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Lake Carriers' Ass'n v. Director, Dep't of Natural Resources

Citation: 10 ELR 20767
No. No. 63453, 286 N.W.2d 416/16 ERC 2073/(Mich., 12/27/1979)

The Michigan Supreme Court interprets the Watercraft Pollution Control Act (WPCA) to prohibit the discharge of all sewage, whether treated or untreated, from watercraft in Michigan waters. Several federally licensed commercial vessel owners sought to enjoin enforcement of the WPCA in federal court. The complaint was dismissed by the district court for lack of a justiciable controversy and on grounds of abstention. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court, 2 ELR 20283, reversed the former ruling but affirmed the latter. Subsequently, the state circuit and appeals courts determined that §§ 3(1) and 11 of the WPCA barred only the discharge of sewage not treated to the degree required by federal regulations. The Michigan Supreme Court reverses, rejecting the argument that the Act is ambiguous. Sections 3(2) and 4(2) make it unlawful to discharge sewage from a watercraft. Although § 3(1) read alone might be ambiguous, if it is read in conjunction with the entire Act, it is clear that § 3(1) permits the discharge only of certain "other liquid or solid materials" but absolutely prohibits the discharge of all litter, sewage, or oil.

Counsel for Appellant
Thomas L. Casey, Frank J. Pipp, Russell E. Prins, Ass't Attorneys General; Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General; Robert A. Derengoski, Solicitor General
7th Floor, Law Bldg., 525 W. Ottawa St., Lansing MI 48913
(517) 373-1110

Counsel for Appellees
Prentiss M. Brown Jr.
Brown & Brown
First Nat'l Bank Bldg., St. Ignace MI 49781
(906) 643-7800

Scott H. Elder
Lake Carriers' Ass'n
1411 Rockefeller Bldg., Cleveland OH 44113
(216) 621-1107

Counsel for Intervenor Dominion Marine Ass'n
Marlin F. Scholl
Scholl, Theut, Robinson, Steig & Schellig
Suite 1880, 100 Renaissance Center, Detroit MI 48243
(313) 259-3070