Spring–Summer 2016

Vol. 34, No. 1, Issue 101

Message From Chair Bill Schikora

Bill SchikoraI've been involved with a few strategic planning initiatives in my life, and perhaps bizarrely, I actually enjoy them. The ELS Strategic Planning Committee is putting the finishing touches on a survey of our members, and I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to take the time to complete it when it is sent. We have approximately 600 members with extremely diverse backgrounds. In my experience, the ELS has focused its efforts on full-time environmental lawyers in private practice and while that has served many of us well, I think we can do better. So please, give us your input so we can cater future events and publications to better serve you.

I had the pleasure of attending the Bar Leadership Forum on behalf of our section in early June. By far, the highlight of that event was the presentation on the 21st Century Law Practice. This has been a focus of the State Bar for the last year, and you can learn more about it here. I suspect we have all seen competitive threats to our area of practice from environmental consultants, and I expect that to continue. Perhaps more interesting are the efforts of folks in Silicon Valley and similar places to reinvent the practice of law. If you happened to watch IBM's Watson computer play (and win) on Jeopardy a few years ago, you have a sense of what the 21st century may bring. I started my legal career using a Wang computer, and while I gave that up a long time ago, the practice of law has been relatively untouched by technology during my career. The 21st century changes will come sooner than you may think.


Message From the Editor

by Christopher J. Dunsky, Editor

dunsky.pngThis is the one hundred first issue of the Journal, a major milestone. The oldest issue in the Environmental Law Section's incomplete collection is Volume 18, No. 1, issue 57 from 2000. That volume number and date suggests that the first Journal appeared way back in 1983. If you have any Journal issue from the 20th Century, or any of the 21st Century issues missing from the Section's website, please send a copy to one of the section officers so we can add it to the Section's collection and make it available to everyone. We are missing issues Nos. 1–56 (1983 through 1999), and many issues from 2003 through 2008 (Nos. 65–80).

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2015 Michigan Public Acts—Environment & Natural Resources

by Christopher J. Dunsky, Christopher J. Dunsky, PLLC

Like 2014, 2015 was relatively quiet for legislation affecting the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). The most significant changes affected Part 121 (Liquid Industrial Waste) and the Renewable Operating Permit Program under Part 55 (Air Pollution Control) of NREPA.

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Corporations are “Persons” under NREPA’s Citizens’ Suits Provision

by Rebecca J. S. Cassell, Myers & Myers, PLLC

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently held that a corporation has standing to bring a citizen suit under the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. This decision reverses a long-held understanding among environmental practitioners that a corporation has no standing to bring such an action based upon the holding in Flanders Indus. v. Michigan.

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DEQ v. Morley—A Wetland Enforcement Action

by Susan J. Sadler, Dawda Mann Mulcahy & Sadler PLC

In Department of Environmental Quality v. Morley, approved for publication February 9, 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed the final order of the Ingham Circuit Court which granted judgment in favor of the plaintiff, the Michigan Department of Quality, against the defendant, Morley. The case was brought by MDEQ against Morley for the dredging, filling, and draining of a wetland. Morley had planned to turn 30 acres of undeveloped land into a subdivision near the Kawkawlin River in Bangor Township. MDEQ alleged that the area was a regulated wetland and that Morley should first complete a wetland assessment and then apply for a wetland permit requesting the right to dredge soil, remove the spoils, and deposit fill in certain permitted areas. Morley rejected MDEQ's assertion that a wetland permit was required and argued that MDEQ's position was contrary to his private property rights.

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Court of Appeals Invokes Doctrine of Primary Jurisdiction

by Douglas G. McClure, Conlin, McKenney & Philbrick, PC

Liable parties remediating groundwater contamination are required by the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to provide notice to offsite property owners when the contamination migrates to below their properties. Sending a notice of offsite migration of contamination can sometimes lead the recipient to sue, alleging that the contamination resulted from negligence, or constitutes a nuisance condition, or a trespass. Such lawsuits can include allegations that the contamination has reduced the fair market value of the noticed party’s property, and may also include claims for statutory relief under Part 201 or Part 213 of NREPA. There are high hurdles to environmental tort claims in Michigan.

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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

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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.

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.