Programs & Services

Legal Defense Fund Top 25: Case 11

Right-of-way control
Mayor of the City of Lansing v Michigan Public Service Commission

470 Mich 154 (2004)

Issue: Right-of-way control – statutory interpretation

Wolverine Pipe Line Company wanted to construct a liquid petroleum pipeline along the I-96 corridor within the right of way of the interstate highway. Although the land is under the jurisdiction of the state’s Department of Transportation, several miles of the highway were within the city limits. Wolverine filed an application with the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) for approval of the plan. The city intervened, arguing that the PSC had no jurisdiction since the city had not consented to the application as required by MCL 247.183. The PSC, nonetheless, denied the city’s motion and authorized the project. The city appealed to the Court of Appeals which held that the statute did require local consent before construction began, but not before the applicant sought PSC approval. On appeal, Wolverine and the PSC asserted that no local approval is required; the city argued that approval is required during the application stage


Why did the LDF get involved?
The control of their rights of way has long been of great concern to municipalities. Wolverine’s position that no consent was required clearly was counter to the statute then in effect. The LDF also wanted the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize that the basis of MCL 247.183 was the so-called consent clause found in the Michigan Constitution, i.e., art 7, sec 29.

What action did the LDF take?
Filed an amicus brief with Michigan Supreme Court

What was the outcome?
The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, finding that the city was correct in its interpretation that MCL 247.183 required Wolverine to obtain local consent before work was begun on the project, but not necessarily at the time of application to the PSC.

Who prepared the amicus brief?
Dean M. Altobelli
(Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C.)

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