MCEA CLE: MERA Turns 50
MERA Turns 50
Celebrating 50 years of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act
In 1971, The Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) became law. On its 50 anniversary, join us for a look at the past, present, and future of this foundational piece of Minnesota's environmental protections.
In our 3-session mini symposium, you'll get a look back and hear from architects of MERA, dive deep into how the statue works with a panel of practicing attorneys, and explore what the future of MERA looks like as Minnesota wrestles with some of its most challenging environmental issues ever.
Thursday, November 4th 1-4:30pm
Free virtual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) mini symposium designed for lawyers, but open to everyone!
Approved for 2.5 Standard CLE credits. Attorneys wishing to receive credit for this course must report the attendance in their OASIS portal at www.cle.mn.gov. code: 419992
1:00 - 1:50pm MERA's origin story
Long-time MPR environment reporter Stephanie Hemphill will interview Chuck Dayton and Grant Merritt, two of the architects of MERA who worked to pass the law in the early 1970s, about MERA's origin and their efforts to get the law passed. They will be joined by Alex Klass, law professor at the U of M Law School, who will provide context, discuss the public trust doctrine from which MERA stems and how other states have attempted similar policy.
Break (10 minutes)
2:00- 2:50pm The nuts and bolts of MERA
In this lecture-style session, MCEA attorneys Joy Anderson, Jay Eidsness, and Melissa Lorentz will present on the statute, reviewing how to establish a claim, applicable defenses, and available remedies. This session will highlight leading cases throughout the 50-year history of the law.
Break (10 minutes)
3:00 - 4:00 The future of MERA
In the third hour, we’ll be joined by former MN Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug, DNR General Counsel Sherry Enzler, seasoned attorney Charlie Nauen and MCEA‘s own Elise Larson for a discussion of what might be next for MERA. Panelists will consider MERA cases from the Minnesota Supreme Court's last term and speculate on trends and opportunities they see for MERA litigation going forward. MCEA‘s CLO Kevin Reuther will moderate.
Thank you to our sponsors, including Peter Bachman and Janet Rice, Ron Sternal and Nancy Gibson, Compass Capital, Cassidy and Andrew Steiner, Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation, Bruce and Julie Steiner, Zelle LLP Minneapolis Office, and Schwebel Goetz & Sieben.
Stephanie Hemphill reported on environmental issues for MPR News. She was a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio from 2000-2013, first working out of the Duluth bureau and then in St. Paul. She covered resource issues, water quality, and climate change, with a concentration on energy policy. She has reported for National Public Radio, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, and other regional and national outlets. After retirement, Stephanie co-founded Agate Magazine, an online magazine about nature, science, and conservation in Minnesota and the surrounding Great Lakes Region. That’s at agate-mag-dot-com.
Chuck Dayton is a founding member of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. His decades of work played an important role in establishing many bedrock environmental policies in Minnesota, including the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act which is the subject of this seminar, and protection of the Boundary Waters. Now retired, Chuck can often be found on his kayak in Jasper Lake photographing wildlife. He recently provided the photos and supplementary back matter for the children's book Secrets of the Loon. In addition to his contributions to MCEA, Chuck is actively involved with organizations including The Sierra Club Northstar Chapter and Friends of the Boundary Waters.
Grant J. Merritt
Grant J. Merritt has served as executive director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, was a member of the first board of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Council, and was Minnesota’s representative on the Great Lakes Water Quality Board. He was an attorney in the areas of environmental law, transportation, and governmental relations for more than fifty years.
Alexandra B. Klass
Alexandra B. Klass is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. She teaches and writes in the areas of energy law, natural resources law, environmental law, tort law, and property law. Her recent scholarly work, published in many of the nation's leading law journals, addresses regulatory challenges to integrating more renewable energy into the nation's electric transmission grid, siting and eminent domain issues surrounding interstate electric transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines, and applications of the public trust doctrine to modern environmental law challenges. She is the co-author of several textbooks on energy law, natural resources law, and environmental law. Prior to her teaching career, Professor Klass was a partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP in Minneapolis. She is a member scholar at the Center for Progressive Reform, a Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, and a member of the Governor's Advisory Council on Climate Change.
Justice David Lillehaug
Justice David Lillehaug graduated from Harvard Law School with honors in 1979. After a federal judicial clerkship, he has practiced law for almost 40 years, most recently as senior counsel at Fredrikson & Byron. His career includes service as the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, where he negotiated what was then the largest pollution fine in Minnesota history. He also served as a Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court for seven years where he wrote about 140 opinions, one of the last in a MERA case involving White Bear Lake.
Ms. Enzler currently serves as the General Counsel for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Prior to joining the DNR Ms. Enzler has held a variety of positions focusing on environment and natural resources law and policy. She has served as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance and an Assistant Minnesota Attorney General. She has also worked in private practice and held positions with the Minnesota Legislative Auditor, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the California Department of Water Resources. Ms. Enzler has also served as a Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and Department of Forest Resources and has conducted research and written on issues related to water law and policy and the Endangered Species Act. She holds a BA from the University of Minnesota, a MPA from the University of Southern California, a JD from William Mitchell College of Law, and a PhD in Natural Resource Science and Management from the University of Minnesota.
Charles N. Nauen has over thirty-five years of environmental and business litigation experience in federal and state courts. He represents many government, business, and political entities. He was co-lead counsel for Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in the 2010 gubernatorial election recount and he represented a group of individual voters in an effort to have their absentee ballots counted in connection with the 2008 senatorial election recount of U.S. Senator Al Franken.
Mr. Nauen served on the governing council of the Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Section of the Minnesota Bar Association from 2004-2015, and is a past chair of the Hennepin County Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” every year since 1994 and was recognized as one of the Top 100 Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2010, and from 2013-2019. He was also named a 2011 Attorney of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer.
Kevin joined MCEA in 2005. He has a B.A. from Concordia College - Moorhead (German/Political Science), an M.A. from UW - Madison (Political Science) and a J.D. from Harvard. Kevin has been adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota and Mitchell Hamline and in 2016 spent the year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Namibia University of Science and Technology in Windhoek, Namibia. Prior to joining MCEA, Kevin was a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis.
Before joining MCEA, Joy was a shareholder at Minneapolis law firm Gray Plant Mooty, where she litigated cases and headed the firm’s pro bono program. Joy has provided more than 1,200 hours of pro bono service and was named a 2018 Minnesota Attorney of the Year for her work on a pro bono case. She earned her law degree at William Mitchell College of Law and her B.A. in English and print journalism from the University of St. Thomas.
Jay holds a B.A. in communication and biology from St. John’s University and a J.D. from Vermont Law School. Prior to joining MCEA, Jay litigated wage theft cases on behalf of employees striving for proper wages and clerked for Judge Ann D. Montgomery in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Jay serves on the board of SPAM FC - a local non-profit dedicated to offsetting rising college expenses - is a member of the Hennepin County Bicycle Advisory Committee, and co-owns an eco-tourism kayak guiding company on the Mississippi River.
Mel holds a B.S. in Environmental Science and graduated summa cum laude from William Mitchell College of Law. Before joining MCEA, Mel clerked at all three levels of Minnesota's judicial system, represented tribal nations in complex federal litigation, and was an Indian law fellow at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Elise graduated summa cum laude from Concordia College, Moorhead with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science, and magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. Prior to joining MCEA, Elise worked as a litigator at a large Twin Cities law firm and clerked for Chief Judge John R. Tunheim, U.S. District Court – District of Minnesota, Judge Myron H. Bright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, Minnesota Supreme Court. Along with her work at MCEA, Elise serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and the treasurer of the MSBA's Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Law Section Council.