49th Spring Conference

The ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) is pleased to announce the 49th Spring Conference as a free webinar experience. The COVID-19 virus and health concerns prevented us from hosting this conference as an in-person meeting in Chicago. We are, however, very excited to offer our Section members and all ABA members and non-members this series of webinars free of charge. All of the webinars, other than the introductory keynote, will qualify for CLE credit, and now is the best time to catch up on CLE requirements! Registration will open soon, make sure to check our Events & CLE for more information. 

Keynote Panel

  •  Douglas Benevento, Deputy Administrator (nominee), Office of the Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Peter Wright, Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Moderator:  Ronald Tenpas, Partner, Vinson & Elkins, LLP



Access our online brochure here

Course Materials

To view the course materials for the 49th Spring Conference Virtual Webinar Series please visit here.

49th Spring Conference Webinar Series Schedule

Thursday, April 23, 2020              

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM ET    

Something New: The Intersection of Policy, Science, and Litigation When New Contaminants Emerge

As an increasing number of new contaminants emerge along with their associated risks (some real, others perceived), federal, state, and local government officials are evaluating how best to act to protect public health. Stakeholders, including industries, environmental advocates, and toxic tort practitioners, all brace for how eventual policy decisions will impact their respective interests. This panel will focus on how the unique intersection of policy, evolving science, pending legislation and rulemaking, and litigation drives regulation, enforcement, and community responses, no especially when new contaminants and science provoke debate based upon the unknown—or, at most, uncertain data. Attendees will leave with a potential roadmap to better navigate the elusive intersection of policy, science, and litigation.

Ravi Arulanantham, Senior Principal Consultant, Geosyntec Consultants, Inc., Washington, DC
Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Washington, D.C.
Granta Nakayama, King & Spalding LLP, Walnut Creek, CA

Stan Meiburg, Director, Graduate Programs in Sustainability, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

Watch on-demand here.

Thursday, June 4, 2020 

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Communities, Cities, and Companies Combating Contaminants When the Science is New

The emergence of the latest environmental acronym, PFAS/PFOSs, has more than made the environmental law news circuit in recent years, but what about the next “PFAS”? Through a case study where a community confronts a contaminant—ethylene oxide—in their backyards, this panel will consider legal strategies to address contaminants when the science regarding their potential environmental and human health risks is new. Panelists will discuss how attendees can take quick and effective action when a client is accused of emitting or otherwise disposing of a new potential contaminant of concern. Attendees will also learn how cities, states, and federal regulators are working to address the challenges they face when new science points to a new potential contaminant of concern right in their backyards.

Renee Cipriano, Thompson Coburn, LLP, St. Louis, MO
Byron Taylor, Sidley & Austin LLP, Chicago, IL

Alan Walts, Director, Environmental Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5, Chicago, IL

3:45 PM - 5:15 PM ET    

Risk Assessment for Emerging Contaminants: Selecting Standards, Experts, and Data Quality Issues

Ten to the what power? How do you evaluate the risks from emerging contaminants or help your client address or rebut anomalous data? Risk assessment techniques and standards enable us to characterize the nature and magnitude of potential health risks to humans and ecological receptors from chemical contamination and other stressors that may be present in the environment. Lawyers need to understand both human health risk assessment and the separate process of ecological risk assessment to better evaluate new contaminants and determine how they are (or might be) regulated. The panel will review what a good risk assessment needs to include, explain the technical jargon, and provide tips on how to select the right consultants or experts to analyze, perform, or critique risk assessments. Attendees will learn best practices for the environmental lawyer in situations where the assessment of human health and ecological risks is a central concern and necessary to protect or defend a client.   

Mark Anstoetter, Shook, Hardy, & Bacon, Kansas City, MI
Allison Stock, Toxicologist; Vice President, J.S. Held, New Orleans, LA
Christopher Weis, Toxicology Liaison, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD

Jillian Kirn, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Philadelphia, PA 

Thursday, June 11, 2020               

11:30 AM - 1: 00 PM ET              

How to Protect Communities: Facilitating and Coordinating Responses to Disasters

Lawyers cannot stop a disaster from occurring, but we can help guide our clients’ preparation and response. What happens when you get that first call that a new hurricane, wildfire, flood, or terrorist event is threatening your client’s plant or office? Do you have the local FEMA office phone number handy, and where exactly is that emergency response plan in your files? This session will provide attendees with tools and strategies to strengthen the ability of individuals, businesses, and communities to withstand a range of emergency and disaster impacts. As a result, disaster recovery time may be reduced by improving economic resilience on a local, state, and national level.

