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National Wildlife Federation v. Department of Environmental Quality

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20185
Nos. 307602, (Mich. Ct. App., 08/12/2014)

A Michigan appellate court upheld the state environmental agency's decision to grant mining and discharge permits to a company to develop an underground mine to extract nickel and copper from the sulfide ores beneath the headwaters of the Salmon Trout River. Environmental groups opposed the permits, arguing that the mine is at substantial risk of hydraulic or structural failure if constructed and operated as planned. But substantial evidence supported the agency's decision. The groups also argued that the mining company's environmental impact assessment (EIA) failed to consider potential impacts outside the immediate mining area. Again, substantial evidence supported the agency's conclusion that there was no significant potential for such impacts. Nor was the EIA deficient for failing to consider a portion of the site as a place of worship for a Native American tribe, because the company neither knew, nor should have known, of such traditional cultural uses of that location when it offered its EIA. In addition, the company satisfied state requirements to consider cumulative impacts, its mining plans included adequate safeguards to protect surface waters from acid rock drainage, and its contingency plan adequately assessed risks to the environment and public health and safety.