Savannah’s port and the regulatory problem

If you missed George Will’s latest column — written from the site of the next GOP primary, but about the question of deepening Southeastern ports to handle the larger container ships that will begin coming through the larger Panama Canal within the next several years — I draw your attention to this bit citing the head of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, Jim Newsome:

Newsome says the study for deepening Savannah’s harbor was made in 1999. It is 2012, and studies for the environmental impact statement are not finished. When they are, the project will take five years to construct. “But before that,” he says laconically, “they’re going to be sued by groups concerned about the environmental impact.” A Newsome axiom — that institutions become risk-averse as they get challenged — is increasingly pertinent as America changes from a nation that celebrated getting things done to a nation that celebrates people and groups who prevent things from being done.

Writing at Power Line, Steven Hayward echoes the point:

Take the Keystone pipeline as an example. The pipeline is likely to be approved eventually, but only after more years of review and litigation. Certainly measures will need to be taken to reduce the environmental risks of the pipeline, but is there any safety measure that we will eventually impose that we didn’t recognize in the first six months of the review process? It’s not like we’ve never built a pipeline before, or learned from previous pipeline accidents (like the one in Montana last summer). Are there really any potential environmental impacts of deepening a harbor … by five feet that require six to ten years of review and litigation, and a three-thousand page Environmental Impact Statement? …

What needs to be done? The regulatory review process ought to have a short deadline. Agency review should be completed within six or nine months, with a presumption in favor of granting permission unless an agency can delineate a substantively new problem based on precedents from previous similar projects …. Standing to sue to block projects should be tightened, and the threshold for hearing such suits made much more restrictive. And how about requiring that all Environmental Impact Statements be no longer than 200 pages? I’m sure all the environmental lawyers and consultants who charge by the hour and make a bundle doing these multi-volume EIRs that no one reads will howl, but if the Supreme Court can limit briefs to 50 pages on matters of high constitutional importance, why can’t our regulatory process not emulate a standard of brevity that emphasizes the essential over the frivolous and tedious?

I’d venture to guess a majority of conservative voters, and perhaps a majority of all voters, would approve of such changes, which can hardly be described truthfully as deregulation. They might be better termed a decluttering of regulation.

– By Kyle Wingfield

89 comments Add your comment

Puck

January 16th, 2012
12:49 pm

I wonder how many supporters of the Keystone Pipeline will have it running through their towns and neighborhoods. It is amazing how often environmentalists get blamed when it is really the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) who are at fault.

Jefferson

January 16th, 2012
12:55 pm

George Purdue stand to enrich himself if this goes through.

Iconoclast

January 16th, 2012
1:21 pm

Instead of treating the EIS like a ball and chain, consider for a moment that Congress and a Republican president ratified the very National Environmental Policy Act that enables a demand for quality-control in all undertaking that require federal fund or permits. Otherwise, the buildings lining Savannah’s iconic River Street may slip into the void created by the deepened channel and the citizens and industries of Port Wentworth would have to contend with the very-real threat of the channel conveying sea water into its municipal fresh-water intakes on the river. What good is a boom for Georgia’s near-term economic activity, when existing investment and commerce is the casualty of corporate (not public) access to the public waterways. A deeper shipping channel creates jobs and commerce through a public subsidy of the routes used by foreign cargo ships owned and operated by foreign corporations. This is the sort of Public-Private initiative that has all the hallmarks of trickle-down benefits via corporate welfare.

DeborahinAthens

January 16th, 2012
1:23 pm

And in all those years the Republicans ruled the roost, so what’s your point. This country is frozen because of the fear of risk and litigation. If the government immediately removed all impediments to the port and the pipeline and the polluting agri-businesses, there would still be this immobility because no one wants to risk being sued. The Repugs, led byDubya the Dumb promised tort reform. Then, they go caught up in more important things like Trri Schiavo and same sex marriage.

M. Romney

January 16th, 2012
1:27 pm

“…..is there any safety measure that we will eventually impose that we didn’t recognize in the first six months of the review process?”

Not sure. Perhaps we should ask the BP Deepwater Horizon folks.

Dennis

January 16th, 2012
1:46 pm

Neither Jim Newsom and Steven Hayward, nor George Will, would approve of this deeping of the shipping channel if it might endanger their backyards and their fresh water.

