Overview

HunterMaclean’s environmental attorneys have substantial experience in a broad range of environmental law matters, from obtaining wetlands permits and performing environmental due diligence investigations, to handling sophisticated liability litigation.

Our attorneys assist clients nationwide with administrative actions, environmental audits and assessments, brownfields development, business transactions, commercial transactions, counseling, compliance, hazard communication, insurance coverage, permits, remediation, siting of commercial and industrial solid waste facilities, solid and hazardous waste management, and wetlands issues and assessments. As a result of their experience, our attorneys are able to respond to our clients’ environmental needs with competence and efficiency.

HunterMaclean’s attorneys provide an integrated approach through their professional activities. They have served in public office, worked for government regulatory agencies, served on the boards of numerous environmental and development organizations, and served as officers in the Environmental Law Section of the Georgia Bar Association. Our attorneys are recognized leaders in environmental law, regularly writing articles and leading seminars on environmental developments.

The Firm’s senior environmental partner, Drew Ernst, has over thirty years of experience in the environmental field. He is listed in Chambers USA and The Best Lawyers in America for Environmental Law and is a member of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

Experience

  • Represented CSX Realty and Westin Savannah Harbor Resort on Hutchinson Island, located across the Savannah River from historic downtown Savannah, in real estate matters and environmental due diligence and permitting in the ever-expanding development of Hutchinson Island. Handled land acquisition, title, zoning and land use issues, governmental relations with the city and county regarding water, sewer, and future marina to be located on the site, resulting in a public-private partnership for funding of infrastructure for the island and an investment to date exceeding $450 million.
  • Represented a major paper manufacturer in land acquisition, environmental due diligence, and permitting of a $750 million recycled tissue mill in Effingham County, Georgia, on the Savannah River.
  • Coordinated the Corps of Engineers permitting and title acquisition for a major textile chemical manufacturing plant on the Savannah River.
  • Coordinated environmental due diligence and negotiated environmental provisions in an asset purchase transaction involving redevelopment of a major manufacturing facility of heavy equipment in the Midwest. The location was a brownfield site requiring extensive coordination with both the State of Indiana and EPA in the cleanup of various constituents including solvents, asbestos, and PCBs, among others.
  • Coordinated environmental due diligence and negotiated environmental provisions in deal documents as part of the overall representation in the purchase of an ocean port terminal and a related chain of gas stations with approximately sixty locations in the southeastern United States.
  • Coordinated the planning and wetland permitting for a 1,800 acre mixed-use industrial park in Coastal Georgia, which was recognized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a first-of-its-kind permitted project.
  • Represented an economic development authority in the acquisition of a 6,000 acre tract of timberland to be developed into an industrial park. The representation included all facets of development including: Section 404 permitting, securing the necessary permits to become a designated regional service provider (water and sewer), and resolution of various zoning issues.
  • Represented for over twenty years the largest manufacturer of tractor-trailers in the country on environmental permitting and compliance issues associated with its five major manufacturing plants and numerous repair facilities located throughout the United States.
  • Represented numerous “PRPs” in dealing with various “SuperFund” sites located throughout the United States.
  • Represented various timber companies and businesses in Clean Water Act disputes associated with “agricultural activities” under 33 U.S.C. ş 1344 (f).
  • Coordinated the Corps of Engineers and State of Georgia (Marshlands Protection Act) permitting for the construction and expansion of numerous marinas in Coastal Georgia. Also assisted clients with acquisitions of numerous existing marinas such as Golden Isles Marina in the Frederica River on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

Publications & Presentations

Publications

Commercial Property Owners: Be Aware of Potential Environmental Liability

As government regulators have enacted increasingly stringent environmental regulations, commercial real estate owners are finding themselves vulnerable to greater environmental liability and related financial loss. It is important that business owners take a proactive approach to risk analysis and risk control when it comes to environmental concerns.

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Proposed Clean Water Act Expansion Could Affect Construction in Chatham County

A new rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) would expand their jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act and, if implemented, could add additional time and cost to new construction projects in Chatham County.

