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The Supreme Court of Michigan's task, under the Michigan Constitution, is the important, but yet limited, duty to read into and interpret what the Michigan Legislature has actually made the law. The Court has observed many times in the past that the Michigan Legislature is free to make policy choices that, especially in controversial matters, some observers will inevitably think unwise. This dispute over the wisdom of a law, however, cannot give warrant to a court to overrule the people's Legislature.
Wolverine Pipe Line Company (Wolverine) is an interstate common carrier that constructs, operates, and maintains pipelines used for transporting petroleum products. It planned to construct a twenty-six-mile liquid petroleum pipeline along the Interstate-96 (I-96) corridor, within the right-of-way of the interstate highway. Although the land is under the control and jurisdiction of the state's Department of Transportation, several miles of the highway are within the city limits. In December 2001, Wolverine, before commencing any work on the project, filed an application with the PSC for approval of its plan. The mayor and the city, as well as Ingham County Commissioner Lisa Dedden, were allowed to intervene in the PSC proceeding. The application was treated as a contested case and a hearing was held. The city moved to dismiss the application, arguing that the PSC had no jurisdiction because Wolverine's application lacked the requisite consent from the City. The PSC denied the motion and authorized the project, finding that the city's consent was not required to accompany the application. With regard to the reasonableness of the project, the PSC determined that there were no equal protection violations in the route selection and found the project necessary and safe. The City appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court reviewed the plain language of MCL 247.183 and determined that the statute did require local consent before construction began, but not before the applicant sought PSC approval. 257 Mich. App. 1, 16; 666 N.W.2d 298 (2003). Both sides sought leave to appeal. Wolverine and the PSC asserted that no local approval is required, and the City argued that approval is required during the application stage.
Must Wolverine obtain the permission of the City of Lansing before constructing a gas pipeline longitudinally in the right-of-way adjacent to an interstate highway when part of the pipeline would be constructed within city limits?
The court affirmed the court of appeals judgment. The court held that the plain language of Mich. Comp. Laws § 247.183 required Wolverine to obtain the City's permission before constructing the pipeline, but that the City's consent was not required before the application was submitted to the PCS. The court found that it was clear that local consent was required, as § 247.183(1) and § 247.183(2) worked together, and both subsections were applicable.