Obama’s New Infrastructure Plan Would Worsen Our Water System Woes

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January 16, 2015

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Washington, D.C. — “Today the Obama administration announced a slew of proposals that will endanger our water systems by promoting and facilitating the management of critical drinking water resources by companies that often have a poor track record. Through the creation of a new Water Finance Center at the EPA to foster water privatization deals, and through new tax breaks on bonds for privatized projects, the Obama administration seeks to pave the way for big Wall Street firms and foreign water corporations to take control of our essential water resources. These misguided proposals will not benefit the average American, or our public water utilities, but will merely pad the pockets of those who seek to profit off the provision of water and sewer services.

“Public-private partnerships are not a practical or effective way to meet our water infrastructure crisis. The American people cannot afford the price tag or environmental threats that are well documented after private companies make decisions based on their bottom lines.

“Public water is the American way. More than 80 percent of the U.S. population receives water and sewer service from a publicly owned and operated utility. The public sector is responsible for more than 90 percent of drinking water and wastewater investments, mostly through tax-exempt municipal bonds. Instead of undermining our municipal utilities, the federal government should increase its support for public water and sewer systems.

“The federal government must step up and renew its commitment to our public water and sewer systems. The Obama administration and Congress can more effectively bolster our local government and rural water utilities by fully funding the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, preserving tax-exempt status on general obligation and revenue bonds and authorizing Building America’s Future bonds.

“Responsible public provision is the most effective way to ensure that every person has access to safe and affordable water service.”

Contact: Katherine Cirullo, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4914, kcirullo@fwwatch.org

Obama Shifts To Urge Private Investment in Transportation Infrastructure

Obama Shifts to Urge Private Investment in Roads, Bridges

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July 17, 2014 | Bloomberg Businessweek

Obama Shifts to Urge Private Investment in U.S. Roads, Bridges

President Barack Obama tours the The Federal Highway Administration’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center on July 15, 2014 in Mclean, Virginia. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Stymied by Congress in passing a multiyear solution for transportation funding, President Barack Obama is looking to private-sector companies to help fix roads.

Speaking beside a project to repair a closed interstate highway bridge in Wilmington, Delaware, Obama called for making it easier for states and local governments to access private capital for roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

“So far Congress has refused to act,” said Obama, who criticized lawmakers for failing to fully fund federal infrastructure projects through the Highway Trust Fund . “I’m going to do whatever I can to create jobs rebuilding American on my own.”

Obama briefly addressed at the start of his remarks the crash of a Malaysian Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine, calling it a “terrible tragedy” and saying U.S. authorities are in touch with their counterparts in Kiev. He made no mention of reports in Ukraine that the aircraft was shot down by pro-Russian separatists.

The focus on private money for road projects marks a shift for the administration, which had previously resisted efforts to seek commercial resources for highways and other pieces of the country’s transportation system. The result may be more tolls for drivers as companies look to make profits by operating roads and bridges.

Long-Term Investment

“There are lots of investors who want to back infrastructure projects because, when it’s done right, they then get a steady, long-term investment,” Obama said. “They get a steady return.”

States and local governments will benefit by the U.S. government playing “matchmaker” between them and private-sector investors, he said.

“If there isn’t really much hope of getting a significant increase in the fuel taxes at the federal level, the least Congress and the administration can do is give the states more tools with private financing,” said Bob Poole, director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, a free-market research group based in Los Angeles.

In the past five years, the 30 largest infrastructure investment firms have raised a combined $148 billion, he said in a March report citing data from “Infrastructure Investor.”

According to the same analysis, last year around the world, investors put $33.6 billion into infrastructure investment funds. That’s down from the 2007 peak of $39.7 billion, before worldwide credit access shrunk and the U.S. economy entered a recession.

Private Money

“We have trillions of dollars on the sidelines internationally that could be put to work,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said today on a conference call with reporters.

The president’s trip today coincides with an announcement that the Department of Transportation that open a center to expand public-private partnerships, strengthen relationships between state and local governments and investors, and improve access to federal credit.

Economic conditions are ideal in the U.S. to revive a push for private-sector investment in transportation, said Tyler Duvall, a principal with McKinsey & Co. Inc. who was a U.S. assistant secretary for transportation policy during the George W. Bush administration.

“They’ve probably done a lot of outreach to a lot of investors who say they want to get into the U.S. market,” Duvall said in a phone interview. “It’s exactly what these long-term investors have wanted for years.”

He cited access to credit, the demographics of the U.S. and a stable economy and legal environment.

Earlier Rejection

Obama made today’s announcement less than three years after his administration revoked a $1.5 million grant to Ohio, which wanted to study turning over operations of the Ohio Turnpike to private enterprise.

The initiative mirrors a push by Obama’s predecessor Bush, who, before the recession, advocated for more private investment in transportation. He considered privatizing the air-traffic control system and had his Transportation Department officials travel the country supporting bringing money from companies includingGoldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) to transportation deals.

The Interstate 495 bridge where Obama spoke serves an estimated 90,000 vehicles daily. It was closed on June 2 after state officials found that four columns were tilting. Engineers have blamed the damage on a 50,000-ton pile of soil placed next to key supports.


Closed Bridge

A $35 million emergency project is under way to make repairs and officials are aiming to at least partially reopen the bridge by Labor Day.

Earlier this week, the House passed a temporary patch to replenish the Highway Trust Fund through May 2015. The legislation, which now moves to the Senate, cobbled together $10.8 billion to stave off job losses and delays to transportation projects across the country.

While the White House supports the legislation because it will keep projects on track, the administration has spent much of this week pushing Congress to approve his four-year transportation proposal or some other a longer-term funding solution.

The patch is “insufficient” to do the kinds of upgrades the country needs, Foxx said.

“If that’s all congress does we’re going to have the same kind of funding crisis nine months from now,” said Obama. “Congress shouldn’t be so proud.”

Later today, the president will travel to New York City to headline fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee and the House Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic congressional candidates. The events are closed to media.

Thirty supporters, who contributed $32,400 each, will participate in the roundtable discussion at a private home for the Democratic National Committee, according to a DNC official.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the attribution of remarks to Secretary Foxx.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net; Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net Joe Sobczyk



Statement from Indigenous Environmental Network on Keystone XL Pipeline and Obama’s decision to delay

Statement of the: Indigenous Environmental Network November 11, 2011

Mother Earth Achieves a Victory Today with Obama Administration Decision
to Delay the Keystone XL Pipeline Decision

Turtle Island-The United States Department of State and President Barack
Obama announced they would seek a new environmental review of the Keystone
XL pipeline. This will delay and hopefully stop the Trans Canada
Corporation from pursuing to build the 1,700 mile long Keystone XL
pipeline. The pipeline is part of the expansion of the flow of dirty oil
from the tar sands of Canada. The Indigenous Environmental Network,
through its Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign and its Keystone XL
Pipeline organizing work has successfully put an indigenous and human
rights face to this dangerous and environmental destructive tar sands
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