Trump Gives Few Details on Infrastructure Executive Order

Rafael Lemaitre, former director of public affairs at FEMA who worked on the Obama-era order, said Trump is undoing "the most significant action taken in a generation" to safeguard US infrastructure. Trump signed another executive order on streamlining environmental and public reviews of infrastructure projects his first week in office.

Taxpayers already bear a considerable amount of the cost of repairing public facilities damaged by flooding.

US officials have estimated the United States suffered $260 billion in flood related damages between 1980 and 2013. It also could have impacted some homeowners or business owners turning to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild after a damaging storm. "By contrast, evidence shows that every $1 spent on disaster mitigation can save $4 in post-disaster recovery and rebuilding costs".

Floods are among the most common and expensive type of disaster in the U.S., and climate change is expected to make them an even bigger problem.

Representative Ralph Abraham of Louisiana, a Republican who sponsored legislation that would have blocked Mr. Obama's flood standard, said he was thrilled by Mr. Trump's decision. "Without this standard, we're going to be spending increasing amounts to do the exact same thing". And they've found common cause with conservative think tanks anxious about saddling the federal government with the burden of paying for flood damage in the future.

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The Obama-era standard required that builders factor in scientific projections for increased flooding and ensure projects can withstand rising sea levels and stronger downpours. In an interview with Reuters, flood policy expert and president of the R Street Institute Eli Leher called Trump's decision to reverse the Obama-era guidance "an enormous mistake". He described the Obama order as a common-sense measure to prevent taxpayer dollars from being sunk into projects threatened by flooding. They could use the best available climate change science; they could require that standard projects like roads and railways be built two feet above the national 100-year flood elevation standard and critical buildings like hospitals be built three feet higher; or they could require infrastructure be built to at least the 500-year floodplain.

Trump campaigned on a pledge to remake the way the federal government handles infrastructure projects, casting himself as a real estate developer who knows what it takes to get a building project done.

Efforts to expedite the construction of big-scale freight projects would boost the economy, Trump argued. Still, Pew's Lightbody argues that rescinding the federal guidelines sends the wrong message to communities and taxpayers across the country.

"No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay", Trump said at the news conference.

  • Adam Floyd