Jenner & Block

Vroman, Siros: Pro Bono Environmental Work Preserves Natural Resources for Future Generations

Partners James A. Vroman and Steven M. Siros recently discussed their passion for working on pro bono projects that benefit the environment and natural preservation efforts in EENR Pursuits, the official publication of the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Law Section of the Federal Bar Association.

Messrs. Vroman and Siros recalled their work on behalf of the Glenview Prairie Preservation Project assisting with that organization’s effort to protect the Air Station Prairie, a collection of rare, native prairie vegetation outside of the Illinois community of Glenview, from commercial developers who sought to build a large retail area near the site.  In that case, the two Jenner & Block attorneys sued the village of Glenview in 2000 under the Illinois Natural Area Preservation Act, according to the article.

In response to the Jenner & Block lawsuit, and after Messrs. Vroman and Siros successfully opposed the village’s motion for summary judgment, Glenview agreed to implement measures recommended by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in order to protect the Air Station Prairie from harm during the planned commercial development.

Sandy Hausman, President of the Glenview Prairie Preservation Project, told the magazine that the two Jenner & Block attorneys were her “heroes” for their work on the case.

The article noted that Messrs. Vroman and Siros were honored by the Chicago Audubon Society in 2001 for their efforts on behalf of the Glenview Prairie Preservation Project.

The magazine also highlighted their work on behalf of the Lake Michigan Federation and Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers, two groups that say that the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District (MMSD)’s ongoing discharges do not comply with the federal Clean Water Act and that the city’s raw industrial and domestic waste entering Lake Michigan and its feeder rivers, since 1995, put recreation, drinking water and the region’s quality of life at risk.

According to the article, in 1977 the MMSD acknowledged to the state of Wisconsin that it had violated its discharge permit and the Clean Water Act 60 times but agreed at that time to improve its sewer system to prevent sanitary overflows into Lake Michigan.

The Lake Michigan Federation and Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers filed suit in U.S. District Court on March 15, 2002, charging that MMSD had violated the Clean Water Act by discharging about 1 billion gallons of raw industrial and domestic waste to area waterways over the years since that agreement.

In May 2002, the MMSD sought dismissal of the groups’ lawsuit, arguing the federal lawsuit was unnecessary because the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources had filed its own suit against the MMSD in state court.  A lower court dismissed the groups’ federal case in September 2003, but the organizations appealed saying the state had provided little or no enforcement against the MMSD’s ongoing permit violations.  In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit revived the lawsuit.

This kind of pro bono work provides “an opportunity to preserve natural resources for the future,” concluded