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