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2001-2002 Annual Report

The Environmental Law Section has had an eventful year. It completed it's 20th anniversary and has positioned itself to continue to provide professionally useful programs, meetings, and opportunities to its members.

The annual meeting and 20th anniversary celebration were conducted under the shadow of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. The planned program, including an address by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was cancelled and replaced with remarks from Art Nash, Deputy Director of the DEQ, and Doug Martz, President of the Water Quality Board of Macomb County. Both speakers provided a look at where we have been and where we are going in environmental protection; appropriate for an anniversary.

The section-commissioned 20th anniversary painting by Russel Cobane was unveiled and placed in the lobby of the State Bar Building. Prints of the painting were given to the former chairs of the section honoring their service. Additional prints are being donated to the State of Michigan in recognition of the service of the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Natural Resources, and the assistance of the MacMullen Conference Center at Higgins Lake. Those prints will be presented this summer at, in reverse order, the meeting of the section's council at Higgins Lake, at a meeting of the Natural Resources Commission, and at the office of the Director of the DEQ. The painting was also used as the cover for the December issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, which honored the section by choosing environmental issues as its theme. An image of the painting and the key, or legend, is on the section's website and is planned for use in the new Supreme Court building's education center. All of the above are due to the efforts of Charles Toy, last year's chair, and Grant Trigger, membership committee chair.

The program committee, chaired by John Byl, worked with the subject matter committees to deliver a number of useful and well-attended programs for section members throughout the year. The Fall Update program focused on ADR in the environmental context and was chaired by Joe Quandt. The Winter Update, a joint program with the Real Estate Section, was chaired by Susan Topp and delivered in Gaylord. Other programs included an air permitting update, an assessment of the impact of the superfund amendments, ethical obligations in the environmental justice context, and an assessment of the progress of the air enforcement transfer from Wayne County to the DEQ. The annual meeting program, planned as another joint program with the Real Estate Section, will focus on mold and other hot topics in the environment and real estate.

Publications supported by the efforts of the section included the December theme issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, with Jeff Haynes and Gene Smary editing articles on: brownfields financing, written by Richard Barr and John Byl; criminal enforcement, by Charles Toy and Mike Leffler; environmental justice, by Tom Stephens and Alma Lowry; due care requirements, by Chris Dunsky; and great lakes water diversion, by Jim Olson. The section's Michigan Environmental Law Journal, edited by Linda Blais and Steve Chester, continued its high quality publication of the State of the Law by Jeff Woolstrom and colleagues at Honigman Miller, a survey of the law and practice of natural resources damages in the great lakes basin by Craig Hupp and Charlie Denton, and a number of other articles of topical interest. Peter Holmes developed and publicized a new environmental law essay contest, with cash prizes provided by the section, as an outreach to the law schools. The winning essays are to be published in the MELJ as well.

Grant Trigger developed, distributed, and compiled the membership survey; 230 members responded, after some reminders on the listserv, with feedback on how the section is doing in providing the information and opportunities that its members want. Half-day, morning, joint, and single topic seminars in Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids, delivered with newer and faster technology, is one preliminary conclusion from the interests shown in the survey. A complete analysis is scheduled for publication in the MELJ.

Two other matters deserve mention: budget and committees. Unsurprisingly, the section spent down its reserve in commissioning and printing the painting for the 20th anniversary; annual dues and some modest surpluses from programs are replenishing that reserve. In recognition that all waste is hazardous to some degree, and that insurance is now a part of many environmental transactions and plans, the solid waste and insurance committee's responsibilities have been absorbed by the superfund/part 201 committee and the other subject matter committees.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chair Elect Tom Wilczak and Secretary/ Treasurer Todd Dickinson for their efforts and contributions this year. John Byl, Grant Trigger, and the subject matter committee chairs demonstrate a continuing commitment to the improvement of the professional skills of their colleagues in the environmental law section. Those skills and the continuing dialogue with the community and the regulators materially improve the environment. It has been a great honor to be chair of the section this year.

John L. Tatum, Chair

     

 

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