By David Festa
This post originally appeared on EDF's Voices blog.
Under the pretense of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, President Trump’s recent plan guts health and environmental protections that guided major construction projects for 40-plus years.
What’s more, his proposal overlooks much-needed investments that make communities more resilient against extreme weather.
With Americans still exposed to hazardous air pollution and toxins in their drinking water – and with our communities increasingly threatened by wildfire, drought and hurricane disasters – Trump’s infrastructure proposal actually puts the American public at greater risk.
Here are four reasons why:
1. It’s a rubberstamp for development that can harm our nation
Trump’s multi-billion-dollar infrastructure plan seeks to sidestep bedrock environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and more than a dozen other laws to speed up permitting – all at the expense of public health and the environment.
If implemented, it would scale back common-sense environmental reviews for countless infrastructure projects in coming years.
These reviews ask developers to publicly assess potential impacts on human health and the environment and then use good old American ingenuity to reduce those impacts. That way, our infrastructure gets a much-needed upgrade and our air, drinking water, fire and flood protections improve along with recreational opportunities.
By rubberstamping permits for projects – including oil pipelines and toxic waste dumps – while simultaneously gutting environmental and labor laws, Trump is severely limiting the public’s right to hold the government accountable.
2. It overlooks critical green infrastructure investments
Today, such investments are made to protect the Louisiana coast, City of Houston and other vulnerable areas against flooding and erosion. Amazingly, there’s not a single mention of such projects in Trump’s infrastructure plan, after a year of record storms and flooding disasters.
Nor does the president’s plan explicitly propose more investment in clean energy, one of our fastest-growing job sectors.
3. It hands out subsidies for questionable projects
In addition to ignoring the direct impacts of new infrastructure projects, Trump’s proposal would hand out subsidies for developers to build roads and bridges without considering how they may be affected by hurricanes, fires or rising seas.
America is repeatedly spending tax dollars to rebuild communities damaged or destroyed by natural disasters. In 2017, storms cost our nation a record $306 billion.
And yet, the president is rewarding developers for projects that could jeopardize lives and raise the cost of such disasters.
4. It’s part of a larger scheme to roll back protections
Since their first days in office, Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Scott Pruitt, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, have systematically sought to return America to an earlier, dirtier era when environmental concerns were brushed aside in favor of industrial development.
Trump’s infrastructure plan is no exception. Just before it was released, the administration threw out the rulebook for minimizing impacts of oil and gas drilling on public land, paving the way for development in previously protected areas.
These calculated actions will bring at-risk wildlife closer to the brink of extinction and threaten healthy ecosystems on which we all depend.
Americans want smart infrastructure investments that promote a healthier, cleaner and safer future. Trump’s infrastructure plan does just the opposite and it’s simply no way to build a stronger and more resilient America.