Overview of the Past ACOEL Year

Posted on October 3, 2018 by John Cruden

The American College of Environmental Lawyers just completed one of the most significant and exceptional years in its history.  As President, I set goals for the College this year to emphasize outreach, education, and pro bono efforts using our six committees and six newly appointed task forces as the vehicles for our work.  The following is a brief summary of what we accomplished, with recognition to some of the individuals who made it happen.

Here are some of the “firsts.” We had our first joint conference with another college, the American College of Construction Lawyers, led by Michael Gerrard and held in Columbia Law School.  And, we are now collaborating with the National Judicial College and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Dave Tripp, our task force leader for other colleges, has been key to our success. We had our first webinars for the college (put together by Outreach Chair Mary Ellen Ternes and Government Liaison Chair David Erickson), interviewing EPA leadership, culminating in the just completed interview of the Acting EPA Administrator. And we have already completed a highly-regarded joint educational seminar with the American Law Institute and have another one scheduled. Jim Bruen, as the first President of the related ACOEL Foundation, obtained IRS certification as a nonprofit organization, which will allow us to advance the Foundation in the coming year.  For the first time, our blog was rated as one of the top 100 in the nation and we published over a hundred high quality blogs, about one every other weekday. 

Pam Giblin led a project by the former ACOEL Presidents to create an extensive list of the responsibilities of the President and President-elect.  Our communications committee, chaired by Andy Field, led the way in creating a new web page, spearheaded by Peter Culp, and we are well on our way to completion. 

On the outreach side, I have spoken on behalf of ACOEL internationally (keynote speaker at Toronto Canadian Environmental Law and Lisbon International Bar Association Conferences), and to numerous ABA groups, Law School gatherings, state bar conferences and other events.  And, we have dramatically enhanced our pro bono efforts, with the new domestic Envision Utah project, as well as actions in Africa, India, and Cuba. The just released (July-September) edition of the African Wildlife Foundation’s magazine, Travel Africa, includes an article on Mentoring Wildlife Crime Prosecutions. The article speaks about training wildlife crime prosecutors and establishing the institutions needed to support their ongoing work, stating that “The American College of Environmental Lawyers has also offered its support to the prosecutors during and beyond their mentorship period.” All this is a tribute to the great work of Chair Jim Bruen and Deputy David Farer.

This year we will have our annual conference in October at Grand Teton National Park, our first in a national park. I salute Peter Hsiao, who has supported incoming President Allan Gates to put together a superb three-day conference—we expect record attendance (and a new Conference App). At our annual conference we will give the annual Hermann writing award to Emily Hush, selected by the outreach committee, led by their Deputy JB Ruhl, from 15 high quality nominations from law schools.  And, at the conference, we will also celebrate the life of Steve Hermann, the founding member of the college, with a short video from the oral histories task force. The conference will also feature keynote speakers by leading administration officials and three different panels on the most important environmental issues of the day.

Our other task forces, including Illegal Wildlife Trafficking (mentioned above), Disaster Planning, and Environmental Principles, have been active and produced superb results. For example, our Disaster Response Task Force, led by Jeff Civins, is creating a white paper on disaster planning, and was instrumental in planning EarthX Texas, touted as the largest event in the world of its kind celebrating Earth Day.

Finally, orchestrated by our Regional Director Ted Garrett, we had ACOEL activities in every Region and meetings with key federal and state administration officials, including a number of regional administrators.  And we were all proud to have our own, Alex Dunn, selected to be an EPA Regional Administrator and, more recently nominated by the President to be EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP).

We are proud of our college and its many accomplishments.  As you read this blog, and review the many other blog submissions on this website, you will get a greater knowledge of the high quality of the now over 250 members of the College.

ACOEL’s Alex Dunn to Serve as Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1

Posted on December 13, 2017 by Andrea Field

Last month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the well-deserved appointment of the ACOEL’s own Alexandra Dapolito Dunn as Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1.  The press release accompanying the announcement described Alex’s exceptional qualifications and extensive environmental experience.  It also included endorsements and accolades for Alex from a remarkably diverse group of people, including senior regulators in the Region 1 states, representatives from environmental advocacy groups, and academics.

Those of us in the College both congratulate Alex and thank her for helping to raise the profile of the American College of Environmental Lawyers by somehow ensuring (we don’t know how and we don’t care) that Administrator Pruitt’s press release included numerous references to the College.  The announcement not only noted Alex’s membership in the ACOEL (and her recent election to the College’s Board of Regents), but also it included the endorsement of Alex by John Cruden and noted John’s current position as ACOEL president.

So, best of luck, Alex, and thanks for your efforts to help us achieve John Cruden’s goal of spreading the word on the ACOEL!  

