In the spirit of ‘Animal Farm’: Some projects are more ‘worthwhile’ than others

by CalWatchdog Staff | September 21, 2012 8:42 am

By Chris Reed
Sept. 21

The difference between the federal government’s go-slow-or-is-it-no-go approach on the Keystone XL[1] oil pipeline and the let’s-get-it-done push for the first segment of the California bullet train is instructive, in that in both cases we are told that environmental rules need to be taken seriously and rigorously enforced. Hence this paragraph in the Wednesday Mercury-News story[2] about the (tiny) delay to the formal federal go-ahead for bullet-train work in the Central Valley:

Even though Congress and President Barack Obama previously approved enough funding to split the cost of the initial stretch of track, U.S. officials still needed to ensure the project met federal environmental laws. Wednesday’s 41-page ruling said that while the bullet train will have “significant” negative impacts on the environment and community — from loud noises to reducing property values — it’s still worthwhile.

But wait a minute: So now whether a project is “worthwhile” is somehow a formal metric for approval? Isn’t “worthwhile” kind of an ultimate eye-of-the-beholder thing? Are there federal standards for worthwhileitude that someone can cite? So the preposterous, lie-driven bullet train is worthwhiler than Keystone, which could transform the already-wildly-improving[3] U.S. energy picture? Sheer insanity.

Thankfully, we know that there are actual federal regulations that can be used to tie big infrastructure projects into knots — even “good” ones[4] — and rich cities in Silicon Valley are eager to use them. Go, NIMBYs, go. Administer a beating to the bullet-train nuts. A worthwhile one.

  1. Keystone XL:
  2. Mercury-News story:
  3. already-wildly-improving:
  4. “good” ones:

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