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Overview

Susan L. Stephens has over 25 years of experience practicing environmental & natural resource and administrative law, including rulemaking practice and procedure and administrative litigation. Her practice focuses on balancing property and resource use with competing private, governmental and citizen interests.

Susan is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in State & Federal Government & Administrative Practice*.  She represents clients before various federal, state, regional, and local environmental agencies in connection with the obtainment, interpretation, compliance and enforcement of environmental permits for regulated industrial, commercial, and development activities. This representation includes matters related to resource extraction, wetlands and mitigation banks, agritourism, wastewater, submerged lands, and state and federal listed wildlife. This has included significant experience working with state agencies to obtain State 404 wetland permits. She also has experience with compliance and enforcement matters involving unanticipated bypasses, "Act of God" emergency authorizations, spills, unpermitted wetland or species impacts, or similar compliance and enforcement issues.

Susan has extensive experience assisting in the development of policy and regulatory initiatives, which has included the development of Florida’s major regulatory projects such as its State 404 Permit Program, Title V Air Operating Permit Program, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Wastewater Permitting Program, and state listed species permitting guidelines. She also has experience with complex administrative and judicial challenges to proposed and final permits. in both the state and federal arenas.   

Additionally, Susan has assisted clients in conducting internal self-audits for environmental compliance as well as environmental due diligence reviews for real estate transactions. She has represented clients before the Department of Transportation on matters such as access management and activities in highway rights of way.

Prior to joining the Firm, Susan was a Shareholder in a boutique law firm and, before that, a Partner at an international law firm, both in Tallahassee, Florida.

*With only 7% of eligible members certified, Board certification is The Florida Bar’s highest level of evaluation of a lawyer’s competence and experience in a particular area of practice. It identifies lawyers with "special knowledge, skills and proficiency, as well as a reputation for professionalism and ethics." To achieve certification, a lawyer must endure rigorous examination and testing and be evaluated by their peers.

Areas of Concentration

  • Clean Water Act 404 and State 404 permitting
  • Consumptive use permitting
  • Environmental compliance, due diligence and permitting
  • Mining/Minerals/Resource Extraction
  • Mitigation banks
  • National Environmental Policy Act compliance
  • State-owned lands
  • Submerged lands
  • Wastewater/Stormwater
  • Water Resources
  • Wetlands
  • Wildlife/Imperiled Species

Industry Sectors

  • Agricultural interests
  • Chemical blending and manufacturing
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Mining operations
  • Paper mill operations
  • Phosphoric acid, fertilizer and feed manufacturing operations
  • Power generation and transmission operations
  • Real estate developers

Representative Experience

  • Represented a major aggregates mining company and property owners in obtaining local approval and state and federal environmental permits, including in public hearings and administrative challenges, for limerock mines in Levy, Lee, and Taylor Counties, Florida.
  • Represented major phosphate mining companies in obtaining local, state, and federal environmental permits, including in public hearings, administrative challenges, and appeals in state and federal court, for multiple phosphate mine projects in Central Florida.
  • Represented real estate developers in obtaining state and federal environmental permits for mixed-use developments in Central Florida.
  • Represented a real estate developer in obtaining water use permits for a mixed-use development in Central Florida.
  • Represented a paper mill in Georgia in obtaining and renewing wastewater discharge permits, including in an administrative challenge to the initial permit, for the discharge of mill effluent in Florida.
  • Represented a real estate developer in an action for civil penalties brought in circuit court for alleged environmental permit violations associated with two developments in South Florida, obtaining a voluntary dismissal with prejudice for the client.
  • Represented a real estate development in an action challenging its driveway access permit issued by the Florida Department of Transportation for a proposed development project in Sarasota County, and in challenging action taken by the Department to modify its driveway access at an existing shopping complex in Miami-Dade County.
  • Represented a major aggregates mining company in addressing unilateral action taken by a neighboring municipality in Central Florida that adversely affected its access to and use of its principal truck haul route.
  • Represented a glass manufacturing company before the Jacksonville Environmental Quality Division in addressing alleged air permitting violations at its facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Represented real estate developers before the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in obtaining “State 404” wetland permits.
  • Represented a development company in Central Florida in an enforcement and permitting action brought by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission related to gopher tortoises.
  • Represented development companies in Central and South Florida in technical assistance and permitting negotiations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Professional & Community Involvement