Limerickal Recognitions in an Unrecognized Meter

Posted on September 21, 2017 by Andrea Field

Last month, our colleague John Milner was elected to serve as Chair of the ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER).  John’s election follows over 35 years in the practice of environmental law and years of contributions to SEER. 

After congratulating John on his election, I did some research to determine how many of us in the American College of Environmental Lawyers (the College) have also served as Chair of SEER.  Here is what I found. 


We all know that John Milner’s a stand-out.

Still, there are more of us (I have no doubt),

Who have chaired SEER and who

Are Collegians, too. 

But how many and who?  Let us find out.


Well – mirabile dictu – I now know

There are seventeen such College Fellows – 

Milner; Russell; and Dunn;

And R. Kinnan Golemon;

Also Lynn Bergeson; Richard Stoll-o;


Mike Gerard; Eugene Smary; Ken Warren;

Sheila Hollis; and I’m not ignorin’

Steve McKinney; and Lee

DeHihns; Evans (Parthy);

Plus Ted Garrett.  Now let’s keep explorin’.


As this leadership onion is unpeeled,

Three additional names are now revealed:

That most worthy of gents –

And our next President –

John C. Cruden; C. Dinkins; and A. Field


So when we meet in Charleston, let’s all cheer

The accomplishments of the whole past year.

Clap your hands.  Raise a glass

To Jim Bruen and the class

Of the seventeen Fellows who’ve chaired SEER.

ACOEL Delegation Visits Haiti

Posted on June 14, 2016 by James May

A delegation of ACOEL Fellows visited Haiti, May 30-June 2, to share ideas about ways to advance environmental law and justice with leading members of the bar, academia, civil society, and the business community.

This visit takes place at a transformative time for the environment in Haiti. Deforestation hovers at around 95% as people are forced to burn charcoal for fuel or income, rivers and streams are choked by trash and runoff, motor vehicles are largely unregulated, and the public health system is overwhelmed. And of course, Haiti still suffers from the introduction of cholera in October 2010, resulting in more than 9,000 deaths thus far.

The visit was at the invitation of host institution Universite de la Fondation Aristide (UNIFA)(http://unifa-edu.info/contenu/). The delegation -- Alexander Dunn, Lee DeHihns, Tracy Hester, Dennis Krumholz, Jeff Thaler, and Jimmy May – had a transformative experience. Professor Erin Daly (Vice President for Institutional Development) served as the local liaison, with ACOEL Fellow and Professor James R. May serving as coordinator on behalf of the College's Committee on International and Pro Bono Programs, which he co-chairs with Professor Robert Percival.

The delegation met with many of Haiti’s leading policymakers, thinkers and advocates, former President Jean Bertrand and Mme. Mildred Aristide, Me. Fabrice Fievre (Co-Dean of UNIFA Law School), Me. Mario Joseph (director of the nation’s leading human right law firm, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, http://www.ijdh.org), Me. Jean Andre Victor (director of Haiti’s leading environmental rights firm, L'Association Haïtienne de Droit de l'Environnement), Me. Stanley Gaston, (President of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association), Me. Leslie Voltaire (Haitian architect and urban planner), and Me. Cedric Chauvet (a leading business-person). The delegation also enjoyed various cultural opportunities, including in Port Au Prince, Petionville, and Cite Soleil.

The delegation also visited SAKALA (a leading community center serving among Haiti’s poorest children, http://www.sakala-haiti.org), and the 'uncommon' artists’ community of Noailles, Haiti (http://www.uncommoncaribbean.com/2015/03/10/visiting-the-uncommon-artists-enclave-of-noailles-haiti/).

UNIFA is a leading private university in Haiti, and focuses on promoting dignity and social justice, including by advancing environmental sustainability. Earlier this year it hosted conferences dedicated to environmental human rights issues and their relationship to health, engineering, and law in Haiti (“Environmental Concerns: Today and Tomorrow”) (brochure available at: http://unifa-edu.info/contenu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/programmation-semaine-scientifique-2016.pdf), as well as to the environmental and social consequences of mining in Haiti (https://www.facebook.com/Aristide-Foundation-for-Democracy-306681307454/?fref=nf)."

ACOEL looks forward to continuing conversations about ways to coordinate and collaborate going forward. 

Report from the ACOEL International Pro Bono Program

Posted on July 1, 2015 by James Bruen

            There are exciting developments in the College’s pro bono projects for Cuba, China and East Africa. This is our updated report.

