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Hawaiian lawyer to receive Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy Award from the American Bar Association


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Hawaiian lawyer to receive Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy Award from the American Bar Association

By John Glynn

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2014 — The American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources will honor William M. Tam with its 2014 Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy Award. The award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that have distinguished themselves in environmental law and policy and have provided leadership in improving environmental protection and sustainable development, will be presented Aug. 10 at the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston.


Tam, deputy director of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, oversees the Hawaii Water Commission and handles major water rights cases, including the recently settled Na Wai‘Eha (“five great waters of Maui”) case.

Tam will be recognized for his work in establishing water law and policy, and for his role in championing water justice in Hawaii, where water rights have been at the core of the renaissance of Native Hawaiian culture and environmental conservation for decades. 

With his steadfast moral compass, passion for traditional and customary rights, deep understanding of the ecological values of surface and stream water resources and unmatched intellect, Tam's nominators praise him for being the legal powerhouse behind the creation and development of modern water law in Hawaii.

His leadership includes serving as the state’s attorney in the McBryde Sugar Co. case, where he crafted, interpreted, litigated, administered, implemented, managed and settled rights issue in Hawaii.

Among his  other accomplishments, Tam served as a key player in Hawaii’s 1978 Constitutional Convention, which enshrined freshwater as a public trust asset and created the Water Commission; and was the core author of the 1987 State Water Code that gave legal voice to these historic developments.

The ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources is the premier forum for strategies and information for environmental, energy and resource lawyers. Representing more than 9,000 members with a wide range of professional interests, the section keeps its members abreast of development trends, current court decisions, legislative initiatives and statutes concerning environmental, natural resources and energy law.

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