  • American Bar Association, Administrative and Regulatory Law Section, 1993-Present
  • American Bar Association, Energy, Environment and Resources Section, 1993-Present
    • Executive Council, 2021-2024 
    • Select Committee on Marketing & Communications, Chair, 2021-2022
    • Trends Magazine, Editorial Board member, 2020-2022
    • Endangered Species Committee
      • At Large Vice Chair, 2020-2021
      • Chair, 2019-2020
      • Co-Chair, 2018-2019
    • Water Quality and Wetlands Committee, Communications Vice Chair, 2018-2021
  • Adjunct Professor, Florida State University College of Law, 2021-Present
  • The Florida Bar
    • Administrative Law Section (ALS), 1993-Present
    • Environmental and Land Use Law Section (ELULS), 1993-Present
    • Continuing Legal Education Committee, 2005-2008
    • Journal Editorial Board, 1998-2002
  • Florida Limerock & Aggregate Institute (FLAI), associate member
  • Killearn United Methodist Church
    • Trustee, 2007-2010, 2019-Present
    • iServe volunteer, 2017-Present
    • Staff Parish Relations Committee, 2016-2018
      • Chair, 2017-2018
  • Boy Scout Troop 16
    • Committee Member, 2010-2020
      • Secretary, 2012-2016
    • Venture Crew Leader, 2017-2020
  • Theatre Tallahassee Board, 2013-2017
    • President, 2015-2017
    • Vice-President, 2014-2015

Recognition

  • Florida Trend's Florida Legal Elite, 2012
  • BV-Distinguished by Martindale-Hubbell

Publications & Presentations

Land Development News Update, Publications: Development Demand Drives Opportunity for Conservation of Gopher Tortoise Sites
Stearns Weaver Millers News Update|October 2021

Publications: Federal Court Puts ‘Navigable Waters Protection Rule’ In Murky Waters for Florida
Stearns Weaver Miller News Update|October 2021

Government Affairs News Update, Land Development News Update, Publications: What's Developing | Fall 2021
Stearns Weaver Miller News Update|September 2021

Land Development News Update, Publications: FWC Seeks Public Input on Beach-Nesting Birds Draft Guidelines
Stearns Weaver Miller News Update|September 2021

Events: Emerging Issues in Environmental Resource Permitting
Florida Chamber’s 35th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School|July 2021

Events: Fresh From Florida: Emerging Issues in Agriculture & Their Effect on the Environment
Florida Chamber’s Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School, 2019-2021|July 2021

Publications: Chapter 8: Environmental Agencies
Florida Bar Association’s Administrative Law Treatise, 2008-Present|May 2021

Events: Something’s in the Water: A Panel on Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems and the Effect of Litigation on These Precious Ecosystems
ABA SEER’s 28th Fall Conference|October 2020

Events: Legal and Regulatory Mining Issues in Florida
Florida SME (Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration) 34th Annual Regional Mining Conference|October 2019

Events: Endangered Species Act 101
ABA CLE Webinar|August 2019

Events: Stormwater Permitting Basics
ABA CLE Webinar|August 2019

Publications: Proposed Changes to Interim Methodology for Endangered Species Risk Assessments for Pesticides
ABA Administrative and Regulatory Law News Vol. 44 Issue 4, Summer|July 2019

Publications: Forestry Best Management Practices for Water & Wildlife in Florida: What’s in It for Me?
ABA SEER Natural Resources & Environment Magazine Vol. 33, No. 3, Winter |March 2019

Events: Environmental Update - What You Need to Know Now
12th Annual Florida Industry and Mining Safety, Health and Environment Conference|February 2015

Events: Federal Waters of the U.S. Rulemaking
11th Annual Florida Industry and Mining Safety, Health and Environment Conference|February 2014

Events: EPA’s Draft Rule on Waters of the United States (WOTUS)
ABA Non-CLE Webinar|December 2013

Publications: Numeric Nutrient Criteria, Coming to a Water Body Near You?
ABA SEER Mining and Mineral Extraction Committee Newsletter|September 2013

Publications: Effect of Third Party Participation on Phosphate Mine Permitting in Florida
ABA SEER Energy and Natural Resources Litigation Committee Newsletter|February 2013

Publications: Chapter 9.4: Nationwide Permits
Florida Bar Association’s Environmental and Land Use Law Treatise, 2008-2012|March 2012

Publications: Challenges to Phosphate Mine Permitting in Florida
ABA SEER Year in Review Mining Chapter|February 2012

Events: Growth Management Conference
Florida Chamber of Commerce |August 2011

Events: Environmental and Land Use Law Section Annual Update Conference
The Florida Bar|June 2011

Publications: Florida’s Waters: Significant Cases In the Works
Florida Bar Environmental and Land Use Law Section Reporter|April 2005

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