State Environmental Regulations

MDOT also must develop a comprehensive proposal for reforms to state related environmental laws that are driving up the cost of providing highway infrastructure without sufficient offsetting benefits. State legislation is needed, similar to proposals in the U.S. Congress requiring cost-benefit analysis of existing regulations. Regulations that do not generate sufficient benefits should be submitted to the Legislature for review with the power for recision of such regulations. If necessary the Legislature should consider reforms to any laws that mandate the offending regulations. MDOT should be required to annually submit a list of regulations to the Department of Management and Budget (DMB) for review. DMB should be required to perform a cost-benefit analysis and to annually submit a list of regulations that do not generate sufficient benefits to the Legislature for review.

A recent requirement for MDOT to pump out "catch basin effluent," or residual water, at the bottom of every catch basin on the entire highway drainage system is an example of an unacceptable regulation. This effluent must now be transported to authorized disposal sites by authorized liquid waste haulers. This regulation came about because Part 121, entitled Liquid Industrial Waste, of P.A. 451 of 1994, specifically included storm water effluent on public roadways in the definition of liquid waste. According to MDOT sources, the estimated annual cost for disposal alone, excluding collection and transportation, at a quoted price of 49 cents per gallon, is $2.3 million. Additional costs for collecting and transporting this runoff water are estimated by the author to be approximately another $4.0 million for a total estimated cost of $6.3 million, or .13 cents per gallon worth of gas tax.

A recent story in the Lansing State Journal points out the impact that state and federal environmental regulations can have on Cost.47 A new bridge on the Vermontville Highway will cost $847,000; however, $100,000 of the cost is for replacement of a "wetland" being used for construction of a roadway to the new bridge site. The project was also delayed 18 months while a study was conducted to determine whether a colony of "endangered" Indiana bats would be affected. While no impact was found, the study yielded a recommendation that 100 new trees be planted, and allowed to mature and die, so that the bats, which prefer to nest in dead trees, would have additional nesting habitat in the future.

It should be possible to save at least $15 million per year by institutionalizing a review process and an approach for eliminating unnecessary regulations.