The Trump administration’s plan to curb how federal agencies weigh climate change effects on major infrastructure projects could end up sharply increasing the financial burden for taxpayers who foot the bill for major disasters.
Foreshadowed in a statement from President Donald Trump on Jan. 1, the move to ease the requirements under the landmark National Environmental Policy Act expected on Thursday will soften environmental benchmarks for projects like pipelines and export terminals, as well as roads, bridges other transportation infrastructure.
While developers argue reducing their permitting burden will lower costs, taxpayers face risks because insurers are likely to either hike their premiums to cover projects that may not be viewed as robust enough to withstand stronger weather events, or they may decline to cover them at all. And if damage does result from ill-prepared infrastructure, those costs may also fall to taxpayers.
“At the end of the day this all falls back to the taxpayer,” said Alex Kaplan, executive vice president for alternative risk at insurance brokerage firm AmWINS Group. “The bow will break. This is an unsustainable path we’re on.”