            1.         Cuba

            With permission of the Executive Committee, the College has applied for a license to work in Cuba from the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”). OFAC has replied by assigning the College a case number (an important development since we now have access to a Treasury Department case officer to help us) and noting that the College’s potential activities might (or might not) qualify for one of the 12 exceptions to the requirement for an OFAC license. We can either take our chances by proceeding with work and keeping careful records of our activities while awaiting a potential audit or apply for a specific opinion or license for a specifically described project. The pro bono program will work further with the Executive Committee to determine the nature and timing of our potential work in Cuba, but we regard this as a very promising path forward for the program.

            2.         China

            Notwithstanding the May 26 press coverage of the proposed new Chinese legislation declaring that Western non-profits are no longer welcome in China (describing them as “potential enemies of the state”[1]), our program continues to go forward with opportunities to work there. Zhou Saijun, the Director of Environment and Energy Committee under All China Lawyers Association has confirmed that ACLA will continue to cooperate with ACOEL and NRDC for its annual lawyer training. This event will take place in Xian in September 2015. There will be an opportunity for a College Fellow to speak at the training session. We will know shortly the proposed date and topic for the speech. As usual, we will ask those interested to submit their curricula vitae to me for transmission to the ACLA. They will select the Fellow they feel is most suited to their needs.

            Xian, as you may well know, is the site of the famous, and once-buried, terracotta warriors and their terracotta horses. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

            3.         East Africa

            Coordinating the legal and political clients for work in East Africa has been challenging. But within the month, I hope to circulate a survey to solicit expressions of interest for work on  East African environmental issues. I will do what I can to get our African contacts to pick up the pace.

            In the interim, please call me at 415.954.4430 if you desire further information.


[1] See May 26, 2015 Wall Street Journal article by Andrew Browne which states in part, ”There have always been challenges in dispensing humanitarian services across such a vast country—everything from HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns to environmental cleanups and care for orphans. Regulations are so onerous that it is virtually impossible for many civic groups to operate legally. Still, thousands persist, often counting on sympathetic local police and officials to turn a blind eye to infractions. But that kind of indulgence may soon be ending. A Chinese draft law treats the entire sector of foreign nonprofits as potential enemies of the state, placing them under the management of the Ministry of Public Security. ***”

The American College of Environmental Lawyers Announces Newly Elected Fellows for 2012

Posted on August 24, 2012 by Blogmaster

The American College of Environmental Lawyers is proud to announce its newly elected Fellows for the year 2012. Each individual was selected for his/her distinguished experience and high standards in the practice of environmental law and will be officially inducted into the College at its Annual Meeting in October.

ACOEL President, Brad Marten of Marten Law PLLC, stated, “With the election of these 26 lawyers, the College includes a select group of the top lawyers in government service, academia, the NGO community and private practice, drawn from 48 states. These individuals, chosen by their peers, have earned this recognition based on achievements over a minimum 15 year period, in which they have led the field in all areas of environmental law and policy. The College is honored to have this distinguished class join its ranks.”

The newly elected Fellows include:

- Linda Benfield, Foley & Lardner LLP (WI)
- LeAnne Burnett, Crowe & Dunlevy (OK)
- Dean Calland, Babst Calland (PA)
- John Dernbach, Widener  University (PA)
- Parthenia Evans, Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP (MO)
- Eric Fjelstad, Perkins Coie (AK)
- Scott Fulton, US EPA (DC)
- Kevin Gaynor, Vinson & Elkins LLP (DC)
- Lisa Heinzerling, Georgetown University Law Center (DC)
- Sheila Slocum Hollis, Duane Morris LLP (DC)
- James Holtkamp, Holland & Hart LLP (UT)
- Michael Last, Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster (MA)
- Kenneth Mack, Fox Rothschild LLP (NJ)
- John Manard, Jr., Phelps Dunbar (LA)
- Steven McKinney, Balch & Bingham LLP (AL)
- Lisa Woods Munger, Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel (HI)
- James Palmer, Jr., Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada, PLLC (MS)
- Robert Percival, University of Maryland School of Law (MD)
- Gail Port, Proskauer Rose LLP (NY)
- Jim Price, Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP (MO)
- Nicholas Robinson, Pace University School of Law (NY)
- Thomas Sansonetti, Holland & Hart LLP (WY)
- J. Gustave Speth, Vermont Law School (VT)
- Donald Stever, K&L Gates LLP (NY)
- David Uhlmann, University of Michigan School of Law (MI)
- Bruce White, Barnes & Thornburg LLP (IL)

                                                                                             #  #  #  #

The American College of Environmental Lawyers is a professional association of distinguished lawyers who practice in the field of environmental law.  Membership is by invitation & members are recognized by their peers as preeminent in their field.  ACOEL members are dedicated to: maintaining & improving the ethical practice of environmental law; the administration of justice; and the development of environmental law at both the state & federal level.