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November 10, 2021 Columns

Chair’s Column

By J. Bradley Fewell

I am humbled, honored, and excited as I begin my term as Chair of this illustrious Section of the ABA—humbled and honored when I reflect upon the over 100-year history of this Section and the talented attorneys that have preceded me as chair. One deserving our gratitude is my immediate predecessor, Cathy McCarthy. During an unprecedented period of challenge for the ABA and our Section, Cathy was able to ensure that IRIS remained focused and content rich, successfully conducting two virtual, well-attended Council meetings. Truly an amazing job by Cathy!

I am excited by the prospects for IRIS in the coming year. As I write, the U.S. Senate has passed an historic $1 trillion infrastructure bill. If passed by the House and signed by the President, the package, much of which constitutes new spending, would arguably mark the most significant investment since the smaller rescue bill passed as a result of the Great Recession. This current bill would address infrastructure and also longer-term items associated with climate change. In part, it provides for $55 billion to address issues with the U.S. water supply, including (somewhat ambitiously) the replacement of every lead pipe in the nation. It also provides $65 billion to modernize the nation’s power grid. Additional funds are directed to rehabilitate waterways, improve airports, and expand broadband. To address climate change, there is additional funding to support forms of carbon-free generation, including nuclear. There is an additional $7.5 billion to build out a national network of electric-vehicle charging stations.

It thus is clear that a major national focus this year will involve many aspects of the infrastructure that lies at the core of what companies represented by our Section operate on a daily basis. Indeed, all of the items I mentioned above—and this was a very limited accounting—are represented by the various IRIS committees. I look forward to robust discussions, papers, and CLE programs addressing how we think about these projects and the panoply of legal issues that will surface as a result of such projects.

Regardless of whether IRIS attorneys are advocating on behalf of their clients for or against a specific infrastructure project or proposal, I look forward to hearing about how the lawyers from this wonderful Section act as thought leaders in helping to shape the way our national infrastructure is enhanced by initiatives like the historic infrastructure legislation in the coming months.

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By J. Bradley Fewell