“We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land,” said President Donald Trump in his recent State of the Union address. With that in mind, the president unveiled a plan today that would fulfill one of his signature campaign promises: a $1.5-trillion effort to restore, rebuild, and modernize the nation’s aging infrastructure.
As Slate noted: “The first thing you need to know about Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan is that it is, in fact, a $200 billion infrastructure plan. For those keeping score at home, it’s $200 billion from Washington and another $1.3 trillion dollars of state, local, and private money to be determined at a later date. It comes out to $20 billion a year, over 10 years—a modest increase in the federal outlay for building projects. The government routinely spends several times that amount on this stuff… ”
Or as the Huffington Post succinctly headlined its story on the topic: “Trump’s new infrastructure plan is kind of underwhelming.” The story went on to note that Trump’s infrastructure plan flips the traditional capital expense funding model from 80-to-90 percent federal funding to 10 percent federal funding—with the reset coming from states, cities, and private funding.
And there’s another troublesome aspect: Engineers and researchers worry that the plan has both discounted climate science and weakened climate change regulations, which could lead to costly projects vulnerable to damage—or rendered obsolete by rapidly changing flood patterns and extremes of weather. “The impact of not considering climate change when planning infrastructure means you end up building the wrong thing in the wrong place to the wrong standards,” Michael Kuby, a professor of geographical sciences and urban planning at Arizona State University and a contributor to the federal government’s National Climate Assessment, was quoted as saying in the New York Times. “That’s a whole lot of waste.”
A 2017 report by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that, through the end of century, up to $280 billion will be needed to prepare the nation’s roads and railways to the withstand effects of a warming climate. A White House spokesperson declined to discuss whether climate change projections were considered in the preparation of Trump’s infrastructure plan. “The president’s team spent almost a full year formulating his infrastructure plan, and all relevant scientific data was considered,” she stated to the newspaper.
The Times article notes: “Since the beginning of his administration, Mr. Trump and his appointees have steadily worked to roll back climate change regulations. Mr. Trump’s EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, has taken the lead role in the administration’s efforts to undo climate policies and question the validity of climate science. On Wednesday Mr. Pruitt suggested that global warming could benefit humanity.
Those views are contradicted by research conducted by his own agency.”
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