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Opinion Date: 11/06/2012
e-Journal Date: 11/08/2012
Full Text Opinion

Practice Area(s):   Constitutional Law
Administrative Law

Issues: The PSC's order granting the petitioner-International Transmission Company (ITC) an expedited "siting" certificate for a wind energy transmission line and authorizing construction of the line on ITC's proposed route; The Electric Transmission Line Certification Act (MCL 460.561 et seq.) (Act 30); The Clean, Renewable, & Efficient Energy Act (MCL 460.1001 et seq.) (Act 295); Part 4 of Act 295 (Act 295(4)); Constitutionality of Act 295(4); Whether Act 295(4) sought to revise, alter, or amend Act 30; MCL 460.564; MCL 460.562(g); Use of the word "shall"; Michigan Educ. Ass'n v. Secretary of State (On Rehearing); Whether the siting certificate under Act 295(4) authorized construction; "Site" defined; "Construction" defined (MCL 460.1141(a)); MCL 460.1157; Whether Act 295(4) had a "supremacy clause" that trumped the mandatory nature of Act 30; MCL 460.1153(3); The "amendment by implication" exception to Const. 1963, art. 4, § 25; Alan v. Wayne Cnty.; People v. Mahaney; Whether the conflict between Act 30 and Act 295(4) was "accidental or inadvertent"; Whether Act 295(4) was "complete in itself"; Prospective application; Pohutski v. City of Allen Park; The PSC's conclusion that the transmission line was of an "appropriate capability"; MCL 460.1153(3)(d); Statutory interpretation; United States Fid. Ins. & Guar. Co. v. Michigan Catastrophic Claims Ass'n; Herald Co. v. Eastern MI Univ. Bd. of Regents; The "more specific, recently enacted statute rule"; In re Midland Publ'ns, Inc.; The "absurd results rule"; Detroit Int'l Bridge Co. v. Commodities Exp. Co.; Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity (ABATE); Michigan Public Power Agency (MPPA); Michigan Municipal Electric Association (MMEA)
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)
Case Name: In re Application of Int'l Transmission Co. for Expedited Siting Certificate
e-Journal Number: 53155
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Fitzgerald, Meter, and Boonstra

The court held that the PSC properly issued the siting certificate to petitioner-ITC, but that it erroneously concluded that construction of the wind energy transmission line was authorized by the certificate. The court determined that the only way to interpret Act 295 harmoniously with Act 30 that did not render Act 295 unconstitutional was to conclude that, "regardless of whether a siting certificate is obtained under Act 295, Act 30 mandates compliance with its provisions before construction can commence." However, after considering the effects of this decision, the court also held that its decision was limited to prospective application. Thus, it affirmed the PSC's order in this case. Appellants-ABATE, MPPA, and MMEA appealed the PSC's order granting ITC an expedited siting certificate for a wind energy transmission line and authorizing construction of the line on ITC's proposed route. The court first held that "the PSC's interpretation of Act 295(4) to mean that issuance of an expedited siting certificate authorizes construction of the transmission line was reasonable. However, such an interpretation creates an exception to the mandatory nature of Act 30." While the PSC and ITC argued that Act 295(4) had a supremacy clause that trumped the mandatory nature of Act 30, the court disagreed, concluding that it was Act 30 that "'controls' any conflict." The court also held that the more specific, recently enacted statute rule did not apply "because Act 30 explicitly states that it 'shall control' in any conflict." Unless and until Act 30's supremacy clause is amended, "Act 30 controls regardless of whether more specific, later-enacted statutes are passed." The court concluded that because Act 295(4) implicitly permits construction of wind energy transmission lines without undergoing the process in Act 30, Act 295(4) created an exception to the mandatory nature of Act 30. Thus, Act 295(4) revised, altered, or amended Act 30 in violation of article 4, § 25 of the Michigan Constitution. As to the amendment by implication exception to article 4, § 25, the court concluded that (1) the conflict between Act 30 and Act 295(4) did not appear to be "accidental or inadvertent" and (2) Act 295 was "not complete in itself." While the court concluded that the interpretation suggested by the appellants (that a company must still comply with Act 30 after completing the process under Act 295(4)) constituted an absurd result that was manifestly inconsistent with the legislative intent, the absurd results rule "cannot render an unconstitutional act constitutional. Rather, it will simply prevent the absurd result." The court noted that there was "no question in our minds that the Legislature did not intend this result, but correcting the unintended result rests with the Legislature." However, applying Pohutski, the court determined that its decision should have only prospective application. Finally, the court rejected the appellants' claim that the PSC erroneously concluded that the transmission line proposed by ITC was of an "appropriate capability," as required by MCL 460.1153(3)(d), concluding that the PSC's interpretation was consistent with the statutory language.

Full Text Opinion

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