All these guys can understand of the need for environmental regulations is the slow down in making a faster buck.

Somali Republican

January 16th, 2012
1:47 pm

We Hijack the new big boats heading for Georgia. It’ great to have free market with no rules on our business.

JDW

January 16th, 2012
1:51 pm

No question these sorts of things have gotten out of hand and “decluttering” is long past due. The thing that really needs to happen first is a “reimagining”. Just streamlining what is in place is not enough. Like any other business processes regulatory processes that were implemented 20-30-40 years ago are simply not up to the task in today’s world.

The other point I would make is that none of that means we don’t need regulation. As we proved to ourselves in the recent financial meltdown we do.

Hillbilly D

January 16th, 2012
1:57 pm

Perhaps the regulatory process does need some tweaking but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

td

January 16th, 2012
2:20 pm

JDW

January 16th, 2012
1:51 pm

“The other point I would make is that none of that means we don’t need regulation. As we proved to ourselves in the recent financial meltdown we do.”

This is a myth. We had plenty of regulation the problem was the Community reinvestment act and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd would not the executive branch enforce the regulations on the books. I will also put GWB in this group for his first term but not for the second.

Dusty

January 16th, 2012
2:43 pm

Savannah is one of Georgia’s most beautiful cities. The river lapping gently on the marshy shores with the fingers of Spanish moss clinging lovingly on stout oak trees near old brick buildings and shady streets with historic patrician homes—all cared for with love. It is a grand place.

But to think, THIRTEEN YEARS to make an environmental report about dredging the river!!! What are they writing? Believe It or Not’s longest report??

Sure, we want to be careful and do it right but not wait until the river runs dry.

Do this dredging right, environmentally and otherwise, to help the economics of this fine city but JUST DO IT.

There, I feel better. I think I’ll take a trip to Savannah and get a whiff of that spicy marsh smell of the coast. It’s a perfume I love.

JDW

January 16th, 2012
3:10 pm

@TD…”We had plenty of regulation the problem was the Community reinvestment act ”

Then maybe you could explain how The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission erred in their conclusions…

“The Commission concluded that “the crisis was avoidable and was caused by:

Widespread failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve’s failure to stem the tide of toxic mortgages;

Dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance including too many financial firms acting recklessly and taking on too much risk;

An explosive mix of excessive borrowing and risk by households and Wall Street that put the financial system on a collision course with crisis;

Key policy makers ill prepared for the crisis, lacking a full understanding of the financial system they oversaw; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels.“

http: //fcic.law.stanford.edu/report

BTW, your position was expressed in a dissent by Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute. He claimed that the crisis was caused by government affordable housing policies rather than market forces. However, Wallison’s views (and yours) have not been supported by subsequent detailed analyses of mortgage market data.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1924831

Dusty

January 16th, 2012
3:11 pm

Savannah is one of Georgia’s most beautiful cities. The river rolls gently by the green marshy shores where Spanish moss clings to gnarled oak trees and old brick buiilldings stand tall besides historic patrician homes all gently breathing Southern hospitality and loving care. It must be cherished!

But to take THIRTEEN YEARS to write an environmental study of river dredging there is astounding! What are these study people writing? A new volume for Believe it or Not? Do they expect to live to see the finish?

Let us get this environmental report and do what is best for the economy and the loveliness of Savannah. Let’s do it!!!

Now I feel like making a trip to Savannah and inhaling the lovely perfume of the marshes, that spicy unforgetable air of the coast. Oh yes! Wonderful..

GodHatesTrash, Superstar

January 16th, 2012
3:12 pm

I will summarize the “conservative” comments for you :

This – and any other problem you can find or even imagine – is all Obama’s fault.

Road Scholar

January 16th, 2012
3:17 pm

” with a presumption in favor of granting permission …”
“.. And how about requiring that all Environmental Impact Statements be no longer than 200 pages? ”

Are we stacking the deck? Ready! Shoot! Aim?!

What happens when we get to page 200? Another volume? Just stop?

