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Sen. Toomey listens to concerns in Armstrong

| Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, 12:26 a.m.
Brigid Beatty | Total Trib Media
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, spoke to business and organization members at an event hosted by the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce at the Kittanning Country Club in North Buffalo. Monday August 4, 2014

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, stopped by Armstrong County on Monday to listen to concerns from members of businesses and organizations on issues involving transportation, the economy and environmental regulations.

Toomey spoke to a group of close to 50 at the event hosted by the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce, which was held in the Kittanning Country Club in North Buffalo.

He was critical of the Obama administration and told attendees that the reason for the economic climate is “massive overspending and an avalanche of overregulation.”

“The policies coming out of Washington are wrong,” Toomey said, adding that he thinks the Environmental Protection Agency is hostile to the gas and coal industries.

“The administration is determined to shut down coal,” he said. “It's essential to keep the EPA away from fracking.”

His comments were met with applause.

Linda Hemmes, president of the Allegheny River Development Corp., asked for Toomey's help in pushing through a proposal to reopen the locks in Armstrong County to recreational boaters.

“It got hung up coming out of the Senate,” she said.“Between Congress, bureaucrats and the Army Corps of Engineers — it's a very tedious process.”

The proposal would allow money raised by the ARDC to go directly to the Corps of Engineers to keep the locks open for recreational boaters on holidays and weekends during the summer.

Toomey's response was positive, and he told Hemmes his staff was aware of the proposal's hold up.

“We're on the same page here, and we'll do what we can,” he said.

Jack Bennett, Armstrong County Tourist Bureau board president, reiterated Hemmes' concerns about the economic toll the lock closures were having on the county.

“I'm not a boater. I'm not a swimmer — heck, I don't even like to drink the stuff,” he said. “The docks in Rosston and Kittanning used to be filled with huge boats from Pittsburgh.”

Now, he said, the boating traffic has all but ceased and dredging has stopped because of EPA regulations concerning mollusks living in the river.

Calvin McCutcheon, owner of waste management business McCutcheon Enterprises in Apollo, voiced his frustration about multiple and duplicate certifications required by the federal government for drivers transporting hazardous materials.

A better approach would be requiring a national federal license for commercial drivers and having information like driver's drug test results stored in a database, he said.

“I'd be very open to streamlining that process,” Toomey said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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