Trump says “Be Mine” to fossil fuel interests via infrastructure scheme and budget

Credits: Trump by Simon Edelman (DOE), flickr; smokestacks by Fanboy30, flickr.

President Trump’s infrastructure plan and federal budget proposal are a Valentine to oil, gas, coal and other extractive interests, increasing development on public lands, draining money from conservation and severely weakening environmental rules.

New Trump administration proposals would relax environmental regulations, afford priority status to oil, gas and coal operations on public lands and give Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke the sole authority to approve oil and gas pipelines through national parks.

These points in the White House's Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal and long-awaited infrastructure plan, both released Feb. 12, are part of the ultimate Valentine offered up by a president who has spent more than a year in office wooing dirty energy interests.

"It's fitting that Trump released these plans just before Valentine's Day because they're a declaration of love for those fossil-fuel interests that want less oversight and more freedom to pollute,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement. 

Key points from Trump's Valentine to fossil fuels: 

Infrastructure plan: 

  • Would give Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Trump's powerful no. 2 for anti-public lands policies, the authority to approve natural gas pipelines running through national parks. 

  • Would potentially let Trump authorize "disposal" of public lands, meaning they can be sold off to raise money for his other projects. 

  • Would punch huge holes in a nearly 50-year-old law called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This crucial but little-known law mandates that federal government agencies consider the environmental impact of their actions. This includes opening up their plans to public scrutiny (for example, notifying people and letting them weigh in if oil and gas development or a hazardous waste dump is slated for a nearby tract of land).   

Proposed budget: 

  • Would increase funding for coal, oil and gas development on public lands. 

  • Would cut the long-running and popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to the bone, reducing its budget by roughly 90%. LWCF was designed so there would always be money available for its core purpose of protecting land in order to complete national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other protected sites, without burdening American taxpayers.  

  • Would cut funding for the Department of the Interior by about 16%, selling out public lands and severely undermining the booming outdoor recreation economy. 

  • Would deepen the fiscal wounds suffered by the National Park Service in recent years, imposing a 7% budget cut. The Park Service already operates under a nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. 

  • Would slash the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 34%, eliminating thousands of jobs from that agency and cutting programs devoted to climate change research and marine pollution, among others. 

  • Would cut key funding from the U.S. Forest Service, which is already chronically strained by the need to divert funds from various important programs in order to fight wildfires--including those that are specifically intended to reduce the cost and severity of future wildfires.  

How does Trump love fossil fuels? Let us count the ways. 

The infrastructure plan and budget proposal extend a long courtship that has recently seen Secretary Zinke reveal a new leasing review process that makes it easier for oil and gas companies to gain access to our public lands; a leaked plan showing the Bureau of Land Management wants to speed up energy leasing and eliminate necessary environmental protections; and, of course, monument rollbacks that allow coal and other mining claims to be staked on formerly protected land in Utah.  

Fossil fuel companies didn't contribute much to Trump's presidential campaign (likely because they didn't think he had a chance of winning), but they scrambled to catch up following the 2016 election by pumping money into his inaugural fund. In the year-plus since, Trump has reciprocated—and then some—by tilting the bulk of the federal government in their favor, slashing common-sense regulations with abandon and pushing drilling on sensitive lands and waters.  

Throughout the federal budget process and discussions around the infrastructure plan, The Wilderness Society will actively work with lawmakers, urging them to reject Trump's Valentine to fossil fuels and restore funding for conservation programs in need.  

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