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May 2018

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May 9, 2018

The National Wetlands Awards are presented annually to individuals who have excelled in wetlands protection, restoration, and education. Through coordinated media outreach and an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill, awardees receive national recognition and attention for their outstanding efforts. The program is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Federal Highway Administration. ELI coordinates the awards program, while our federal agency supporters provide financial support, serve on the selection committee, and/or participate in the ceremony.

The awardees are selected by a widely representative committee composed of 12-18 wetlands experts from around the country, including representatives from each federal supporting agency, members of the conservation and business communities, and representatives from state and local governments. Selection Committee members are carefully selected to represent a diversity of geographic areas and wetland expertise. ELI facilitates the Selection Committee meeting, but does not participate in selecting the winners. The awardees are determined by a majority vote of the Selection Committee.

The awardees were recognized for their individual achievements in six categories: Conservation and Restoration; Education and Outreach; Landowner Stewardship; Scientific Research; State, Tribal, and Local Program Development; and Wetlands Business Leader.

This year’s Landowner Stewardship award went to The Gibbons Family of Cedar Breaks Ranch in Brookings, South Dakota. Over the past 28 years, William and Jeanette Gibbons and their family have devoted tremendous time and financial resources to restore degraded land and water on their land. Since the purchase of an initial 240 acres in 1989, the Gibbons developed their formerly overgrazed and eroded property into a showcase of how various conservation practices can be seamlessly and profitably integrated into a working farm. They also use their land to further research on natural resource management, host workshops, tours, and youth hunting and fishing events. The Gibbons’ remarkable achievements encouraged other landowners to incorporate regenerative agriculture into their own practices to build soil, expand biodiversity, and increase sustainability.

Kerstin Wasson was the recipient of the Science Research award. Kerstin Wasson has been the Research Coordinator at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Watsonville, California, for over 18 years. She engages citizen scientists in long-term monitoring, from collecting water quality data to counting migratory shorebirds to tracking nesting at a heronry. She launched an ambitious ecosystem-based management initiative to bring together diverse stakeholders to jointly develop a shared vision for restoration of the estuary’s wetlands, and conducts extensive salt marsh and native oyster restoration experiments. In addition to this work, Kerstin has led major collaborative projects across the network of National Estuarine Reserve Reserves, assessing salt marsh resilience to sea-level rise and testing climate adaptation strategies.

The Education and Outreach award went to Mark D. Sees, who has served as the Manager of Florida’s Orlando Wetlands Park for over 20 years. In addition to his daily duties of managing the wetland treatment system, he has proactively sought opportunities to evolve the park into a center of public recreation as well as wetlands education and research. In 1999, he initiated the annual “Orlando Wetland Festival” to provide local children and adults an opportunity to take tours in the wetlands to understand their place in the watershed as well as how they filter and remove pollutants from water and protect downstream water bodies. The annual festival now attracts more than 5,000 people each year.

Maryann M. McGraw, Wetland Program Coordinator for the New Mexico Environment Department in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was the recipient of the State, Tribal, and Local Program Development award. Maryann M. McGraw initiated the state’s Wetlands Program in 2003 and continues to provide vision and guide development to ensure the program reflects the crucial role of wetlands and riparian areas in the arid west. Her recent projects include the development of rapid assessment methods for montane and lowland riverine wetlands, confined valleys, and playas of the Southern High Plains, which provides data necessary for the development of state wetlands water quality standards and antidegradation policies.

The Conservation and Restoration award went to Latimore M. Smith, a retired Restoration Ecologist with The Nature Conservancy in Covington, Louisiana. A gifted botanist and plant community ecologist, Latimore M. Smith spent more than 15 years with the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, identifying and documenting the diversity and ecology of natural habitats across the state of Louisiana. He was the first to recognize and formally describe a variety of natural wetland communities previously undocumented for the state, including globally rare longleaf pine flatwood wetlands. And as the former Director of Stewardship/Restoration Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy’s Louisiana Field Office, he dedicated himself to conserving, restoring, and managing many of the state’s premier natural areas.

