Road Commission discusses lawsuit vs. EPA

ISHPEMING — The Marquette County Road Commission filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday, challenging the EPA’s decision to block construction of the 21-mile road. Friday morning, the people behind the lawsuit spoke out about why they’re challenging the government agency.

“The EPA’s behavior is unacceptable. As a mother, we teach our children to be honest and conduct themselves with integrity. We teach them to play by the rules and the EPA is teaching them a different lesson right now,” said Deborah Pellow, a member of Stand U.P.

Members from Stand U.P. and the Marquette County Road Commission addressed a standing room only crowd Friday morning at the MCRC’s facilities in Ishpeming. County Road 595 would connect County Road AAA to US–41 in Marquette County.

Plans for the road were shut down by the EPA in early 2013, leaving the Board of Marquette County Road Commissioners flabbergasted. “To see a federal agency do what they did to us in regards to this permitting process was absolutely deplorable,” said Dave Hall, the chairperson for the MCRC.

According to the lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court, the MCRC states that a FOIA request revealed that the EPA had made up its mind to oppose County Road 595 even before the application was even submitted.

“If you look at our complaint, our complaint is that the EPA did not follow the rules. It’s very disturbing not only for the MCRC, but it should be very disturbing to all citizens of the United States that we have an agency that is making up the rules as they go and are not following the rules of the land,” said Jim Iwanicki, an Engineer-Manager for the MCRC.

The lawsuit that’s been filed will not cost taxpayers any money. Stand U.P., a coalition of U.P. residents, is raising funds to help pay for the legal costs associated with the MCRC’s lawsuit against the EPA. The organization has received donations from a vast majority of people, but they wouldn’t say how much money has been raised so far.

“I can just say that the mines have had almost nothing to do with the donations being given. It’s a variety of workers and people that’s concerned about the EPA stepping in and making decisions,” said Stu Bradley of Stand U.P.

County Road 595 has support from both sides of the aisle in Lansing. State Senator Tom Casperson, plus State Representatives John Kivela and Ed McBroom are all on board with the MCRC’s lawsuit.

“We’ve built roads in the past successfully and we still have a beautiful place to live. We’ve mined successfully in the past and we still have a beautiful place to live. Are you telling us that there’s no possible way that even though be build roads and mined more carefully than we ever have before in the past, that we can’t do it anymore? It changes a whole way of life. It changes the whole approach and the whole culture we have here,” said State. Rep. Ed McBroom.

“We will be good stewards of the land. We will view the safety of our community as top priority. We will view the economic impact on our community as vitally important,” added Hall.

“Legally the EPA will have a chance to respond to our complaint. It will become, I think, a very drawn out process. I think our position is strong and that we will prevail in the end,” said Iwanicki.

ABC 10 contacted the EPA about the lawsuit. The EPA said that they have not had a chance to review the lawsuit and they offered no further comment.