Trump Snuck These Anti-Environment Measures Into His Infrastructure Plan

“There’s nothing in here addressing climate issues.”

Ed Lallo/Zuma

The fact that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt sat several seats to the right of President Trump during his announcement of a $200 billion infrastructure plan on Monday was one clue that it was actually jam-packed with policies taking aim at environmental regulations. For instance, a substantial portion of the proposal eases the environmental reviews for infrastructure projects, which may not ensure that roads and bridges are being repaired, but does help industry snake new natural gas pipelines through federal lands.

In many different ways, this infrastructure plan seeks to privatize some public lands and ensures that the fossil fuel infrastructure remains on them. Natural Resources Defense Council’s legislative director Scott Slesinger says Trump is “using the infrastructure bill as another attack on the environment.” 

Here are four of the ways that he does: 

1. Changing the Federal Permitting Process: Trump asks for dramatic changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which affects how environmental reviews for federal permitting are handled. This essentially speeds up the environmental review process so that permits might be approved without full consideration of the potential damage, while downgrading the EPA’s role in the process. This means that a nuclear plant or an especially controversial pipeline through a town could face speedier approval, with less opportunity for legal intervention.

2. Cutting Oversight: The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have historically been in charge of interpreting what bodies of water are subject to the Clean Water Act. There has been a longstanding fight over that Obama-era definition under Waters of the US rule, which the Trump administration is seeking to roll back. The new plan would shift the responsibility for determining what waters fall under the umbrella of federal water oversight from the EPA’s water experts to the Army Corps of Engineers. By “Establishing the Secretary of the Army’s authority to make jurisdictional determinations under the Clean Water Act”, Trump has given responsibility to the organization likely to be more lenient.

3. Veto Restrictions: Another threat to water oversight is a section that limits the EPA’s ability to veto a federal permit if the project would lead to unsafe discharge. This power has only been used a handful of times but was the reason the Obama administration could reject the controversial Pebble Mine permit in Alaska’s Bristol Bay—which, by the way, Trump has reversed.

4. Gas Pipelines in the Parks: His plan lets Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke approve natural gas pipelines to cut through national parks without any oversight whatsoever. Right now, the Interior Department must get specific congressional authorization to approve permits. “Obtaining congressional approval for each pipeline crossing and facilities necessary for the production of energy is time consuming and delays construction of needed natural gas pipeline facilities,” the plan says.

None of these proposals are guaranteed to pass Congress. Indeed some may be dead on arrival. Still, the NEPA reforms may catch on with members of the Republican party.

There are plenty of other criticisms of Trump’s plan, from its approach to privatizing some federal parkways and airports to completely ignoring the major infrastructure issue facing the US over the next century. “You don’t build what was there before; you build to what the environment is going forward,” Slesinger says. “There’s nothing in here addressing climate issues.”

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate