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Atlanta motorists held hostage by faulty logic

Anyone who has driven in Atlanta traffic knows how traumatic it can be. One fender-bender or minor construction project can turn I-285 or another major artery into the world's largest parking lot.

The obvious solution to Atlanta's traffic woes would be to build another loop out beyond its existing perimeter expressway and a few more multi-lane thoroughfares like the Georgia 400 that takes commuters from midtown to the northern suburbs.

But, one of the fastest-growing areas of the United States has been unable to build any new highways recently because of an EPA-imposed moratorium. The reason: Atlanta's inability to meet air quality standards imposed by the federal government.

And, now, just when it looked like Atlanta might be about to break out of those shackles, the Sierra Club and a couple of other environmental watchdogs are threatening to once again block any new construction.

Farmers, of course, are no stranger to this "We're-the-only-ones-with-an-opinion-that-counts" attitude of the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club's legal foundation filed the lawsuit in San Francisco that led to EPA's having to strictly enforce the Delaney pesticide tolerance clause. The efforts to overturn that ruling led to passage of the Food Quality Protection Act.

In Atlanta, attorneys with the Southern Environmental Law Center said they would seek a temporary restraining order to stop a new regional transportation plan from moving forward unless state officials agreed to delay road construction projects for 90 days to negotiate changes in the plan.

The Center, which is acting on behalf of the Sierra Club, the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice, and the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, said the new transportation plan is based on inaccurate data and would not improve the area's air quality.

This was after state officials had spent more than three years developing the $36 billion plan, which besides new and expanded roads, calls for High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, transit systems, sidewalks and bike paths.

To most of us, it would seem that you would have far less air pollution if you move traffic out of the central city area quickly rather than having thousands of cars creeping along at 10 miles per hour. But, the environmentalists appear more intent on showing how powerful they are than on using logic.

The threat of legal action has become a favorite tactic of environmental groups. For years, farm organizations trying to work with EPA often have heard the excuse that environmentalists would sue whenever the political operatives that run the agency didn't want to take a particular action.

Most recently, some environmental organizations said they opposed raising the $75,000 marketing loan gain limit to $150,000 because it supposedly would not help small to medium-sized farmers.

It's time that federal agencies like EPA, the Federal Highway Administration and USDA take these organizations on and fight them in court until they lose so many cases that funding begins to dry up.

Until that happens, farmers, consumers and people like the motorists in Atlanta will continue to be held hostage to the illogical legal threats of the Sierra Club and like-minded groups.

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