University of Michigan Law School, J.D.
Michigan State University, B.A.
  • Communication and Philosophy


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Lee Johnson has extensive experience in air quality permit and compliance matters before local air quality regulatory authorities, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), other state environmental agencies, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He handles issues concerning the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit program, new source review in nonattainment areas, minor source permitting, Title V renewable operating permits, hazardous and toxic air pollutants, emissions control and monitoring requirements, and many other facets of local, state, and federal air quality regulation. Lee's air quality regulation practice includes clients in a wide variety of industries, such as Portland cement manufacturing, automobile manufacturing, paper mills, foundries, automobile parts manufacturing, electroplating operations, electric utilities, hazardous waste treatment, and many others.

  • Represents businesses and individuals in administrative disputes with EPA and the MDEQ and other state regulatory agencies
  • Advises businesses and individuals regarding environmental law litigation
  • Assists firms that are seeking permits and other authorizations from environmental regulatory agencies, including installation permits for major and minor air emission sources and renewable operating permits
  • Actively involved in the defense of Administrative Enforcement Actions, including the assessment and response to notices of alleged violations issued by federal and state regulatory agencies to avoid further escalated enforcement actions, evaluation of penalties proposed by enforcement agencies with regard to applicable law and agency penalty policies, and evaluation of evidence of alleged violation


Representative Matters

  • Defended clients in administrative proceedings brought by federal and state authorities seeking civil penalties and to compel a facility to implement new or additional air pollution control measure
  • Negotiated mutually satisfactory resolutions, including substantially reduced penalties for clients, consulting engineers, and regulatory agencies to develop innovative alternatives to fines and penalties such as “supplemental environmental projects” to benefit the environment
  • Represented clients in litigation involving challenges to environmental agency rulemakings and permitting decisions, enforcement actions by environmental regulatory agencies, and “citizen suit”
  • Advised clients on issues determining requirements to install continuous emission monitors, negotiating appropriate emissions limitations, and resolving requirements for obtaining PSD or other air quality permits
  • Advised a number of clients on Title V renewable operating permit issues such as determining whether clients must apply for such permits, helping clients prepare permit applications, and assisting clients in negotiating permit conditions
  • Advised clients regarding the applicability of local, state, and federal air quality regulations, including New Source Performance Standards, National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, and state air pollution control regulations
  • Obtained state and federal air quality licenses and permits and exceptions or variances to permit requirements and regulations
  • Evaluated whether licenses or permits are required for client activities, assisted clients in completing license and permit applications, and negotiated with regulatory officials regarding the proper conditions to be included in licenses and permits
  • Assisted clients in making presentations at hearings on license and permit issues and defended licenses and permits that were challenged by environmental organizations
  • Participated in the adoption by the MDEQ Science Advisory Panel of a policy related to regulation of crystalline silica as a toxic air pollutant and subsequent promulgation of an MDEQ rule change removing crystalline silica from the Michigan list of toxic air pollutants
  • Instrumented the promulgation of an exemption from permit-to-install requirements for certain electric induction furnaces and in the enactment of legislation to expand the "emergency defense" under Michigan law to sources that are not regulated by a renewable operating permit



  • The Best Lawyers in America, 2016-2022
    • Recognized in practice area of Environmental Law
  • Detroit Environmental Law "Lawyer of the Year," 2017 and 2020
  • Michigan Super Lawyers, 2010-2019
  • Leading Lawyers Magazine Michigan, 2017
    • Recognized in practice area of Environmental Law

Professional & Community Involvement

  • State Bar of Michigan
    • Environmental Law Section
      • Chair, 2014-2015
      • Chair-Elect, 2013-2014
      • Secretary/Treasurer, 2012-2013
      • Section Council, 2000-2006
      • Air Committee, Past Chair 
  • American Bar Association, Environment, Energy and Resources Section 
  • Air & Waste Management Association 
    • East Michigan Chapter, Past Chair

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