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Home Environmentalists Are Why We Can’t Have Infrastructure

Environmentalists Are Why We Can’t Have Infrastructure

California’s high-speed electric train has burned through nearly $10 billion, far more than its original $9 billion bond, without building a single mile of track.

Where did that money go?

$1.3 billion was spent on environmental impact clearances.

After over a decade, Brian Kelly, the CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, cheerfully announced that, “we’re making true progress on nearing full environmental clearance for the entire Phase 1 high-speed rail project.” By the summer, the high-speed rail which hasn’t even begun construction might finally get its full environmental impact clearance. Perhaps.

California’s infamous high-speed train to nowhere, which began in 2009 and whose budget already tops $100 billion, financed by corrupt environmental cap-and-trade robbery that makes cryptocurrency seem legitimate by comparison, may seem like an outlier, but it’s not.

Every time presidents make a pitch for an infrastructure bill, they visit the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River for a photo op.

“Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge,” Obama declared with his back to the bridge. “Help us rebuild America.

After Obama, Trump came to the bridge, and more recently Biden claimed that his infrastructure bill, which spent nearly three quarters of a billion on electric cars, and little on infrastructure, would finally fix the bridge. Over $10 million has been spent on environmental impact studies going back 18 years to explain why nothing much was being done about the bridge.

But why spend money on bridges when you can instead spend it on environmental reviews of hypothetical bridges? People can cross the former, but the politically connected get rich off the latter.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, $5 million was needed to fund an environmental impact study to build a new bridge, another $5 million to consider building a bridge in Mission, Texas. The current status of that bridge is unclear. After wasting millions and years on environmental impact studies, projects often never move forward due to changing finances or circumstances.

The endless environmental studies drain massive amounts of taxpayer money. For example, the

Yeager Airport in Central West Virginia needed a $5.6 million grant for its environmental impact study. And the sheer scale of taxpayer money stolen by the green industry is not being tracked.

A 2003 Government Accountability Task Force suggested that a typical environment impact statement costs between a quarter of a million to 2 million dollars. DOE energy data place it at a median cost of $1.4 million. Industry estimates place the direct cost of environmental studies at between 0.5% to 3% of a project. The smaller the project, the higher the percentage of costs eaten up by environmental reviews.

But the indirect costs are much more severe. By slowing down projects, environmental impact statements kill promising proposals, starving them of resources or wasting money, like California’s high-speed rail, on nothing without actually building anything. Speculative technologies like the Hyperloop have to spend millions on environmental impact studies further sabotaging them. Delays and dead ends end up costing up far more than the review.

The massive green regulatory theft took off with the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969. Federal spending was tethered to environmental reviews. NEPA was a bipartisan disaster, introduced by Democrats, but voted into law with massive support from the liberal Republicans who infested the House and Senate at the time, and then signed into law by Nixon. Opposition was virtually non-existent with unanimous Senate approval and only 15 dissidents in the House.

In the decades since, NEPA was weaponized to virtually shut down development in the country. When Biden implemented a NEPA rule change that baked global warming considerations into every project, Senator Manchin joined Republicans in voting it down in the Senate. But Republicans haven’t even bothered proposing the elimination of the NEPA disaster.

And yet in the 70s, even Democrats were complaining that environmental impact statements were a disaster.

“Ah, precious Environment, how the heavy wheels of government churn in thy name!” a New York Times column jeered. “When the city of New York wanted to use Federal money to build an elevator for the handicapped at City Hall, it naturally had to conduct an environmental review. The result is a dossier half an inch thick, concluding that there will be no environmental impact. None, at least, worthy of the full treatment—an environmental impact statement. This takes, by a conservative estimate, six months to a year to complete, according to a city official.”

Such complaints long ago became politically incorrect. To point out that environmental impact statements took the United States from a first world nation to a third one is heresy. And true.

Other nations, that don’t jam environmental reviews into every screw, still build big things. And American architects, engineers and companies often execute those wonders that we see rising in rich Arab states or even in Asia, but such things cannot be allowed to rise in America.

Environmentalists intended to use environmental impact statements to slow and eventually shut down construction. And they have succeeded all too well. Projects not only cost a lot more, they are poorly thought out with gimmicks meant to serve ‘green’ rather than real world needs.

The tragically misbegotten One World Trade Center project not only failed to build grander and bigger than the fallen World Trade Center, but its obsession with being the ‘greenest’ using unworkable green technology led to disaster when Hurricane Sandy flooded its lower levels.

Every now and then someone asks why we can’t seem to build infrastructure anymore. The answer is that environmental gatekeeping is built to stop the building of new bridges, dams and anything that might interfere with the pristine state of nature.

Even the so-called green energy developments have been blocked by environmental reviews. Environmentalists claim that they need wind and solar to save the planet, but if so it’s environmentalism that is endangering the planet by blocking wind and solar projects.

Environmentalists believe that all human endeavors are bad. Green technology is not their solution, it’s just another obstacle that they have erected in the way of progress, but they have no commitment to it except as a way to stop gas, oil, coal and nuclear from giving us cheap, reliable energy. Given a choice between wind, solar and nothing, they’ll choose nothing.

And make us choose it too.

America’s productive capacity has been crippled by a disastrous regulatory framework from the sixties and seventies that has frozen the nation in time. While China moves forward, our infrastructure rots away, our buildings age and nothing gets done except through bribes.

We’ve become a third world nation because we were told it was the only way to save the world. But the world continues to build things while Americans navigate parasitic regulatory industries of which the environmentalists are only the first who have to be bribed for anything to happen.

The Empire State Building was famously built in a year. Today it would take decades and then wouldn’t be built at all. Years would be spent courting environmentalists, racial shakedown artists and every possible group with political power that could stop the project. The building would need years if not decades of environmental impact statements, and would nonetheless be sued by environmental organizations financed by government grants. Much like in California’s high-speed rail to nowhere, after years of the government financing lawfare against its own projects, there would be nothing but an empty skyline and a hole in the ground.

And that’s how environmentalists want it.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

Thank you for reading.


  1. EISs incur added energy by fiat to any project. That increases the entropy of any project beyond what physics imposes naturally. Wasted energy. Thus chaos increases both locally and globally. There are volumes on entropy and chaos theory.

    Increasing chaos a key tactic of all collectivists who'll promise to rectify what they wrought. Calling the proponents watermelons only exposes one disguise and it underplays the true evil driving it -- the desire to ruin life and even end it for the bulk of humanity.

  2. Anonymous29/5/23

    Pre-project analysis is a good idea. Maybe
    you'll discover better ideas and avoid mistakes.
    Extreme imposed studies discourage ideas where
    risks are low and benefits are likely. Progress

    It takes courageous men like Trump to state
    the obvious and get rid of this cowardliness.



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