How Green Is Your Attorney General?

“We are all Michiganders, and we are all entitled to equal protection under the law. ” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Inaugural Address, January 1, 2019
Attorney General Dana Nessel ran on a pro-conservation platform, and so far she is delivering. From Line 5 to energy consumers to federal litigation, our Attorney General is interpreting the law and her offices' responsibility underneath it in a way that protects Michanders, our public health, and the environment.
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As Attorney General Nessel works as the people’s lawyer, we will continue to hold her and her office accountable through this tool — “How Green is Your Attorney General?”

Monitoring the Attorney General’s office and sharing it’s work with Michiganders is vital in ensuring the office is held accountable for protecting clean air and water, our public health, and our natural resources. Our “How Green is Your Attorney General” tool tracks and grades all actions by Attorney General Nessel and her office relevant to protecting our environment, re-energizing our economy, and moving Michigan forward.

 

The Big Picture

Review the most recent actions we've tracked and scored below.

11 Positive
  • Joined State AGs to Urge Federal Cooperation with State Clean Energy Goals - Weight 1
    Thursday October 31st, 2019
    On Sept. 20 AG Nessel joined 21 other states in support of the state of California as it pushes stop the Trump administration from revoking its authority to set it own emission standards. This move would have national significance, as 13 other states are set to follow the new California emission standards, making up roughly ⅓ of the auto market in America. AG Nessel doubled down on this effort to curb both carbon emissions and Trump administration overreach by joining with 10 other attorneys general on Oct. 31, 2019 in calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to recognize and consider the states’ shared priority of transitioning to a cleaner energy system, and to adopt policies and take actions that aid in that effort. The attorneys general specifically called on FERC to consider:
    • Promoting market design choices that appropriately recognize the rights of states under federal law to grow their clean energy resources;
    • Assisting states in procuring the lowest-cost options for meeting electricity needs by eliminating barriers to competition for renewable energy generators, energy storage, energy efficiency, demand response, and other innovative clean energy technologies;
    • Comprehensively assessing the associated climate impacts and all reasonable clean energy alternatives when evaluating proposed new fossil fuel infrastructure; and
    • Exercising its oversight authority to ensure that the operators of regional electric grids and other regulated entities are fostering participation, transparency, independence and responsiveness to states, consumers, and other stakeholders.
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  • Line 5 Tunnel Authorization Law (PA 359) Summary Judgement Appealed - Weight 1
    Thursday October 31st, 2019
    Back in March of this year, Attorney General Nessel issued an opinion stating that the Mackinac Straits Authority (hastily signed into law during the 2019 lame duck period) was unconstitutional on the grounds that the title of the bill did not match the scope of authority granted to the authority in the legislative text.  A bill’s legislative text is supposed to match its title so that lawmakers have a clear indication of what they are voting on. Public Act 359 was passed by the Legislature in order to provide Enbridge Enbridge certain legal assurances for the construction of their Line 5 tunnel project. The Attorney General’s legal opinion prompted Governor Whitmer to order that Enbridge cease all construction on the tunnel, which in turn prompted Enbridge to file a lawsuit against Governor Whitmer.  Unfortunately, on October 31st, 2019 the Michigan Court of Claims granted a summary judgment, effectively reinstating the Mackinac Straits Authority by overturning the AG’s prior legal opinion. Both Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel were swift in their decisions that the state of Michigan would appeal this ruling. Michigan LCV applauds this action to protect our Great Lakes from a catastrophic spill and mitigate air, water and climate pollution. 
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  • Announced PFAS Litigation Partners - Weight 1
    Thursday October 17th, 2019
    Back in May of this year, Attorney General Nessel announced her intent to pursue a lawsuit against some of the main PFAS manufacturers in Michigan, like 3M. This started the process of finding an outside legal team to support her lawsuit. On Oct. 17 after a rigorous application process and approval from the Review Board on Sept. 12, Attorney General Nessel announced that her office had selected a litigation team made up of Fields PLLC (Washington, D.C), Keating, Muething & Klekamp PLL (Cincinnati),  and DiCello, Levitt Gutzler LLC (Chicago). This team has a history of successfully litigating large scale environmental cases, and their contract with the State of Michigan is a Contingency Fee contract, meaning that no public dollars will be spent on the lawsuit. 
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  • Held Utility Companies Accountable to Ratepayers - Weight 3
    Sunday September 1st, 2019
