Anchorage, AK; September 11, 2023: Last week, Inside Passage Electric Cooperative (IPEC) filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Roadless Rule,” which prevents the creation of roads that serve isolated communities in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

The cooperative provides power — at cost — to several small, predominantly indigenous communities located within the Tongass. IPEC seeks to build several hydroelectric and geothermal projects to replace the expensive diesel generation that these communities currently rely on. But the USDA’s prohibition on roads — including gravel and dirt roads — in the Tongass makes the construction and maintenance of these projects infeasible because they would be accessible only by helicopter.

“Congress has mandated that regulation must account for both preservation and reasonable economic use,” said Luke Wake, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “When executive agencies wrest legislative power from Congress, they tend to pursue whatever goal they have to the exclusion of all other priorities — as is happening here.”

Only Congress can make the law and it cannot delegate that power to the USDA. Congress never gave the USDA power to place a blanket ban on road creation across tens of millions of acres of forestland.

“In the name of conservation, the USDA’s rules are keeping remote Alaska communities dependent on diesel for power generation when green alternatives are available,” said Jodi Mitchell, CEO of IPEC. “Diesel is one of the most expensive sources of power generation. As a result, these communities pay some of the highest electricity rates in the state and among the highest in the country.”

The case is Inside Passage Electric Cooperative v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, filed in United States District Court for the District of Alaska.

 

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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 17 wins of 19 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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