Senate Democratic leaders on Jan. 24 announced a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, and on the same day, President Donald Trump signed an executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects.
According to a statement posted on Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) website, he and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Jan. 24 joined Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other leading Senate Democrats in unveiling the 10-year “Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure.”
Leahy, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in the statement, in part: “In Vermont, we know the infrastructure needs of rural communities are unique. This blueprint makes investments in rural communities to keep our downtowns vibrant, to expand broadband access, and grow our economy.”
Sanders said in the statement: “Year after year, we under-fund the roads and bridges, the water systems, the airports and water ports that our economy depends on. And the results are plain to see: much of our infrastructure is crumbling. Instead of giving away critical infrastructure to private investors to make a profit or create new tax loopholes for the wealthy, we are going to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create 15 million middle class jobs in the process.”
Schumer said in the statement, in part, “[T]his is one of the most comprehensive overhaul proposals in a generation, and we’re challenging President Trump to work with us on this broad plan that will sustain our positive economic growth, create millions of jobs, and build a modern economy.”
As noted in the infrastructure plan, among other things:
- $100bn would go towards building 21st century energy infrastructure, upgrading the country’s “failing” power grid, and lowering electric bills
- $210bn would go towards repairing crumbling roads and bridges
- $200bn would go towards a new Vital Infrastructure Program (VIP) that would direct major federal investments to the most critical national projects
- $110bn would go towards modernizing water and sewer systems
- $10bn would go towards supporting the creation of new innovative financing tools aimed at unlocking capital and increasing infrastructure investment
According to the infrastructure plan, it would “provide adequate resources for the Government Accountability Office and agency Inspector Generals to ensure taxpayer funds are not wasted.”
On energy, for instance, the infrastructure plan noted that the country’s electrical grid consists of an antiquated patchwork of interconnected power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, some of which date back to the early 1900s.
“Not surprisingly, the grid suffers from hundreds of avoidable power failures each year, costing our economy between $25 and $70 billion annually,” the infrastructure plan said.
The plan said that $100bn would be invested in much-needed power transmission and distribution upgrades, and existing tax incentives for renewable energy would be consolidated and reformed. Those investments would improve the reliability and resiliency of the electric power grid, protect against cyber-attacks, and prepare for more locally generated renewable energy, the plan said.
Additionally, a permanent incentive would be given for electricity generation, transportation fuels, and energy efficiency improvements, the plan said, adding that the level of incentive would be based on performance – the cleaner the technology, or the more energy conserved, the larger the incentive.
Technology-neutral energy tax credits would reward clean energy and promote innovation and investment in renewable energy and energy conservation, the plan said.
According to a Jan. 24 White House statement, Trump on Jan. 24 signed a series of executive orders and presidential memoranda regarding “his promise to reduce the burden of regulations and expedite high priority energy and infrastructure projects that will create jobs and increase national security.”
For instance, according to the “Executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects,” too often, infrastructure projects in the United States have been routinely and excessively delayed by agency processes and procedures, and those delays have increased project costs.
Federal infrastructure decisions should be accomplished with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, while also respecting property rights and protecting public safety and the environment, the executive order said.
With respect to infrastructure projects for which federal reviews and approvals are required, upon request by the governor of a state, or the head of any executive department or agency, or on his or her own initiative, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is to, within 30 days after a request is made, decide whether an infrastructure project qualifies as a “high priority” infrastructure project, according to the executive order.
That determination is to made after consideration of the project’s importance to the general welfare, value to the United States, environmental benefits, and such other factors as the chairman deems relevant, the executive order said.
With respect to any project designated as a high priority under the order, the CEQ chairman is to coordinate with the head of the relevant agency to establish, in a manner consistent with law, expedited procedures and deadlines for completion of environmental reviews and approvals for such projects, the executive order said.
All agencies are to give highest priority to completing such reviews and approvals by the established deadlines using all necessary and appropriate means, the executive order said. Regarding deadlines established consistent with the order that are not met, the order noted that the head of the relevant agency is to provide a written explanation to the chairman explaining the causes for the delay and providing concrete actions taken by the agency to complete such reviews and approvals as expeditiously as possible.