It is a tremendous honor for me to serve as chair of ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (Section). When I was a young lawyer, first at the Environmental Protection Agency and then in private practice, the Section (then known at the Section of Natural Resources, Energy, and Environmental Law or SONREEL) was, for me, THE place for the nation’s top lawyers practicing in the areas of environmental, energy, and resources law. That is still the case. The depth and quality of the Section’s programs and publications, its networking opportunities, and its service projects are unparalleled. We continue to be both relevant and on the cutting edge in all we do. In fact, our Clean Air Handbook, Third Edition, was cited on the first page of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA. Bill Penny, our outgoing chair, is to be congratulated for upholding the Section’s history of excellence. I look forward to the challenge of following in his and other past chairs’ footsteps.
During my year as chair, I will focus on collaboration—through both integration and outreach. In the past, environmental lawyers typically worked with other environmental lawyers. The same was true for energy and resources lawyers. Today’s environmental, energy, and resources lawyers can’t function effectively without the others’ expertise. Think of an energy project and consider the myriad issues that arise. There are traditional ones to be sure. However, issues such as air, water (both quality and quantity), and endangered species can also come into play.
With this in mind, plans are underway to enhance our programs and publications by better integrating the activities of the substantive committees. For planning, collaborative, and oversight purposes, the committees will be assigned to working groups based on current trends in legal practice rather than placed in the traditional silos of environmental, energy, and resources law. For example, the Water Quality and Wetlands Committee and the Water Resources Committee, an environmental committee and a resources committee, will now reside in the same working group and have greater opportunities to interact.
Such integration also includes the Section’s efforts with other ABA entities with interests in environmental, energy, and resources law. With the assistance of the Section’s Special Committee on Section, Division, and Forum Coordination, we are developing and presenting joint programming. For example, we are now planning our first ABA Superconference on Environmental Law for next spring.
Finally, integration means collaboration among all of our member subgroups: seasoned lawyers, young lawyers, law students, in-house counsel, NGO lawyers, government lawyers, and academics. We have made great strides, particularly with young lawyers. This was clear to me recently when I attended one of our stand-alone conferences, in which the participation and enthusiasm of our young lawyers were clearly evident. This is a direct result, I believe, of Section programs and social events that welcome and involve young lawyers and law students.
Collaboration includes outreach beyond the ABA. We currently have terrific relationships with several outside groups (e.g., Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, ACORE, and The Nature Conservancy—to name a few) and specialty sections of national and international bar associations. As part of the Section’s mission to be the “premier forum” in our practice areas, I’m challenging our Section leaders and members to continue our outreach to other organizations and bar associations, both nationally and internationally. In addition to developing new partnerships, we hope to deepen existing ones to expand opportunities for cooperation. In doing so, we will bring more value to our members (and perhaps gain members in the process).
In closing, I want to thank you for being members of the Section. I look forward to working with you this year and to our continued joint efforts at “integration and outreach.” I invite you to reach out to me with your comments, suggestions, and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember to mark your calendars to attend the 22nd Fall Conference in Miami on October 8–11, 2014. It will be the perfect occasion, in a beautiful location, to meet Section leaders and participate in Section business meetings, attend top-quality CLEs, and socialize and network with your colleagues from across the country.