Catherine Garypie, Associate Regional Counsel, Office of Regional Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5, Chicago, IL
Joel Scata, Water and Climate Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council, Chicago, IL
Ehsan Zaffar, Board Member, Team Rubicon, Washington, DC

Norman A. Dupont, Ring Bender LLP, Costa Mesa, CA

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET    

Adaptation: Planning for the Worst

The frequency of natural or human-provoked disasters continues to increase, with significant losses due to climate-change induced sea level rises, climate-stressed forest fires, and warm-water fueled hurricanes regularly in the news. Both natural and man-made disasters can have serious impacts on communities. Lawyers play a significant role in helping their clients—industry, communities, and regulators—plan for and prepare for disasters, including helping them evaluate risk and consider where to invest resources. Adaptation measures are one way in which communities can attempt to lessen the destructive effect of disasters. This panel will discuss adaptation measures conceptually and planning for the worst through the implementation of adaptation measures. Attendees will learn about current adaptation projects and the lawyers’ role, how current laws are used to implement adaptation measures, and how to develop and implement adaptation measures in an equitable manner.

T.C. Richmond, Van Ness Feldman, Seattle, WA
Carl Spector, Commissioner of the Environmental Department, City of Boston, Boston, MA

Jessica Grannis, Coastal Resilience Director, National Audubon Society, Washington, DC

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

4:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. ET

Expert Insight Panel  | AlterEcho

Surf’s Up!  What the Supreme Court’s Maui Ruling Means for the Clean Water Act | Non-CLE

In its recent County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund decision, the Supreme Court fundamentally altered the regulation of point source discharges by including the regulation of groundwater. AlterEcho attorneys Stephen Smithson and David Batson will examine the legal and policy ramifications, while AlterEcho’s groundwater expert, Rob Young, PG, will explore technical strategies for implementing this far-reaching decision.

Stephen W. Smithson, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary; TechLaw Consultants, Inc.; Chantilly, VA
David Batson, Mediator / Allocation Specialist, AlterEcho, Washington, DC
Robert Young, Senior Vice President, AlterEcho, Chicago, IL

Thursday, June 18, 2020               

11:30 AM - 1: 00 PM ET              

Water Resources: Access to Clean and Safe Water

Learn what is in store for water resources for 2020 and beyond, and its impact on your practice. The Trump administration has recognized access to clean and safe water as one of the most immediate environmental and public health threats affecting the world. Key issues include clean and safe drinking water, limiting marine litter, and water infrastructure. People worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, billions of pounds of litter enter our oceans each year harming marine life and coastal economies, and billions of dollars are needed to modernize U.S. water infrastructure over the coming decades. Attendees will learn about the legal tools and strategies the administration is using to address these crucial challenges and work by state, tribes, cities, territories, and local communities to safeguard human health, restore water quality, make America’s water systems sustainable and secure, and support new technology and the modernization of the nation’s water supply infrastructure.

Kurt Thiede, Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5, Chicago, IL
Noah Valenstein, Secretary, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee, FL
Mary Walker, Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, Atlanta, GA

Sean Dixon, Chief of Staff, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 1, Boston, MA

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM ET    

From the Tap to Treatment: Compliance Issues in Water Resource Management

Ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation’s water supply for drinking water and other uses has become increasingly difficult with aging water supply and wastewater infrastructure throughout the country and climate change impacting supply sources. Focusing on the Great Lakes as an international, interstate, and local water resource, this session will explore the prominent compliance issues in water resources management, including those associated with developing and updating infrastructure. With significant investment needed for infrastructure, private investment is likely to play a key role in water resource management now and in the future. Attendees will learn about compliance issues faced by private and public entities entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the public’s access to clean water, such as safeguards needed when switching water supply sources.

