William & Mary Hosts Environmental Law Symposium

May 17, 2013

ChesapeakeBayOn March 15th and 16th, the William & Mary Law School hosted the 2013 Environmental Law Symposium, an event that brought together speakers from a variety of disciplines to discuss present issues facing the Chesapeake Bay.  The Symposium hosted a variety of speakers and featured panels that addressed topics like sea-level rise, wetland quality, and the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which specifies the maximum pollutant level that a body of water can hold while meeting water quality standards. The symposium was co-sponsored by the Environmental Law & Policy Review Journal, the Environmental Law Society, and the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic.

Mary-Carson Saunders, a William & Mary law student, was tasked with inviting speakers and developing the educational direction for the event. “I really enjoyed all the speakers!” Saunders said. “I found VIMS Professor and researcher Mark Luckenbach’s talk on Oyster and Clam aquaculture, as a potential tool to meet TMDL reduction in Virginia, especially interesting.”

Mark Luckenbach was one of the Symposium’s many speakers, who represented a variety of public and private sector careers and offered diverse perspectives on issues facing the Chesapeake Bay.

The event began on the afternoon of March 15th. Daniel Doty, editor of the William & Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review, and the William & Mary Law School’s Dean Ronald Rosenberg, gave the opening remarks. That afternoon, the Symposium hosted speakers including Joe Maroon of Maroon Consulting LLC, Robert Nelson, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland, Russ Baxter of the Department of Environmental Quality, George Kelly of Environmental Banc & Exchange LLC, attorney Donald Carr, Professor Jim Perry of W&M and VIMS, attorney/banker Whitney Saunders, Steve Marin of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Carla Poole of AquaLaw, Rick Parrish of the Southern Environmental Law Center, and Jeff Corbin of the EPA. These speakers and panelists discussed the Chesapeake Bay restoration, TMDL clean-up strategies, the Ecosystem Services Trading Business, and water quality mitigation, as well as the conflicting motivations of the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Saturday’s speakers included Margaret Sanner of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Shana Jones of W&M and the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic, Lewie Lawrence of the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission, Whitney Katchmark of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, Arthur Butt of the DEQ, James Davis-Martin of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Mark Luckenbach of VIMS, Troy Hartley of the Virginia Sea Grant, Jessica Grannis of Georgetown Law, Skip Stiles of Wetland Watch and Carl Hershner of VIMS. These speakers discussed the TMDL, including the role of non-profit organizations in meeting it, as well as non-point source compliance, sea level rise and wetland issues. Tayloe Murphy gave the keynote speech Perspective from a Lifetime of Service – Public to Private to Non-Profit, and Congressman Rob Wittman offered the closing remarks.

It was this diversity of perspective that made the Symposium a success for Zander Pellegrino, one of the few undergraduates in attendance. “Seeing policy-makers, scientists and litigation lawyers work together, and seeing how they talk with each other and how information flows between these parties was really interesting,” Pellegrino said. He added, “You could see the speakers … were very active in the creation of policy and in the scientific research that informs it.”

Saunders was impressed with the involvement of the business community in the symposium. “In my opinion,” Saunders said, “a successful Bay program requires the cooperation of many different stakeholders and actors in the watershed.  The symposium sought to articulate the power of a collaborative approach and the participants from the private and public sectors helped us deliver this message.”

The Environmental Law Symposium has been hosted annually since 2010. When asked about the future of the Symposium, Saunders was hopeful that the next Symposium would bring more interest from the undergraduate and other graduate schools, and other members of the community. Though Pellegrino said he had “a lot to catch up on” since he was not a law student, he thought that it would be valuable for other undergraduates to attend the Symposium.

“We hope that by providing a policy perspective, in addition to the traditional legal perspective represented in law school symposiums, people will feel the presentations are more accessible and relatable to their personal lives,” said Saunders.

Pellegrino certainly found the Symposium relatable. “Getting a little more background on local issues was very interesting. It’s a good reminder that where we’re living is more than just the area between Richmond and Jamestown Roads,” he said.

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