Suing the State & National Bike Routes

  • The Au Sable River. (Photo courtesy of National Scenic Byways)

A case that pinpoints a key issue in Michigan’s water law could come back before the state Supreme Court.

The office of Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked the court to rehear the Anglers of the Au Sable case.

As Bob Allen reports, at issue is whether citizen groups can take state agencies to court to protect the environment:

The Anglers group won their suit in the lower court to protect one of the state’s prime trout streams.

The Department of Environmental Quality had given Merit Energy permission to pump more than a million gallons a day of treated wastewater into a creek at the headwaters of the Au Sable River.

The Court of Appeals upheld the ruling against the oil company but exempted the Department of Environmental Quality from the lawsuit.

The Appeals Court said the issuing of a permit doesn’t cause harm to the environment. It’s the person with the permit that could do that.

So Anglers asked the Michigan Supreme Court to review that part of the ruling.

And in December the high court overturned the lower court and said state agencies that issue permits that result in harm can be named in a citizen suit.

The Court upheld clear language in the Michigan Environmental Protection Act that says any person can bring suit to protect the environment.

Jim Olson, an attorney for the Anglers, says the decision upholds state environmental law that’s been in place for more than forty years.

“Permits that cause harm can be brought into Circuit Court and people can bring it out into the open and judges can make decisions so agencies can’t hide behind the cloak of bureaucracy.”

Since December, a conservative majority is back in control of the Supreme Court.

More from the Anglers of the Au Sable

A related Environment Report story

More about the national bike route system

Bike routes from MDOT

League of Michigan Bicyclists


And the state attorney general is now asking for a rehearing of the case.

In a motion to the Court, his office argues that Merit Energy had scrapped its plan to pump treated groundwater into Kolke Creek last spring, and the DEQ had withdrawn its permit.

So, the attorney general says, the case was moot because the matter had already been settled.

That was the main argument of Justice Robert Young, who dissented in December and is now Chief Justice.

But Angler’s attorney Jim Olson says both sides fully argued that point before the Supreme Court, and the Court made its decision fair and square.

For the Environment Report, I’m Bob Allen.

TAG: The Attorney General’s office and Merit Energy did not respond to our requests for comment in time for this report.


This is the Environment Report.

Organizers are making progress on designating two national bicycle routes through Michigan. They hope the routes will attract tourists to the state. Lindsey Smith reports:

A group of avid cyclists is working to designate bike routes sort of like the U.S. Department of Transportation designates interstate freeway systems. You can ride on two of these routes in Michigan already – they travel mostly along county roads.

Number 20 is an east-west route from Ludington to Marine City.

Number 35 is a north-south route that stretches for hundreds of miles along the Lake Michigan shore.

Kerry Irons is with Adventure Cycling, the non-profit that’s spearheading the effort.

“Nothing moves by at a high speed. You don’t have to get off and stare at the lake, you know get out of the car and stare at the lake, the lake is there for 400 miles. That’s the essence of bicycle touring and the driver behind this national network which is going to be a couple hundred thousand miles of established bicycle routes by the time it’s all done.”

Irons doesn’t expect the national network to be complete for another decade. But he does expect the state will sign off on route 35 this spring. Route 20 isn’t far behind… two-thirds of the approvals needed from local governments are in the bag.

For the Environment Report, I’m Lindsey Smith.