This report examines major federal policies related to environmental remediation and infrastructure spending, highlighting evidence of the effectiveness of these programs in terms of costs, job creation, and positive externalities. The author identifies programs that could support the communities and workers who are negatively affected by an energy transition. The author measures the cost-effectiveness of federal spending on programs to clean up “Superfund” sites, cap orphaned oil and gas wells, improve water infrastructure, construct and maintain highways, and install broadband capacity.
One section of the paper covers environmental remediation, including the closure of coal mines and nuclear or oil and gas sites. The paper notes the positive spillover effects, such as increased property values, of many environmental remediation programs. A second section covers infrastructure programs that support construction and related industries. The author notes that economists disagree on whether federal spending on infrastructure, for example highway construction, creates more economic activity or simply redistributes it.
Both environmental remediation and infrastructure programs can contribute to a just transition. However, the author warns of potential environmental justice concerns that can result from federal spending in these areas, including post-remediation gentrification and worsening air pollution in minority communities due to transportation infrastructure.