Trump's infrastructure plan short circuits existing environmental protections

Credit: Steve Zumwalt/FEMA

The White House's long-awaited proposal to fix the country’s crumbling infrastructure greatly undermines environmental reviews and weakens amendments to the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, all while ignoring the increasing costs of climate change. Infrastructure development is historically bipartisan, with both sides rallying to shore up broken subway systems, aging bridges, and contaminated drinking water systems. But with total federal commitment reaching only $4 million per congressional district, Trump’s plan could face roadblocks by putting so much of the financial burden on states and cities.

Trump's proposal suggests gutting the National Environmental Policy Act's requirements (which have been in place since the 1970s) and limits environmental reviews to 21 months for even the most questionable projects. For dredging projects covered by the Clean Water Act, for instance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be given sole responsibility for reviewing permits, removing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's veto power. But most noticeable is how the proposal fails to appropriately account for what will be the nation’s costliest infrastructure challenge yet: climate change. If 2017 wasn't reminder enough, natural disasters are nothing if not expensive. Even basic preparedness (like avoiding construction in flood zones) requires an administration that prioritizes environmental reviews and openly faces the realities of global warming. As expected, Trump’s plan will do neither.

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