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July/August 2023

Views from the Chair: Where has the year gone?

Jonathan W Kahn


  • The Section chair reflects on the Section’s accomplishments in the 2022-2023 ABA year and expresses his gratitude to leaders and members for their significant contributions.
Views from the Chair: Where has the year gone?
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As I write this, my last Views from the Chair, I am astonished at how quickly the year has passed by. I am honoured to have been the first foreign lawyer to be entrusted with leading the Section. I leave pleased with the outstanding service we provided to our members in this first “post-pandemic” year, and I am excited about the many ongoing initiatives we still have underway and optimistic about the future. I leave with confidence that you, our valued Section members, will be served even better by the very talented and enthusiastic leaders to follow.

I want to start by expressing my personal gratitude, and appreciation, on behalf of our entire Section, to our section director Dana Jonusaitis. I simply could not have done this job without Dana’s support. I am deeply grateful for the experience, knowledge, and judgment she brings to our Section daily. This was not an easy year for Dana, who spent most of this ABA year short two key staff members. The demands on Dana, as well as Kevin Gordon, our membership specialist, and Valentia Sundell, our program associate, were enormous, and they all performed with amazing skill, dedication, and good cheer. We are so pleased that associate director Rachel Rojas-Brennan and editorial associate Mason Gregg have joined our team, providing incoming chair Jeff Dennis with a full and highly talented team.

I want to thank Jeff as well as our vice chair Jonathan Nwagbaraocha. Both have consistently brought creative thinking and outstanding judgment to the table, and I have no doubt the Section will thrive under their leadership. Susan Floyd has done a wonderful job as budget officer and I am so excited to see her transition to the vice chair position, further exemplifying the promising future of the Section.

I also want to thank our immediate past chair Michelle Diffenderfer and house of delegate representatives Pam Barker and Seth Davis. I have relied constantly on their experience, wisdom, and judgment over the past year. To the other members of the leadership—our three service officers, secretary Peter Gioello, board of governors representative Sheila Hollis, and to our 15 wonderful council members—I extend my thanks for your good hard work, support, and camaraderie throughout this year.

Our publications group, led by Norm Dupont, has had a prolific and successful year. I want to especially recognize Randy Hill, who had retired as editor of the Book Board and graciously returned when needed. Under his leadership the Book Board published four outstanding books this year. Thanks also to Andrea Rimer for her leadership on NR&E, Matthew Sanders for his leadership on Trends, and Erin Potter Sullenger and Megan Wagner for their leadership on The 2022 Year in Review. Also, thanks to all the editors, board members, and writers who keep the prolific publishing record of this Section going.

Christine Jochim, our education officer, oversaw a wonderful year of programming. I want to thank her as well as Kyle Landis-Marinello and Manisha Patel, who chaired our very successful Fall and Spring Conferences, respectively, and the chairs of our three one-day program planning committees—Lena Golze Desmond, Maxine Keefe, Maggie Peloso, and Carolyn McIntosh.

Maxine and Lena co-chaired one of our most successful one-day conferences ever, the Energy Transition Conference, held both at Howard University School of Law and on Zoom. It was our first ever hybrid conference, and we had near-record one-day conference attendance. The Howard location also provided us with a first-rate opportunity to address environmental justice (EJ) issues associated with the energy transition. This Section’s focus on EJ issues is unwavering, and I would like to thank Jimmy May as well as ABA EJ Task force chairs Gwen Keyes Fleming and Quentin Pair for their leadership in this initiative.

It will not come as a surprise that international engagement was an important priority for me this year. Thanks to Maggie Peloso for almost singlehandedly organizing our very successful Environmental Summit of the Americas, which which received glowing reviews and reached maximum capacity. I also want to acknowledge the significant contributions of Lee DeHihns, Amy L. Edwards, Tracy Hester, and many others for their leadership in dealing with international outreach and ABA climate change initiatives.

Marisa Blackshire has been a tremendous membership and diversity officer, overseeing so many important programs and committees. I want to note the renaissance in our Membership Diversity Enhancement Program under the leadership of Joshua Ash and Maram Salaheldin, and the rapid growth of our Environmental Law Society Network led by Achinthi Vithanage and Gabriela Mickel. I also want to thank Lawrence Pittman for overseeing one of the most memorable public service projects (at Spring Conference in Denver) that we have had in recent years.

Thank you to all our committee chairs and vice chairs for your invaluable contributions. Our 27 substantive committees are the critical lifeblood of the Section; the programming, articles, community conversations, networking functions, and online content that you created are a large part of what we do.

Above all, I would like to express my gratitude to our Section members for your membership and participation. There are many players in the environment, energy, and resources law space. You choose to be a SEER member and I happen to think that we are the best, but we could not be the best without the contributions of the hundreds of you who enrich the member experience by writing, speaking, posting, participating, and networking with us. Thank you all.

We accomplished much this year. I am immensely proud of our entire team for making this year not only successful and gratifying but also, and most importantly, enjoyable and fun.