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September 15, 2005

$10 billion? That's nothing!

Cleaning up Puget Sound--removing toxics and restoring its ecosystems--could cost as much as $10 billion, according to a gathering of conservationists and lawmakers as reported in the Seattle Times. Leaders are hoping to wrangle $5 billion of that total from Congress, but so far the Army Corps of Engineers, which has a sweeping vision for restoring the Sound, has garnered only a tiny fraction of the necessary dough.

Okay, $10 billion is a lot of money--even when it's spread out over a number of years--but one way to make the amount seem smaller is to compare it to other expenses. So, just for the heck of it, how about a comparison to American household spending? Here's how that multi-year $10 billion compares to just a single year (2003) of spending. It's...

  • 30% of household spending on tobacco
  • 22% of household spending on alcohol
  • 7% of household spending on gasoline
  • 4% of household spending on health care

Or another, more locally relevant way to think about it: it's substantially less money than taxpayers in just three counties--King, Pierce, and Snohomish--were, in 2004, nearly asked to shell out for a Regional Transportation Improvement District that was predominantly for road-building.

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink


Forget about cleanup of historic pollution, how about we start with cleaning up existing sources of ongoing pollution? I happened to have done my master's thesis on this subject 10 years ago and the fact of the matter is that that state has very little grip on existing point source and nonpoint source pollution. Not to mention the whole ongoing problem of habitat distruction and continued hardening of the shoreline.

Frankly a lot more bang for the buck can be obtained by cracking down on existing sources of pollution and habitat distruction through a beefed up enforcement agency and better water quality measures and development controls onshore.

I'm not saying lets not move forward with remediating some of the most contaminated sites in Elliott Bay and Commencement Bay and elsewhere. But some sense of priorities is in order. It's a heck of a lot cheaper and more sensible to prevent future damage.

Posted by: Kent | Sep 15, 2005 2:38:58 PM