Ruling on jurisdiction not in favor of petitioners
The National Wildlife Federation, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Huron Mountain Club, and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve have pointed out that the DNR’s land lease decision violated the common law public trust doctrine. The plaintiffs asked that Judge Paula Manderfield should consider that re-opening a previous decion. In March, Manderfield dismissed the opponents’ appeal of the DNR’s lease decision. In April, Manderfield agreed to reopen a portion of the case to hear the public trust jurisdiction issue only. Because Manderfield’s original capacity in this case was to rule on an appeal to an earlier DNR decision to lease to Kennecott, mining company attorneys argued the claim lies outside Manderfield’s jurisdiction. Judge Manderfield issued a decision on Monday aftering hearing oral arguments on June 10. The judge has rejected the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiffs are considering an appeal of the decision. “Judge Manderfield’s opinion is based upon jurisdictional grounds only. The opinion does not indicate that the plaintiffs are incorrect on the merits of the case – namely, that the DNR violated the public trust by leasing public lands to Kennecott for mining and barring the public from public land for at least 40 years,” said Michelle Halley, of the National Wildlife Federation. “This decision eviscerates the public trust doctrine because it eliminates the public ability to bring an effective public trust claim against state agencies. Because of that, it is likely that we will appeal this decision.” A ruling is still pending on suits against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for granting permits to mine on the Yellow Dog Plains. There is no anticipated timeline for this decision. Kennecott also needs a groundwater discharge permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.