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Consider Environmental Risks in Real Estate Transactions

By Ron D. Talley, published on April 6, 2011, in Business in Savannah.

The transfer of land in the United States is based primarily on legal principles that have remained the same for many years. When analyzing risks in real estate deals, people acquiring land have always known that there were market risks and economic risks associated with their particular use of real property.

Although those risks and the laws of transferring title to real estate have not changed much, other obligations and liabilities associated with land ownership have changed in modern times largely in response to societal and public concerns. In fact, modern laws regulating environmental conditions have had a dramatic effect on real estate transactions in the United States.

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Don't Let the Mud Hit the Fan - Wetlands Legislation is Often Overlooked by Business Owners.

By Andrew H. Ernst, published on September 10, 2000, in Savannah Morning News.

We are all aware of the environmental problems associated with the purchase of property that may be contaminated with hazardous substances. However, Savannah business owners often overlook another important environmental issue: wetlands legislation.

Overlooking the Clean Water Act, which regulates the filling of wetlands, among other things, can be a costly mistake. You may acquire property only to discover your plans thwarted or complicated by the Army Corps of Engineers or the Environmental Protection Agency which have recently stepped up enforcement actions with respect to wetlands development.

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The Reformulated Gasoline Case: International Trade's Impact on U.S. Environmental Policy

By Francesca Macchiaverna, published in the Summer 1998 issue of the South Carolina Environmental Law Journal.

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Water, Water Everywhere, Better Call the Corps: Section 404 Regulation of Wetlands

By Andrew H. Ernst and Wade W. Herring, II, published on April 4, 1990, in Mercer Law Review 41, no. 34, Rev. 843.

I. WHY CONSIDER WHETHER AN AREA IS A WETLAND?

A real estate developer may acquire property for commercial, residential, agricultural, or industrial use only to discover that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) or the Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) can thwart the development plans if they discover “jurisdictional wetlands” on the property. (see end note 1) Section 404 (see end note 2) of the Clean Water Act (see end note 3) (the “CWA”), also known as the Federal Water Pollution Prevention Control Act of 1972, regulates the filling of various wetlands and has become increasingly important and controversial over the last few years as the Corps and EPA have stepped up enforcement actions against unsuspecting developers. Should a developer inadvertently begin work in a wetland without benefit of a permit, or should it intentionally attempt to circumvent the Act, the Corps and EPA have available both administrative and judicial remedies to stop the developer’s work on its project. (see end note 4)

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Presentations

Harbor Expansion in Georgia's Port City

Presented by Andrew H. Ernst at the 23rd Annual Red Clay Conference at the Dean Rusk International Law Center on the University of Georgia Campus in Athens, Georgia, on March 4, 2011.

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Wetlands Permitting and Mitigation for Large Projects

Presented at 10th Annual Wetlands and Water Law in the SE: Looking Forward, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 18, 2011, by Andrew H. Ernst.

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In Search of Mitigation: Savannah Harbor Expansion Project Part II

Presented at 10th Annual Wetlands and Water Law in the SE: Looking Forward, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 18, 2011, by Andrew H. Ernst.

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Coastal Permitting

Presented at Georgia Wetlands, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 16, 2007, by Andrew H. Ernst.

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Wetland and Water Issues in the Southeast

Presented at Southeast Wetlands & Water Law, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 28, 2002. Andrew H. Ernst served as co-moderator.

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A Case Study - Port Wentworth, Community and Wetland Master Planning

Presented at Southeast Wetlands & Water Law, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 28, 2002, by Andrew H. Ernst.

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The Development of Hutchinson Island, Savannah-Chatham County's Public-Private Partnership

Presented at the Real Property Law Institute, Real Property Law Section, State Bar of Georgia in Amelia Island, Florida, on April 25, 2001, by Andrew H. Ernst in conjunction with John H. McCleskey, Project Director and Developer, Savannah Harbor Resort.

