Who Pays for Pollution?

Do sprawling residential and commercial developments cause air pollution? Officials in California's San Joaquin Valley think so. Last week they passed what they believe to ...
by | December 18, 2005
 

Do sprawling residential and commercial developments cause air pollution? Officials in California's San Joaquin Valley think so. Last week they passed what they believe to be the nation's first rules holding developers accountable for tailpipe pollution.

The concept of an "impact fee" is nothing new in many states. Local governments often require builders to pay for the roads and schools that the buyers of their product will use. What San Joaquin is doing, however, takes this concept one step further.

Beginning in March, builders will have to pay a fee into an air pollution fund. Unless, that is, they build using some smart growth principles that let people who live, work and shop in their projects get around more easily without driving. Features that lower developer fees include: Locating services such as restaurants, banks or dry cleaners on-site; reducing the amount of parking in the development; and building homes with cabling that facilitates telecommuting.

It's an interesting idea. Not surprisingly, builders hate it. They've got a point: The concept of "polluter pays" seems pretty straightforward. But what if your product oh, kind of, sort of, contributes to pollution in a secondary way?

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