General Theological Seminary in New York has successfully installed seven geothermal wells, with 15 more slated for installation. These wells will replace the fuel oil heating system and reduce the seminary's carbon footprint significantly, as we noted last year. But the red tape surrounding the green project has been a nightmare. Despite public support and a supportive city administration, New York's administrative bureaucracy has exhibited the peculiar lethargy that plagues many public organizations and has thrown up countless stumbling blocks to the project.
Among the 10 different city agencies involved were the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Seminary executive vice president Maureen Burnley, struggling to flatten the bureaucratic stovepipes, notes that without steady prodding from the seminary and a policy advisor in Mayor Bloomberg's office, nothing would have happened. From the New York Times:
The aspirations of the mayor and his planners on paper, however, cannot come to life without the consent of the city’s bureaucracy. “Those folks in the agencies don’t seem to feel that they answer to the executive branch,” Ms. Burnley said.
At one point, the seminary waited three months for the city Department of Transportation’s permission to drill into the sidewalk, Ms. Burnley said. “The conversation went like this: ‘What is the status?’ ‘It has no status.’ ‘Do you need more information?’ ‘No, we have what we need.’ ‘Then how can we get it moving?’ ‘You can’t get it moving.’
“We were in absolute purgatory,” she said. “What was going on was an internal debate between the engineers and what are the real world requirements, and the lawyers with the legal requirements.”
If geothermal is to become a practical application, Ms. Burnley added, “someone has to lock all these engineers in one room, lock those lawyers in another room, and try to make this affordable and doable.”
The delays have contributed to the project going significantly over its original planned cost and consumed four years. More from here.