Community Investment:

Information on Selected Facilities That Received Environmental Permits

GAO-02-479: Published: May 31, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 2002.

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Industrial facilities that operate under permits regulating some emissions and discharges have been the subject of complaints from community groups and environmental activists who charge that the facilities expose the surrounding communities to greater environmental risk than the general population. In response, the facilities point out that they contribute to the economic growth of the surrounding communities by employing residents and supporting other community needs, such as schools and infrastructure. In a survey of selected facilities, GAO found that the number of jobs in some decreased over time. According to facility officials, these jobs included unskilled, trade, technical, administrative, and professional positions with salaries ranging from $15,000 to $80,000 per year. Most of the facilities identified other contributions that they had made or planned to make in the local communities. These included volunteer work such as organizing cleanups; infrastructure improvements such as installing a new water drainage system; and financial assistance to schools, universities, community groups, and other organizations. Property values in a community are affected by many factors, including the condition of the land and houses, the proximity of the property to natural or man-made structures--such as the facilities covered by this study--that might be viewed as desirable or undesirable, and economic conditions in the surrounding or adjacent communities. Information on property values was unavailable for most of the communities and facilities studied. In these locations, community groups voiced concerns that the facilities would cause property values to decline. Officials at 6 of the 15 facilities GAO studied said they had used available incentives or subsidies. The incentives varied, depending on the type of facility and its location, but included tax exemptions, a local bond initiative, reductions in regulatory fees, and reduced utility rates.

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