Joan Card, Culp & Kelly LLP, Boulder, CO
Emily Huggins Jones, Squire, Patton & Boggs, Cleveland, OH

James Eklund, Squire, Patton & Boggs, Denver, CO

3:45 PM - 5:15 PM ET    

The Plastics Pollution Predicament: Past Practices, the Current Plight of Plastics Pollution, and How We Can Effectively Address the Issue

Like many other 20th century inventions, modern plastics spawned entire industries and growth funneled by myriad new applications of an increasingly popular product. The result is that more than 8 billion tons have been manufactured of plastics that resist biodegradation and remain long-term sources of unwanted pollutants. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler referred to ocean plastics pollution as “one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns” and announced that stopping waste from entering the oceans is a top priority for the agency. Notably, some nations and communities in some states are setting ambitious single-use plastics reduction goals. Panelists will address the causes of the pollution, environmental and health impacts, and ways to manage the issue in the future. Attendees will gain a greater understanding of the current and evolving state of the law on plastics pollution.  

Molly Flanagan, Vice President, Policy, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Chicago, IL
Sylvia Quast, Regional Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9, San Francisco, CA
Steve Russell, Vice President of Plastics Division, American Chemistry Council, Washington, DC

Adena Leibman, Senior Oceans Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, DC   

Thursday, June 25, 2020               

11:30 AM - 1: 00 PM ET              

Untangling the Wires: Powering, Fueling, and Integrating America’s Clean Energy Future

America’s energy transition is not as simple as merely switching to an electric plug from a hydroelectric source. While often framed in binary terms—coal versus renewables, electric versus gas—the path to America’s clean energy future will require answering a host of more nuanced questions. Are non-wires alternatives the key to decarbonizing electricity—or is the key to make significant investments in new transmission infrastructure? Are electric vehicles the future of mobility—or will new fuels turn our wheels? Is plentiful natural gas the solution to low-cost emissions reductions over the long term—or just a stepping-stone to another energy option? Do the states lead—or does the federal government? Panelists will debate a host of complex legal, regulatory, and policy challenges that lie ahead in resolving these questions, along with their environmental and economic implications. Attendees will learn about the nuanced legal thinking, creative regulatory compromise, and policy trial-and-error that will go into shaping the country’s energy mix into the future.

Jeffery Dennis, Managing Director; General Counsel, Advanced Energy Economy, Washington, D.C.
Kristin Munsch, Director for Regulatory and Customer Strategy, National Grid, Waltham, MA
Kari Valley, Managing Senior Corporate Counsel, Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc., Eagan, MN

Randall Mehrberg, Jenner & Block, Chicago, IL
Zachary Schauf, Jenner & Block, Washington, D.C.

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM ET    

What the FERC? Decoding the Jurisdictional Tangles and Jargon-Laden Acronyms of Energy Regulation

As policymakers, industry, and nongovernmental organizations explore the path to a clean energy future, the line between environmental law and energy law is increasingly blurry. To navigate these discussions and advise clients on their clean energy options, environmental lawyers must be conversant in energy law. Who are the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and state Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) and what do they regulate? Where is the line between state and federal jurisdiction? When should an environmental lawyer call an energy regulatory expert? This session will equip attendees with the who, what, where, when, and how of energy regulation, with a focus on electricity. Additionally, the panel will address how decisions by energy regulators support or complicate.

Jeffery Dennis, Managing Director; General Counsel, Advanced Energy Economy, Washington, DC
Sherina Maye Edwards, Quarles & Brady LLP, Chicago, IL
Gillian Giannetti, Attorney, Sustainable FERC Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, DC

Max Minzner, General Counsel, Arcadia, Washington, DC

3:45 PM - 5:15 PM ET      

What’s Driving Your Air Quality? An Examination of Mobile Source Impacts on Climate Change and the Air That We Breathe

Since obtaining the authority to regulate pollution from transportation in 1970, EPA has made tremendous strides in improving air quality. However, there is still more work to be done—and this is not an area where the federal government can or should act alone. Governors, mayors, and nongovernmental organizations are working to ensure that communities strike the right balance between addressing climate change and improving our air while driving our economy (and cars). Attendees will learn about national and state initiatives, particularly Corporate Average Fuel Economy—CAFE—standards and mobile source enforcement, that continue to drive policy to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Regional, state, and interstate approaches to balancing healthier transportation options with the desire to provide effective and low-cost modes of transport will also be examined, particularly considering the latest federal initiative to compel California (and potentially other states) to address long-standing air pollutant exceedances.

Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director; Facilitator of the Transportation Climate Initiative, Georgetown Climate Center, Washington, DC
Charles Haake, Vice President; General Counsel, Alliance for Automative Innovation, Washington, DC
Angelo Logan, Moving Forward Network, Policy Director at the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA

Kevin Poloncarz, Covington & Burling LLP, San Francisco, CA