    This summer Attorney General Nessel took multiple actions to hold utility companies accountable to the consumers they serve. AG Nessel intervened in Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) and rate cases with several major utility companies, urging DTE, SEMCO, I&M and Consumers to ensure that affordable and renewable energy were the top goals of each utility company. AG Nessel also addressed a letter to the Michigan Public Service Commission, asking that the PSC consider affordability and energy reliability for consumers in all decisions. These interventions have paid off for our state. AG Nessel was not only successful in lowering rates for DTE customers, but instrumental in steering the most recent Consumers Energy IRP to include provisions for renewable energy: “ This groundbreaking case moves Michigan to the forefront of reducing carbon emissions and promoting renewable and reliable energy,” Nessel said. “It also goes a long way to preserve and protect our state’s environment and provide a cleaner future for generations to come.” On August 30, AG Nessel doubled down on her commitment to hold utility companies accountable by backing an appeal against DTE Energy by The Sierra Club & Michigan Environmental Council. The appeal states that DTE used the approval of their Blue Water Energy Center Project to justify the approval of the Nexus Pipeline by reserving 10% of the pipeline’s capacity. According to AG Nessel and the environmental community, this represents a conflict of interest, especially as DTE intends to raise consumer rates by over $70 million over the next 5 years to help subsidize the construction of the pipeline. Effectively, this means that DTE used each of these projects to justify each other, and lock our state into continued investment into dirty fossil fuels that are not explicitly needed to guarantee energy stability. 
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  • Joined 28 States in Lawsuit Over Clean Power Plan Rollbacks - Weight 1
    Monday August 12th, 2019
    On Aug.12, AG Nessel joined with 22 other state Attorneys General and seven local governments in filing suit against Trump’s EPA and the new “Affordable Clean Energy” rule. This new rule would come at the expense of the Obama era Clean Power Plan, a rule put in place to put limits on emissions from existing fossil fuel plants. The Affordable Clean Energy rule, or ACE, rolls back the limits and will have virtually no impact on power plant emissions, prolonging the nation’s reliance on polluting, expensive coal power plants and obstructing progress toward clean, renewable, and affordable electricity generation. The numerical differences between the two plans are stark; where the Clean Power Plan called for a reduction of 415 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2030, ACE only calls for just 11 million tons. ACE also explicitly prohibits states from participating in cap-and-trade programs as a means of complying with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.  This new plan is a raw deal for our environment, and MLCV is proud to see our state join with other environmentally conscious states across the nation to push back on the Trump administration’s blatant disregard for the future of our climate.
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  • Called on Congress to Take Action on PFAS contamination - Weight 1
    Tuesday July 30th, 2019
    On July 30, 2019 Attorney General Nessel joined 20 other Attorneys General in sending a letter to Congress urging them to pass legislation to address PFAS contamination. The letter calls on Congress to provide funding for state level remediation programs, and lists other action suggestions based on firsthand knowledge collected in affected states. Other actions include designating certain PFAS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (which would help address our ‘orphan site’ problem), adding the entire class of PFAS chemicals to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, providing funding for remediation of PFAS-contaminated drinking water supplies, prohibiting the use and storage of firefighting foam containing PFAS at military bases and other federal facilities, and finally providing medical screening of PFAS exposure. We appreciate this move by AG Nessel to build congressional awareness  and action on this issue. 
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  • Lawsuit to Shut Down Line 5 - Weight 3
    Thursday June 27th, 2019
    On June 27, 2019 Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit with the Ingham County Court system seeking to decommission the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac, as well as stymie efforts by Enbridge to construct a tunnel beneath the straits. The lawsuit comes in response to another lawsuit filed by Enrbidge questioning our AG’s legal opinion that the newly created Mackinac Straits Authority was unconstitutional and therefore could not give permission for the proposed tunnel. AG Nessel’s lawsuit asserts that the current running of the 66 year old pipeline violates the public trust as well as the Michigan Environmental Protection Act due to its likelihood to contaminate our Great Lakes and undercut our economy.  The lawsuit comes after unsuccessful negotiations between Enbridge and Governor Whitmer, with AG Nessel stating:  “I have consistently stated that Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits need to be shut down as soon as possible because they present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes. Governor Whitmer tried her best to reach an agreement that would remove the pipelines from the Straits on an expedited basis, but Enbridge walked away from negotiations and instead filed a lawsuit against the state. Once that occurred, there was no need for further delay.”  We at Michigan LCV are in total agreement with AG Nessel, and applaud her swift and decisive actions to protect our Great Lakes
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  • Legal Review of Law Creating Corridor Authority for Line 5 Tunnel - Weight 3
    Thursday March 28th, 2019
    Shortly after taking office, Attorney General Dana Nessel was asked by Governor Whitmer to conduct a legal review of whether the legislative approval of a proposed new Enbridge tunnel around Line 5 was in compliance with state law. The legislation in question (Public Act 359) was rushed through the legislature during an aggressively anti-environmental lame duck period.  It created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority endowed with the authority to approve and oversee the implementation of a tunnel to replace the existing pipeline. The newly created authority immediately gave its approval on Dec. 19 2018 in an effort to tie the hands of the incoming Governor and Attorney General. Governor Whitmer’s request to AG Nessel asked important legal questions including: Does the new law violate Michigan’s Constitution? Has the Corridor Authority acted with more power than specifically enacted in PA 359? And more.   AG Nessel released her official opinion dubbing the newly created Mackinac Corridor Authority unconstitutional and thereby unable to approve any new construction under the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge is still able to apply for a regular permit for building through Michigan’s standard permitting process, but they have yet to announce any new requests. While Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order to halt all construction on the proposed tunnel will not shut down the Line 5 pipeline itself, this is a significant step in the right direction.  The 66 year old Line 5 is years beyond it’s engineered lifetime and represents an existential threat to the Straits and Lake’s Michigan and Huron. It also transports oil and gas that environmentally damages the land where it is exploited, pollutes the air and water when it is combusted and contributes to climate change.
