The hideous Sneak At­tack on the U.S. Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy Act

Trillions - - In This Issue -

Both dur­ing his cam­paign and after, Don­ald Trump promised to fix Amer­ica’s ail­ing in­fra­struc­ture, but so far he has done the op­po­site by de­fund­ing some es­sen­tial in­fra­struc­ture pro­grams in or­der to make a bad sit­u­a­tion worse so it can be used to jus­tify a fake so­lu­tion.

One of the stan­dard tac­tics of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to pass bad legist­la­tion is clas­sic bait and switch: present a prob­lem — whether real, imag­ined or in­con­se­quen­tial — then pro­pose a so­lu­tion that sounds rea­son­able in sur­face hype but which ac­tu­ally does some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Most Amer­i­cans only hear a rea­son­able so­lu­tion to a prob­lem and sup­port the pro­posed ac­tions with­out re­ally hav­ing a clue as to what they are ac­tu­ally sup­port­ing.

As ex­pected, the Trump gang plans to ex­ploit the lack of in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing (prob­lem) to re­write the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy Act (NEPA) (so­lu­tion), which gov­erns how fed­er­ally reg­u­lated con­struc­tion projects are per­mit­ted.

Most Amer­i­cans hear "in­fra­struc­ture needs to be fixed by re­duc­ing red tape", feel good about it and don't re­al­ize that they are be­ing bam­boo­zled and don't want to be both­ered to think about it fur­ther.

On Jan­uary 26, the “White House Draft Plan to Stream­line Fed­eral Per­mit­ting for In­fra­struc­ture Projects” was leaked to The Wash­ing­ton Post.

On the sur­face, the plan seems rea­son­able enough. It is cer­tainly true that NEPA is deeply flawed and needs to be stream­lined and up­dated – but also strength­ened – to re­duce loop­holes.

Un­der the cur­rent NEPA, it can take years for a cross-coun­try pipe­line project to be ap­proved for con­struc­tion and cost mil­lions of dol­lars for mul­ti­ple en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact stud­ies, re­views and con­sul­ta­tions. Mul­ti­ple agen­cies have to each sign off on a project and may have their own unique re­quire­ments. The process for project own­ers can be frus­trat­ingly long and dif­fi­cult, and even just one agency can de­lay a project or pre­vent it from ever go­ing for­ward.

But there is a rea­son for all of this reg­u­la­tion. Amer­ica is a highly pol­luted coun­try, and tax­pay­ers must spend hundreds of bil­lions of dol­lars clean­ing up after the cor­po­ra­tions who caused the pol­lu­tion. There are more than 1,300 con­tam­i­nated sites in the United States that are deemed su­per­fund sites; they are so pol­luted that they pose a se­ri­ous threat to hu­man health and the en­vi­ron­ment and must be cleaned up at great ex­pense.

There are even en­tire towns so pol­luted that res­i­dents had to be evac­u­ated and the towns sealed off un­til money can be al­lo­cated to clean up the deadly mess. And even with all of the fed­eral and state reg­u­la­tions, a large por­tion of Amer­i­can wa­ter­ways are too pol­luted for the wa­ter to be used for much of any­thing. Even seem­ingly pris­tine moun­tain streams are con­tam­i­nated with mer­cury from coal-fired power plants.

Pol­lu­tion kills hundreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans ev­ery year, makes mil­lions sick and re­duces pro­duc­tiv­ity and eco­nomic growth.

Ac­cord­ing to the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD), the United States spends al­most three times more on health care than other coun­tries with com­pa­ra­ble in­comes and yet Amer­i­cans have the short­est life­spans of any com­pa­ra­ble na­tion, even many coun­tries that are far less de­vel­oped.

Pol­lu­tion also makes us stupid. A sin­gle mol­e­cule of mer­cury or lead can de­stroy count­less brain cells. The toxic chem­i­cals in our food, wa­ter and air are also well-known to cause se­ri­ous cog­ni­tivie im­pair­ment.

Al­low­ing in­dus­tries to pol­lute and de­stroy the en­vi­ron­ment with im­punity is good for the short-term prof­its of the crim­i­nal cor­po­ra­tions. And it is easy for them to use the cur­rent fee­ble-minded and cor­rupt Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and cor­rupt Congress to roll back a wide range of hard-won and es­sen­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions.

To smooth the process, the at­tacks on the en­vi­ron­ment are be­ing por­trayed as some­thing pos­i­tive and, in this case, Amer­i­cans are be­ing led to be­lieve that the rea­son their in­fra­struc­ture is fall­ing apart is be­cause of overly re­stric­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions and that only once those bad reg­u­la­tions are elim­i­nated can the in­fra­struc­ture be fixed and lots of well-pay­ing jobs cre­ated in the process. It is all a big lie.

The re­al­ity is that Amer­ica's in­fra­struc­ture just needs the re­quired fund­ing. The rea­son it isn't get­ting the re­quired fund­ing is be­cause it would be harder to steal tax­payer's money if used for in­fra­struc­ture. In­fras­truc­trure con­tracts are usu­ally re­quired by law to be pub­licly ad­ver­tised and com­pet­i­tively bid. So, in­stead of spend­ing money on pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture projects, the money is di­verted to the mil­i­tary where it can just dis­ap­pear be­hind a veil of se­crecy as tril­lions and tril­lions of dol­lars al­ready have.

While the Pen­tagon doesn't legally have to ac­count for funds for black projects, it also chooses to not ac­count for a vast por­tion of the rest of the money al­lo­cated to it. It claims that it can't ac­count for it be­cause of in­com­pat­i­ble ac­count­ing sys­tems or other rea­sons. For decades, con­gres­sional hear­ings and res­o­lu­tions have failed to force the mil­i­tary to ac­cu­rately ac­count for its fund­ing and yet the fund­ing con­tin­ues to grow with the knowl­edge that it is be­ing stolen, mis-used, mis-spent, etc.. A few low-level per­son­nel are rou­tinely pros­e­cuted for mi­nor cor­rup­tion but the theft of tril­lions goes on.

In ad­di­tion to the tax dol­lars wasted on the mil­i­tary, the U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment (HUD) and var­i­ous mil­i­tary de­part­ments have also been re­ceiv­ing tril­lions in phan­tom money that was never bud­geted or au­tho­rized.

The sim­ple fact is that as long as our tax dol­lars are need­lessly di­verted to the mil­i­tary — where much of it is stolen, our in­fra­struc­ture will con­tinue to rot away. And that is the real is­sue that needs to be ad­dressed.

Sadly, many Amer­i­cans will con­tinue to be­lieve the lies and feel good about their tax dol­lars sup­port­ing our troops and the dis­man­tling of en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions – un­til it is their chil­dren who get sick and their neigh­bor­hood that is con­tam­i­nated and they no­tice that their roads are still bad, their bridges are still fall­ing apart, their wa­ter tastes even worse than it did be­fore and they still don’t have a job that pays enough to live on.

NEPA does need to be im­proved, but the trea­sonous crea­tures who in­habit Wash­ing­ton cer­tainly can’t be trusted to make it bet­ter. There needs to be an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion of lead­ing health ex­perts, en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tists, con­trac­tors and en­gi­neers who study the reg­u­la­tions and their ac­tual im­pacts and then de­velop reg­u­la­tions that pro­vide for a quicker and less costly per­mit­ting process that bet­ter pro­tects the en­vi­ron­ment and hu­man health.

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