September 23, 2016

Michigan Confidential catches us up on PLF Yooper news

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney

Earlier this week, Michigan Capitol Confidential published a very nice summary of the Marquette County Road Commission v. EPA lawsuit now pending in the District Court for the Western District of Michigan. PLF recently filed a friend of the court brief in that court, and we expect to take on representation of the commission at the next level in the court proceedings. Derek Draplin of the Confidential writes:

The California-based Pacific Legal Foundation is representing the road commission and says the dispute is about a local government trying to do good only to be inhibited by a federal agency.

The county road commission wants to build a 21-mile stretch of road called County Road 595 in Humboldt Township, which would connect County Road AAA and US–41. The road would make it easier for the Eagle Mine to connect with its Humboldt Mill and would shorten the round trip between the two locations by 78 miles.

An organization supporting the plan called Stand U.P. says that each day, over 100 commercial vehicles travel through communities on the county’s local roads. It adds that the road plan would help the environment by cutting down fuel consumption and pollution.

County Road 595 would cut fuel use by 464,000 gallons per year, the group claims. Stand U.P. also says the new road “would prevent more than 4,989 tons of air pollution and greenhouse gasses every single year,” reducing air pollution by 56 percent.

Mark Miller, the attorney representing Marquette County on behalf of the legal foundation, said this is an example of good local government being squelched by federal bureaucrats.

“We need good government. What you have here is good government making a good decision for the community,” he said. “Traditionally Pacific Legal tends to be suing the government, but it reflects how much of an overreach this particular case is that we’re getting involved in a case where [Marquette County] is suing the EPA.”

Miller said by killing the county’s new road plan, the EPA has burdened the commissioners with tens of thousands of dollars in costs and years of work since they’ll have to make a new plan.

“If the locals want the road and the state wants the road and the state Department of Environmental Quality believes that the road is good for the environment, who are these bureaucrats in Chicago and Washington D.C. to tell the people up there in the Upper Peninsula in Marquette that they don’t know what’s best for them?” Miller said.

Usually PLF becomes involved in a case when the government unreasonably interferes with a property owner’s right to use land he or she owns. Although this case involves a local government fighting for property rights rather than an individual, the principle remains the same. Thus, our decision to take on the case. We look forward to the day that the Marquette County Road Commission breaks ground on this important road project for the Upper Peninsula.

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Marquette County Road Commission v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Marquette County Road Commission in Michigan’s upper peninsula, wants to build a road through some undeveloped land to create a short-cut for heavy-duty trucks transporting ore from a local mine to its processing facility. The state environmental quality agency agreed, but the federal EPA vetoed the county’s permit application for vaguely stated “environmental reasons” even though the county planned to protect 26 acres of wetlands for every one acre of wetland filled by the project.

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