Wednesday, October 6, 2010

MI Supreme Court to decide whether "any person" really means any person when it comes to law protecting Michigan's natural resources

There’s a law, the Michigan Environmental Protection Act,
(MEPA) which gives “any person” in Michigan the right to use the courts to protect “…the air, water and other natural resources … from pollution, impairment or destruction.”

If Acme Sand Mining is ripping up globally significant Lake Michigan sand dunes and regulators are doing nothing to stop them, I can file suit to stop it. If Acme then dumps its toxic waste in Lake Superior, I can sue. Even if I live nowhere near the affected dunes and own no Lake Superior frontage, the law presupposes, I have an abiding interest in their health and well being.

At least, that’s the way it is supposed to work. In recent years, conservative-activist Michigan courts have chipped away at MEPA. In several rulings, the law’s scope has been limited. Now, it seems, only persons directly impacted by environmental damage have the right to sue.

I’m not a lawyer. But I wonder what part of “any person” the judges who eroded our citizen rights didn’t understand?

A Michigan Supreme Court case heard Wednesday gives justices the opportunity to definitively decide whether citizens have the right to sue to protect the state’s natural resources.

My employer, the Michigan Environmental Council, filed a "friend of the court” legal brief arguing that the court declare the law means what it says.

Since it was written by a horde of lawyers, it might better for the rest of to read the fine analysis by Sandra Svoboda of Detroit’s Metro Times.

Finally, for those wanting more legal meat to chew on, the whole issue is analyzed here more precisely, and in a more lawyerly fashion by Noah Hall on his Great Lakes Law blog.

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