Drew Ernst, a partner in the Firm’s Savannah office, has practiced for over thirty years in the areas of environmental law, land use, commercial real estate development, and industrial development. He has extensive experience in representing clients on wetland issues and coastal development matters arising under various facets of Georgia’s Marshlands Protection Act and Shore Protection Act. He also represents clients before regulatory agencies in obtaining permits under the Clean Water Act. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America for environmental law since 1997 and in Chambers USA since 2004, and in 2009 he was elected into membership in the American College of Environmental Lawyers.
On behalf of an economic development authority, Drew was instrumental in the creation of a unique Section 404 Permit for a 1,800 acre industrial park. The pre-permitting of the entire development effectively reconciled environmental concerns and economic development before the final uses of the park were identified. Lt. General Henry Hatch, then Chief of Engineers and Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, personally issued the permit in Washington, D.C. This permitting concept has become the basis for most large industrial parks developed since the early 1990s.
Drew has authored numerous articles on environmental and real estate issues, including “Responding to the Challenge of the 404 Permit,” published in the Economic Development Review. He also co-authored “Water Water Everywhere, Better Call the Corps: Section 404 Regulation of Wetlands,” which appeared in Mercer Law Review 41, no. 3. Drew has also been a frequent speaker on environmental and real estate topics at seminars sponsored by different organizations, including the Georgia Continuing Legal Education Institute, the American Economic Development Council, Executive Enterprises, the Seminar Group, and the Environment, Energy, and Resources Section of the American Bar Association. He has co-chaired the Southeast and Georgia Wetlands and Water Law program presented annually in Atlanta since 2001. Drew’s last presentation in February 2011 was entitled “In Search of Mitigation: Savannah Harbor Deepening Project.”
Drew developed Coastal Ecology Programs for the Leadership Savannah Youth Program, a leadership development program for outstanding public and private high school students sponsored by the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. For six years, Drew prepared and conducted hands-on learning programs on coastal ecology at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Skidaway Island, Georgia. Approximately 240 students participated in these unique programs. Drew utilized role-playing, laboratory research on student collected marine organisms, and discussions of economic pressures on the environment to develop a greater understanding of coastal ecology by the participants.
Drew received his B.A., magna cum laude, from Armstrong State College in 1974 and his J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1977. At Armstrong, he received the Silver A Award for Academic and Civic Achievement. In law school, he served on the editorial board of the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law.