Remember the "Infrastructure List" that has been gushed over by members of the Good Old Boys' Club and their media lackeys for the past three months? Turns out it's been kicked to the curb, along with the guys who prepared it, and a new crew of infrastructure critters has been let loose in the Washington Swamp.
No wonder Norman Anderson was having a public meltdown last month. I think maybe he didn't appreciate being ignored by an administration he thought he had eating out of his hand. Awww... life isn't fair, is it, Norman? Let's sing together...
The Charlotte Observer published an in-depth report covering the "Infrastructure List" and the shady way it was compiled and pushed by a group of guys who are now out of favor with the Trump administration.
When Donald Trump and Mike Pence met this month to discuss a promised $1 trillion infrastructure plan, the Cabinet Room was filled with half a dozen billionaire executives, from Tesla’s Elon Musk to Steve Roth, a New York developer and longtime friend to the president.
One person who wasn’t there? The man who worked for months to line up priority infrastructure projects for the Trump transition team.
Just a few weeks earlier, Dan Slane had been jetting around the country — on his own dime — to meet with governors, contractors, investors, labor union officials and others eager to influence Trump’s infrastructure plan. He developed a 50-project proposal filled with exactly the kind of “shovel-ready” investments the White House wanted – the kind that needed regulatory relief, not federal dollars.
But as Trump’s attention turns to infrastructure after suffering defeat on his first policy priority, the White House will not even acknowledge Slane, except to say he has “no official or unofficial role” in the administration. He says his infrastructure plan, and indeed his very connection to the president, has become the victim of a power struggle for control of this big-ticket infrastructure agenda between Peter Navarro, a Trump loyalist and economic populist who advised his campaign, and Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president who now runs the National Economic Council.
Anderson’s company had compiled a list of 100 top infrastructure projects with input from senior-level investors, engineers and developers. The list would have been offered to whichever presidential candidate had won in November, Anderson said.
A week after Trump’s unexpected win, Anderson found a white paper online that Navarro and now-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had written for the Trump campaign. It proposed tax credits to fund infrastructure. He emailed Navarro, and offered some suggestions.
“Navarro asked Dan to talk to me the next day,” Anderson said.
Slane, who was working without a staff, asked Anderson to help him screen a list of projects Navarro wanted for the administration. Anderson in turn hired Boston Consulting Group to analyze how many direct and indirect jobs each project would create.
Playing the liaison
Leaders at the state and local level, and executives at the National Governors Association, thought they had been working with the White House, through Slane.
Paul Aucoin, executive director of the Southern Louisiana Port, said he assumed Slane was a shoo-in for a White House infrastructure job when he met him at Anderson’s offices in Washington in December.
Aucoin made the trip to DC to promote his port and try to secure federal assistance to dredge the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The meeting with Slane had been arranged for Aucoin by the public relations firm of Gary Meltz, a former aide to Democratic Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York.
Slane introduced himself as a member of the Trump transition, and Aucoin made his pitch.
Slane promised to get the dredging project on the list he and Anderson were compiling for the transition.
“They were very receptive, they got it, they understood what I was saying, they asked all the right questions,” Aucoin said. “It wasn’t like I was talking to a wall. I was finally talking to some one who understood what I was trying to say.”
Later Slane would visit the port and meet with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. He reassured Edwards and Aucoin that congressional Republicans would pledge money to the project from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. That promise that has yet to be fulfilled.
Aucoin said he’s since hired a lobbying firm in Washington that was working on getting him a meeting with Gribbin.
“It was a blow for us to lose Dan,” Aucoin said.
So when Clean Line's Mario Hurtado said:
"When the Trump campaign was looking at infrastructure, we thought it was a good thing to mention. We're just happy to be part of the conversation."
Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, said his organization consulted with Slane on his plan. His union delivered to the White House its own list of priority infrastructure projects in February, after meeting with Trump.
“The way Dan framed it was really good because Dan took projects that had all funding but lacked permitting or some who had permitting,” McGarvey said.
“He did a lot of thoughtful work on the initial ready-to-go, out-of-the gate stuff,” he said. “The projects that Dan was talking about really don’t require a new infrastructure bill. Those are ones that exist, that are both private and public, and have the three elements you need: the financing, the engineering, and permitting. And some of them will happen this year.”
Clean Line projects don't have financing!
What they have is a plan to raise financing. Clean Line's plan requires them to contract with future customers to create a revenue stream that Clean Line can use as evidence to secure financing. Clean Line doesn't have customers. Clean Line doesn't have a revenue stream that can support financing. There is nothing a Trump administration (or the Good Old Boys' Club) can do to create captive customers for Clean Line's projects.
Clean Line doesn't have complete engineering! What they have is a plan to complete engineering once permitting is complete. Clean Line has no revenue. None. It's living high on investor development cash right now. Engineering is a construction cost that happens after a project is fully permitted and financed. There is nothing a Trump administration (or the Good Old Boys' Club) can do to finance final engineering for the Clean Line projects. Federal money would invalidate the project's merchant transmission status with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that allows them to negotiate rates with willing customers (see financing, above).
Clean Line doesn't have permitting completed for any of its projects! The Plains & Eastern project is the subject of a lawsuit in federal court where the U.S. DOE's preemption of state siting authority in Arkansas has been questioned. The statute DOE used to run over Arkansas plainly says it does not affect any requirement of state siting laws. Although this case has yet to be decided by the court, it's not looking good for Clean Line. Expect that Clean Line shall have to comply with Arkansas state siting laws for its project. The Rock Island Clean Line project application for a permit has been withdrawn in Iowa. Its permit in Illinois has been vacated by the Appellate Court. It has no permits whatsoever right now. The Grain Belt Express project's permit in Illinois is on appeal, and the project still needs a permit from the Missouri Public Service Commission. A recent Missouri Court of Appeals decision prohibits the MO PSC from issuing a permit until Clean Line has the assent of each Missouri county it traverses. GBE does not have all the county assents it needs and is unlikely to obtain them. All of these permitting issues are STATE permitting issues. There is nothing a Trump administration (or the Good Old Boys' Club) can do about state laws which govern state permitting, and if the administration tries to preempt state authority to site and permit electric transmission, it's going to have a hell of a fight on its hands, from the states and from the people.
None of the Clean Line projects are getting done this year. They're not getting done. Not now, not ever. Take them off your list, assuming your list is supposed to be a real list, and not just some "pay to play" Good Old Boys' Club list of bridges to nowhere.
Cry me a river of bitter tears, fellas. Karma's a real bitch.