billion for highway and bridge construction projects.
My assessment: In an informal poll of state department of transportation (DOT) environmental staff, most reported that they had plenty of “shovel-ready” projects that had completed EIA/CRM review, but in some states (notably in the south) it appears that EIA/CRM review is not initiated until federal funds are in hand. A project in this condition shouldn’t be regarded as “shovel-ready,” but many probably will be, and could present serious conflicts if environmental and cultural resource issues arise at the “last minute.” There is also the question of the quality of the EIA/CRM work done on some ostensibly shovel-ready projects, particularly where such work was done either long ago or in the latter part of the Bush administration, during which EIA/CRM standards tended to be relaxed throughout the government.

Item: Transit New Construction: $1 billion for Capital Investment Grants for new commuter rail or other light rail systems to increase public use of mass transit and to speed projects already in construction.
My assessment: This will apparently be a Federal Transit Administration program; FTA’s handling of EIA/CRM matters tends to be pretty flaccid, so the potential for unresolved impacts and conflicts is probably pretty high.

Item: Transit Upgrades and Repair: $2 billion to modernize existing transit systems, including renovations to stations, security systems, computers, equipment, structures, signals, and communications. Funds will be distributed through the existing formula.
My assessment: Fairly high likelihood of impacts on historic rail facilities, stations, etc., which have probably not been thoroughly assessed.

Item: Transit Capital Assistance: $6 billion to purchase buses and equipment needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities.
My assessment: Probably little danger of problems.

Item: Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail Construction Grants: $1.1 billion to improve the speed and capacity of intercity passenger rail service.
My assessment: May be some conflicts with historic facilities along Northeast Corridor, but such facilities are relatively well known, so there shouldn’t be a lot of unexpected problems.

Item: Transportation Security Administration Explosive Detection Systems: $500 million to install Aviation Explosive Detection Systems in the nation’s airports:
My assessment: Little danger of problems.

Item: Coast Guard Bridges: $150 million for ready-to-go investments to repair or remove bridges deemed hazardous to marine navigation.
My assessment: Depends on what the Coast Guard means by “ready-to-go.” If achieving this happy state includes completing responsible EIA/CRM work, there should be few problems, but this may be a big “if.”

Item: Social Security Administration Modernization: $400 million to replace the 30 year old Social Security Administration’s National Computer Center.
My assessment: Depends on whether this involves new construction or just upgrading equipment. New construction could present problems, but assuming that GSA will do the modernizing, there’s a reasonable chance that EIA/CRM issues are under control.

Item: Farm Service Agency: $245 million for critical IT improvements to systems that have been unable to handle workload increases.
My assessment: Probably not a problem.

Item: State Department Technology: $276 million to upgrade and modernize information technology platform.
My assessment: Probably not a problem.

Item: Department of Agriculture: $44 million for repairs and security improvements at USDA’s headquarters.
My assessment: My impression is that this project has been on GSA’s books for years, so EIA/CRM issues are probably under control.

Item: DOD Medical Facilities: $3.75 billion for new construction of hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers, and $455 million in renovations.
My assessment: Lots of potential for environmental/cultural impacts, but there is a fairly good chance that DOD has completed a responsible program of EIA/CRM, albeit perhaps with little public involvement.

Item: Facilities Renovations: $2.1 billion to address needed repairs to military facilities.
My assessment: Same as above, and special potential for problems if any renovations are to be carried out overseas, where pertinent US EIA/CRM laws have limited applicability.

Item: Troop Housing: $1.2 billion for new construction and $154 million for renovations to improve housing for our troops.
My assessment: Same as above.

Item: Child Development Center: $360 million for new child development centers.
My assessment: Same as above.

Item: Guard and Reserve: $400 million for new construction to support Guard and Reserve units across the country with operations and training facilities and utilities infrastructure.
My assessment: Same as above, with complications arising from likely questions about the relationship between federal and state programs/responsibilities/authorities.

