(Repeats to additional customers with no changes to text)
By Luciana Lopez
NEW YORK, April 23 U.S. President Donald Trump
reassured manufacturers gathered in the White House Roosevelt
room on March 31 that a massive infrastructure program was
“We’re going to make it happen” this year, he said,
according to Drew Greenblatt, the president of Marlin Steel in
Baltimore, who was present. “That was actually the first thing
that he talked about behind closed doors with us,” Greenblatt
But putting a trillion-dollar infrastructure program to work
could be easier said than done, as some of the projects
suggested to the administration underscore.
Project lists submitted by the North America's Building
Trades Unions and by an outside developer who helped with the
transition both contain projects that infrastructure builders
call “shovel ready.”
But, for a range of reasons, shovel ready does not always
mean ready for shovels to break ground. That means any effort to
jump-start projects, put people to work and inject economic
stimulus could drag on Trump’s promise for a 10-year, $1
trillion infrastructure project
After North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU)
president Sean McGarvey met with Trump on January 23, the group
submitted a total of 26 bridge, pipeline and water projects. A
second list of 51 projects was assembled by Ohio developer Dan
Slane, who assisted with the transition, including everything
from inland waterways to ports to a new FBI headquarters.
While details on Trump’s plans are scant, a senior
administration official said they’re looking for ways to shorten
the lengthy permitting process.
“The current system has just lost its way,” he said.
Nine projects have garnered the support of both Slane and
the NABTU, appearing on both lists; of those, seven have yet to
start construction, and one has only done preliminary
construction, highlighting how hard it is to launch
infrastructure projects as quickly as Trump wants to do.
“The shovel ready moniker that they put on projects, it’s
just rarely applicable,” said Bill Miller, president and chief
executive of two companies that overlap the two lists. The Power
Company of Wyoming LLC is building the Chokecherry and Sierra
Madre Wind Energy Project, and TransWest Express LLC is
developing the TransWest Express Transmission Project, crossing
Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.
The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project, which is
being built in part on federal land, took eight years and “tens
of millions of dollars” before it could recently start
construction. The TransWest Express transmission project is
still waiting for several state-level permits, Miller said.
“To be shovel ready is incredibly expensive and time
consuming,” Miller added.
The administration says it wants to get ground broken fast.
But some of that just might be out of the president’s hands,
such as state-level permitting.
“A significant part of the president’s infrastructure plan
will focus on streamlining regulating and permitting so that it
is easier for all viable projects to move forward in a timely
manner. These reforms might not be driven by the hurdles facing
a single project, but rather will create more certainty in the
process overall,” a White House spokesperson told Reuters.
SEAWATER TO DRINKING WATER PLANT HITS THE ROCKS
The delays that have beset a desalination plant proposed by
Poseidon Water, a developer of water-related infrastructure, in
Huntington Beach, California illustrate how clashing interests
and regulations can hold up projects.
Poseidon first proposed the idea of a plant to turn salt
water into drinking water for Orange County in the late 1990s
and started permitting in the early 2000s, said Scott Maloni, a
vice president at Poseidon and the Huntington Beach project
The city of Huntington Beach originally approved the project
in February 2006. But Poseidon still needed to secure 24 permits
from state agencies, such as approval from the Santa Ana
Regional Water Quality Control Board for the plant’s national
pollutant discharge elimination system, which is required by the
Environmental Protection Agency.
After the city issued the necessary local approvals in 2006,
project builder Poseidon was able to apply to the California
That application was amended several times over the years as
the project evolved. For example, the plant had to alter its
design after the state began phasing out power plants that use
seawater for cooling purposes. Poseidon had planned to
desalinate that wastewater, and changed its design to instead
take in water directly from the ocean instead.
In 2013, Poseidon shelved the permit application after the
state's coastal commission directed the company to look into
concerns about the effects of the operation on fish larva in the
The application was resubmitted in 2015, and then withdrawn
yet again in September 2016, because the commission wanted proof
the plans complied with new, 2015-passed rules from the State
Water Board on desalination plants.
That compelled Poseidon to redesign the plant's seawater
intake and discharge technologies.
The project still needs three more approvals, from the State
Lands Commission, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control
Board and the California Coastal Commission.
Poseidon says they're confident they’ll secure the last
approvals soon. But even then, construction might not start
until the second quarter of 2018, Maloni said.
And the objections from environmentalists haven't stopped.
The plant is “far from a done deal,” said Mandy Sackett, the
California policy coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation. The
foundation argues that the plant is unnecessary, expensive and
energy-intensive, putting marine life at risk. Sackett said the
foundation will continue to fight the project.
“There’s still several opportunities for public input and
important regulatory review that is yet to be completed,” she
(Editing by Joe White and Edward Tobin)