I share your displeasure with environmental reports having worked in a field for almost 40 years where one was needed for either Federal or state work, but to place a page/time limit , regardless of the projects’ length or size or impacts? Don’t get me wrong.. having done projects with historical, and/or wetland, and /or public involvement, and/or noise, and/or air quality impacts, the correct analysis and data gathering must be done. But sometimes the enviro groups/regulators act as if a project is a totally different, new endeavor never before undertaken.

Yes it is confounding to those not affected, but Kyle, let me move your family to a lovely home next to a pumping station. How does that work for you? If you do not like that we can throw in a few overhead power lines. Besides for many, it is not NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard for the rookies) but in many locations it is now BANANAS (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)!

Besides what are those judges going to spend their time at if Newtie gets his way of intimidating….er…ah..calling judges on the carpet for rulings some do not agree with?

Linda

January 16th, 2012
3:20 pm

JDW@3:10,There’s nothing like a little lying by omission. What you failed to mention when you specifically stated “the commission” was that “the commission” could not agree. You quoted from the Democrats ON the commission & omitted the quotes from the Republicans ON the commission.

The Republicans separate report clearly placed the blame on the fed. govt.’ s meddling in the housing market & the use of Fannie & Freddie to promote the RIGHT, not the privilege, of home ownership.

http://keithhennessey.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Financial-Crisis-Primer.pdf

Dusty

January 16th, 2012
3:21 pm

Technical problems here.

@@

January 16th, 2012
3:26 pm

There are two kinds of environmentalists…those who take a balanced approach (considering the impact to mankind)…and the radical activists who’ve been led to believe they know all there is to know.

The “know-it-alls” need to be eradicated.

Road Scholar

January 16th, 2012
3:26 pm

JDW: Well done! In addition, we need the regulators to do their jobs better. There has been staffing cuts by Bush and Obama the result of being a “cowboy” and the cutbacks on funding, if you haven’t noticed.The middle and upper managers in this country are not doing their jobs in this or other areas to identify those who are not doing their jobs, or who take undue chances affecting others. Staffing in thses areas need to be increased.

td, would you like to become the food taster for Romney? The rest of the American people?

Road Scholar

January 16th, 2012
3:34 pm

Linda: I thought it was all President Obama’s fault!

There have been subsequent reports by others not clouded by their politics which stated that fault lies with the investment industry. But still many say that “Barney Frank” “FORCED” them to make the loans. I contend they were not good businessmen to begin with and then they got greedy!

Poor analogy coming: Barney says for you to point a gun to your head and pull the trigger….what are you going to do? (Shooting a liberal is not the answer. You are all by yourself to implement the outcome.)

Dusty

January 16th, 2012
3:37 pm

Savannh is one of Georgia’s most beautiful cities. The river flows gently along the green marshes near the old brick buildings lining the shore and rising next to gnarled oaks sweetly hung with Spanish moss near historic patrician homes tendered with loving care and gentle politeness of Southern hospitality.

So they wish to dredge the river for the big boats and maintain Savannah’s maritime economy. Butttttttt…the environmental report is now taking over thirteen years! THIRTEEN YEARS! Unbelievable!

What are they writing? A new book for Ripley’s Believe it or Not?

Let us hope that this report will come soon and Savannah moves forward safely with an even better economy.

Ohhhh, this makes me want to visit Savannah and slowly inhale that soothing smell of the marsh, the perfume of the Southern coast. Just wonderful!!

Michael H. Smith

January 16th, 2012
3:49 pm

If the regulators had done their jobs, even after being TOLD not once but twice about Bernie Madoff running a ponzi scam, then maybe those few and it is a very few REGULATIONS that might actually serve some good just purpose.

We need better regulators and better regulations but we don’t need more of them in either case.

Linda

January 16th, 2012
3:55 pm

Road@3:34, If you want to blame it on Obama, go right ahead.

Obama appointed a Financial Inquiry Commission. They could not agree. JDW quoted from the Democratic members & referenced one Republican who disagreed with them, but he failed to even mention the third report published by 3 Republicans who also disagreed, the most straight-forward report of all.

There will be opinions written about the Great Recession for decades. This has nothing to do with the Obama-appointed Financial Inquiry Commission & their THREE separate reports.

JF McNamara

January 16th, 2012
4:01 pm

If the Keystone Pipeline and deepening the Savannah port were deathly important, they would get done quickly. In the grand scheme of things, they aren’t, and they need to be vetted.

