Rep. Nolan Writes to EPA Regarding Sulfate Exposure on Highway Projects

By KBJR News 1

Rep. Nolan Writes to EPA Regarding Sulfate Exposure on Highway Projects

May 13, 2013 Updated May 13, 2013 at 3:13 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- U.S. Representative Rick Nolan has written a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warning them not to exaggerate sulfate exposure on Highway 53 and 169 projects near Virginia and Ely.

In the letter, Nolan urged the EPA to "stick to the facts when providing federal input into local and state plans to reroute sections of HIghway 53 south of Virginia and U.S. Highway 169 near Eagles Nest Lake by Ely, MN".

Nolan referred to written and oral comments by EPA officials to representatives of Mn-DOT and others to the effect that the projects would expose drivers to dangerous levels of sulfate from rock and soil disturbed during and after construction.

Nolan said statements by the EPA "have been overreaching in scope, careless in terms of net consequence, and imbalanced with respect to a broad view of public concerns."

He continued to say that comments made by a senior environmental scientist at the EPA promote "the appearance that the EPA is attempting to forcefully influence other federal and state agencies by leveraging the serious issue of sulfates in mining operations with the minor and largely temporary impact due to surface modifications such as road construction."

Nolan noted that a letter in 2011 from Kenneth Westlake, Chief of the EPA's National Environmental Policy act Implementation Section, did not contain any specific evidence of any documented dangers, referring only to potential adverse effects that "might" result as rock and soil are moved.

Nolan reminded Dr. Susan Hedman, EPA Region Five Administrator, that the funding for the Highway 169 project was appropriated by Congress to address serious safety concerns.

He is planning to meet with Hedman and other EPA officials in Chicago to resolve the issues. Nolan continued to warn Hedman that "If the EPA becomes too cavalier with regard to the comments or threats made to others on proposed projects, and fails to be flexible in finding workable solutions that are realistic and achievable, within reasonable cost constraints, the agency will continue to lose critical support, and may find a rising public demand for their powers to be restrained by statute."

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