Four environment and infrastructure stories to watch in 2017
With a new president and newly consolidated power among Republicans nationally and in many states, 2017 should be an interesting year for the environment and infrastructure challenges we work to address as architecture-engineering consultants. Here are four stories I’m watching closely this year:
- Federal investment in infrastructure – President Trump has pledged to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the nation’s roads, airports, schools, water systems and other public facilities. Boosting this proposal, Qatar announced it will invest $10 billion in U.S. infrastructure. Private investment may not do enough to spur significant infrastructure spending with new federal revenue also needed. Will these grand plans hit an obstacle of Republican concern about expanding debt?
- Bright future for renewable energy – Although oil industry supporters are cheering Trump’s Cabinet selections, momentum in the country’s energy transition may be unstoppable. Coal is already near death, and the shift towards renewable energy is well underway and not easily reversed.
- Solutions coming from states – States continue to find their own ways to solve transportation funding shortfalls without waiting to see if Congress will act. Indiana is only the latest example of a state looking to generate more revenue to improve roads and bridges. Montana frames its infrastructure funding package as a jobs bill that would employ more construction workers and engineers.
- Water and air may be less clean – Trump’s pick of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, a longtime foe of the Environmental Protection Agency, to lead the same department he has often sued may lead to changes in the regulations intended to protect air and water quality. Challenges to the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Act are expected.
As these stories play out in 2017, I welcome increased attention to aging infrastructure issues that our government clients face but have concerns about undoing decades of environmental protections. Watch with me, and let me know what you think will happen.
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