Today President Trump finally revealed his much-hyped infrastructure plan, which sets a goal of improving America’s crumbling transportation systems. But the $1.5 trillion-dollar plan only includes a small amount of federal funding and focuses heavily on working with private investors. Even more concerning is the fact that the proposal alters the way projects get approved, which could have a devastating impact on the environment.
So how does Trump’s infrastructure plan threaten the environment, exactly? The President’s plan aims to rush environmental reviews by doing away with proper bipartisan oversight from the federal agencies that currently asses environmental costs for projects. Instead of being reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, every new project would be reviewed by one lead agency with total control.
For instance, currently, oil and gas pipelines planned through National Parks require congressional authorization. But Trump’s proposal would give Secretary Zinke control over reviewing those pipelines. The proposal also weakens protections provided by the Endangered Species Act, and it eliminates the section of the Clean Air Act that requires EPA review for projects.
Trumps plan could silence the voices of environmental experts, and eliminate state reviews of new projects. The New York Times argues that oversight by a climate-denying department could have an even higher price, since disregarding the impact of climate change on the infrastructure that we are building and repairing could mean building the “wrong thing, in the wrong place, to the wrong standards.”
— David Iaconangelo (@diaconangelo) February 12, 2018
“America is long, long overdue for smart, forward-thinking infrastructure investments, but the administration’s proposal badly misses the mark and reads more like a strategy to gut clean air, water, and wildlife protections, while silencing local voices, than a serious effort to rebuild America’s infrastructure,” said Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation.
— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro_Voter) February 12, 2018
Trump’s plan only includes $200 billion in federal spending, with the rest coming from states and private investment. States can raise funds however they like, according to a White House official. That can include raising taxes, working with private corporations, creating more toll roads, etc. It’s unclear where the revenue for the federal funding will come from. Some critics say that it is essentially another “scam” designed to benefit Wall Street, while failing to address our infrastructure needs. What’s certain is that it is a major loss for the environment.