October 03, 2018

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.


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