There has been a lot of discussion about whether the stimulus package includes too much pork, unnecessary spending, etc. Obama has countered that the bill may not be perfect, but we have to do something. In short, the country has come up against an age old problem--are we letting the great be the enemy of the good? Do we need to do something, however flawed?
I engaged in a similar conversation with respect to green building regulation at the William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review symposium this past weekend. One of the speakers, Carl Circo, a professor at the University of Arkansas and self-proclaimed "Green Building Pessimist" argued that the green building regulations were insufficient to address the environmental and social problems plaguing us today.
We are indeed using blunt regulatory instruments, like impact fees which may not show the requisite connection between development and environmental damage, LEED-referencing legislation which may not effectively limit energy and water usage, etc. Unlike the stimulus package, where spending is a one shot deal, with green building regulation, acting is preferable to not acting. We will achieve three significant goals by passing green regulations, though they be subject to critical challenges, even litigation:
1. Obtain whatever environmental benefits come as a result of the regulation--requiring LEED compliance or fees for building conventionally will not set us back environmentally, and we may make incremental progress
2. Provide a basis for measurement, evaluation and tweaking
3. Provide a working draft for uniform federal legislation (which I believe is coming)
So to municipalities who are considering legislating green, I recommend taking the plunge. There is no such thing as perfect legislation, and the carbon crisis does not give us the luxury of time.