WASHINGTON - My fight against unnecessary regulations is often construed by those that support big government programs as a fight to allow private companies to run wild without any oversight and any regard to our safety, our environment, or our communities in general. Nothing can be further from reality.
When I was 5-years-old, my father was killed in a mining accident in Iron County. Following his death, my family was able to make ends meet by helping my grandmother run a local business - the Iron River Hotel. It wasn't easy, but like so many other families up here that face hardships, we persevered by staying together. Those experiences still impact my thinking to this day.
I'm all for reasonable regulations that improve working conditions and help workers. But, I also know the negative effects that Washington's inefficient and ineffective regulations can have on our economy and on the ability of individuals up here to find quality jobs that will allow them to stay in the area and support their families.
It seems every community in our area has a story about being hurt by Washington's regulations. Everywhere we go it seems we have job-creating projects bogged down by needless red-tape and bureaucratic roadblocks. There may be no better example of this than the plan to build County Road 595 in Marquette County. The road was a job-creating project that would have benefited our local communities while protecting the U.P.'s environment.
As many people in Upper Michigan know, County Road 595 was slated to be a 21 mile primary road running north and south between U.S. 41 and County Road Triple A to connect the Eagle Mine with its mill in Humboldt. The road was going to be paid for by the mining company and would benefit the local area in many ways, including ensuring the mining ore trucks would not have to travel over 80 miles, through Marquette, to get to the mill.
This project had strong local support, including the Marquette County Road Commission, and was approved by the Michigan Department of Environmentally Quality (DEQ). The proposed route of the road was even modified to avoid local wetlands to significantly reduce any environmental impacts. Additionally, with the ore trucks only having to travel 21 miles if the road had been built, there would have been a significant reduction in the amount of pollution made by moving the ore.
I worked extensively with all the local and state stakeholders to push for the road's construction because I knew it would instantly create many good-paying jobs. I tried working with the EPA and even was joined by Jim Iwanicki from the Marquette County Road Commission in Washington to testify in defense of the project. But no matter what we did, no matter how many modifications were made, the regulators in Washington said "no." I had to ask myself, if we can't build a county road that is supported by the community, the state, and businesses in the U.P., what can we do?
The regulators and bureaucrats in Washington just don't get it. They don't care that we lost hundreds of good-paying jobs that could have supported many families and given hope to people struggling to get by. That attitude in Washington has to change. Creating more jobs and creating a healthier economy in a responsible way continues to be my top concern in Congress. And I will always fight against unnecessary Washington regulations that cost us jobs up here in Michigan.
I've lived in U.P. all my life and I want to see a clean environment and respect for our natural resources like everyone else. I believe we can do that - and at the same time we make more opportunities for families here in Michigan. That parent searching for a job all over Delta County every day just wants to have a shot at the American Dream for themselves and their family. Instead of having to move away to find work, they want their kids to have the opportunity to live here. That's what we all want - and deserve.
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Rep. Dan Benishek is a general surgeon from Iron River and is serving his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.