In 2002, one of the nation's biggest privatized toll road projects was introduced in the state of Texas: the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) plan. From the beginning, the proposal brought forth heavy criticism from people across party lines around issues of cost, access, transparency, and accountability. All of the contracts involved in the initial development of the TTC Plan were developed and signed without public input and contained many provisions that could be detrimental to the public. Originally envisioned as a series of newly constructed highways connecting major ports, interstate highways, and rail systems, growing public opposition and fiscal constraints have slowed down the development of the TTC. However, supporters of the TTC have recently taken a piecemeal approach in order to pass key legislation that would facilitate the continued development of the TTC and other similar privatization projects.
• Wasteful, harmful practices increase with focus on the bottom line
• Cities and states stuck with fines and penalties for contractors’ environmental violations
• Inadequate assessment of environmental impact, bypassing environmental regulations
When private companies are given control over our water systems and public lands, the focus on the bottom line supersedes concern for the environment. In some cases, contractors have sidestepped environmental regulations and left cities and states stuck with fines and penalties as well as a degraded environment. According to the Sierra Club, US Filter subsidiary PSG, which held a contract with the city of New Orleans, diverted raw sewage into the Mississippi River for two hours after an electrical fire. Vivendi, a large multinational water company involved in privatization of many US water systems, was named one of Great Britain’s top 5 polluters.
Public parks and national forests also face environmental threats when private companies take over important functions. Private companies may be less willing to make the necessary investments to ensure that our public spaces remain healthy and vibrant. Environmental protection does not always align with companies’ bottom line, making privatization a risky proposition with respect to our national heritage.
In Milwaukee, a coalition of environmental, community, labor and faith organizations succeeded in convincing the city council to indefinitely shelve plans to privatize the water system and go back to the drawing boards for solutions to the city's budget crisis. The coalition, Keep Public Our Water (KPOW), protested that evidence from other privatized water systems indicated substantial risks of poor water quality, rate increases and lost jobs.