Red Tape, Green Money


Ever wonder why your local property taxes continue to climb? Part of the reason lies not in city hall but in Washington, D.C.

Columbus, Ohio, recently estimated the costs to the city of meeting federal environmental mandates. It found that the city devoted 10.6 percent of its 1991 budget, or $62 million, to complying with federal environmental rules. It projected this amount would increase to 23.1 percent by the year 2000.

In all, the city found that the cost of complying with federal environmental rules was $184 per household in 1991. It projected that figure to rise to $466 (in constant 1991 dollars) by the year 2000.

And the city found that many of the rules it has to comply with have little relevance to the area's real environmental problems. For example, federal rules require the city to test for 52 different pesticides in its drinking water—including pesticides used only on pineapples and rice, neither of which is grown in Ohio.

"There's no rhyme or reason to it," Richard Hick, the city's budget manager, told City & State. "Only 16 of those pesticides are common in Ohio." Meanwhile, the city has identified 14 other pesticides not on the list that are common in Ohio and is testing for them.

"We want to test for what's actually in our watershed," says Hicks, "not waste our money testing for things we know aren't there."