Instead of infusing trillions of federal dollars into the nation’s infrastructure as promised, President Donald Trump wants to shift the financial burden of building core public projects to state and local governments and, at the same time, cancel environmental and health protections to appease construction interests.
Those details come from a leaked White House memo that outlines a reckless infrastructure plan that could threaten some of the Southeast’s most sensitive and iconic landscapes. Trump is expected to reveal further damaging details during this week’s State of the Union address.
Trump’s flawed reasoning is that, to make up for the federal shortfall, construction industries could be enticed to build infrastructure projects for private profit with the assurance that they could ignore environmental protections and public input.
“This isn’t the ‘New Deal’ style of federal spending the President promised,” said SELC attorney Kym Hunter, an infrastructure and transportation expert. “This is a new debacle.”
To encourage more private industry partnerships, Trump wants to dismantle a suite of protections that for years have saved the environment and taxpayers from ill-conceived projects.
According to Hunter:
- Public participation in project planning would be cut back—and in many cases eliminated
- Agencies could pass off meager reviews as “good faith” efforts, with no oversight from the courts
- Communities would lose their voices as private companies would be allowed to barrel ahead with projects even as the supposed public planning process was still underway
- Road building would be given more importance than protection of endangered species, wetlands, historic places, and public parks.
“Our region has some of the country’s most treasured places, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Outer Banks of North Carolina,” Hunter said. “These areas have remained intact for generations because smart and careful people have made sure important jobs like road building are balanced with the need to protect nature and promote vibrant communities.”