Commentary

National environmental expert: Why Trump’s infrastructure plan is doomed to failure

If you’re trying to get your arms around President Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan, be sure to check out the assessment provided by Dr. Joe Romm at Think Progress. Romm calls the plan “a whole lot of waste, just like his border wall.”

This is from Romm’s post:

“The President’s long-awaited $1.5 trillion plan rolled out on Monday had already been widely criticized for including a mere $200 billion in actual federal money — and a lot of wishful thinking about leveraging vast amounts of state and local revenue.

But the plan’s proposal to gut the normal environmental review process and quickly push through projects without adequate vetting is disastrous. Worsening deluges, sea level rise, extended droughts, and ever hotter temperatures will test even the most carefully designed projects. But it will likely ruin the least carefully designed ones.

‘The impact of not considering climate change when planning infrastructure means you end up building the wrong thing, in the wrong place, to the wrong standards,’ as urban planning and climate expert Michael Kuby told the New York Times. ‘That’s a whole lot of waste.’

Also, failing to consider climate change could put lives at risk if infrastructure isn’t designed to handle the kind of super-storms scientists say we’ll see more of in the future.

A 277-page peer-reviewed report from Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency found that by 2100, the cumulative cost of adapting just the nation’s roads to climate change would be $230 billion. That’s for the business-as-usual emissions scenario for carbon pollution that Trump’s pro-pollution policies would result in.”

The post goes on to explain how the plan would sidestep or eliminate several vital environmental rules and procedures, including important parts of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act and turn environmental reviews over to the states. Here’s the conclusion:

“So the federal government could simply hand over environmental review to any state.

But the fact that Trump and much of the staff of the White House and the federal agencies deny climate science — as do the governors of key states like Florida — means that climate impacts are unlikely to be part of any serious review.

Therefore, if anything like this plan were passed, it could wreak untold environmental havoc on the country — all in the name of quickly building a lot of expensive infrastructure that is doomed to fail.”

In other words, like just about everything else he’s ever done, Trump’s plan is all show and little substance. What a surprise.

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: State Senate guilty of “felony-level fraud”

The Fayetteville Observer let loose with some real, on-the-mark haymakers this weekend in a scathing takedown of last week’s inadequate effort by North Carolina Senate leaders to respond to the GenX water pollution crisis. This is from “Senate GenX response is a dangerous fraud”:

“At first we thought we were witnessing a miracle. Imagine: N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, barely a month after refusing to consider a bipartisan, unanimously passed House bill funding a stepped-up response to GenX pollution, turns around and pushes a Senate version of the bill that allocates even more money to the project. A stunning turnabout for the state’s champion of deregulating just about everything.

And then we looked at what’s in the bill. Turns out it’s felony-level fraud. It’s also yet another assault on the state Department of Environmental Quality and a plan to further abdicate responsibility for the health and safety of the North Carolina residents who get their drinking water from the Cape Fear River or from wells in polluted countryside around the Chemours plant on the Cumberland-Bladen county line.”

After noting that the Senate bill basically told DEQ officials to get lost on key aspects of responding to the crisis (by, for instance, failing to fund adequate equipment to test for GenX and other emerging contaminants, pushing a bunch of cash to a crony of Senate leader Phil Berger who spent years fighting environmental protection before being been installed at UNC-Chapel Hill and making the money that is in the bill a “one-time” expenditure), the editorial concludes this way:

“And then the grand frosting on the cake: In the next fiscal year, the Senate wants to cut another $1 million out of the DEQ’s already inadequate budget.

This constitutes political fraud on a grand scale and is the most blatant statement we’ve yet seen from the Senate and its powerful leader that they have no real interest in protecting the health and safety of their constituents. The Senate GenX bill makes it clear that Berger and the rest of his Senate leadership are out to protect the interests of big business — and big contributors — and that they really don’t see any problem with the dumping of dangerous wastes into rivers, streams and groundwater that are the source of drinking water for millions of North Carolina residents.

For decades, this state’s voters have shrugged away concerns about pollution, as have our lawmakers. But now they’re confronting something that may be dangerous in even minuscule amounts, something that can’t readily be filtered out of the water supply. The public response to GenX is new and different for North Carolina. Residents of this region want the state to be on their side, to protect them from this threat. The Senate’s cynical response is deeply disappointing. And if the Senate doesn’t get serious, it may come back to haunt Senate Republicans on Election Day.”

Commentary

General Assembly’s class-size “fix” a mixed bag

This afternoon, the General Assembly has finally revealed its plan for addressing the unfunded class-size mandate. As a reminder, under current law, General Assembly members are requiring school districts dramatically reduce class sizes in grades K-3 in the next school year, but have failed to provide the necessary funding. To meet the unfunded mandate, districts would have to expand class sizes in higher grades or reduce offerings of “enhancement” courses such as art, physical education, music, and technology.

The General Assembly’s proposed solution is a significant improvement over the status quo, but doesn’t appear to fully address the concerns of public school districts. Additionally, the bill has been paired with several non-education provisions related to the use of Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) mitigation funds and the composition of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

For public schools, the bill does the following: Read more

Commentary

The top reason for attending this Saturday’s Moral March on Raleigh

https://naacpnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Moral-March-single.jpgThere are a lot of good reasons to attend this Saturday’s HKonJ “People’s  Assembly” / Moral March on Raleigh — the dreadful state of American and North Carolina politics, the crucial importance of staying engaged and connected to the fight for justice, the chance to hear an inspiring messages from lots of great speakers, including the new head of the North Carolina NAACP (Rev. T. Anthony Spearman), and even the predictions of mild, springlike (if a tad damp) weather.

But for my money, the main reason to attend is evident in what event organizers have made the theme for this year’s event: “Taking the Resistance to the Ballot Box.”

If ever there was a year in which it’s critical to urge all North Carolinians to vote and, indeed, to devote a sizable chunk of one’s time over the next nine months to such efforts, it’s 2018.

Hope to see you there on Saturday morning!