- Chuck Leavell: Growing A Better America: Smart, Strong and Sustainable
"We're experiencing phenomenal growth in America, but as we go forward is that growth going to be rapid, rampant, and reckless or can it be smart, strong, and sustainable?"
- Michigan man translates environmental research for public via YouTube
Dozens of leading scientists advise Sinclair, he says, and have began inviting him to join their international research and data-gathering explorations. "They know that they're challenged by communication," he says, "and they know that's a skillset that just a lot of them don't have."
- Pure Michigan Focuses on Conservation, not Preservation
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, she says, the MUCC unites citizens to conserve, protect and enhance our natural resources through communication, education and advocacy. "We really want to protect peoples' rights to hunt and trap, we want to engage people," McDonough says, "and we want to help people foster a stewardship ethic."
- WMEAC and Grand Valley to Recognize Outstanding Women Environmentalists
The West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and Grand Valley State University are presenting the second annual Women & Environment Symposium on Friday, Feb. 15 at the L.V. Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids.
- Impressive Local Conservancy Helps Ensure Chippewa Riverís Future Well-Being
The CWC has developed an excellent interactive, web-based map of the Chippewa River, from Barryton to Midland. Also available in hard copy, the digital map provides, at the click of your mouse, clear and succinct information on a number of recreational venues along the river.
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Schools EPA on Definition of "Adjacent"
Don't stand, don't stand so, don't stand so close to me." - The Police (Don't Stand So Close to Me)
In a case originating from Michigan, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that required a natural gas producer to apply for a Clean Air Act (CAA) permit under Title V of the Act. The case hinged upon whether natural gas production wells connected to a natural gas sweetening plant via underground pipes over 43 square miles was a single "facility" for the purposes of determining whether a permit for the operation was required. EPA regulations considered "adjacent" properties involved in the same processes as one facility for the purposes of calculating potential emissions, while the plant operator, Summit Corporation, argued that EPA's determination stretched the meaning of the word "adjacent" to its breaking point.
The sweetening plant, which operates on Native American land, takes gas generated from 100 or so gas production wells and removes the hydrogen sulfide from the gas. The wells themselves also generate air emissions. Alone, neither the plant nor the individual wells generate enough regulated air emissions to fall under the jurisdiction of the CAA's Title V permit program (100 tons per year of any regulated pollutant). However, together the plant and all the wells generate regulated air emissions in excess of the regulatory threshold. Summit requested EPA consider whether their operations would require a Title V permit and EPA responded (after months of negotiation) in the affirmative, which in turn resulted in Summit challenging EPA's decision in court.
Under EPA's regulations, it can aggregate air emissions from a variety of sources if the sources are under common control, "are located on one or more contiguous or adjacent properties," and belong to the same general industrial grouping. While the first and third items appeared to be satisfied, Summit and, eventually, the Court had difficulty with the concept of adjacency being shoehorned into this specific fact pattern. EPA argued that the plant and wells were "adjacent" in the sense that they were interdependent, interconnected and worked as a single unit. Yet, the Court disagreed, finding that there is a common meaning of "adjacent" that prevents grouping different sources located at great distances from one another as proximate enough to meet that definition and that the geeisis of the EPA rule was based on proximity as a controlling factor.
One interesting aspect to this decision is the Court's consideration of EPA's position that the Court should rule in its favor because it had always interpreted its rule as not strictly requiring close proximity to meet the adjacency requirement. This is commonly used by regulatory agencies as a basis to justify their decisions that may or may not follow the letter of their own regulations. The court rejected this defense and added:
"[W]e conclude that an agency may not insulate itself from correction merely because it has not been corrected soon enough, for a longstanding error is still an error."
In all, the Sixth Circuit made EPA stick to the plain meaning of its own regulation. The Dissent to the majority's opinion noted that such a ruling could encourage potentially regulated sources to "gerrymand" their facilities in order to diminish their potential to emit in order to avoid Title V permits. However, it appears that the unique nature of natural gas production probably makes the application of this case very specific to natural gas production.
The author, Saulius Mikalonis, is an environmental attorney with over 25 years of experience in the Bloomfield Hills offices of Plunkett Cooney. He is also the author of The Green Blawg, in which he writes about environmental law issues for the non-lawyer. In addition to practicing law, Mr. Mikalonis is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills Campus, at which he teaches a course entitled "Sustainable Development Law & Policy" and a former Board Member of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).