Advocates simply want them to pass quickly, so that they can begin to make their money. If they were going to run an oil pipeline in my backyard, I would surely want to make sure it was the right thing to do, and not be limited by some arbitrary time limit.

td

January 16th, 2012
4:04 pm

Road Scholar

January 16th, 2012
3:26 pm
JDW: Well done! In addition, we need the regulators to do their jobs better. There has been staffing cuts by Bush and Obama the result of being a “cowboy” and the cutbacks on funding,

Where is the proof that there has been actual cuts. Where is that shown in the budget? Nothing, besides the military, has been actually cut in the Federal budget since Reagan.

Michael H. Smith

January 16th, 2012
4:04 pm

Linda@3:55 pm Fact is we both know the first sub-prime (fraudulent) loan was made in 1993 when Bill Clinton was President. If you legalize fraud which is exactly what was done, no amount of regulation will do any good.

But here a better question to answer that goes all the way back to FDR… Where in the Constitution was the federal government granted power to enter into the private sector housing market. Can’t find it anywhere in the enumerated powers?

We need the federal government removed entirely from the housing sector. HUD, Fannie and Freddie etc.

Linda

January 16th, 2012
4:15 pm

Michael@4:04, Fact is that the New York Times PREDICTED the crisis in 1999.

http://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/30/business/fannie-mae-eases-credit-to-aid-mortgage-lending.html

Where in the constitution does it give the fed. govt. the authority to do HALF of the activities it does?
Progressives HATE both the constitution & the Declaration of Independence but want to expand the scope & size of the fed. govt.

Michael H. Smith

January 16th, 2012
4:18 pm

“Progressives HATE both the constitution & the Declaration of Independence but want to expand the scope & size of the fed. govt.”

Spot on! Very well said.

Linda

January 16th, 2012
4:37 pm

Michael, Liberals accuse conservatives of hating the govt. There are SO wrong. Conservatives love the govt. Conservatives love the constitution & it was the constitution that created the fed. govt. in the first place. Conservatives also love the state governments.

The real difference is that liberals want to expand the scope & size of the fed. govt. & conservatives want to take away functions of the fed. govt., eliminate some of them altogether & give some of them back to the states where they belong.

This is where it becomes interesting. Progressives love big govt., the more, the better, but they do not like THIS govt. nor THIS economy.

JDW

January 16th, 2012
4:45 pm

@Linda…”There’s nothing like a little lying by omission. What you failed to mention when you specifically stated “the commission” was that “the commission” could not agree. ”

I stated the CONCLUSIONS of the report that were approved by the majority and also noted the SPECIFIC point of dissent in question which upon review of the evidence has been further discounted.

JDW

January 16th, 2012
4:52 pm

@TD…”Where is the proof that there has been actual cuts. Where is that shown in the budget? Nothing, besides the military, has been actually cut in the Federal budget since Reagan.”

You really should actually read before spouting.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Historicals

Linda

January 16th, 2012
5:09 pm

JDW@4:45, You failed to mention that “the majority” of the appointees to the commission by Obama were Democrats & that the CONCLUSIONS you referred to were the Democrats’ conclusions. You failed to mention that ALL the Republicans disagreed. You only referenced Wallison & omitted the other 3. I disagree that Wallison’s view has been discredited. It certainly was not discredited by your cite. To be fair, we can all read it.

http://www.aei.org/files/2011/01/26/Wallisondissent.pdf

The question is why would Obama even bother to appoint this commission & sign the Dodd-Frank Act without knowing the conclusions of ALL members as to what happened & how to avoid it in the future.

JDW

January 16th, 2012
5:14 pm

@Linda…I see your critical thinking skills have not improved…enjoy your little fantasy world.

Jefferson

January 16th, 2012
5:15 pm

The myths are myths.

