MARQUETTE – The Pacific Legal Foundation on Thursday joined Marquette County officials in appealing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s veto on a local highway project, Marquette County Highway 595.
On free representation from the Marquette County Highway Commission, PLF attorneys filed an appeal with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States, which sought the revocation of the sentence of a district court last year that agreed with the EPA’s claim that the courts could not review their veto by road.
“We are teaming up with local officials and residents of Marquette County to fight excessive destruction by federal regulators,” Mark Miller, PLF’s managing attorney at PLF’s Atlantic Center in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, said in a press release. “This case is about winning local residents the right to build a road that benefits the environment, helps the economy and improves traffic safety.
“But it is also about the rule of law. The EPA’s assertion that it is not responding to any outside authority for its road veto cannot be allowed to be maintained. When unelected bureaucrats issue edicts that affect people’s lives, these decisions must be reviewed by the courts for their consistency with the law. “
At issue is County Road 595, a proposed 21-mile route that would provide a shortcut for heavy trucks, which would allow them to overlook the city streets in Marquette County. As planned and approved by state officials, it would reduce air pollution, increase safety and save more than 450,000 gallons of fuel annually, PLF said.
The all-season North-South Highway would run between Marquette County Road AAA in Michigamme Township and U.S. 41 in Humboldt Township, providing a much shorter route for truck traffic than the 120-mile round trip from the Eagle mine to the Humboldt mill.
Although state environmental officials signed the plan, and it has been approved by the Michigan legislature, EPA regulators stepped in and imposed a roadblock, claiming that CR 595 would adversely affect wetlands, according to the PLF.
“The EPA has not provided clear details to justify participation,” Miller said. “In the meantime, they have rejected a cooperative solution. Regardless of the proposals and concessions offered by the local government agency, the feds refused to move. This kind of inflexibility is unacceptable.
“Even more unacceptable is the EPA’s arrogant claim that its action is not subject to judicial review.” Miller continued. “As we will point out in our appeal to the Sixth Circuit, EPA cannot be constituted as its own judge and jury. As the U.S. Supreme Court made clear, in last year’s PLF victory in the Army Corps of Engineers against Hawkes, when the feds declare the property is wetland, there is a guaranteed right to sue a second opinion in the courts “.
In a statement stressing the environmental need for the new road, Jim Iwanicki, an engineer with the Marquette County Highway Commission, said in a press release, “When trucks can travel 22 miles one way instead of more of 50 miles one way, this saves almost 500,000 gallons of fuel a year.
“In addition to these fossil fuel savings, County Road 595 would significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide these trucks save, as they would drive 1.5 million fewer miles a year.”
Miller said the EPA “Inflexible” the position puts public safety and sound local planning at risk. “The PLF will not allow federal regulators to flee judicial review when they abuse their power and cause harm to communities.”
The case is Marquette County Road Commission v. US Environmental Protection Agency. You can find more information, including the notice of appeal, explanatory blog posts, photos, and a video at: www.pacificlegal.org.
In December, a U.S. District Court judge denied the county road commission’s reconsideration request in its legal battle against the EPA over the construction of County Highway 595.
According to court documents, the order denying the reconsideration was filed by Judge Robert Holmes Bell following a motion seen Dec. 12.
Save the Wild UP, a local environmental group that has a long history of opposition to the road proposal, told The Mining Journal that Bell’s decision to deny the reconsideration motion was reassuring.
“It’s good news for us, our organization,” said Alexandra Maxwell, then director of SWUP. “We believe it is too dangerous for the basins and really vital wetlands that are in the area between Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill, and I think that decision continues to show the support of the Army Corps of Engineers and the “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Wildlife Service said that this area was too beautiful to ruin.”
In December, SWUP and the Environmental Coalition of the Upper Peninsula completed a year-end merger, which resulted in the formation of a Mining Action Group within UPEC.
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