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Michigan Oil Co. v. Natural Resources Comm'n

Citation: 9 ELR 20625
No. No. 59088, 276 N.W.2d 141/406 Mich. 1, (Mich., 03/13/1979) Aff'd

Affirming the court of appeals, 7 ELR 20213, the Michigan Supreme Court upholds the authority of the state to deny applications for oil drilling permits in order to prevent unnecessary adverse effects on the natural environment. The drill site for which appellant sought the permit is located in the Pigeon River Country State Forest and was shown at trial to be extremely vulnerable to the proposed drilling activities. The Oil Conservation Act, 1939 MICH. PUB. ACTS 61, though it speaks principally to preventing waste in the development of the state's oil resources, also expresses an intent to prevent unnecessary destruction of natural environmental amenities. Furthermore, the defendant agency's organic statutory authority, 1921 MICH. PUB. ACTS 17, confers upon it general powers to avoid actions with adverse environmental effects. Although the above discussed authorities are sufficient to support the denial of the permit and the rulings below, the court also addresses the applicability of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA), MICH. LAWS ANN. § 691.1202 et seq. The relevant portion of the opinion follows:


Having concluded that 1939 MICH. PUB. ACTS 61 and 1921 MICH. PUB. ACTS 17 provide statutory authority for denial of the drilling permit in the instant case, it is unnecessary to decide whether the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, MICH. LAWS. ANN. § 691.1201 et seq.; MICH. STAT. ANN. § 14.528(201) et seq., must be read in pari materia with the Oil Conservation Act. Nevertheless, if an answer to this question were required, we would hold that the Michigan Environmental Protection Act should be read in pari materia with all legislation relating to natural resources.

The rationale for such a holding can be found in Detroit v. Michigan Bell Telephone Co., 374 Mich. 543, 558, 132 N.W.2d 660, 667 (1965), app. dis. and cert. den. 382 U.S. 107, 86 S. Ct. 256, 15 L. Ed. 2d 191 (1965):

Statutes in pari materia are those which relate to the same person or thing, or the same class of persons or things, or which have a common purpose. It is the rule that in construction of a particular statute, or in the interpretation of its provisions, all statutes relating to the same subject, or having the same general purpose, should be read in connection with it, as together constituting one law, although enacted at different times, and containing no reference one to the other.

See also State Highway Comm. v. Vanderkloot, 392 Mich. 159, 182, 220 N.W.2d 416 (1974). (Opinion by Williams, J.)

Since the MEPA specifically speaks to "any alleged pollution, impairment or destruction of the air, water or other natural resources," it is logical that the MEPA should be read in pari materia with other statutes relating to natural resources.


Having determined that in 1972 the Natural Resources Commission had statutory authority to properly deny Michigan Oil's request for a drilling permit in the Pigeon River Forest, we affirm the decisions of the circuit court and the court of appeals.

* * *

In three separate opinions, one justice concurs with all of the majority opinion except insofar as it addresses in any way the application of MEPA, and three justices dissent from the majority's interpretation of all three statutes, but would remand for further proceedings under MEPA.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (24 pp. $3.00, ELR Order No. C-1185).

Counsel for Appellant
Jason L. Honigman, John Sklar
Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn
2290 First National Bldg., Detroit MI 48226
(313) 962-6700

Counsel for Appellee
Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General; Robert A. Derengoski, Solicitor General; Stewart H. Freeman, Thomas F. Shimpf, Ass't Attorneys General
Department of Attorney General
525 W. Ottawa, Lansing MI 48913
(517) 373-1110

Counsel for Intervenor Pigeon River Country Association
Gary R. Rentrop, Samuel K. Hodgdon
Berkey, Erickson, Rentrop & Martin
74 W. Long Lake Rd., Bloomfield Hills MI 48013
(313) 642-3822

Moody, J.