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  • Withdrew Michigan from lawsuit that would reduce the number of protected bodies of water in MI; filed a comment letter with 22 other Attorneys General opposing a federal rule which would curtail MI authority under the clean water act; joined lawsuit against rollbacks of Endangered Species Act - Weight 2
    Friday March 15th, 2019
    On March 15, Attorney General Nessel continued to follow through on her campaign promises by withdrawing Michigan from a federal lawsuit that challenged the legitimacy of certain bodies of water being protected under the federal Clean Water Act. The lawsuit sought to remove federal oversight proposed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers that would place almost all large bodies of water under federal protection, including the Great Lakes. Concerning the withdrawal, Attorney General Nessel stated  “as Michiganders, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the Great Lakes and all our waterways and wetlands, while Michigan has protective regulations in place, this lawsuit sought to weaken the federal law which establishes minimum nationwide standards for protecting our shared water resources, including the Great Lakes. This was a compelling reason for us to withdraw.”  On Oct. 25, Nessel joined 22 other Attorneys General in the filing of a comment letter opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule which would unlawfully curtail state authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act arguing that the proposed rule is an ‘unlawful and misguided policy that would degrade water quality and infringe on states’ rights.’ In a similar action the Attorney General filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in California Trout v. Hoopa Valley Tribe that would limit states’ ability under Section 401 to ensure their water quality standards are applied to projects needing federal licenses and permits On Sept. 27, Attorney General Nessel continued to protect Michigan’s environment from the Trump Administration by joining a lawsuit of 17 other Attorneys General and the city of New York against Trump’s rollback of the Endangered Species Act. Michigan is home to multiple species that are listed as endangered, and these rollbacks would do considerable damage to these tenuous populations. The new Trump rules would not only add economic considerations to the Endangered Species Act instead of science-driven and species focused analyses, but also push the responsibility for protecting endangered species and habitats to the state, detracting from the states’ efforts to carry out their own programs and imposing significant costs to our already strained state budget. 
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  • Withdrew Michigan From Four Federal Lawsuits Challenging EPA Clean Power Standards, and a Lawsuit Supporting Exxon Mobil on Climate Change Consumer Fraud - Weight 2
    Tuesday January 22nd, 2019
    On Jan. 22 Attorney General Nessel made good on her campaign promises to prioritize Michigan’s air, land and water over profits of corporate polluters by withdrawing Michigan from four federal lawsuits challenging EPA Clean Power standards. The cases in question are summarized below: 
    1. West Virginia et al. v EPA et al. 
      1. Lawsuit challenging EPA Clean Power Plan rules that cap greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants
    2. North Dakota v EPA 
      1. Lawsuit challenging EPA Clean Power Plan rules that cap greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants
    3. Murray Energy Corporation v EPA 
      1. Lawsuit challenging EPA standards for the emission of mercury and other hazardous substances from power plants. 
    4. American Petroleum Institute v EPA 
      1. Lawsuit challenging the EPA standards for the emission of methane from oil & gas operations 
    Attorney General Nessel doubled down on Michigan’s new legal approach by also withdrawing Michigan from a case supporting Exxon Mobil. The case in question, ExxonMobil v Healey, was initiated by Exxon to attempt to block Massachusetts AG Healey’s investigation into internal company climate change research and discourse. These withdrawals indicate a welcome pro-conservation interpretation of the law.  
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  • Legal Review of Environmental Bills (HB 4205 & SB 1244) Passed During Lame Duck - Weight 1
    Thursday January 10th, 2019
    As one of her first actions in office, Attorney General Nessel announced Jan. 9 that she would conduct a legal review of two bills passed during the 2018 lame duck session. The bills in question, HB 4205 (now Public Act 602 of 2018) and SB 1244 (now Public Act 581 of 2018) would hamper Michigan’s ability to utilize the latest and best science in establishing new environmental standards.  These “no stricter than federal” public acts limit the state from promulgating environmental rules that would be more stringent than established standards from the federal EPA.   These bills would not cap any contaminant limits to often loose federal regulations, but would curb Michigan’s ability to utilize non-federal scientific knowledge in the setting of new standards. This move clearly benefits industrial polluters and businesses at the expense of environmental protection and cleanup. Attorney General Nessel has not released any details on the nature of her reviews, but her office did clarify that this is a step forward on assessing the utility of suing 3M, the industrial polluters responsible for much of the PFAS contamination in our waterways. While the results of the legal review have not yet come to fruition, this move represents a concrete step towards holding industrial polluters accountable. 
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