U.P. Road Commission Taking On EPA

Environmental agency stands in the way of 21-mile road project

The Marquette County Road Commission announced that it has filed a lawsuit formally challenging a decision by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to block construction of a county road (CR 595) that would shorten the route between a new minerals mine and a processing facility. The suit was filed July 10 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

“The EPA, in its objection to the construction of County Road 595, has once again overstepped its bounds and demonstrated its politically motivated agenda,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. “The agency, without reason or merit, has hamstrung the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from issuing a wetlands permit for County Road 595 simply because it did not fit the agency’s agenda."

“Instead of doing its job and approving the project, the EPA has instead opted for political theater,” Casperson continued. “By blocking County Road 595’s construction, the EPA is doing nothing to improve the access of emergency, commercial, industrial, and recreational vehicles to a key area of northwest Marquette County. From elected officials at the state and local levels, to job providers and labor organizations, to conservationists, public safety officials and the general public, nearly everyone agrees County Road 595 would improve the way of life of county residents."

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County Road 595 is a proposed 21-mile road that would connect the Eagle Mine with its ore processing facility at the Humboldt Mill. The new road would shorten the round trip between the mine and the mill by 78 miles. Supporters of the project point out that the road would divert nearly 100 commercial vehicles per day from local roads, including those near schools.

Those opposed to the EPA’s decision claim the road would increase traffic safety by eliminating more than 1.5 million miles of semi-truck traffic from local communities and school zones annually and cut fuel consumption by more than 464,000 gallons each year.

“We believe our position that they did not follow the law will be upheld and we will be given a chance to build a very important road for Marquette County,” Jim Iwanicki, engineer manager of the Marquette County Road Commission, told reporters.

Earlier this year the Michigan Legislature gave its bipartisan support to the Marquette County Road Commission in the dispute. Senate Resolution 9, sponsored by Casperson, and House Resolution 13, sponsored by Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, backed the road commission. Each resolution was passed by its respective chamber.

“I applaud the road commission for moving forward with this lawsuit,” Kivela said. “Building of County Road 595 is sensible from so many perspectives, including that of public safety, the environment and the economy, and supported by an overwhelming group of interests, individuals, stakeholders and elected leaders, including all the U.P. legislators, U.S. Congressman Dan Benishek, R-Michigan, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan and retired U.S. Senator Carl Levin.”

Casperson gave a heads-up about the upcoming County Road 595 lawsuit with comments he made in an article last month about the EPA wanting a study on the potentially harmful effects of barbecues and grills.

The policy and legal environment that made the Eagle Mine possible was put into place by a 2004 law signed by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm after being passed with no opposing votes in the House or Senate. It was the product of a consensus between the Democratic governor, environmentalist groups, mining companies, and local officials. Within a short time, however, state environmental groups were taking actions to obstruct the mine. In the past the Marquette Mining Journal reported remarks from Casperson that the EPA has an "agenda" about the mine, not the road.

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See also:

EPA Eying That Saturday Afternoon BBQ at the Park

Enviros to Walberg: '139,500 Could Die From EPA Reg Delay'


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