Trump’s new infrastructure policy: Innovative or Inane?

Over his presidency, Trump has tried to reverse 100 environmental laws and has recently set out his plans to alter another one that seems to hinder the livelihood of vulnerable communities and damage ecosystems. But is the policy really as terrible as we presume?

At a UPS hub in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 15th 2020, Trump unveiled his new infrastructure policy which would modernise and alter the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by speeding up the process of environmentally reviewing new construction projects for businesses.

Why are certain people in favour of this policy change?
• It will simplify and accelerate the environmental reviewing process.
• Businesses can build new infrastructure at a higher rate.
• NEPA’s environmental reviewing process takes 5.8 years on average at a cost of $4.2 million to complete.
• It will create new job opportunities as there will be more infrastructure projects, such as the I-75 expansion in Atlanta, to complete so more construction workers will be needed.

Why have some people not taken a liking to Trump’s major policy alterations?
• It makes it easier for the private sector to buy federally owned housing.
• It will heavily impact upon vulnerable ecosystems and communities; the new policy is seen as a “rubberstamp to development” which “overlooks critical green infrastructure” and doesn’t take into consideration the impact of extreme weather events on future infrastructure projects.
• The new alterations eliminates the “requirement to analyse cumulative effects” so how can Donald Trump safely say he can protect future generations with this new policy change?
• The policy changes costs $1 trillion but with the current COVID-19 pandemic and this major cost, how can Trump “further expand America’s unprecedented economic boom”?
• Many people who are in favour of the new policy believe that NEPA is the main issue when it comes to project delays, but what if it is actually a “lack of funding and project complexity”?

There are many projects that NEPA has environmentally reviewed with some being successful and some being disastrous. For example, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 damaged the levees protecting New Orleans which led to a mass inundation of water and the finger being pointed at NEPA. Nevertheless, the “bedrock” of environmental laws has had many success stories since its enactment half a century ago such as the Choctaw Point Shipping Terminal in Alabama and the Los Alamos Wildfire.

So, is the policy really as terrible as we first presumed? Short answer. No. Long answer. It is clear that there are good arguments both for and against this policy change. Trump’s new policy could bring economic growth to the country with lower levels of unemployment and improved infrastructure. On the other hand, some could see this policy as dangerous to vulnerable populations. Therefore, if President Trump wants this policy change to be a success, he needs to think, how can it be a success for all?

About the Author: Jenny Muckle is an environmental geography student.

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