Item: Veterans Medical Facilities: $950 million for veterans’ medical facilities.
My assessment: VA is playing catch up on its EIA/CRM responsibilities, toward which it has not very vigorously applied itself in the past. I anticipate serious conflicts here. In the interests of full disclosure, the reader should know that I am under contract to assist VA with resolving some existing CRM problems.

Item: Veterans Cemeteries: $50 million to put people to work making monument and memorial repairs at cemeteries.
My assessment: Depends on whether we’re talking here about literally just fixing monuments and memorials, which should have pretty limited impacts, or whether VA will include more extensive renovation/expansion of cemeteries. The latter could create serious impacts and controversies.

Item: Border Ports of Entry: $1.15 billion to construct GSA and Customs and Border Patrol land ports.
My assessment: This has been a GSA priority for some years, and it’s likely that some kind of EIA/CRM review has been completed on each project. Whether it’s been done well is another matter.

Item: Job Corps Facilities: $300 million to upgrade job training facilities serving at-risk youth while improving energy efficiency.
My assessment: Depends substantially on what agency will do the upgrading, but in any event we’re probably looking at relatively minor changes to existing facilities, so the problems may be limited.

Item: Construction on Public Lands and Parks: $1.8 billion for the National Park Service, $325 million for the Bureau of Land Management, $300 million for the National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries, and $650 million for the Forest Service.
My assessment: A good deal of potential for poorly defined and controlled impacts on the environment, both natural and cultural. Though NPS, BLM, FWS and FS have fairly robust programs of EIA/CRM, all have deteriorated in recent years, and have suffered from ill-advised though understandable efforts to “streamline” review in ways that have tended to reduce comprehensiveness and transparency.

Item: National Treasures: $400 million, including $200 million to address the deterioration of the National Mall; $150 million to address the repair backlog at the Smithsonian; and $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.
My assessment: National Mall repairs have almost surely undergone extensive review by a variety of planning bodies, so probably present few problems. The Smithsonian insists that it is not a federal agency whenever it is urged to comply with federal EIA/CRM laws, so the likelihood of undefined and very much unresolved conflicts over Smithsonian repairs may be high (depending on the scale and character of the repairs). NEA may have sporadic impacts on the environment, which almost certainly have not been properly identified and addressed.

Item: Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $6 billion for loans to help communities upgrade wastewater treatment systems.
My assessment: Considerable potential for impacts through improvement/extension of wastewater facilities. No idea to what extent the projects likely to be funded have undergone EIA/CRM review.

Item: Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: $2 billion for loans for drinking water infrastructure.
My assessment: Same as above.

Item: Rural Water and Waste Disposal: $1.5 billion to support $3.8 billion in grants and loans to help communities fund drinking water and wastewater treatment systems.
My assessment: Same as above.

Item: Corps of Engineers: $4.5 billion for environmental restoration, flood protection, hydropower, and navigation infrastructure critical to the economy.
My assessment: The Civil Works side of the Corps has a well-developed EIA/CRM program (as opposed to the Regulatory side, which is a poster child for mindless pseudo-compliance with EIA/CRM laws). I would not anticipate many problems with these projects.

Item: Bureau of Reclamation: $500 million to provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural areas and to ensure adequate water supply to western localities impacted by drought.
My assessment: Essentially the same as the various EPA water and wastewater programs.

Item: Watershed Infrastructure: $400 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service watershed improvement programs to design and build flood protection and water quality projects, repair aging dams, and purchase and restore conservation easements in river flood zones.
My assessment: If these projects are parts of an NRCS backlog, they have probably undergone some level of EIA/CRM review, but my impression is that the quality of such review varies widely from area to area. My guess is that there will be few problems as the result of such a small infusion of money, however.

Item: International Boundary and Water Commission: $224 million to repair flood control systems along the international segment of the Rio Grande damaged by hurricane Katrina and other serious storms.
My assessment: Probably under control, particularly assuming FEMA involvement.

