Trump Signs Order to Speed Infrastructure Construction (Video)

By Joan Lowy and Michael Biesecker, The Associated Press

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he has signed a new executive order intended to make more efficient the federal permitting process for construction of transportation, water and other infrastructure projects without harming the environment.

Trump’s order includes revoking an earlier executive order signed by President Barack Obama concerning projects built in flood plains, White House officials said.

The Obama order required that such projects built with federal aid take rising sea levels into account. Trump has suggested the predicted risks from sea level rise driven by climate change are overblown.

Describing his action, Trump said projects will still be subjected to environmental safeguards.

“It’s going to be quick, it’s going to be a very streamlined process,” Trump said.

“And by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it. Very simple. We’re not going to approve it.”

(President Trump signs an executive order on infrastructure policy and building standards. Courtesy of PBS NewsHour and YouTube)

Building trade groups had urged Trump to revoke the flood plain order, saying it was overly bureaucratic and increased the cost of projects.

The Obama order was especially unwieldy because it didn’t standardize across the government how sea level rise was to be taken into account, which left each federal agency to come up with its own standards, said Jimmy Christianson, an attorney with the Associated General Contractors.

A recent draft of an upcoming report from scientists representing 13 federal agencies say sea levels along U.S. coastlines could rise by more than one foot on average by 2050, potentially more in the Northeast and western Gulf of Mexico.

A projected increase in the intensity of hurricanes in the North Atlantic will increase the probability of “extreme coastal flooding.”

Environmentalists said Tuesday that ignoring the reality of the Earth’s changing climate is shortsighted.

“What this order will do is ensure that we will waste more taxpayer money because federal agencies will no longer have to consider long-term flood risks to federally funded infrastructure projects,” said Jessica Grannis, who manages the adaptation program at the Georgetown Climate Center.

The president, speaking at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York, said it can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and 17 years to approve an ordinary highway project because of burdensome regulations.

Under Trump’s order, agencies must complete environmental reviews of projects within two years on average.

Trump signed another executive order on streamlining environmental and public reviews of infrastructure projects his first week in office.

“We used to have the greatest infrastructure anywhere in the world. And today we’re like a third-world country,” Trump said, using a term referring to the economically developing nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has said that regulations, not a lack of funding, are a primary holdup faced by transportation infrastructure projects.

(Learn More. In recent decades, American productivity growth has slowed. Yale University’s Jacob Hacker has a possible explanation: the country’s outdated and deteriorating infrastructure. Hacker, co-author of “American Amnesia,” argues the U.S. has forgotten the role government plays in engineering prosperity, and that public investment got us where we are today. Courtesy of PBS NewsHour. Posted on Dec 1, 2016)

But a Treasury Department report released earlier this year found that “a lack of public funding is by far the most common factor hindering completion” of major transportation and water infrastructure projects.

Democrats have said the administration would be better off implementing streamlining provisions already in law than attempting new efforts. Congress passed transportation funding laws in 2012 and 2015 with dozens of streamlining provisions.

A report by the Transportation Department’s inspector general this spring found that although the department had completed work necessary to implement a majority of the 42 streamlining provisions in the 2012 law, they had still not been implemented because regulators had to make changes to comply with the requirements of the 2015 law.

Shannon Eggleston, the American Association of State, Highway and Transportation Officials’ program director for environment, said there is still room to make adjustments to the processes for complying with laws protecting endangered species and air quality that won’t hurt the environment.

Original post

Learn More…

The White House Office of the Press Secretary

Fact Sheet: President Donald J. Trump Works to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure


“Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land.” – President Donald J. Trump

MODERNIZING AN OUTDATED SYSTEM: The old system for completing environmental reviews was fragmented, inefficient, and unpredictable to the American people.

  • The Federal Government currently lacks a system for tracking the costs of the environmental review and permitting process for major infrastructure projects.
    • The Executive Order will require agencies to track the costs of conducting environmental reviews and making permitting decisions.
  • With regulatory red tape to jump through, major infrastructure projects are held up for years at significant cost to our economy.
    • According to a 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, it takes 7 years on average for a complex highway project to go through the entire environmental review process.
    • According to the National Association of Environmental Professionals, a single agency can take 3.7 to 5 years on average to complete an environmental review.
    • One study has found that the average delay of six years for major infrastructure projects costs the U.S. economy trillions.

REMOVING ROADBLOCKS TO IMPROVED INFRASTRUCTURE: Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order Establishing Discipline and Accountability In the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects.

  • The Executive Order will make the environmental and permitting processes needed for major infrastructure projects more efficient and effective..
    • Rather than allow for a patchwork of agency reviews, this Order implements a One Federal Decision policy under which the lead Federal agency will work with other relevant Federal agencies to complete the environmental reviews and permitting decisions needed for major infrastructure projects.
      • Each agency will sign a joint Record of Decision and all required Federal permits will be issued 90 days later.
    • The order establishes a two-year goal to process environmental documents for major infrastructure projects.
  • The entire environmental review and permitting process will be reviewed to improve performance across the government and hold every Agency accountable. Under this order:
    • The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will develop and implement an action plan to improve environmental reviews Government-wide.
    • The CEQ will mediate disagreements between Federal agencies so a decision isn’t delayed amid bureaucratic disputes.
    • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will develop a two-year Government-wide modernization goal and ensure Federal agencies take meaningful steps to achieve it.
    • Agencies will modify their strategic plans to include agency-specific goals for improving environmental review and permitting processes, and hold their officials accountable.
    • OMB will establish a performance accountability system and score each agency on their implementation of the Executive Order.  Poor performance will be considered in budget formulation and could result in the imposition of available penalties.
    • Agencies will also be held accountable for implementing appropriate best practices that are proven to enhance the environmental review and permitting process.
  • The Executive Order makes clear that environmental protections will be maintained, and that the process should focus more on decision-making and good environmental outcomes rather than bureaucratic process.

BUILDING ON PAST SUCCESS: President Trump has made infrastructure a priority and has taken action to rebuild America.

  • President Trump has unleashed oil and gas development in the United States by expanding access to resources and the infrastructure needed to get them to market.
    • Approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which is estimated to create over 42,000 jobs and $2 billion in earnings.
      • Signed an Executive Order mandating future pipeline work to be done by American workers and with American steel.
  • Expedited new pipeline approval and production, such as the New Burgos Pipeline to Mexico.
  • The President has dedicated $200 billion in his budget as part of a $1 trillion investment plan to rebuild infrastructure.
    • The Federal Government will help bring transformative projects to market that will  bring the country’s infrastructure into the 21st century.
    • Rural America will receive grants to rebuild crippled bridges, roads, and waterways.
    • States and cities will receive grants to meet their own infrastructure challenges.
    • Qualified projects of regional and national significance, such as those created under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, will receive loans.
  • Government will get out of the way to allow State and local governments to succeed at meeting their unique challenges.
    • Only 1/5 of infrastructure spending comes from the Federal Government, the vast majority comes from states, localities, and the private sector.