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Board Certified in State & Federal Government and Administrative Practice, Michael G. Cooke concentrates his practice in administrative law, including environmental, utility, and land use law. He represents industrial, agricultural, banking, government, and developer clients on matters involving clean air, climate change, electric generating facilities, renewable energy, telecommunications, utility plant and transmission line siting, water, and wastewater issues and permitting and zoning matters.

From 2003 to 2006, Michael was the Director of the Division of Air Resource Management for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In this position, he managed the air quality program for the State of Florida, interacting with federal and local agencies and over-seeing permitting and enforcement matters and the development of state air regulations. Michael also served as General Counsel for the Florida Public Service Commission in Tallahassee from 2006 through 2008. His responsibilities at the Public Service Commission included conduct of rate cases, rulemaking, enforcement proceedings, and decision-making involved with policy issues regarding nuclear facility site cost recovery and renewable energy.

Michael has represented clients in connection with numerous environmental regulatory matters, particularly in air permitting and compliance issues. He has represented electric utilities, manufacturing, and agricultural entities in connection with various Title V and New Source Review matters. He is well versed in CERCLA, RCRA, TSCA, water, and solid waste matters.

The incoming Biden Administration intends to take many major environmental policy actions   aimed at climate change, enforcement, environmental justice, and several other issues, many of which entail reversing actions taken
Continue Reading TRANSITION THOUGHTS: What Clean Air Act Permittees Should Track in the Biden Administration

In a 5 to 4 split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday, June 29th, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) unreasonably interpreted the federal Clean Air Act (“CAA”) when EPA decided deemed that costs were irrelevant in deciding whether to regulate hazardous air emissions from electric utility sources under section 112 of the CAA.  Michigan v. EPA, No. 14-46 (U.S. June 29, 2015): SCOTUS MATS Decision The majority opinion was authored by Justice Scalia and was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito.  Specifically at issue was whether the EPA was required by section 112(n)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 7412(n)(1), to consider compliance costs in determining that it was “appropriate and necessary” to regulate toxic air emissions from fossil fuel-fired utilities. (See section 112 here.) Due to issues such as grid reliability, Congress did not initially list electric utilities as a source category to be regulated under the air toxics provisions of the 1990 CAA amendments.  Instead, Congress ordered EPA to study the hazards to public health that could reasonably anticipated to occur as a result of such emissions and then to regulate electric utilities if it found that regulation was “appropriate and necessary” after performing the study.

In addressing the question of whether regulation was appropriate and necessary, EPA focused only on health impacts and did not consider compliance costs.  The agency found that regulation was appropriate because the power plants’ emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants posed risks to human health and the environment, and that controls were available to reduce these emissions.  In 2012, the EPA issued its final electric utility mercury and air toxics standards (“MATS”) rule.   A history of that rulemaking may be found here. EPA noted that during the rulemaking it did consider costs in deciding what level of emissions reduction should be achieved by the affected sources. Thus, EPA asserted that it had taken costs into account consistent with the statute’s requirements.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Reverses and Remands MATS to D.C. Circuit for EPA Failure to Consider Costs

More than 40 years after Congress passed the landmark Clean Water Act, the jurisdictional reach of that statute remains a contentious legal and political issue. By prohibiting the discharge of
Continue Reading Clean Water Act Jurisdiction under the Newly Issued Clean Water Rule