Learning to talk about environmental issues across the political/ideological/economic/philosophical divide, with help from the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership

Posted on June 1, 2017 by Patricia Barmeyer

There is an organization in Georgia dedicated to the goal of building a network of leaders in the environmental area who can collaborate to work on solutions to important issues, instead of defaulting always to debate and often litigation.  The Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership was created in 2001, and I am currently participating as a member of the seventeenth IGEL class, the fifth lawyer from my firm to go through the program. It is similar in some ways to leadership programs throughout the country, but there is no other leadership program focused entirely on environmental issues.

IGEL is an experiential program, working on both substantive environmental issues and leadership development, as well as conflict management strategies.  The program has 30-35 participants every year, chosen from almost 200 applicants. Each class is chosen to represent a broad diversity of environmental leaders from business, government, academia and NGOs. Several Georgia members of ACOEL are IGEL alumni. The program consists of four 3-day sessions, held in areas to represent Georgia’s environmental diversity—metro Atlanta, the coast, the southwest agricultural area, and the north Georgia mountains. The sessions include outside speakers, group discussion, and field trips.  Every step of the way includes participation from folks with differing views, including scientists, planners, developers, permittees, regulators, environmental activists, and community leaders. The program requires, and secures, a commitment from all class members to be at every session.  It is very time-consuming—and it is hard to be out of the office for three days at a time.  But it is also lots of fun, both the sessions and the field trips.

IGEL is a non-profit organization, governed by a volunteer board composed of alumni of the program.  IGEL operates out of Georgia State University College of Business, in the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility, which has developed the curriculum for the program.

IGEL seeks to provide environmental leaders the knowledge, advanced skills and network necessary to help resolve Georgia’s environmental challenges now and in the future. It’s hard to quantify outcomes, but IGEL has created, and continues to grow, a network of committed environmental leaders who share the IGEL experience, have a broader perspective because of that experience, and do, as a result, have improved channels for communication and a deeper appreciation of opposing environmental concerns.  Our world today is highly polarized; IGEL provides a valuable service in creating a safe space for honest dialogue and respectful disagreement about important environmental issues.  If you are interested you can learn more by checking out the website. http://www.igeleaders.org/  

Environmental Summit of the Americas

Posted on March 20, 2017 by Eugene Smary

Our American College of Environmental Lawyers recently has increased its external educational efforts, co-sponsoring programs with the Environmental Law Institute and the American Law Institute.  The College has also actively collaborated with other organizations to identify pro bono opportunities for its members in the international environmental arena.  The College is now proud to be a co-sponsor of the Environmental Summit of the Americas being held in Los Angeles on March 29. 

The lead organizers of this one-day Summit are the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER) and the International Bar Association’s Section on Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law (SEERIL).  Our College is joining the Canadian Bar Association’s National Environment, Energy and Resources Law Section (NEERLS) as a co-sponsor. 

The topics to be covered in the program are:  Climate Change and Energy/Environmental Policy; Extended Producer Responsibility; Officer, Director, Lender and Parent Company Liability; Permitting and Social License; and Trade and the Environment.  There will also be a special presentation by representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank on its project assessing the quality of environmental regulation in the Americas.  The format for the Summit is intended to be conducive to group discussion for each topic.  Each topic will have several discussion facilitators who will be providing a brief overview of the topic and then facilitating discussion among attendees.  Facilitators include well recognized lawyers from the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Peru.  While registrations are still being received, well over 50 percent of registrants are from Latin America and Canada.

Many of us have had a long-held objective of encouraging and developing this type of cross-border dialogue among our colleagues in this hemisphere.  The dialogue already exists in the context of the extractive industries, with groups such as the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation providing a platform for such discussions.  There also has been a long-term, collaborative relationship with ABA SEER and CBA NEERLS that has evolved over the last 15 years and has proven very instructive and beneficial to lawyers on both sides of the border.  More recently a relationship has been evolving between SEER and the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association, and between SEER and SEERIL. 

It has been more difficult to coordinate such a dialogue with jurisdictions having more loosely organized bar associations, particularly with a focus on environmental law.  While there have been some efforts by various international referral networks to develop such a discussion, to my knowledge the Summit will be the first effort by respected bar associations and our College to foster such a broad-based understanding of environmental legal developments.

College members are encouraged to attend.  The Summit will be an excellent opportunity for all attendees to learn from each other in a format which encourages discussion.  Chatham House Rules control.  The Summit is being held the day before the SEER Spring Conference which, hopefully, many of our College members already plan to attend.

I hope to see you there!