Michele Hunton manages litigation and administrative law strategies in environmental matters involving complex statutory and regulatory issues, including those involving the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (WPA), Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Public Waterfront Act (Chapter 91), Oil and Hazardous Material Release, Prevention, and Response Act (Chapter 21E), among others.
Michele advises clients on land use and regulatory compliance issues with a focus on wetlands and coastal permitting, including coordination with consultants and appearances before conservation commissions and other municipal boards. She coordinates project plans with homeowners, conservation organizations, developers, and consultants to ensure that projects are appropriately permitted while considering environmental interests. She also counsels clients on land use issues related to permitting projects, including the drafting of access agreements and easements. Michele represents clients in administrative appeals of permit decisions, including certiorari appeals to the Massachusetts Superior Court and administrative appeals to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Michele also represents clients in actions for cost recovery and property damages resulting from releases of oil and hazardous substances. She has been successful in obtaining significant response costs through settlement negotiations and court decisions to enable clients to adequately address such releases and to remediate properties.
Michele regularly coordinates environmental compliance strategies with coastal geologists, biologists, environmental consultants and engineers, and her environmental geosciences background provides for a thorough understanding of critical scientific issues. She has practiced appellate work before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Court of Appeals. Michele’s prior clerkship experience with the Superior Court of New Jersey continues to provide her with a strong advantage in the litigation aspect of her practice.
- Successful representation of conservation organization in an appeal under the Nantucket Wetlands Bylaw of a permit approval for a waterfront project, which involved complex scientific/legal issues related to the potential impact on the Land Under the Ocean, Coastal Bank, and Land Containing Shellfish Resource Areas. Drafted regulatory submittals, pre-filed testimony, and pleadings in a related DEP adjudicatory appeal.
- Extensive involvement in the permitting of a coastal engineering structure, beach nourishment, and native plantings on a Coastal Bank and Dune to protect a clients’ home, including an appeal under the WPA and Chatham Wetland Bylaw.
- Drafted legal memoranda that resulted in a successful DEP adjudicatory appeal under the WPA and in Superior Court under the Harwich Wetland Bylaw during the representation of a developer in obtaining permits for a fish house structure, which involved complex issues related to the potential impact on Land Containing Shellfish, Salt Marsh, Coastal Bank, Riverfront Area, among other WPA Resource Areas.
- Drafted regulatory submittals, pre-filed testimony, and pleadings in a DEP adjudicatory appeal under the WPA and in Superior Court under the Barnstable Wetlands Bylaw in a matter where a successful permit for a dwelling was challenged under the WPA and the Barnstable Wetland Bylaw due to allegations regarding potential impact to wildlife habitat.
- Served as co-counsel at trial, and drafted and argued dispositive motions in the representation of waterfront homeowners in Gloucester in litigation in Superior Court regarding water access rights, including property law, Chapter 91, and prescriptive easement issues.
- Representation of a client in an appeal before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court of a Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) decision involving the Green Communities Act (GCA) related to a power purchase agreement for a proposed off-shore wind farm, including the drafting of appellate briefs and management of strategy conferences.
- Represented a client in DPU proceedings concerning power purchase agreements for renewable energy under the GCA.
- Negotiated Consent Decrees while defending an industrial-scale farming operation and a concrete manufacturer in lawsuits in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (“Clean Water Act”), involving allegations of violations of their National Pollution Discharge Elimination Permits.
- Involved in the representation of a Sudbury homeowner in litigation under M.G.L. c.40A, §17 regarding a Board of Appeals decision, including assisting in trial in Massachusetts Land Court.
- Conducted depositions, drafted dispositive motions, and participated in mediation which led to a successful settlement in a construction litigation matter representing a real estate developer/general contractor regarding water damage in a home in Weston.
- Key role in litigation which involved successful settlement on behalf of homeowner in Superior Court action to recover personal injury, response costs, and property damages related to groundwater contamination affecting drinking water supply, including bringing claims pursuant to Chapter 21E, §§4 and 5, Chapter 93A, and negligence, and trespass claims.
- Drafted successful dispositive motions, which resulted in a significant settlement amount in matter involving claims under Chapter 21E, §§4 and 5 for response costs and property damage related to prior owners/operators’ releases of PCB, petroleum products, and other contaminants.
- Managed matter involving a home heating oil release, including drafting a demand letter pursuant to Chapter 21E to an oil company responsible for release, negotiating insurance coverage, and coordinating with environmental consultants in managing remediation at clients’ property.
Recognition and Awards
- Named, Boston magazine, Top Lawyers, Land Use and Environmental Law, 2022-2023
Professional and Community Involvement
- Current Member, Town of Ipswich Climate Resiliency Committee, 2018–2023
- Current Member, Winthrop School Council, Ipswich, 2020-2023
- Former Commissioner, Town of Ipswich Conservation Commission, 2013–2018
- Member, Boston Bar Association, 2007–Present
- Former Member of Environmental Section Steering Committee, Boston Bar Association, 2010–2013
- Member, Massachusetts Bar Association, 2013–Present
Publications and Speaking Engagements
- Instructor, “Challenging Wetland Delineations,” Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists Workshop (September 2020)
- Panelist, “What Could Go Wrong? – Best Management Practices with Regulatory Bodies,” Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting (2018)
- Co-Author, “Stormwater Enforcement Under the Federal Clean Water Act: Non-Profit Environmental Organizations Taking the Lead,” Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists Newsletter (January 2016)
- Co-Author, “Precon Development Corp. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers: A Win for the Corps and Wetlands Protection,” Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists Newsletter (April 2015)
- Panelist, Boston Bar Association Environmental Law Career Panel (Spring 2014)
- Co-Author, “Pepin v. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife: High Court Upholds Habitat Protections Under Massachusetts Endangered Species Act,” Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists Newsletter (April 2014)
- Co-Author, “The Tide Shifts for the National Flood Insurance Program: Are You and Your Clients Prepared for Increased Premiums?,” Builder + Architect, A Business Management Magazine for the Building Industry Greater Boston (January 2014)
- Co-Author, “Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District: Expansion of Regulatory Takings in the Context of Land Use Permitting Conditions,” Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists Newsletter (October 2013)
- Moderator and Coordinator, Boston Bar Association Environmental Law Career Panel (2011–2013)