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Judge denies appeal contesting the Railroad’s herbicide permit

by Diana Haecker ~ July 13th, 2010

The Alaska Railroad Corporation cannot start spraying herbicides until Friday, decided Superior Court Judge William Morse during a hearing yesterday. But the judge declined to put a long term halt on spraying as was requested by seven groups concerned about the use of Agridex and Glyphosate  and its effects on human health and waterways.The groups include the Alaska Community Action on Toxins, Talkeetna resident and business owner Tom Kluberton and Talkeetna-based Alaska Survival.

At issue is an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation permit granted to the Alaska Railroad to fight weeds growing on railroad tracks with herbicides. Railroad officials maintain that all other means of weed control had failed. After more than 20 years of not spraying herbicides, they see no other way to deal with the problem.

Environmentalists disagree and maintain that the DEC failed to consider the effects of toxic herbicides on the water quality, salmon habitat and subsistence use of areas near the railroad tracks. The public advocacy law firm Trustees of Alaska filed a request for a stay of the permit and an adjudicatory hearing. Yesterday, the long-term stay of the permit was denied.

Austin Williams, the attorney representing the environmental groups, said that he plans to file a petition for an emergency review of the case with the Alaska Supreme Court today.

Williams said he’s asking for a long-term stay on the spraying so that the DEC commissioner has more time to review the group’s arguments that the permit is faulty. If granted, the Supreme Court would review the lower court’s denial and the validity of the permit. If the Supreme Court does not  grant the petition, the Railroad can go ahead and start spraying on Friday.

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