May 01, 2014

Views from the Chair: Inside our publications

William L. Penny

Publications are critical to environmental, energy, and resources lawyers. Practitioners need and value publications that are timely, well-written, and practical. That is why our Section publications are so important to members. For example, if you are an air practitioner or your practice involves air issues, you could turn to the Fall 2013 issue of Natural Resources & Environment for a discussion of the ozone transport region. Recent issues of the Section’s newsletter Trends offer articles on Québec’s cap-and-trade system and on an appeal of greenhouse gas rules pending before the Supreme Court. And the Trends feature “In Brief” provides you with bi-monthly updates on recent air-related decisions. Of course, you could visit for a review of last year’s key air developments in The Year in Review 2013 or review the national and regional reports in the Air Quality Committee Newsletter. And what better desk references can you have than the Section’s Clean Air Act Handbook, Third Edition, and its Basic Practice Series book on the Clean Air Act!

While I could use this space to brag on about our Section publications, I want to write about what happens behind the scenes to make our publications so special. A lot of hard work by a number of members is required to produce timely, relevant, and quality publications.

Our publications include the bi-monthly newsletter Trends, the quarterly magazine Natural Resources & Environment, the annual The Year in Review, committee newsletters, and white papers. All of these publications are provided free as member benefits. In addition, our Section members receive a substantial discount on the purchase of our high-quality books. Trends and The Year in Review are available exclusively in electronic format with the added benefits of hyperlinks to important resources.

All of our publications are produced through our hard-working Publication Services Group, chaired by our Publications Officer, Seth Davis. The Section is also blessed to have 18-year veteran staff member Ellen Rothstein as a resource. We could not produce our publications without Ellen.

Trends provides a timely update of recent legal issues relevant to the Section members in an electronic newsletter format. Angela Morrison is the current Trends editor-in-chief, who has assembled an editorial board that is adept at identifying topics and soliciting articles. All of this is done with stringent deadlines. The editorial board meets in person at least once per year and meets by telephone regularly. Editorial board members propose topics for future articles, seek out the best authors for those topics, and then work with the authors to bring the articles to publishable form.

Natural Resources & Environment (known lovingly as NR&E) is a popular quarterly magazine of legal issues for environmental, energy, and resources lawyers. Each issue of NR&E is theme-based. NR&E Executive Editor Christine LeBel has led this effort for the past five years. The editorial board consists of more than 20 members who are representative of private practice, governmental agencies, NGOs, and academia. They meet each year for two days at the Section Fall Conference. At that meeting the board discusses possible issue themes and then decides on four for the upcoming year. For each theme the board identifies key subjects and then selects board members to be issue editors charged with the production of the particular issue. The results of the board meeting are then announced at the Fall Council meeting, preceded by a drum roll!

The Year in Review is a Section gem and a great reference tool available on the Section website, with hyperlinks valuable for research purposes. Year in Review Chair Mary Ellen Ternes works closely with law student editors—this year led by Aubra Drybread—at the University of Tulsa College of Law to produce the final product. The Section’s substantive committee chairs are each asked to appoint at least one Year in Review vice chair to coordinate preparation of the committee’s chapter. The draft chapter is then submitted to the student editors for review and editing. The vice chair(s) review the proposed edits and work with the student editors to produce a final chapter.

Committees are a treasure trove of information relevant to committee members, and committee newsletters are a vibrant part of Section committee activity. Each committee chair appoints at least one newsletter vice chair to be responsible for collecting and editing articles for publication in conjunction with Section staff. Once completed, a newsletter is posted on the Section’s website and notification of its availability is e-mailed to committee members. Committees are asked to publish at least three issues per year. Lauran Sturm from the Publications Service Group coordinates committee newsletters.

The Section produces a number of high-quality books each year through the leadership of the Book Publishing Board, which is also part of the Publications Service Group. Megan McCulloch is the current chair of the board, which meets in person at least once a year to discuss topics, evaluate proposals, and manage the editorial and publishing process. Board members are assigned to act as liaisons for approved titles. Each book undergoes a peer-review process, an important feature of our book program, assuring members and other readers of our books’ highest quality. Book sales constitute a significant revenue source for the Section that helps offset the cost of other member benefits.

Occasionally the Section examines emerging issues or complex topics in the form of “white papers.” Well-written and documented, the papers provide unbiased legal analyses of the topics covered. They are made available to both Section members and non-members on the Section website and are offered as resources to congressional and administration attorneys. The Publications Service Group oversees the white papers, the newest of which address TSCA reform.

The value of our Section publications cannot be overstated. However, it is important to reflect on the significant amount of time and talent that the membership and staff provide, which are necessary to maintain the high quality of our publications. Next time you pick up one of the Section publications, thank our members and staff for their hard work! And if you find this process interesting and would like to get involved, contact any of the named editors or the Publications Officer.

William L. Penny

William L. Penny is a member of the Environmental, Natural Resources and Energy Service Group of Stites & Harbison PLLC in Nashville and is chair of the ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources.