Fall 2017

Vol. 35, No. 2, Issue 103

Message From Chair Scott Steiner

Scott SteinerAs you read this 103rd issue of the MELJ, you will notice something different. It is the first issue of the last 20 which is not produced by Chris Dunsky, our long time editor and chair of the Journal Committee. Chris has always done a stellar job with the Journal and we are most grateful for his years of dedication and insistence on a high quality publication. The good news is that we have Amanda Urban who is taking over the editor position with a lot of energy, great ideas, and determination to continue at the high level Chris maintained.

By the same token, as I begin my term as chair of the Section, I hope to continue the high level of service and accomplishment set by my predecessor, Dennis Donohue and those before him. One major area of focus will be our efforts to increase the membership and active involvement of young attorneys and law students interested in environmental law. As always, we will have several webinars and other programs, including joint conferences with other professional organizations, covering current issues. Be sure to check out the Section page at SBM Connect for all the latest information and publications.

Chris Dunsky Passes the Torch as Editor

 Chris DunskyDuring Chris Dunsky’s time as chair of the Journal Committee, the environmental legal landscape underwent many important developments and Chris was certain to capture them all. Under Chris’s editorship, the Journal included pieces on Burlington Northern, the Asian Carp Invasion, Water Affordability in Detroit, and key updates to Michigan’s Public Acts. Chris also authored numerous pieces in the Journal over the years including a fascinating article on wild hogs as a prohibited species in Michigan.

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Key to Causation

by John Pirich, Partner, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP

pirich.jpgOn July 25, 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals and reinstated the Calhoun Circuit Court's order granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment in Lowery v. Enbridge Energy, LP. It was not the order itself but, rather, Chief Justice Markman's concurrence that holds particular significance. Chief Justice Markman's concurrence, which was joined by Justices Zahra and Wilder, indicates that, in toxic tort cases, "a plaintiff will often be hard-pressed to satisfy that evidentiary burden absent expert testimony" and provides explicit guidance on the largely unsettled area of expert testimony in Michigan toxic tort law.

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Perfluoroalkyl Compounds

by Richard Baron, Founding Partner, Foley Baron Metzger Juip PLLC
Benjamin Fruchey, Associate Principal, Foley Baron Metzger Juip PLLC
Nicholas Andrew, Associate, Foley Baron Metzger Juip PLLC

Richard Baron Benjamin Fruchey Nicholas Andrew

Most contaminants share a common trait: stop their release and the ecosystem will dilute them, neutralize them, or degrade them until they are no longer a threat to human health or the environment. Yet some compounds do not seem to fit this mold. Specifically, greater attention and scrutiny is now being focused on the potential harmful effects of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, compounds that appear to be highly mobile, easily enter the human body, and are persistent in the environment. PFASs are man-made, so there are no natural sources in the environment, yet they have been detected in the Arctic Circle and in other remote locations such as open ocean waters, indicating their ability to travel via wind and water. Exposure to PFASs is already so widespread that they were detected in 95–100% of human blood samples in 1999–2000 and 2003–2004. And due to the strength of PFASs' bonds, they are very stable in the environment, low in volatility, and are resistant to biodegradation, photoxidation, direct photolysis, and hydrolysis. This combination of factors could create an enormous problem for the scientific and medical communities if it is confirmed that PFASs increase the likelihood of certain medical conditions in humans, even as new production of these compounds is waning worldwide. Furthermore, the discovery of multiple sites in Michigan where PFASs may have contaminated the soil and groundwater of local communities has thrust this issue into the limelight in Michigan specifically, while regulators at the State and federal level move slowly to develop a response.

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Making Energy Fun Again!

By Margrethe Kearney, Senior Staff Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Jeffrey Hammons, Associate Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center

kearney.jpg hammons_.jpg

Q: What is PURPA?
An alien from outer space that eats people. A PURPA People Eater! Just kidding. PURPA stands for the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, enacted by Congress in 1978. Congress enacted Section 210 of PURPA to encourage the development of small renewable energy and cogeneration and to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, thereby increasing American energy independence. Even though PURPA was enacted in 1978, I believe those goals remain important to Americans today.

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Host a Law Student Intern

Could your environment, energy, or natural resources practice use an extra hand? Law students from Michigan State, Wayne State, Detroit Mercy, Michigan, and Cooley are looking to learn more about environmental law in Michigan. Think back to your early days diving into environmental law and how you could have benefited from a summer of practical experience. Even if you are unsure, but you might be interested in accepting student resumes for possible internship positions, fill out this contact form. ELS plans to create a directory of possible internship opportunities that will be passed along to the student environmental groups at each of the Michigan law schools. Help us provide opportunities for Michigan students to learn the law here in Michigan.

Section Information

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Tammy Helminski

Editor, Michigan Env. Law Journal
Amanda Urban

Section Administrator
Mary Anne Parks

Officers & Council Members PDF


ELS Website

Join Us Now

Environmental Law Section dues are only $30 and FREE for law students and new members to the bar. To join, please complete a section membership application or attorneys can join online by logging into the Bar's member area and selecting Section Membership.

MELJ Editorial Committee

  • Amanda Urban
  • Allison Collins
  • Nicholas Leonard
  • Joni Roach
  • Lydia Barbash-Riley

Join: The MELJ is a team effort and would not be possible without the hard work of its contributing and associate editors, as well as the State Bar administrative staff. Consider joining the MELJ Editorial Committee. Contact Amanda Urban if interested.

Past Events

Annual Meeting 2017

The Section's Annual Meeting was held in conjunction with the State Bar of Michigan NEXT Conference at Cobo Hall in Detroit. The featured presentation was from Craig Hupp and Jennifer McKay providing the latest on Enbridge Line 5 and a presentation from Oday Salim on aquaculture in Michigan.

Joint Environmental Conference 2017

The Joint Environmental Conference was held at Lansing Community College's West Campus featuring several panels focused on air and waste issues. Program materials can be viewed in the West Michigan AWMA archive.

Great Lakes Env. Law Center Bash

The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center had its annual Blue Water Bash in Detroit. Oday Salim presented journalist Anna Clark with the Center's Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism.

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The Michigan Environmental Law Journal is a publication of the Environmental Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan and exists to provide the Section’s membership a forum for sharing information and discussing environmental topics relevant to the legal community in the State. To that end, the MELJ encourages the open exchange of legal discourse on a variety of environmental topics, but does not endorse particular viewpoints or positions unless otherwise recognized by the Section. Any opinions espoused by the articles contained within are attributable to solely their respective authors and are not representative of the SBM, the Section, or its members generally. Publication is neither an endorsement nor a rejection of a particular position by the Environmental Law Section.