Daines seeks rollback of environmental policies in infrastructure plan

Sen. Steve Daines and other members of the Senate Western Caucus are asking President Donald trump to include a set of “core Western principles” in his infrastructure proposal, including direct investment in the Highway Trust Fund.

The caucus also has called on the president to reduce litigation by modernizing the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, saying special interest groups have used the policies to block needed projects.

“Every state across this country is impacted by our nation’s infrastructure,” Daines said. “That’s why our Western voices and priorities must be heard while the president addresses our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.”

Daines, who chairs the Western Caucus, joined other conservative lawmakers from Wyoming, Alaska and Nebraska, among others, in asking Trump to ensure that any future infrastructure plan goes beyond the nation’s urban centers.

In a letter to the president, the caucus asked Trump to increase access to raw materials, employ an “all of the above” energy strategy, and address the maintenance of National Parks, which Daines said are facing a maintenance backlog measured in the billion of dollars.

“Montana’s national parks are national treasures that must be accessible to Montanans and Americans across the country,” Daines said. “They are important drivers of our outdoor tourism economy, too. We must address the maintenance backlog so that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy Montana’s great outdoors.”

To get the work done, several members of the Western Caucus have asked Trump to streamline the permitting process to ensure projects to take place within two years. Daines is also asking the president to expand categorical exclusions, a move that would allow more projects to circumvent environmental review.

“Excessive procedural costs and delays in the permitting process at the federal level should be expedited, minimized, eliminated, or delegated to local levels, where appropriate, to accelerate the timely delivery of projects,” the caucus wrote the president.