August 31, 2020

Views from the Chair

Howard Kenison

I am deeply honored to serve as your Section Chair for the 2020–2021 ABA year—a year without precedent as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the mid-1980s, I have been attending Section and ABA conferences, programs, and meetings and reading Section publications. Section and ABA content has been integral to developing, creating, and sustaining my environmental law practice both in the government and private practice. I hope each of you will find a welcoming home in our Section that provides true and beneficial value to your law practice as well.

My theme for the coming year is “Building on the Past—Focusing on the Future.”

Building on the past

For over 90 years the Section has been the premier forum for environmental, energy, and resource lawyers to learn and network. Our predecessors built a leading organization through in-person meetings, hard-copy program materials, and face-to-face networking receptions, among other activities.

To build on the Section’s past successes, I have established a Past Chairs Roundtable, where current Section leaders and members will meet virtually with past chairs to discuss current issues while gaining insights born of experience.

My sincere thanks to the recent chairs I have worked with including Immediate Past Chair Karen Mignone and Amy Edwards, John Milner, Seth Davis, and Steve Miano, who have provided me with the insights and information I need to lead the Section this year. I know I am reluctantly leaving out many past chairs to whom I owe the greatest gratitude.

Focusing on the future

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the future to us with a startling immediacy. Remote programs and meetings are not some distant dream, but our new daily reality. Networking and “face-to-face” mingling are now “Zoomed” with each of us sitting in squares, like a TV game show. The Section is now embracing virtual learning and networking opportunities, electronic program materials, and providing content to members through the Section’s website.

Our Section governance and committee meetings are being held virtually. In response, we are seeking to recreate the atmosphere of our invaluable in-person gatherings to foster the “give and take” that generates new collaborative ideas. The adaptations we implement for this year could become our “new normal” in succeeding years.

As we embark on this new journey together there are risks, yes; but if we are resilient and focused on this new future, there is a tremendous opportunity to serve our members in new and exciting ways.

I am writing my first Views column a week before our Section’s Annual Business Meeting. By the time this is published, many of you will have become aware of my initiatives for the 2020–2021 ABA year. The new and continuing initiatives include:

  • In response to one of the most important developments in memory, and in conjunction with Membership Officer Jonathan Nwagbaraocha, an Equity and Inclusion Task Force to coordinate the Section’s long-standing efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our membership and leadership positions.
  • Critically, given the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the Education Services Group, led by Education Officer Roger Martella, will be developing and implementing ways to offer and evaluate the impact of virtual programs.
  • Our world class publications will continue apace under the leadership of the Publications Service Group, led by Publications Officer Christine Lebel, and the heads of our publication boards.
  • Our Climate Change Task Force led by Amy Edwards, Tracy Hester, and John Dernbach. This Task Force will continue the Section’s leadership on climate issues. Their efforts include regular updates to ABA President Trish Refo on global climate issues.
  • ·An International Bar Coordination Task Force, co-chaired by Past Chairs Karen Mignone and Lee DeHihns, to continue our outreach to international bar associations.
  • The Section Division and Forum Coordination Committee will be revived and chaired by Jeff Dennis.
  • A Pro Bono Task Force, chaired by Arlena Barnes, to develop pro bono opportunities for our members.
  • An effort to revive our connections to environmental law societies at the nation’s law schools, co-chaired by Lee Paddock and Tracy Williams.
  • A Committee Review Task Force, chaired by Council Liaison Coordinator Rich Ericsson to consider ways to increase the effectiveness of our substantive committees and improve the relationship with Section leadership.

I will keep you posted on developments with each of these initiatives in future Views columns.

Let me reiterate my sincere thanks for the opportunity to lead the Section this year. I am aware that a large part of my Chair year will be from the chair in my home office; however, despite the lack of opportunities for in-person gatherings and networking, let us take the current situation in stride and continue our mission of making the Section the premier forum for environmental, energy, and resources lawyers.

Howard Kenison

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Howard Kenison is a shareholder with the firm Jones & Keller, P.C. in Denver. He is the chair of the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources.