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Michael J. Lesser, Of Counsel

Mike recently retired from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) after over twenty years of service, most recently in DEC's Albany headquarters. There he was the Supervising Attorney for the state's Superfund and Brownfields Remediation Programs, responsible for the state's legal representation for approximately 4,000 hazardous waste, brownfield, voluntary cleanup program (VCP) and environmental restoration sites in all parts of New York. Mike also previously served as the supervisor of DEC's Brownfield and Superfund Enforcement Unit for Central and Southern New York, with similar legal responsibilities and as the DEC's VCP program counsel.

In those capacities, he drafted or reviewed hundreds of the agreements, cost recovery settlements enforcement orders on consent and other legal instruments necessary to remediate contaminated hazardous waste and substance sites around the state. He also represented and served as an advisor to the professionals in the DEC Division of Environmental Remediation (engineers, geologists, field inspectors, etc.).

From 1989 to 1992, and from 2003 and 2005, Mike was also the counsel for the DEC's Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) where he advised and performed legal duties representing the department's police agencies and their various units. These included the uniformed Environmental Conservation Officers (ECO) the plain clothes investigators of the Bureau of Environmental Conservation Investigations (BECI) and the Forest Rangers. In that capacity, Mike frequently worked and coordinated with other parts of the DEC, other state agencies, federal agencies and state and local prosecutors in the development and prosecution of environmental crimes and administrative enforcement.

While at DEC, he was also a frequent advisor to the DEC executive staff and General Counsels on topics as diverse as enforcement, field investigations, site access, FOIL, discovery, ethics and administrative procedures.

Mike will be based in Albany and will serve his clients in the areas of brownfield redevelopment, state superfund and hazardous waste remediation and enforcement.

Areas of Practice:

Environmental Law and Litigation
Development and Land Use

Education:

  • Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center (J.D. 1987, Top 10% of Class and Dean's List 5 semesters), Award for Special Service to the Law School, Law Center Disciplinary Board, Student Representative
  • Hofstra University (B.A. Political Science 1978, Minor in Mathematics)
  • United States Military Academy (1974-1976), Honorable Discharge, U.S. Army May 1976, Disabled Veteran

Affiliations:

  • Member, Executive Board, Environmental Section of the New York State Bar Association, 1997 to Present
  • Co-Chair, Legislative Committee of Environmental Section New York State Bar Association
  • Moderator of the annual NYSBA Environmental Legislative Forum, 2004 to Present
  • Presenter-Lecturer, numerous New York State Bar Association CLE Programs, 1995-Present

Publications:

  • Administrative Enforcement for Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites, Administrative Practice Before the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (May 1998) (course text for NYS Bar Association continuing legal educational and distributed as a course material for environmental law studies at Albany Law School)
  • Summary of New York State Voluntary Clean Up Agreements, The New York Environmental Lawyer, New York State Bar Association (1996-2000) (co-author) (periodic summaries and commentary on developments regarding the cleanup of contaminated development sites)

Professional Highlights:

  • Cumberland Bay State Superfund Site, negotiated administrative settlement for the recovery of nine million dollars by New York State from responsible parties and allowed for the successful PCB dredging and remediation of Lake Champlain.
  • Represented DEC in the first state enforcement action and negotiated the first Consent Order against a violator preventing the spread of infectious Chronic Wasting Disease in the state's wild deer population.
  • Drafted and promulgated the passage a new state law establishing the New York State Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact in the Environmental Conservation Law, which allows for reciprocity in the interstate enforcement of state fish and wildlife laws.
  • New York State Bar Association Award for Distinguished Service to Environmental Law.