Hutchinson Island is approximately 2000 acres in size. It lies in the middle of the Savannah River 800 feet north of the Savannah National Landmark Historic District. Until recently, most of the island was vacant land. It is now being developed into a major mixed-use development which contains the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort, the Savannah International Maritime Trade and Convention Center, and a significant number of retail and residential properties.

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News

HunterMaclean Listed in Prestigious Chambers USA Guide 2016

Three practice areas and four attorneys were recently ranked in the exclusive Chambers USA 2016. HunterMaclean is the only law firm in Savannah to be ranked by Chambers USA.

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20 HunterMaclean Attorneys Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© 2016

HunterMaclean, a leading business law firm with offices in Savannah and Brunswick, is pleased to announce that 20 attorneys from the firm were selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2016.

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HunterMaclean Law Firm Ranked in Prestigious Chambers USA Guide 2015

HunterMaclean has been ranked in the Chambers USA Guide 2015, an exclusive annual listing of top law firms and lawyers in the United States. Chambers & Partners is widely considered the authority on rankings in the legal profession across the world.

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Georgia CEO: HunterMaclean Marks 135 Years in the Practice of Law

The year 2014 marks the 135th anniversary of HunterMaclean. Lucy Adams from Georgia CEO interviewed Managing Partner Frank Macgill regarding HunterMaclean’s history, areas of expertise, milestone anniversary, and future.

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Armstrong Magazine: Amazing Alumni Drew Ernst

As an environmental law attorney with HunterMaclean in Savannah for the past 37 years, Drew Ernst has brokered land use agreements that protect our local creeks and wildlife, while accommodating a fast-growing industrial and commercial sector. He was featured as an “Amazing Alumni” in the most recent issue of Armstrong State University’s magazine.

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HunterMaclean Attorney Drew Ernst Honored by Armstrong State University With Distinguished Alumni Award

HunterMaclean partner Andrew H. Ernst, an environmental law attorney, was recently recognized by Armstrong State University with its Distinguished Alumni Award for excellence in professional, community or public service.

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HunterMaclean Law Firm Ranked in Chambers USA Guide 2014

HunterMaclean is pleased to announce that it has been ranked in the Chambers USA Guide 2014, an exclusive annual listing of top law firms and lawyers in the U.S. Chambers and Partners is widely considered the authority on lawyer and firm rankings in the legal profession across the world.

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SMN: Drew Ernst Honored As One of Savannah Tech 2014 Community STARs

The Savannah Technical College Foundation Community Council recognized HunterMaclean partner Drew Ernst as one of twenty Community STARs for 2014. The annual award honors individuals for their service and dedication at work or in the community.

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25 HunterMaclean Attorneys Selected for The Best Lawyers in America® 2014

HunterMaclean is pleased to announce that 25 lawyers from the firm were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2014.

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HunterMaclean Law Firm Ranked by Chambers USA Guide 2013

Four HunterMaclean attorneys and three practice areas earned rankings by Chambers USA, an elite peer-review process, for 2013.

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28 HunterMaclean Attorneys Among 'Best'

HunterMaclean, a business law firm with offices in Savannah and Brunswick, has announced that 28 lawyers from the firm were selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2013.

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Mr. Hutchinson Island

On Wednesday July 18, Savannah celebrated the accomplishments of John McCleskey, developer of Hutchinson Island. On hand were HunterMaclean attorneys Brooks Stillwell and Drew Ernst, who were key partners in bringing the Hutchinson Island project to fruition.

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HunterMaclean Ranked by Chambers USA Guide 2012

HunterMaclean attorneys and practice areas have been listed by Chambers and Partners, an exclusive annual ranking of leading law firms and lawyers worldwide. The rigorous peer-review process followed by Chambers results in one of the most prestigious rankings in the legal profession.

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Spotlight

Big Plans: Firm Clears the Way for Westin Resort’s Development

The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa is well-known as one of the most popular and most successful hotels in Savannah, but the hotel, which is located on Hutchinson Island just across the river from Savannah’s National Landmark Historic District, had several major legal hurdles to overcome when it was first conceived in the 1980′s.

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