Grijalva: Trump Gutting Environmental Standards for Infrastructure Isn’t a Real Plan, It’s “A Tunnel Back to the Gilded Age”

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said following the State of the Union that President Trump’s push to weaken or eliminate a wide swath of environmental standards in the name of infrastructure development shows the president cares about making rich corporations happy more than Americans’ health, incomes or quality of life. Trump’s plan to waive environmental laws, reduce public input on projects and provide no new meaningful funding is the opposite of a serious infrastructure policy, Grijalva said.

“We’ve heard these same substance-free talking points about the miracles of deregulation for years. This isn’t a bridge to the future, it’s a tunnel back to the Gilded Age,” Grijalva said. “Republicans in Washington seem to think our economy won’t function until big corporations can do whatever they want regardless of the consequences. The president’s ‘plan’ is to use infrastructure to signal his contempt for environmental laws, not to create jobs or get anything done. This is deeply unserious and the American people know it.”

President Trump and his Republican backers often falsely claim that infrastructure projects face too many hurdles. In fact, Congress has already passed multiple laws reducing permitting requirements for new infrastructure projects, including the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

Many of these laws’ provisions have yet to be fully implemented. According to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Inspector General, DOT recently had to delay implementation of many MAP-21 reforms in order to comply with new mandates from Congress included in the FAST Act. Republicans are demanding more deregulation before implementing or assessing the impacts of the last several rounds.

Environmental laws are not the impediment to infrastructure Republicans claim. Indeed, as Emil Frankel, President George W. Bush’s assistant secretary of transportation, wrote in August 2017:

[L]ess than 10 percent of federally assisted transportation projects require an environmental impact statement. The vast majority – particularly those that involve rehabilitation, restoration and modest improvements – are "categorically excluded" from the National Environmental Policy Act process entirely. [. .  .] [T]he most significant cause of delay is the lack of sustainable funding. Certainty of funding is most important in assuring the implementation of the long-term capital programs required to fix, modernize and maintain infrastructure.

The Government Accountability Office found that as of 2014, 95 percent of public infrastructure projects (both transportation and non-transportation) are excluded from environmental reviews and less than 1 percent of projects require a full Environmental Impact Statement, the highest level of assessment.

The Republican infrastructure plan conspicuously offers little “sustainable funding” and relies on warmed-over corporate deregulatory demands. It is not a serious proposal.

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