Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Legal Elite – Environmental

Environmental: H. Glenn Dunn Poyner & Spruill LLP, Raleigh

By Lisa Davis

After more than eight years as an environmental lawyer for the state, helping to shape the regulations that protect its coastline and handle its hazardous waste, Glenn Dunn went into private practice. It wasn’t an easy decision. Was he going to the wrong side? “I thought I knew the answer to that, and it turned out that way,” he says.

It’s all about finding a middle ground, he says. He managed to find it, most notably, on a marshy, undeveloped barrier island near Sunset Beach. Dunn represented the Price family of Greensboro, the owners of Bird Island. When the Prices considered developing it in the mid-’90s, conservationists rose up in alarm over the potential damage to its 1,150 acres of wetland.

Nearly a decade of deal making and dead ends ensued, but ultimately the state purchased the island in 2002 for $4.2 million, which is comparable, Dunn says, to what the Prices could have gotten by developing it. The state will maintain the island as a nature preserve.

“I admire his calm manner,” says Bill Ross, secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, who worked with Dunn there. “I think he has a practical, problem-solving approach that serves his clients well.”

Dunn works with local governments — Raleigh, Cary, Fayetteville and Rocky Mount are among his clients — to help them comply with state and federal environmental regulations. He’s also the point man in Raleigh for Piedmont Triad International Airport, which is trying to get permits to begin building a FedEx cargo hub.

Dunn is legal counsel to the Lower Neuse Basin Association and the Neuse River Compliance Association, groups of municipalities and other waste dischargers working to reduce nitrogen in the Neuse River. That’s especially gratifying work, Dunn says, because as a boy in New Bern he spent a lot of time in that river. But environmental law wasn’t on his mind. Growing up, he worked summers at Turner Tolson Inc., his family’s interior-furnishings company. He earned a design degree at the University of Florida and returned to the family business. But he decided it wasn’t for him and left for UNC law school.

It was the early ’70s, and the environmental movement was just gaining ground. Dunn picked up a master’s in regional planning to go with his law degree, which led him to what’s now the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In its fledgling Division of Coastal Management, he put together stan-dards for development in sensitive coastal regions. He was also counsel to the Governor’s Waste Management Board, which was charged with developing the state’s hazardous-waste and low-level radioactive-waste programs, and directed DENR’s legal-affairs office.

Now Dunn puts that experience to use at Poyner & Spruill as head of its four-lawyer environmental-law practice. “He’s got really good credibility with the regulators,” partner Keith Johnson says.

Dunn insists he’s not the best lawyer, even in his own family. His wife, Ann Reed, is senior deputy attorney general for North Carolina and was the first woman president of the North Carolina State Bar. “She is more the shining light in the legal profession by far.” And more competition is coming. Their eldest daughter, Nancy, recently finished UNC’s law school and works in the environmental division of the attorney general’s office. Says Ross: “She has the same enthusiasm for this area that her dad does.”

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