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Opinion

February 15, 2018

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Wall Street’s thirst for water

Trump has announced the details of his infrastructure plan, and it paints a frightening picture. At best, it’s a money-making scam. At its worst, it endangers our families, communities and the planet.

The plan reads like a to-do list of How to Give Public Land and Water to Wall Street. The end goal: to privatize our local water systems and public services so corporations can make a profit. Meanwhile, everyday people will pay the cost: price increases, a lack of public accountability and a loss of jobs.

Many of our water systems were built a hundred years ago (that’s not an exaggeration). But the government has invested less and less into keeping our infrastructure up to date – meaning unaffordable water service rates and undrinkable tap water in places like Flint. Selling our roads, bridges and water systems off to the highest bidder is not the solution.?

The bulk of this agenda is to raise rates and privatize public systems. Water bills would need to skyrocket to allow Wall Street to profit, leading to unaffordable bills and more water shutoffs. Food & Water Watch has researched the price of privatization: privately owned water systems charge 59 percent more than publicly owned systems. Already, more than one in ten people nationally are struggling to pay their water bills – and the consequences can be dire. Water service can be shut off for nonpayment, leaving families without running water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing, flushing toilets and washing hands. People can even lose their homes through eviction or tax sales and foreclosures because of unpaid water bills.

Trump is setting people up to fail. Maybe he’s forgotten: water is a human right.

Federal assistance would not go to places that need the support, but instead, it would be prioritized to wealthier municipalities that can already pay for infrastructure projects. The only possible reason for this: this is not a plan designed to improve people’s lives.

Low-income towns and communities of color pay higher water rates than their wealthier, whiter neighbors. And even within a community, the harm is not felt equally. Water shutoffs disproportionately affect people of color in places like Boston and Detroit. Corporate investors, driven by profit, have no reason to put money into low income and rural areas.

Trump’s priorities are wrong. His plan provides no money dedicated to communities that need it most. It includes no provision that prioritizes communities with affordability or public health challenges. Trump’s agenda will not help low-income cities like Flint, rural communities like Martin County, Kentucky, or other struggling communities address their water crises.

Trump’s infrastructure plan will transfer wealth to rich, typically whiter, communities.?

Trump is not going to increase federal funding for infrastructure; instead, his scheme relies on smoke and mirrors.

Trump provides no additional funding to the State Revolving Funds, USDA’s rural water fund or any of the existing programs that provide dedicated funding for water projects or technical assistance to struggling water systems.

Federal funding for water infrastructure is at its lowest point in decades. Instead of reversing the decline, Trump’s plan provides zero dollars to the highly successful Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs, which are the main source of federal support for our local water and sewer systems. Despite not increasing support to these funds, Trump seeks to open up the clean water fund to private entities. This amounts to taking away existing federal money from our local governments to give to big water corporations. That’s not all. Trump intends to allow private companies to use federally subsidized WIFIA water loans to lease and outright buy public water and sewer systems.

His plan is a zero-sum game: there will be no new funds, just a shuffling of what already exists to make it easier for Wall Street to profit.?

We can expect his budget to have massive cuts to EPA and even federal water funding. Last year, Trump’s budget proposed completely eliminating USDA’s rural water program. Now, he wants to gut environmental protections to rush them through the permitting process.

The leaked infrastructure plan could include fracking in our national parks and offshore oil drilling. It also will provide new federal subsidies for potentially high-risk oil and gas projects. And all this because Trump thinks he can turn $200 billion into $1 trillion – or $1.7 trillion, depending on apparently his mood – by green lighting and fast-tracking big infrastructure and pipeline projects.

This regulatory rollback does not create new projects or jobs; it just makes existing plans riskier and more dangerous for the health of our communities, workers and the planet.?

Trump’s infrastructure plan is a giveaway to corporations at the expense of the public health and the environment. Communities deserve a say in how their water systems are managed, and decisions about shared essential resources such as water should be made with the public’s interest in mind, not the potential profit margins of Trump’s Wall Street cronies.

We need a just and equitable infrastructure plan that dedicates federal funding for public water and wastewater systems, makes corporations pay their fair share instead of burdening working and middle-class families and prioritizes vulnerable communities with the greatest affordability and public health needs.

To get to a real solution, we must resist Trump’s infrastructure scam.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘Trump Wants to Sell Our Water to Wall Street.’

Courtesy: Commondreams.org

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