President’s Infrastructure Proposal Envisions Significant Private Investment, Expedited Environmental Review

Feb 9, 2018

During his time on the campaign trail, President Trump referred to the U.S.’s weak infrastructure, commenting that at least $1 trillion was needed to get the country back on track. A year in, Congress is still seeking a path forward, but mounting Federal deficits and the challenge of how to raise money for infrastructure remain significant barriers to even a limited infrastructure package.

With infrastructure a hot button topic on Capitol Hill following the State of the Union and the recent release of a Problem Solver’s Caucus infrastructure report, draft Administration proposals have been informally circulated that suggest spending as little as $200 billion on infrastructure, a significant decrease from the campaign promise of $1 trillion. However, this $200 billion will reportedly generate $1.5 trillion in returns or additional investment from private sector sources, bringing total investment up to the President’s goal. 

Last year, a White House infrastructure fact sheet argued that at least $1 trillion in funding would be achieved through a combination of new Federal funding, incentivized non-Federal funding, and newly prioritized and expedited projects, with as little as $200 billion in Federal funding for infrastructure, much of it from current infrastructure sources rather than new spending.  A new White House proposal leaked last week shows that a large part of the Administration’s plan still depends on facilitating infrastructure construction by the private sectors, with expedited environmental reviews providing a major incentive for development. The proposal is available to view at http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/national/white-house-draft-plan-to-streamline-federal-permitting-for-infrastructure-projects/2731/

Environmental review reforms in the draft proposal include making it easier to exempt projects from needing to undergo more detailed environmental impact studies prior to commencement, and curtailing the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to halt or delay projects due to environmental impact concerns. White House officials state that the proposal is still a work in progress, with many of the provisions still up for final negotiations with lawmakers. An official explained that the draft proposal was from a “much earlier stage in the policymaking process than where we are right now and should not at all be considered as administration policy.”

For more information on the FY 2018 White House infrastructure plan, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/fact_sheets/2018%20Budget%20Fact%20Sheet_Infrastructure%20Initiative.pdf