Trump’s Infrastructure Plan a Shell Game That Cuts Cleaner Transportation and Gives Away Environment

Washington, DC—The White House is putting forward a reckless infrastructure plan that offers no new federal money for projects, pulls money away from cleaner transportation such as transit and rail, and removes protections that help prevent ill-conceived, destructive projects.

“While President Trump has touted the plan as putting $1.5 trillion into infrastructure, the federal share is only $200 billion over ten years,” said Trip Pollard, Senior Attorney and Leader of Southern Environmental Law Center’s Land and Community Program. “And it appears that even this meager investment will be taken from existing transportation funding programs. This is a shell game, not an infrastructure plan. To make up the remaining gap, the proposal shifts much of the financial burden to states and localities, which lack the resources to carry this burden.”

The White House has suggested states and localities could increase property and sales taxes to raise the revenue. The plan also assumes that the federal shortfall could be covered by private companies which the White House hopes to entice to build projects by slashing environmental protections and public input to increase profits.

In our region, public-private partnership (P3) projects, like those emphasized in this plan, have a very mixed record.  Despite Virginia’s reputation as one of the country’s best P3 markets, it has had some notable failures. Instead of attracting substantial new private capital, many projects have required taxpayer-subsidized debt, tolls, and traditional government revenues. And sizable tolls, efforts to sidestep environmental provisions, and limitations on other improvements have caused public backlash.

The Trump administration is also attempting to gut environmental protections that are safeguarded by agencies charged with protecting water and air quality, forests and lands and vulnerable species.  This environmental rollback includes limiting citizen involvement from the review process.

“Americans are not only going to be expected to put their taxpayer dollars toward projects for private profit but they are also going to be increasingly cut out of the process,” said Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Kym Hunter. “From the Appalachian Mountains to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, our region’s natural beauty and communities have been protected over the years because citizens were able to participate in decisions that affect them, this plan will take away those rights.”