Trump infrastructure & budget plans would steamroll environment safeguards

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Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
An early Valentine’s Day for dirty energy?

Public lands and environmental protections would be steamrolled under President Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan according to The Wilderness Society’s review of leaked White House documents.  His proposed fiscal year 2019 budget would likely further hobble budgets of federal land management agencies and choke vital programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Both are expected to be released on February 12.

Drew McConville, Senior Managing Director at The Wilderness Society, said:

With this infrastructure plan, President Trump would line the pockets of oil and gas companies while steamrolling environmental safeguards.  He is taking a bipartisan priority and turning it into a divisive scheme to reward friends in the fossil fuel sector.

What to look for in the infrastructure plan:

  • Dismantling basic environmental safeguards.  The leaked version of Trump infrastructure plan would eviscerate the National Environmental Procedures Act (NEPA) by collapsing time lines, freezing out experts and delegating federal authority to states and private interests.  NEPA provides for the essential public review process for federal projects.  Billed as “streamlining,” the infrastructure proposal steamrolls over a wide array of safeguards that protect the nation’s air, waters and land.
  • Pipelines through parks.  The infrastructure plan would give Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke the authority to approve natural gas pipeline routes that cut through national parks.
  • Paying for infrastructure by selling off public lands.  The White House document on infrastructure called “Funding Principles” included a section titled “Disposition of Federal Real Property.” That provision would give the President authority to use executive orders for "disposal of Federal assets to improve the overall allocation of economic resources in infrastructure investment.”

What to look for in the budget:

  • Will Trump gut the nation’s most popular conservation law?  The Land and Water Conservation Fund invests in the conservation of lands, historic sites and recreational opportunities.  Funded without taxpayer dollars and authorized at $900 million, this popular 54-year old program was essentially zeroed out in Trump’s FY18 budget.
  • How big of a boost will Trump give fossil fuels? Trump’s public lands agenda to date has centered on increasing the use of fossil fuels, while reducing public input and safeguards that protect our air, land and water. This is a recipe for disaster. Last year, while other programs were gutted, the Bureau of Land Management’s coal, oil and gas programs saw an increase in funding. But not all energy is created equal under Trump – the BLM’s renewables budget was slashed in half and their climate change program was eliminated.
  • Will Trump starve land agencies and then complain they can’t do their job?  This circular logic appears frequently: Federal land agencies deserve to have their budgets reduced year after year, even in the face of increasing visits and demand, and therefore public lands should be sold out or sold off to private interests because the agencies can’t manage them. 
  • Is the wildfire funding crisis fixed?  Wildfires burn through more than half of the U.S. Forest Service budget and harms its ability to manage visitor safety, maintenance, resource protection and other priorities. Last year, the Trump FY18 budget poured gasoline on this problem by proposing to cut $300 million from the wildfire fighting initiatives and $50 million from its wildfire prevention efforts. 

The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.   

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