Item: Superfund Hazardous Waste Cleanup: $800 million to clean up hazardous and toxic waste sites that threaten health and the environment.
My assessment: Serious potential for destructive, costly, controversial conflicts. EPA (at least half the time) argues that it need not comply with EIA/CRM laws when it does Superfund cleanup, because the law (CERCLA) ostensibly exempts the agency from such laws. This is hardly true, but the law (CERCLA) is inartfully written, and EPA pretty regularly gets away without considering environmental impacts, or with considering them in very strange, usually highly inefficient, ineffective, and opaque ways. I seriously doubt if many projects to be funded out of this (admittedly small) pot have been responsibly subjected to EIA/CRM review. The organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has recently presented evidence of the damage EPA is doing to EPA’s Inspector General, requesting review. PEER’s arguments appear to me to be well founded.

Item: Leaking Underground Storage Tanks: $200 million for enforcement and cleanup of petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks at approximately 1,600 additional sites.
My assessment: Most of the projects that will be funded probably present few problems, but I question how well they have been examined for environmental and cultural resource impacts.

Item: Nuclear Waste Cleanup: $500 million for nuclear waste cleanup at sites contaminated as a result of the nation’s past nuclear activities.
My assessment: The Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission routinely carry out what they interpret as EIA/CRM review, but it tends to be minimalist and hampered by over-lawyerly interpretations of their responsibilities. Such a small infusion of money will probably not make things notably worse than they are already, however.

Item: Closed Military Bases: $300 million for cleanup activities at closed military installations allowing local communities to redevelop these properties for productive use.
My assessment: Cleanup per se is probably not a serious issue, though the uses that may be allowed as a result may be another matter.

Item: NOAA Habitat Restoration: $400 million for ready-to-go habitat restoration projects.
My assessment: Depends on what “ready-to-go” means to NOAA.

Item: Brownfields: $100 million for competitive grants for evaluation and cleanup of former industrial and commercial sites.
My assessment: Some such sites are historically and archaeologically important, and some doubtless have other environmental values. EPA tends to be reluctant to acknowledge that its environmental improvement activities could have environmental impacts, so I would anticipate at least some problems with these projects.

Item: Reducing Wildfires Threats: $850 million for hazardous fuels removal and other efforts to prevent wildfires on public lands.
My assessment: Depends on what’s meant by “hazardous fuels removal” and “other efforts.” Recalling the Bush administration’s oxymoronic “healthy forests” initiative, I would recommend caution in accepting any Forest Service assurance that a fuels reduction project is environmentally benign.

Item: Bureau of Indian Affairs: $500 million to address maintenance backlogs at schools, dams, detention and law enforcement facilities, and over 24,000 miles of roads.
My assessment: BIA has an at-best mixed record of compliance with EIA/CRM legal requirements, and lately has not even done much of a job of consulting tribes in the course of such compliance. Many BIA facilities are historic, and programs like roads improvement have obvious potential impacts on the environment. I would anticipate problems, but they will probably be covered up.

Item: School Construction: $20 billion, including $14 billion for K-12 and $6 billion for higher education, for renovation and modernization, including technology upgrades and energy efficiency improvements.
My assessment: Funds will probably be distributed through the Deparment of Education, whose knowledge of and involvement with EIA/CRM requirements are very, very thin. Lots of potential for mistakes, screw-ups both technical and substantive. Lots of school buildings are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, so federally funded changes are subject to review under Section 106 of NHPA. I expect that money will go from DoEd to state education departments, and thence to school districts, none of whom will know the National Register from the Federal Register. The result will be that worthy and politically powerful projects will get hung up at the 11th hour when somebody discovers Section 106 and decides to ask the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) about it. SHPOs will take the blame for delaying such projects (or they’ll duck).

Item: Education Technology: $1 billion for 21st century classrooms, including computer and science labs and teacher technology training.
My assessment: To some extent, same problem as above, though much less serious.