Roy R. “Robin” Lewis III, Founder/President of Lewis Environmental Service Inc./Coastal Resource Group Inc. in Salt Springs, Florida, was the winner of the Wetlands Business Leader award, a new category for 2018. For more than four decades, Robin Lewis has been at the vanguard of wetland restoration and creation, designing or assisting in the design of more than 200 completed wetland projects in Florida, California, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Nigeria, and Thailand. In addition to founding two environmental consulting companies—Lewis Environmental Services, Inc. and Mangrove Systems, Inc.—he is also president of Coastal Resource Group, Inc., a nonprofit educational and scientific organization. He also works with the Association of State Wetland Managers to provide education opportunities and resources.

May 9, 2018

An ELI Public Seminar held in conjunction with the 2018 National Wetlands Awards

In conjunction with the 29th Annual National Wetlands Awards, ELI hosted a panel discussion on the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Signed in 1971, in Ramsar, Iran, the Convention was developed to call international attention to the rate at which wetland habitats were disappearing, in part due to a lack of understanding of their important functions, values, goods, and services. The Convention provides an international framework for action and cooperation to conserve and wisely use wetlands and their resources. Governments that join the Convention designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance and ensure their effective management. The United States became a party to the convention in 1986 and has since designated 38 sites covering nearly 4.5 million acres nationwide. Participants learned about efforts at the local, national, and international level to implement the Convention and recognize important wetlands.

Kathryn Campbell, Staff Attorney, Environmental Law Institute (Moderator)
Cade London, National Focal Point for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Maryann M. McGraw, New Mexico Wetlands Program Coordinator, New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau – Watershed Protection
Barbara De Rosa-Joynt, National Focal Point for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, U.S. State Department

If you are an ELI member and are logged onto the Members site, you will see links below to available materials/recordings from this session. If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.

May 10, 2018

Co-sponsored by Arnold & Porter and the Environmental Law Institute

In his first State of the Union address, President Trump announced a $1.5 trillion plan aimed at updating aging transportation and energy infrastructure. The Administration also sought to streamline and expedite the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects under multiple environmental laws, ranging from the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. On February 12, 2018, President Trump submitted to Congress an ambitious legislative “roadmap,” which proposes a number of far-reaching changes to the environmental review framework with a goal of shortening the process for approving projects to two years or less. Interest in improving the review process is hardly new, as the initiatives build on past efforts, such as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (“FAST Act”). But new policies from the Council on Environmental Quality and other federal agencies are likely to draw legal challenges from environmental NGOs.

To examine these developments in a constructive, practically-oriented, and forward-looking setting, Arnold & Porter and the Environmental Law Institute were pleased to co-host a conference “Infrastructure Review and Permitting: Is Change in the Wind?” Conference attendees heard a variety of critical perspectives across the spectrum. High level government officials, experienced practitioners representing industry and environmental NGOs, and congressional representatives addressed the wide range of environmental permitting and review challenges across sectors including transportation, energy, transmission, renewables, environmental restoration, and more. Panelists delved into the role of policy and litigation in shaping these developments over the next three years and beyond. Conference participants representing diverse backgrounds explored areas of common ground at the intersection of good government, economic growth, and environmental protection.


8:30 am


9:00 am

Welcoming Remarks from Conference Co-Chairs: Assessing the Legal Landscape

9:30 am

Legislative Keynote: Senator Rom Carper (D-DE), Ranking Member, Senate Environment and Public Works

10:00 am

Permitting Reform: Promise, Prospect & Perils

Nathan Frey, Partner, Regulatory Strategies and Solutions Group, Moderator


  • Ted Boling, Associate Director for National Environmental Policy Act, White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Brian W. Boose, Associate Vice President, Regional Practice Leader, Impact Assessment and Permitting, AECOM

Permitting and Review Under ESA, MBTA and Other Wildlife Statutes

  • Stuart Levenbach, Chief of Staff, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)


  • Tim Male, Executive Director, Environmental Policy Innovation Center

  • Tomer Hasson, Senior Policy Advisor, Western States, The Nature Conservancy

11:30 am

Case Studies: The Difference Between Success & Failure in Obtaining Approvals and Building a Defensible Record

Angela Colamaria, Acting Executive Director, Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, Moderator

Case Study 1: Environmental and Public Process Management -- Brian P. Kennedy, AICP, Senior Project Manager, AECOM

Case Study 2: Tappan Zee Bridge -- Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper, Riverkeeper

12:30 pm

Lunch [provided]

1:30 pm

Keynote from the Trump Administration: Report on Year One & Prospects for Year Two

Alex Herrgott, Associate Director for Infrastructure, White House Council on Environmental Quality

2:00 pm

Environmental Review of Energy Projects

Sandra Rizzo, Partner, Arnold & Porter, Moderator

Environmental Review of Energy Transmission and Transportation

Offshore Energy Projects

  • R. Scott Nuzum, Of Counsel, Van Ness Feldman LLP

  • Michelle Morin, Chief, Environment Branch for Renewable Energy, Bureau of Ocean Energy Managment, U.S. Department of the Interior
3:00 pm

Transportation Infrastructure & Cooperative Federalism: View from the States

  • Albert M. Ferlo, Partner, Perkins Coie, Moderator

  • Devon Dodson, Senior Advisor, Maryland Department of the Environment
  • Sam Sankar, Executive Director and General Counsel, The Environmental Council of States (ECOS)

 4:00 pm  Break
 4:15 pm

The Decarbonization Imperative: Lowering the Barriers to Meet Solar & Wind Infrastructure Requirements

  • Michael Gerrard, Senior Counsel, Arnold & Porter, and Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School, Moderator

  • Mark Kalpin, Partner, Holland & Knight

  • Kit Kennedy, Director, Energy & Transportation Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

  • Noah Shaw, General Counsel & Secretary, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)

5:30-6:30 pm Reception


Additional Reference/Background Materials submitted by the speakers:

General Reference Materials:

If you are an ELI member and are logged onto the Members site, you will see links below to available speaker presentations/recordings from this session. If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.

May 14, 2018

Staying on top of the legal and policy developments in the climate change arena is no small task. As a special service to our members, the Environmental Law Institute provides a series of monthly conference calls with national experts on climate law and policy to keep you up to date and to answer your questions.


Topics addressed in this month's call:

  • Federal Circuit decision in St. Bernard Parish v. US (re MRGO liability)
  • NRDC v. NHTSA (2d Cir. re penalties for violations of vehicle fuel efficiency standards)
  • NRDC v. Perry (9th Cir. re publication of energy conservation rules)
  • Exxon v. Massachusetts AG (Massachusetts Supreme Court -- Mass. AG investigation may proceed)
  • State v. Klapstein (Minn. Ct. App. -- allowing necessity defense)
  • Draft NHTSA/EPA rollback of Obama vechicle standards now at OMB
  • EPA carbon-neutral biomass policy
  • New Jersey passed two energy bills. One increases the state RPS to 50% by 2030 and sets a goal of 2,000 MW of energy storage by 2030. The other creates a ZEC program to provide subsidies for the state’s remaining nuclear power plants.
  • The Hawaii legislature passed a law to reform utility regulation in the state toward a performance-based model. The Ratepayer Protection Act (SB 2939) directs the PUC to design incentives and penalties that link utility revenue to several customer-focused performance metrics by 2020.
  • Attorneys General from 17 states sue Trump Administration over proposed rollback of vehicle GHG emissions regulations.
  • Ohio Public Utility Commission approves $10 million EV charging infrastructure plan for AEP Ohio.
  • Maryland passed legislation expanding existing "Coast Smart" requirements for state and state-funded local projects, and adding new planning requirements for local jurisdictions that experience nuisance flooding.
  • The Village of Newtok, Alaska is receiving $22 million in federal and state funds to continue efforts to relocate the community away from the river-driven erosion that threatening the village.
  • Louisiana announced projects in six parishes to be funded through the LA SAFE program, which provides funding to communities to implement adaptations or other measures that will improve their resilience to future sea-level rise, land loss, and flooding.
  • New York Gov. Cuomo announced new energy efficiency goals that would increase the state’s current 2025 energy savings goal by 50%.

Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director, Climate Center, Georgetown University
Michael B. Gerrard, Professor, Columbia Law School; Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
Robert Sussman, Principal, Sussman & Associates

ELI members will have access to a recording of this session (usually posted w/in 48 hours). If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.

ELI Monthly Climate Briefings are made possible by the
generous support of our institutional members.

NOTE: This call/recording is for ELI members only. No comments may be quoted
or used without the express written permission of ELI and the panelist.

May 14, 2018

Co-sponsored by ELI, Chicago Bar Association Environmental Law Committee, and the Lake Michigan States Section of the Air & Waste Management Association.
Hosted by Nijman Franzetti LLP.

NOTE: Leverett (Rett) Nelson, Regional Counsel of US EPA Region 5, substituted for Administrator Stepp at this event.


Ms. Stepp serves as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 5. Her responsibilities include overseeing environmental protection efforts in the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as 35 federally recognized tribal governments. One of her roles is manager of EPA Great Lakes National Program, in which she leads restoration and protection of the largest freshwater system in the world. Before joining Region 5, she was principal deputy regional administrator for EPA Region 7.

Ms. Stepp served as the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources from 2011 to 2017. As state cabinet secretary, she led the third largest state agency with about 4,000 employees and was responsible for state enforcement and protection of wildlife, fisheries, state parks, trails, forests and environmental permitting.

Ms. Stepp also served as a Wisconsin state senator from 2003 to 2007, where she represented nearly 160,000 constituents and authored and advanced legislation on regulatory reform, job creation and other issues. Prior to entering public service, Ms. Stepp owned a small business, a home-building company.

Ms. Stepp will discuss recent office accomplishments, updates on agency priorities and her office’s goals for the upcoming months.


May 16, 2018

An ELI Member Seminar

The Trump Administration has promised to roll back a wide array of regulations, including rules that have governed methane emissions, established energy efficiency standards, and defined Waters of the United States. However, rolling back regulations requires much more effort than a mere pen stroke. The U.S. administrative legal framework allows rules to be changed or undone, but governs the way in which these modifications can happen in order to provide regulatory predictability and prevent waste in policymaking. Tension exists between an executive’s discretion to implement regulations, and the authority of his or her predecessor to set meaningful policy.

In most cases, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) mandates justifications similar to those required for an original rulemaking if a regulation is to be cancelled or rescinded. Furthermore, if an agency seeks to disregard the factual record on which an original rule rests, it must provide a more detailed justification for the change, and satisfy additional requirements. Suspending rules, or delaying their effective date, also places procedural obligations on agencies. For example, a U.S. District Court recently lifted the Bureau of Land Management’s delay in the effective date of a methane waste reduction rule, concluding that the agency had failed to consider the societal costs of staying the rule, rendering it an “arbitrary and capricious” decision and therefore a violation of APA.

ELI and experts discussed obstacles to deregulation, including when, and how, an agency must consider costs and benefits of staying, repealing, and rewriting rules. Speakers discussed the types of rules and guidelines to which these requirements do and do not apply; commented on current challenges to the Trump Administration’s deregulation agenda; and offered insights on the ways that administrative law is developing through interpretation of the APA and other relevant statutes.

Bethany Davis Noll, Litigation Director, Institute for Policy Integrity, New York University School of Law, Moderator
Kathryn Kovacs, Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School
Fred R. Wagner, Partner, Venable LLP
Susannah Landes Weaver, Partner, Donahue, Goldberg & Weaver, LLP

If you are an ELI member and are logged onto the Members site, you will see links below to available speaker presentations/recordings from this session. If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.

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