Why Stakeholders in Infrastructure May Want to Obey Regulations

Why Stakeholders in Infrastructure May Want to Obey Regulations

Trump’s avoidance of regulations in Infrastructure Projects is not good for the public in the long range. It’s also not good for the state and local governments or businesses that will pay the bulk of the cost of the projects.

Trump has long talked about a trillion dollars of infrastructure construction. Now they are speculating on $1.7 trillion of projects. The federal government may only contribute $200 billion of this.

Trump plans to limit environmental reports to only a few pages. Usually these run hundreds of pages, with analyses from all involved agencies. Yes, it also takes time to make good studies. But infrastructure often lasts a hundred years, and we see It is very costly. The costs of the environmental impact studies and reports are minuscule compared to the total cost of the projects. The costs to the builders or stakeholders of protecting the environment are also small. Take a pipeline, where the construction costs are increased by bypassing an aquifer or a river that provides drinking water to many states.

Trump also wants to change the rules so that only one agency can file a report. The protection of our clean air and water ultimately rests with the EPA. If another agency files the report, the EPA may not be consulted. Or the EPA, now headed by Scott Pruitt, the puppet of Oklahoma’s richest oilman, Harold Hamm, may make the only assessment. Pruitt has dropped all scientists from its review panels. Pruitt is severely cutting their working scientists through early retirement.

The point is that the states, the cities, or the projects or businesses will have to live with any poor construction or environmental pollution. Under Trump, the extreme changes in the climate and its effects over the next century will not only be ignored, but possibly censored from the reports. Since the entities that will be paying eighty or ninety percent of the infrastructure project want their construction to last and be clean, they themselves can do excellent environmental assessments, and insist on appropriate regulations, and anticipating climate change effects.

Trump is going to cut out the ability of the public and organizations to challenge the reports in court. The stakeholders can still allow public input. Trump may well be out of office before many of these projects get off the ground. Yet the State and Local politicians will be paying off bonds for 30 years to build them. Industry and businesses will have to have sell their products, which would be difficult if their projects are seen as polluting.

Even if Trump can get rid of regulations by his executive orders, or get the Republican congress to do it, the funding and building entities, not to mention banks and insurance companies, can insist on responsible construction.

A year ago, Trump released his first 50 infrastructure projects. I haven’t heard that any of them had received federal funding, or were being completed. Since they have sat unfunded for a year, I don’t think that justifying what Trump is doing to speed up the approval process is really necessary, or the real reason for deregulation.

Of the first 50 projects listed then, 13 were clean energy or water projects, totaling $34 billion. What a difference a year makes. The total cost of the projects was $138 billion, and private funding was only going to pay 50% of the cost. What a difference … The total of the direct jobs was 193,000 job years, with 242,000 indirect job years. Number 42 was the Huntington Beach desalination plant. Number 49 was to buy energy storage and grid modernization for California. As noted last year, I think this might fall under Trump’s unconstitutional desire to ban funds to Sanctuary states.

We will see what form the order-of-magnitude larger infrastructure plan turns out to be.  The leaked draft seems to indicate that projects will have a 20% federal input.  That means that only wealthy suburbs and cities may be able to afford their main share.  We should see soon.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
This entry was posted in California Federal Funding, California Water, Clean Energy, Climate Change, Congress, Constitution, Donald Trump, EPA, Infrastructure, Trump Administration, Trump on Climate Change. Bookmark the permalink.

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