Item: Pell Grants: $15.6 billion to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, from $4,850 to $5,350.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: College Work-Study: $490 million to support undergraduate and graduate students who work.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Student Loan Limit Increase: Increases limits on unsubsidized Stafford loans by $2,000.
My assessment: No problem

Item: Student Aid Administration: $50 million to help the Department of Education administer surging student aid programs.
My assessment: No problem

Item: IDEA Special Education: $13 billion for formula grants to increase the federal share of special education costs and prevent these mandatory costs from forcing states to cut other areas of education.
My assessment: Probably little or no problem, except where these programs require new construction or major renovation of classrooms and other facilities.

Item: Title I Help for Disadvantaged Kids: $13 billion for grants to help disadvantaged kids in nearly every school district and more than half of all public schools reach high academic standards.
My assessment: Same as above.

Item: Statewide Data Systems: $250 million for competitive grants to states to design and develop data systems that analyze individual student data to find ways to improve student achievement.
My assessment: Probably no problem.

Item: Education for Homeless Children and Youth: $66 million for formula grants to states to provide services to homeless children including meals and transportation.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Improving Teacher Quality: $300 million, including $200 million for competitive grants to school districts and states to provide financial incentives for teachers and principals
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Child Care Development Block Grant: $2 billion to provide child care services .
My assessment: No problem and because these are block grants, they are unlikely to be subjected to EIA/CRM review anyway.

Item: Head Start: $2.1 billion to provide comprehensive development services to help 110,000 additional children succeed in school.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: IDEA Infants and Families: $600 million for formula grants to help states serve children with disabilities age 2 and younger.
My assessment: Could present ADA-like conflicts between accessibility and historic facilities. With experience gained in over a quarter-century’s work with ADA, these shouldn’t be difficult to resolve.

Item: Health Information Technology: $20 billion to jumpstart efforts to computerize health records to cut costs and reduce medical errors.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Prevention and Wellness Fund: $3 billion to fight preventable chronic diseases, the leading cause of deaths in the U.S., and infectious diseases.
My assessment: Probably no problem.

Item: Healthcare Effectiveness Research: $1.1 billion for Healthcare Research and Quality programs to compare the effectiveness of different medical treatments funded by Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Community Health Centers: $1.5 billion, including $500 million to increase the number of uninsured Americans who receive quality healthcare and $1 billion to renovate clinics and make health information technology improvements.
My assessment: Could be conflicts where new construction and renovation are proposed. Very unlikely that such proposals have undergone EIA/CRM review. Conflicts will probably mostly go unnoticed, however.

Item: Training Primary Care Providers: $600 million to address shortages and prepare our country for universal healthcare by training primary healthcare providers including doctors, dentists, and nurses as well as helping pay medical school expenses for students who agree to practice in underserved communities through the National Health Service Corps.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Indian Health Service Facilities: $550 million to modernize aging hospitals and health clinics and make healthcare technology upgrades to improve healthcare for underserved rural populations.
My assessment: Conflicts likely where aging hospitals and health clinics are historic, or hospital administrators get carried away with enlargement plans, but this is a pretty small program so problems are unlikely.

Item: Training and Employment Services: $4 billion for job training including formula grants for adult, dislocated worker, and youth services (including $1.2 billion to create up to one million summer jobs for youth).
My assessment: No problem, some opportunity (priority is to be given to training for “green” jobs).

Item: Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants: $500 million for state formula grants for construction and rehabilitation of facilities to help persons with disabilities prepare for gainful employment.
My assessment: Some potential for conflicts similar to those generated by ADA. Few if any proposed projects have probably undergone EIA/CRM review.

Item: Employment Services Grants: $500 million to match unemployed individuals to job openings through state employment service agencies and allow states to provide customized services.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Community Service Employment for Older Americans: $120 million to provide subsidized community service jobs to an additional 24,000 low-income older Americans.
My assessment: No problem, potential opportunity to employ older Americans in environmental and historic preservation work.

Item: Unemployment Insurance Benefits Extension: $27 billion to continue the current extended unemployment benefits program – which provides up to 33 weeks of extended benefits - through December 31, 2009 given rising unemployment.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Increased Benefits: $9 billion to increase the current average unemployment insurance benefit from roughly $300 per week, paid out of State trust funds, by $25 per week using Federal funds, through December 2009.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Unemployment Insurance Modernization: Provides funds to states though a “Reed Act” distribution, tied to states’ meeting specific reforms to increase unemployment insurance coverage for low-wage, part-time, and other jobless workers.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: COBRA Healthcare for the Unemployed: $30.3 billion to extend health insurance coverage to the unemployed.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Medicaid Coverage for the Unemployed: $8.6 billion to provide 100 percent Federal funding through 2010 for optional State Medicaid coverage of individuals (and their dependents) who are involuntarily unemployed and whose family income does not exceed a State-determined level, but is no higher than 200 percent of poverty, or who are receiving food stamps.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Public Housing Capital Fund: $5 billion for building repair and modernization, including critical safety repairs.
My assessment: This program will present historic preservation advocates with something of a quandary. On the one hand, “building repair and modernization” of homes that are historic can be very destructive; on the other hand, a lot of such buildings need to be fixed up. Depending on how these funds are distributed, the people responsible for them may have no notion whatever of how to work with a historic building, or about what makes a building historic. Big potential for clashes here, I’m afraid, between interests that ought to be working in synch.

Item: HOME Investment Partnerships: $1.5 billion to help local communities build and rehabilitate low-income housing using green technologies.
My assessment: About the same as above.

Item: Native American Housing Block Grants: $500 million to rehabilitate and improve energy efficiency at some of the over 42,000 housing units maintained by Native American housing programs.
My assessment: Same as above.

Item: Neighborhood Stabilization: $4.2 billion to help communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant properties in order to create more affordable housing and reduce neighborhood blight.
My assessment: Some real potential for conflict; some of those vacant buildings may be (a) historic and (b) good for energy-efficient, cost-effective rehabilitation, but historically, the tendency of housing authorities has been to demolish and build new. Probably little EIA/CRM has been done on such projects. Probably an easy remedy in the form of program policy and procedures favoring rehabilitation, but lots of potential for conflicts as people fight over (for example) whether a dilapidated old building is eligible for the National Register.

Item: Homeless Assistance Grants: $1.5 billion for the Emergency Shelter Grant program to provide short term rental assistance, housing relocation, and stabilization services for families during the economic crisis. Funds are distributed by formula.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Rural Housing Insurance Fund: $500 million to support $22 billion in direct loans and loan guarantees to help rural families and individuals buy homes during the credit crunch.
My assessment: There’s an unresolved question about how loan and loan guarantee programs should comply with EIA/CRM requirements like NEPA and Section 106. These problems could come to a head in connection with this fund and others like it.

Item: Self-Help and Assisted Homeownership Program: $10 million for rural, high-need areas to undertake projects using sustainable and energy-efficient building and rehabilitation practices. Funds will be awarded by competition to projects that can begin
My assessment: Too vaguely defined to get much of a handle on, but also a very small program.

Item: Lead Paint: $100 million for competitive grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations to remove lead-based paint hazards in low-income housing.
My assessment: Lead paint remediation often conflicts with historic preservation, but a good deal of expertise has been developed about how to resolve such conflicts. Assuming the program is administered by knowledgeable agencies and individuals, should p0resent no serious problems.

Item: Rural Community Facilities: $200 million to support $1.2 billion in grants and loans to rural areas for critical community facilities, such as for healthcare, education, fire and rescue, day care, community centers, and libraries.
My assessment: New construction and rehab could present conflicts, probably not yet addressed through EIA/CRM review.

