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Ray v. Mason County Drain Comm'r

ELR Citation: 5 ELR 20176
Nos. No. 55248, 224 N.W.2d 883/7 ERC 1817/393 Mich. 294, (Mich., 01/21/1975)

The Supreme Court of Michigan unanimously holds that the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law in a suit brought under the state Environmental Protection Act fail to meet the requirements of the Act and of the statute governing trial court findings. The court rules that specific and detailed findings of fact at the trial level in environmental cases are crucial to the effective implementation of the Act, and to the law's being able to fulfill those goals for which it was enacted. Under the statutory scheme, plaintiffs who seek to enjoin a proposed project or action on the grounds that it will result in numerous and substantial forms of environmental degradation must make a prima facie showing on this point, which the defendant must then either rebut, or escape by showing, as an affirmative defense, that there is no feasible and prudent alternattive to the project, and that it is consistent with the promotion of the public health, safety and welfare. The trial judge must therefore make detailed factual findings to support his conclusion as to whether plaintiffs have established a prima facie case, and if so, whether defendaants have then either succeeded in rebutting plaintiffs' showing, or successfully asserted the affirmative defense of "no feasible and prudent alternatives." The three-sentence findings of fact and conclusions of law filed by the trial court in this suit challenging a stream channelization project fail to meet these requirements, and the case is therefore remanded for further findings, after the Supreme Court rules that de novo review would be inappropriate.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert H. Gillette
Wheeler, Upham, Bryant & Uhl
620 Old Kent Building
Grand Rapids, MI 49502

Counsel for Defendant
Chester C. Pierce
3130 Casmere
Hamtramck, MI 48212