March 02, 2021

50th Spring Conference on Environmental Law

Emily Fisher

The Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources’ 2021 Spring Conference on Environmental Law, to be held virtually April 27–30, celebrates the past, examines the present, and challenges us to make the future better. This year’s conference will have a special focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the practice of law, and environmental justice issues we should be considering in our work. The Biden administration has directed that environmental justice concerns permeate all regulatory efforts. Conference sessions will teach attendees how to incorporate these considerations into a range of environmental regulatory and policy matters.

All environmental, energy, and resources practitioners are invited to attend as the conference marks its 50th anniversary. Since 1971, the Spring Conference (once known informally as the Keystone Conference) has been a leading forum for the discussion of current issues in environmental, energy, and resources law.

In the pre-pandemic world, we had planned to return to Colorado, the first and longest-time home of the Spring Conference. Our now-virtual conference will once again provide a premier opportunity to hear from experts on topics of importance to you—one where you will gain new tools and perspectives to benefit your practice and clients. For only $250, Section members can earn up to 11 hours of CLE credit in 60-minute states—and 13.2 hours of CLE credit in 50-minute states—over four days. And, if you are unable to attend any sessions in real time, they can be viewed at a later date on demand.

Before the conference kicks off, there will be two pre-conference webinars open to all Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources’ members, without charge. The first, a non-CLE webinar on April 15, will provide an overview by economists and lawyers on how the pandemic has impacted the country’s energy transition—and what that might mean for practitioners and their clients. The second, a CLE webinar on April 22, will look at virtual auditing for environmental compliance, turning to legal and other experts to explain how to make the case during a virtual inspection while keeping an eye on virtual security, audit integrity, and data protection.

At the conference’s first plenary session on April 27, an expert panel will consider the current landscape for key rulemakings and discuss what steps the Biden Environmental Protection Agency is likely to take with respect to the timing and content of new regulatory pushes, to help attendees better prepare for what might lie ahead.

The second plenary session will offer attendees a primer on diversity, equity, and inclusion and environmental law. Panelists will explore how to better ensure that the practice of environmental law is more diverse. The session will include an interactive discussion on issues, experiences, and tangible strategies for cultivating and enabling more diverse voices in the practice and implementation of environmental law.

A further plenary session will discuss the history of environmental justice to examine where the paths of traditional environmental law and environmental justice have diverged, current efforts to prioritize environmental justice, and practical opportunities for lawyers to contribute to solutions.

During the conference, environmental justice will not be viewed solely through a historical lens. Looking at the present and future, plenary sessions and panel discussions will examine how to ensure environmental justice concerns and outcomes are appropriately considered during brownfields cleanups and how to ensure that pushes for electrification of the transportation sector create benefit diverse communities through access to new technologies and cleaner air. We will take this same cross-cutting approach to address the practical problem of air quality violations at hazardous waste sites, answering the question: Where do the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act meet?

Additional conference panel topics include:

  •  Tribal resource management practices to better prepare for and address environmental crises like wildfires.
  • Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) trends and the legal developments that are driving them, and what impact the ESG movement may have on the broader practice of environmental law.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 County of Maui decision, with an eye toward identifying who needs a permit for discharges to groundwater and in what circumstances.

Of course, the 50th Spring Conference will include a special event to honor the conference’s past half-century. Learn about the history of the conference—and its impacts on the discourse of environmental, energy, and resources law. Section members who attended early conferences in Denver and Keystone and longtime participants will also share their favorite memories.

At the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources’ 50th Spring Conference, we are celebrating the past, using it to inform the work we do in the present, and taking steps to create a better future for environmental, energy, and resources law and all who are touched by it—which is everyone. Join us!

Emily Fisher


Emily Fisher is the general counsel, corporate secretary, and the senior vice president, Clean Energy, of the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, D.C. She is the planning chair of the 50th Spring Conference on Environmental Law of the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources.