Environmental, Natural Resources and Energy Law  Section
Annual Report
2020-2021

 

Section Membership
As of June 8, 2021, the Section has 281 members.

Financial Status
The Section had an account balance of $ 21,301.23 as of April 30, 2021

CLEs & Events
The Section hosted 7 CLEs and 2 social events in fiscal year 2020-21. 

Program Title

Date

Event Code

CLE Credits

# of Attendees

Small, but Mighty - Combating Microaggressions in Your Legal Practice

06/28/2021

369633

2.0 Elimination of Bias

115

California Prop 65 Warnings - Why Minnesota Companies and Attorneys Should Care

04/06/2021

344292

1.0 Standard

15

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Environmental Law and Evolving U.S. Supreme Court Environmental Law

03/25/2021

343809

1.0 Standard

27

2021 Update from Minnesota's Regulatory Agencies

02/17/2021

339934

3.0 Standard

73

Environmental Justice - Issues and Trends in Minnesota and the Nation

01/21/2021

339715

1.0 Standard

24

ENRE Virtual Trivia Night

01/14/2021

N/A

N/A

20

Changing Environmental Regulations and the Administrative Procedure Act - Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander

11/18/2020

330993

1.0 Standard

54

ENRE Law Student Reception

10/05/2020

N/A

 

31

MERA is Alive and Well

10/05/2020

328224

1.0 Standard

79

 

Annual Meeting and Election Results
The Section’s Annual Meeting was held on May 4, 2021.

The following Officers and council members were elected to serve on the Section’s Governing Council:

 Elected Officers (One year term from July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022):

  • Chair: Alison Martwitz, Ecolab Corp.
  • Vice-Chair: Elise Larson, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
  • Treasurer: Brian Bell, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
  • Secretary: Joe Dammel, Fresh Energy
  • Immediate Past-Chair: Rachel Kitze Collins, Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P.

Re-Elected Council Members for a two-year term from July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2023:

  • Thomas Braun, Stoel Rives LLP
  • Elizabeth Henley, Smith Partners PLLP
  • Laura Matson, Lockridge Grindal Nauren PLLP
  • Kenneth Podpeskar, Environmental Law Group, Ltd.
  • Lindsey Remakel, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
  • Elizabeth Schmiesing, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
  • Jeffery Sepesi, Environmental Law and Science, PLLC
  • Amelia Vohs, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Council Members serving existing term from July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2022

  • Paul Beck, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
  • Sarah (Braman) Lovegreen, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
  • Michael Cummings, Fredrikson & Byron
  • Sam Ketchum, Kennedy & Graven
  • Allison Mitchell, Fond du Lac Band Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Charles Salter, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office
  • Kodi Verhalen, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
  • Elizabeth Wefel, Flaherty & Hood

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The Section had a number of DE&I goals this year, including encouraging diverse representation on CLE panels and in Council nominations, exploring CLE ideas that encouraged new attorneys to present, keeping DE&I on our agenda every month, engaging with the affinity bars and the MSBA’s Director of DE&I, implementing structures for changing leadership, and offering free and reduced CLE programming.

Throughout the year, we tried to ensure that our CLE presenters represented diverse perspectives from across the profession.  Our presenters came from private practice, government, and academia, represented plaintiffs and defendants, and came from rural and urban backgrounds.  Of our 17 CLE presenters, eight were women and two were people of color. 

In addition, in our calls for applications for new Council members and for the law student clerkship, we asked applicants to highlight any relevant diversity criteria, in an effort to increase diversity on the Council and take diversity into account in awarding our law student clerkships.  We also continued our efforts from last year to rotate leadership of committees and encourage new Council members to take an active role planning events and contributing to the Section. 

As a testament to these efforts, the coming year will be the third year in a row that the Council’s Officers are all women or people of color.  In 2019-20, all Officers of the Council were women.  In 2020-21, four Officers are women and one is a person of color.  In 2021-22, three Officers will be women and two will be people of color.  The Section’s Officers, like the Council itself, have also trended younger in recent years. 