Item: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance: $20 billion to provide nutrition assistance to modest-income families and to lift restrictions that limit the amount of time individuals can receive food stamps.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Senior Nutrition Programs: $200 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services including Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Afterschool Meals: $726 million to increase the number of states that provide free dinners to children and to encourage participation by new institutions by increasing snack reimbursement rates.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Supplemental Nutrition Program Information Systems: $100 million to improve state management information systems for the WIC program.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Payments to Disabled and Elderly: $4.2 billion to help 7.5 million low-income disabled and elderly individuals with rising costs by providing an additional SSI payment in 2009.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Community Services Block Grant: $1 billion for grants to local communities to support employment, food, housing, and healthcare efforts serving those hardest hit by the recession.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Community Development Block Grants: $1 billion for community and economic development projects including housing and services for those hit hard by tough economic times.
My assessment: CDBG projects often have impacts on historic properties and other aspects of the urban environment, but my impression is that most local governments have either found ways to ignore EIA/CRM requirements or have routinized their means of dealing with them, so there will probably be no problems other than a certain amount of environmental damage.

Item: Emergency Food and Shelter: $200 million to help local community organizations provide food, shelter, and support services to the nation’s hungry, homeless, and people in economic crisis
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Low-Income Home Energy Assistance: $1 billion to help low-income families pay for home heating and cooling at a time of rising energy costs.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Child Support Enforcement: $1 billion to provide federal incentive funds for states to collect support owed to families.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Social Security Administration Disability Backlog and Claims Processing: $500 million to help the Social Security Administration process a steep rise in disability and retirement claims
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Centers for Independent Living: $200 million for state formula grants to help individuals with disabilities continue to live in their communities.
My assessment: To the extent this involves new construction and rehabilitation of centers, could present conflicts, and most projects have probably not been subjected to effective EIA/CRM review.

Item: AmeriCorps Programs: $200 million to put approximately 16,000 additional AmeriCorps members to work doing national service, meeting needs of vulnerable populations and communities during the recession.
My assessment: My guess is that AmeriCorps projects sometimes have adverse effects on the environment, but I’ve never heard of one being a source of conflict, or undergoing EIA/CRM review. So the potential for conflict is probably low.

Item: Compassion Capital Fund: $100 million for grants to faith- and community-based organizations to provide critical safety net services to needy individuals and families.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Department of Labor Worker Protection and Oversight: $80 million to ensure that worker protection laws are enforced as recovery infrastructure investments are carried out.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Medicaid Aid to States (FMAP): $87 billion to states, increasing through the end of FY 2010 the share of Medicaid costs the Federal government reimburses
My assessment: No problem.

Item: $41 billion to local school districts through Title I ($13 billion), IDEA ($13 billion), a new School Modernization and Repair Program ($14 billion), and the Education Technology program ($1 billion).
My assessment: Considerable potential for problems if these funds are used to build and modernize schools; such projects have almost certainly not gone through EIA/CRM review.

Item: $79 billion in state fiscal relief, including: $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities distributed through existing state and federal formulas; $15 billion to states as bonus grants as a reward for meeting key performance measures; and $25 billion to states for other high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education.
My assessment: A rather ill-defined catchall, hard to get a handle on; I’m really not sure whether conflicts with EIA/CRM requirements are likely.

Item: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: $2.5 billion for block grants to help States deal with the surge in families needing help during the recession and to prevent them from cutting work programs and services for abused and neglected children.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: State and Local Law Enforcement: $4 billion to support state and local law enforcement including $3 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance formula grants to support local law enforcement efforts with equipment and operating costs, and $1 billion for the COPS hiring grant program, to hire about 13,000 new police officers for three years.
My assessment: No problem.

Item: Periodic Census and Programs, Communications: $1 billion for work necessary to ensure a successful 2010 census, including $150 million for expanded communications and outreach programs to minimize undercounting of minority groups.
My assessment: No problem.