Trump to unveil infrastructure plan Monday

Source: Hannah Northey and Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporters • Posted: Wednesday, February 7, 2018

President Trump on Monday will unveil his proposal for drumming up $1.5 trillion to bolster the nation’s roads, bridges and possibly energy infrastructure.

A White House official confirmed the president is preparing to release his infrastructure “principles” for cutting the regulatory process while providing funding for projects in rural America. Monday also marks the day the administration is set to release its fiscal 2019 budget proposal.

The White House has been vague so far in both its discussions with Congress and plan snippets that have come out publicly, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill today made clear they’re hungry for details.

“We’ve had a lot of undetailed things, and yet those of us who are working with the White House are making some progress but waiting for them to go ahead and come out with it,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “So I think it’s going to be a lot more detailed, finally.”

Inhofe said he expects the plan to be “all of the above,” including conventional infrastructure like roads and ports, as well as energy. Leaked versions have made clear the administration, like Hill Republicans, is focused on streamlining permitting.

A White House “discussion draft” published by The Washington Post last month included proposals to limit permitting time under the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (Greenwire, Jan. 29).

Democrats, such as Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Tom Carper of Delaware, have said they would be open to reforms. And yet it remains unclear how far they would be willing to go, especially with environmentalists already mobilizing against the early drafts.

“We still need to do this in a bipartisan way,” EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said yesterday.

Both lawmakers and the White House will face tricky footing in finding how to finance the package. White House officials in recent months haven’t said whether they would support or oppose increasing the nation’s federal gas tax (Climatewire, Feb. 2).

In early discussions, the White House proposed spending $200 billion to leverage somewhere between $1 trillion and $1.7 trillion in total investment, with contributions from states and the private sector.

Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota today said he expects the plan to be “pretty detailed, especially when it comes to how it’s going to be financed, because that’s the big question.”

“I think anything at this point is possible,” he added.