To the editor:
KDOT dropped their SLT toll idea (“Toll Roadblock,” Jan. 12) like a hot potato. Their attorneys understood any change in traffic estimates would trigger a new environmental impact statement. Today that would eliminate every wetlands route. Like the controversial coal power plant in western Kansas, promoters of the wetlands SLT route managed to get their permit just ahead of tightened federal rules on noise levels for such places.
The engineer who did the sound study acknowledges defects, but KDOT’s attorneys argue it is sufficient to allow the project to go forward. Judge Vratil expressed strong “misgivings” but accepted defendant’s argument that it was not her place to determine whether these shortcomings were serious enough to invalidate the EIS.
NEPA standards were put in place explicitly to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. They are the heart of our nation’s protections against environmental injustices. Will the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturn this very shaky ruling? Indians have learned not to get their hopes up about a fair hearing in these matters from the federal courts. The litany of bad-faith decisions fills volumes of Indian case law.
If this lower court opinion stands, NEPA will have such a large loophole that you’ll be able to drive endless convoys of trucks through it. That would delight fools and bigots. The tea party hates NEPA. Most folks in Lawrence, however, would soon regret paving this sacred place supposedly for convenience only to discover the SLT is primarily infrastructure for interstate trucking.