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U.S. chemical industry applauds Trump’s plan to upgrade infrastructure

Improving transportation is seen as key to chemical manufacturing growth

by Glenn Hess, special to C&EN
February 14, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 8

A photo of freight ships with cargo on the water.
Credit: Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock
The chemical industry says the president's infrastructure initiative is a first step towards enhancing the capacity of U.S. ports, including this one in Oakland, Calif.

Chemical companies are welcoming President Donald J. Trump’s long-awaited $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild aging U.S. infrastructure systems.

“Building and repairing the nation’s network of roads, rails, and waterways will create jobs and strengthen America’s efficiency and, by extension, our economy for generations,” Dow Chemical says in a statement. “Dow and the chemical industry, as well as countless U.S. workers and citizens, will benefit from the President’s proposal to invest in our infrastructure.”

The framework, released on Feb. 12, seeks congressional approval for $200 billion in direct federal funding. The Administration expects the federal allocation will draw matching funds from cities, states, and the private sector, resulting in a $1.5 trillion total investment in repairs and new construction.

In recent years, states have assumed a greater share of public infrastructure spending, and the White House wants to accelerate that trend.

Modernizing and repairing the nation’s transportation infrastructure is critical for U.S. chemical companies, which rely on highways, railroads, and ports to deliver their products to customers.

“This issue is a priority since a highly functioning transportation network and robust energy infrastructure are vital to keeping the business of chemistry moving,” says the American Chemistry Council, the industry’s main trade association. “If left unaddressed, infrastructure challenges could prevent our nation from fully realizing the benefits of increased production.”

To speed up the construction of infrastructure projects, the plan would streamline the federal permitting and approval process to no more than two years. The current process, which involves a gauntlet of federal, state, and local regulatory hurdles, can take five to 10 years.

Under the administration’s plan, environmental review would take no more than 21 months. After a favorable decision, a permit would have to be issued within the next three months.

Democrats agree that U.S. infrastructure needs upgrading, but they say the White House proposal is short on federal funding. And activists oppose Trump’s plan to accelerate the permitting process.

Faster environmental reviews “would leave local residents all but voiceless when it comes to the massive projects that will reshape their communities,” says the Natural Resources Defense Council.



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