We also want to specifically recognize our fantastic DE&I Co-Chairs, Kodi Verhalen and Sarah Lovegreen, who attended the MSBA’s DE&I training, coordinated with affinity bar groups and the MSBA’s DE&I Director, and kept us talking about DE&I efforts at every Council Meeting. 

Most notably, Kodi and Sarah took the lead planning our final CLE of the year, which occurred on June 28, 2021, and was titled “Small but Mighty, Combatting Microagressions in Your Legal Practice.”  Dr. Abdul Omari presented at the CLE.  We had excellent attendance, and Dr. Omari presented a comprehensive, engaging, and interactive program that challenged attendees to recognize and respond to microagressions that occur in the legal practice and in our daily lives.  In addition, the Section is grateful to the numerous sponsors of this event, which helped to defray our costs and to offer the CLE at a reduced rate to all attendees.  The Section thanks its Platinum Sponsor: Taft Stettinius & Hollister; and Gold Sponsors:  Barr Engineering, Fredrikson & Byron, Geosyntec Consultants, Lockridge Grindal Nauen, Stantec Inc., and Winthrop and Weinstine for their support of this event and the Section’s diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts. 

We look forward to continuing to build on these efforts next year and commit to consistently challenging our Council, our Section, our practice, and our profession to view all of our work through a DE&I lens. 

Other Section Accomplishments:
As always, the Section’s other goals this year included maintaining our tradition of offering quality CLE programming, engaging new attorneys and law students, and recruiting and retaining members. 

We had seven virtual CLE programs this year, which explored a variety of topics such as the recent uptick in cases involving Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, trends in environmental justice, and the environmental legacy of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Although we missed being in person, the all-virtual format had the benefit of allowing us to feature environmental practitioners and experts from across the United States.

In addition, in keeping with our efforts to engage law students and new lawyers, the Section hosted a virtual Law Student Reception, where law students and lawyers could network in breakout rooms.  We also hosted a virtual trivia night, for which our Social Events Committee came up with topical and fun environmental trivia to challenge the participants.  While these virtual social events worked pretty well, we all look forward to returning to in-person events this summer and fall!

ENRE also worked with Minnesota CLE to present the 2021 Minnesota Environmental Institute on April 22, 2021.  Although once again all-virtual, we had an excellent Keynote Address by Randy Hayman, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department, who spoke about ensuring equity in access to water.  The breakout sessions featured a wide variety of topics and speakers, including many ENRE Section and Council members.

As part of the Institute, the ENRE Section annually presents the Eldon Kaul Distinguished Service Award to recognize a member of the bench or bar who has demonstrated a significant commitment and made an outstanding contribution to environmental, natural resources, or energy law in the state of Minnesota.  This year, the Section Council decided to suspend the usual nomination process, and instead voted to award the Distinguished Service Award posthumously to Thad Lightfoot, who tragically passed away on December 14, 2020, in recognition of Thad’s extraordinary and enthusiastic commitment to the field of environmental law and the legal profession.  The award was presented at the Institute by its namesake, Eldon Kaul, to Thad’s wife, Susan Lightfoot, and Thad’s sons, Christopher and Daniel.

Finally, the Section is pleased to be sponsoring two legal summer interns in 2021.  The newly renamed Thaddeus Lightfoot Law Student Clerkship Program funds clerkships for one or two law students from Minnesota law schools to spend the summer at a non-profit or government agency working on environmental, energy, and natural resource issues.  The Council voted unanimously to name the clerkship after Thad, for his commitment to teaching and mentoring the next generation of environmental lawyers.  This summer, our two clerks will be working at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. 

On a personal note, I would like to thank my fellow Council members for all of their work to make this year a success!  In particular, I’d like to recognize the energy Kodi Verhalen and Sarah Lovegreen added to our DE&I efforts.  It has been an honor to serve as Section Chair, and I greatly look forward to connecting with everyone in person again very soon!

Submitted By:
Rachel Kitze Collins, Section Chair
Date: June 30, 2021