Trump's latest executive order: boon or bane for infrastructure reform?

Katrina Barker
August 20, 2017

Trump, who is visiting his residence at Trump Tower in New York City, will also participate in a discussion on infrastructure and give a statement on the subject at 3:45 p.m. (1945 GMT).

"No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay", he said. In addition, the order introduces the concept of "One Federal Decision" for major infrastructure projects, requiring each project to have a lead federal agency responsible for "navigating the project through the Federal environmental review and authorization process".

President Donald Trump is rolling back some of the Obama administration's infrastructure standards that require projects be built to withstand climate change repercussions, like rising sea levels.

The conservative R Street Institute think tank also warned that revocation of the Obama executive order would put taxpayers at risk by undermining efforts to ensure federal projects comply with commonsense and cost-effective disaster-mitigation strategies. The new Executive Order establishes a two-year goal to process environmental documents for major infrastructure projects.

Trump says multiple agencies now have to approve a highway project, which can cause construction to stall for years.

"When you're on the front lines like South Florida, we know the importance of having more resilient building codes to protect our infrastructure, especially when taxpayer dollars are used".

The president and his administration have designed most of their policies in spite of what federal scientists have to say about sea-level rise and climate change, but this reversal has already been characterized as especially ill-conceived.

The executive order was meant to protect taxpayer dollars spent on projects in areas prone to flooding and to improve "climate resilience" across the US - that is, communities' ability to cope with the consequences of global warming. "And by the way, if it doesn't meet environmental safeguards, we're not going to approve it - very simple", Trump said at a press conference at Trump Tower in NY.

Environmental groups attacked Trump over his plan, with Janet Redman, the USA policy director at Oil Change International, saying the plan will lead the United States into "a fossil fuel buildout that locks America into climate catastrophe".

President Trump and Secretary Chao displayed a flowchart of the existing federal permitting process, which I've pasted at the bottom of this post. As a result, FEMA estimates put USA federal spending for flooding damages at $260 billion from 1980 to 2013.

The repealed standards had come under fire as costly and burdensome, delaying projects the administration argued could put Americans back to work and help rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

A real estate developer, he has called for $200 billion in direct federal spending on infrastructure in his 2018 budget - and a $1 trillion investment, including money from the private sector. "Combined with the termination of the federal flood risk management standard, signed by former President Obama in 2015, the construction boom could result in new roads that are susceptible to flood damage and taxpayer losses, some experts say".

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