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A Better Partnership


Feb 2006
February 02, 2006

Five to Watch: From Water Allocation to Shoreline Rights, Warner Norcross Spotlights Top Environmental Issues for 2006

Water rights, air quality and wetlands development are among the top environmental issues that Michigan attorneys will grapple with in 2006, according to the Environmental Law Group of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.

Warner's Environmental Law Group, which is one of the largest in the state, has identified five key environmental issues that will most impact Michigan businesses and residents in the year ahead - and likely beyond.

"As businesses look to mitigate the impact their operations have on natural resources, they face a series of challenges, including changes in state and federal regulations, increased demand for accountability and the growing need to move toward energy self-sufficiency," said John Byl, chair of the Firm's Environmental Law Group. "Over the past 12 months, a number of key environmental issues have made headlines in the media. Warner Norcross wanted to spotlight the top five most critical issues we will face as a state in 2006."

The top environmental issues are:

  • Water rights issues: As with many states around the country, Michigan will continue to grapple with water rights issues as communities struggle to develop workable, long-term plans that balance the demands of population growth against the need to preserve surface and groundwater resources. The issue is closely tied to population growth, land use and economic development, often pitting business and agricultural uses against the needs of growing communities. While the Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that there is no "public trust" in groundwater and many surface waters in the state, that has not stopped certain citizens groups from claiming public ownership of "our water."

  • Wetlands and other natural resources development: The U.S. Supreme Court will be considering two important wetlands jurisdiction cases originating in Michigan. The expected decision will likely have a profound impact on states, such as Michigan, with significant wetlands and other natural resources.

  • Air quality: Proposed changes in federal and state regulations related to air quality will have tremendous impact on a wide variety of industries over the next 18-24 months. Among other things, proposed regulations will change permit requirements that govern new construction projects for manufacturers and other businesses. Additionally, new requirements for sources of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds will create additional burdens for those sources.

  • Environmental due diligence: Recent changes to the EPA's regulations and guidelines that govern purchase of contaminated property under federal law now mandate that purchasers conduct "all appropriate inquiries" before purchasing property without resulting environmental liability, and to be eligible for federal brownfield grant funds. These changes, which are the first federal regulatory standards for environmental site assessments, significantly change the concept of "all appropriate inquiry" used in the past - which will directly impact disclosure and liability issues of companies seeking to buy, sell or redevelop contaminated property.

  • Brownfield tax credits: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that will determine whether Michigan and other states can continue to offer investment tax credits to businesses considering locating or expanding. A 2004 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Michigan, ruled that the tax credits - which figure prominently in state and municipal economic development strategies - were unconstitutional.

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About Warner Norcross & Judd:

The Environmental Law Group of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP has been recognized as one of the most highly regarded environmental practices in the country (and one of only two in the Midwest) by the prestigious and independent International Who's Who of Business Lawyers. Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2006, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP is one of Michigan's leading providers of legal services with more than 180 attorneys in Grand Rapids, Metro Detroit, Holland and Muskegon. For the third consecutive year, the Firm has a greater percentage of partners listed in the 2006 edition of The Best Lawyers in America than any other large law firm in Michigan. Warner Norcross was also named the best corporate law firm in West Michigan by Corporate Board Member magazine for the third year in a row. Warner Norcross has been recognized as a national leader in client service among law firms by BTI Consulting and as one of West Michigan's 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For. The Firm represents local, statewide, regional, national and international clients in all areas of business and civil law.

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