The New York Times reports today that only 8.4% of the $3.2 billion Congress included in President Barack Obama’s failed stimulus to create green jobs by improving energy efficiency has been spent through July. From the NYT:
The program was to provide money for the purchase of better lighting or heating and cooling equipment for buildings like city halls and schools. But it is off to the same slow start as a bigger program that was initiated at the same time to weatherize the homes of low-income people around the country. An audit of that program in February, also by the inspector general, found that only $368.2 million of $4.73 billion, or less than 8 percent, had been spent.
The problems Mr. Friedman cited are similar to the ones reported with the weatherization grants: when Congress approved the program … federal money comes with strings attached.
The strings on the weatherization program were rules like one requiring that people spending federal dollars pay the “prevailing wage.” The government had no established number for the prevailing wage for fields like insulation installers.
In the block grant program, the strings are different but just as cumbersome; for example, if a building is landmarked as historic, any physical changes require multiple approvals. And some work requires an environmental impact statement.
So first the left’s big labor allies hamstrung the stimulus with job killing Davis-Bacon rules, and now the left’s environmental allies have thwarted the stimulus with their priorities. We warned this would happen. Back in February before the stimulus was passed we warned:
Normally it takes a federal construction projects an average of 4.4 years to complete a NEPA review. Throw in the Clean Water Act’s section 404 requirements, and before a single shovel can hit the earth it usually takes 5.6 years for the average federal project to jump through all the normal environmental hoops. Since environmentalists killed any chance of regulatory reform, the billions in infrastructure spending in this stimulus bill will not be spent till years after the economy has already recovered.