Linda

January 16th, 2012
5:16 pm

JDW@4:52, There’s nothing like referencing the White House to support your claim in cuts. TD is only “spouting” the truth.

markie mark

January 16th, 2012
5:20 pm

JDW – instead of wading thru the budget links you provided, may I ask a simple question or two…does this budget link take into account baseline budgeting? or are you one of those people who think that if Congress has an automatic increase of 9%, and that is reduced to a 6% increase, in your world is that a 6% increase or a 3% reduction in costs?

ragnar danneskjold

January 16th, 2012
5:36 pm

The Ragnar solution is simple – eliminate the EPA’s power to issue fines and similar economic fatwas, and make it nothing more than an advisory agency for benefit of the states.

markie mark

January 16th, 2012
5:41 pm

well, after a 25 minute wait, I tend to believe he falls on the 3% reduction side of the equation…

Inside Out

January 16th, 2012
6:02 pm

Damn….Can’t we go one day with the the ” We love the Constitution, You hate America” bunch jumoping in with their blind party line Bu**SH**???? You are no more patriotic than the next guy….Give it a break and lets have a civil conversation about real solutions that are of benefit to all of us…

Dusty

January 16th, 2012
6:02 pm

Ragnar,

Good comment. Make the EPA an advistory committee only for the states. That’s it. Cut the size of the FEDS.

Linda

January 16th, 2012
6:04 pm

Lock the front door to the EPA & throw the key into the Savannah harbor. If it’s found during construction, drop it from a drone over Iran.

Dusty

January 16th, 2012
6:17 pm

Well, we really have not answered the seemingly eternal question.

I hope Hamlet doesn’t mind if I paraphrase him. To dredge or not to dredge? That is the question (and has been for 13 years).

Let us hope we live long enough to know the answer.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

January 16th, 2012
6:46 pm

When the government is paying for your gasoline, kickbacks from Big Banking is heating your home and recycled union dues are paying for your long distance travel, why would you care about what our abundant energy supply costs the average hard working American?

And plus, you got your envirohysteria that you need to cling to.

The nerve of these little people, they can just shut up and go on welfare, right?

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

January 16th, 2012
6:50 pm

I’m a little behind on blog time, but I noticed that another lib dropped out of the Republican presidential race.

Will Huntsman now become obozos secretary of surrender?

Disgusted

January 16th, 2012
6:53 pm

Ah, yes. Let’s make the EPA an advisory committee to people like Nathan Deal, who would take his profit if it meant depriving half the state of potable water. Thank you very much, but I prefer my water without the taste-enhancing addition of arsenic, solenium, and other flavorful ingredients. And I’ll trust the EPA much more than I’ll trust the capitalistic system. You see, I don’t want another Love Canal. Some of us are old enough to remember that little debacle.

Real Athens

January 16th, 2012
7:03 pm

The Environmental Protection Agency was created by the “real” GOP — the party of Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Nixon.

killerj

January 16th, 2012
7:14 pm

Key Point:”Will be approved anyway”,Money talk,s s@#t walks so the story goes just like our politics in this country,what,s the point when big bucks are on the line?Just another way to extort the tax payers in this land by claiming what,s better for you and me.

Linda

January 16th, 2012
7:30 pm

Disgusted@6:53, So, how are you going to get around this capitalistic system?

Disgusted

January 16th, 2012
7:54 pm

Disgusted@6:53, So, how are you going to get around this capitalistic system?

You aren’t. Your only hope is to vote into office somebody who takes the state of the environment more seriously than the desire to make a few bucks, regardless of the health consequences to millions. And that’s at the heart of the “too many regulations” issue. Believe me, there are millions of people—including some on this blog—who would risk the Gulf of Mexico’s becoming a giant oil impoundment if doing so meant that money was to be made.

Rafe Hollister

January 16th, 2012
7:57 pm

When a builder wants to build a house, he first gets a permit and then he reads the local building codes and attempts to comply with applicable codes. Yes, there are frictions with local governments, but by and large, if the house meets code, it is quickly built and sold (prior to Obama).

Why then do we not have codes established for dredging, pipeline building, and wetland destruction. Establish a process for desenters to voice there opinion and give the permit processors a short amount of time to deliberate. Once permitted the developer only has to meet code. Beats the heck out of the current process of an enviromental study and endless debate and court proceedings.

The cities of Washington, DC, New York, New Orleans, and Miami probably could not be built today under the current enviromental wacky rules. Eisenhowers Interstate Hwy System would take hundreds of years to debate every river crossing. We wonder why we are falling behind the rest of the world, go figure.