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Environmental groups want MI Supreme Court to reverse Court of Appeals ruling in CAFO permit case

Environmental groups want a ruling by the Court of Appeals (pictured) reversed by the Michigan Supreme Court. It says the ruling allows large livestock farms to pollute Michigan's lakes and streams.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Environmentalists argue the Michigan Supreme Court should reverse a Court of Appeals ruling that would limit the state's abilities to put restrictions on permits for handling manure and other animal waste on large livestock farms.

Eleven environmental groups are urging the Michigan Supreme Court to reverse a ruling that stops the state from placing more permit restrictions on manure and other animal waste from large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

The groups filed a “friend of the court” briefing in support of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) right to make changes to permit requirements when the old permits expire after five years.

The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the case brought by the Michigan Farm Bureau, which argued changing the permits requires going through procedures to establish new rules.

“The Court of Appeals decision is — as we said in the brief — completely wrong on the law and incredibly dangerous for the environment in Michigan,” said Rob Michaels, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

The briefing argues the ruling is “clearly erroneous” because it amounts to a repeal of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act as well as the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.

“Unless the Michigan Supreme Court reverses the ruling, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy will really be handcuffed in protecting the environment and fulfilling its legal obligations under the state’s cornerstone environmental statutes.”

Nutrients from animal waste contribute to toxic cyanobacterial blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron, and some inland lakes in Michigan.

In an email, EGLE said there is another similar challenge to the permitting process made through the Administrative Law Judge process. That process is complete and awaiting a decision, but it’s on hold, pending the outcome of the Court of Appeals ruling.

In a statement, the Michigan Farm Bureau said, “We agree with the Court of Appeals, which ruled that EGLE needs to follow the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act when it conducts rulemaking, which will help assure that rules are developed based on sound science.”

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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