Trump orders fast-track of infrastructure projects, easing of environment rules

By Allen Cone  |  Updated Aug. 15, 2017 at 9:44 PM
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Aug. 15 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to simplify approval of federal infrastructure projects that includes rolling back standards for dealing with climate change and sea-level rise.

Trump appeared at Trump Tower in New York City to talk about plans to improve the nation's roads, bridges and other rebuilding projects. Earlier, he received an update from his infrastructure team that includes Cabinet members and advisers.

The executive order will set "a two-year goal for completion of the permitting process" but with "accountability and discipline."

During the appearance, Trump showed a several-foot-tall flow chart of the current permitting process that can take 10 years.

The executive order also would reinstate the prior flood management standard by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. It would not prohibit state and local agencies from using more stringent standards.

The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, established by Barack Obama in an executive order in 2015, has been criticized by building trade groups and Republican lawmakers as costly and burdensome.

Environmental activists and floodplain managers say Obama's executive order ensured new projects in areas prone to flooding were protected.

"Inefficiencies in current infrastructure project decisions, including management of environmental reviews and permit decisions or authorizations, have delayed infrastructure investments, increased project costs, and blocked the American people from enjoying improved infrastructure that would benefit our economy, society, and environment," the order said. "More efficient and effective federal infrastructure decisions can transform our economy, so the federal government, as a whole, must change the way it processes environmental reviews and authorization decisions."

During his campaign and now as president, Trump has pledged to improve the nation's infrastructure.

"No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay," Trump said at the news conference. "While protecting the environment, we will build gleaming new roads, bridges, railways, waterways, tunnels and highways. We will rebuild our country with American workers, American iron, American aluminum, American steel."

A real estate developer, he has called for $200 billion in direct federal spending on infrastructure in his 2018 budget -- and a $1 trillion investment, including money from the private sector.

As part of the White House's infrastructure week, he spoke about the planned changes during a rally on June 6 in Cincinnati.

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