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Trump’s infrastructure plan: Climate change and the environment


miami flood
Louis
Fernandez walks along a flooded Collins Avenue in Miami Beach in
September 2015.

Lynne
Sladky/AP


  • On Monday, the Trump administration unveiled
    its infrastructure plan
    , which would budget $1.5 trillion
    toward fixing and rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, water
    systems, airports, and more.
  • However, the plan does not mention climate
    change.
  • Severe weather, exacerbated by rising temperatures and
    greenhouse-gas emissions, costs the US billions in
    infrastructure repairs every year.


On Monday morning, the Trump administration revealed
its long-awaited infrastructure plan
, which aims to
funnel $1.5 trillion toward fixing the nation’s roads,
bridges, airports, and more over the next decade.

However, the 55-page plan ignores the key thing that would
save the US billions in infrastructure every year: climate
change.

Stephanie Gidigbi, a policy director at the Natural
Resources Defense Council
, called the plan “misguided.”

“The Trump administration’s misguided infrastructure plan
ignores the threats facing our country from stronger storms,
higher temperatures, and bigger floods,” she told Business
Insider. “Smart investments in our future would help make our
communities more resilient to withstand the effects of climate
change, and would recognize the opportunities in cleaner
energy.”

Though it’s hard to say exactly how much climate change-linked
infrastructure damages costs the US, a 2017 study
estimates that rising temperatures are increasing maintenance and
construction costs for roads by billions of dollars every year.

That’s because asphalt is sensitive to temperature. If
it gets too cold, it can crack; and if it gets too hot, it can
partially melt. 
Temperature can determine the
construction method, too. Asphalt blends that are more
resilient to hot summers often cost more, but they are also less
prone to damages.

In 2010, temperature changes added anywhere from $13.6 billion
to $14.5 billion in annual pavement costs, according to the
study. That figure could increase to $19 billion in 2040 and
$21.8 billion in 2070. Under a more extreme prediction,
warmer temperatures could contribute $26.3 billion and $35.8
billion in annual costs by 2040 and 2070 respectively.

These forecasts do not account for road impacts from flooding and
storm surges, which would make cost figures even higher.

“Because these transportation systems constitute large civil
investments ($7.7 trillion in assets and $45 billion annual
expenditures) and underpin an economic vibrancy [3.1 trillion
miles] of public travel per year and private citizen expenditures
equal to 8.9% of GDP), the impacts [of climate change] may be
substantial,” the researchers wrote.

Trump’s plan is a departure from how infrastructure is usually
funded. As BI’s Bob Bryan
notes
, the federal government typically covers the majority
of the cost, but under Trump’s plan, local governments would take
on 80% or more of the financial burden. Local governments are
already largely responsible for repairs after major storms and
other weather events. The City of New York, for example, plans to
spend
$20 billion on damages from Hurricane Sandy
.

“This proposal doesn’t begin to respond to the scale
of assistance local communities need to cope with these mounting
impacts — it merely shifts the burden of rebuilding our nation’s
crumbling infrastructure onto state and local budgets which are
already strapped,” Ken Kimmell, president of
the science advocacy nonprofit Union of
Concerned Scientists, said in
a statement
.

One section of the plan says the White House hopes to
expedite the environmental review process for new infrastructure
projects by requiring a firm deadline of 21 months. Under current
law, projects require
analyses
that anticipate environmental impacts, some of which
take years. Democrats have expressed uncertainty link? about cutting down this
regulatory red tape. They say that shrinking the approval time
for reviews could make it easier for project sponsors to dodge
environmental regulations.

The plan builds on the Trump administration’s promise to

roll back legislation
that addresses climate change,
including the Clean Power Plan, Paris Agreement, and Clean Water
Act. In 2017, the US government revoked
a plan to require higher flood standards
for highways and
bridges as well.

Kimmel notes the infrastructure plan also doesn’t mention
renewable energy, the modern electric grid, resilience, or
adaptation.

“This is a plan to shore up the infrastructure of the past,
rather than invest in what we need for the future,” he said.


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