President Trump's trip to Texas on Tuesday is being used by environmental groups to slam his repeal of an Obama administration climate change order aimed at hardening buildings against flooding and sea-level rise.
"As Trump visits Houston today in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's destruction, let us not forget that only two weeks ago he slashed flood protection standards on government-funded infrastructure projects — enabling the exact same kind of devastation we're watching unfold in Texas," said Tate Hausman, co-director of the Millions of Jobs Coalition, representing a coalition of environmental groups, unions, community groups, and others that oppose Trump's vision for infrastructure development because it does not recognize 21st century challenges such as climate change.
"While this latest climate crisis highlights exactly why America cannot wait to rebuild our nation's crumbling infrastructure, we simply cannot afford to make bad investments," Hausman said. "Trump's infrastructure plan would be a bad investment that would only make disasters like the one caused by Hurricane Harvey worse."
Trump repealed the order by former President Barack Obama, which called for tough new building standards for government-funded projects in flood zones, when he signed a far-reaching executive order that seeks to speed up environmental review and permitting times for roads, bridges, pipelines, and other infrastructure projects.
Trump's order calls on the White House Council on Environmental Quality to oversee a government-wide streamlining of the time it takes to approve infrastructure reviews and permitting and punish agencies that do not follow its directives to cut back red tape.
"Trump's plan would line the pockets of Wall Street investors by slashing basic safety protections from communities prone to environmental threats," Hausman added.
Harvey has caused a number of groups to highlight the effects of climate change, noting the record rainfall from the storm, which has dropped more than 40 inches of rain on the Houston area. The Associated Press reported that once the rainfall ends, it will have dropped 1 million gallons of water for each man, woman, and child in southeastern Texas.
Scientists have pointed out that climate change did not cause Harvey, but warn that increasingly warmer global temperatures will lead to more severe storms like Harvey.
"This is the kind of thing we are going to get more of," Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer told the AP. "This storm should serve as warning."
Groups such as 350.org, which pushed the anti-fossil fuel "Keep It In the Ground" campaign during last year's election, played up Trump's trip to Texas as a harbinger of more disastrous storms under the president's policies. Many scientists blame the greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels for driving manmade climate change.
"The situation unfolding on Texas' Gulf Coast is unlike anything else in history, and it is the product of both a hotter planet and this administration's climate denial, racism and callousness," said May Boeve, the group's executive director.
"While Trump assures swift rebuilding, we know that his short-sighted and destructive policies ensures that if another extreme weather disaster occurs, coastal cities, and towns like Houston and Corpus Christi will continue to suffer the consequences of the recklessness of fossil fuel billionaires and the politicians they employ," she added.