Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Heads Up! The ABA is Proposing to Abolish its Standing Committee on Environmental Law

For those of you active in the American Bar Association or state bar associations, you might be interested in knowing that the ABA House of Delegates will vote on a Resolution (Resolution 11-6) that would abolish the ABA Standing Committee on Environmental Law (SCEL) at its Annual Meeting next Monday. 

Resolution 11-6 would abolish SCEL and merge its functions into the Section on Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER).  SEER's primary mission, however, is to serve the day-to-day needs of its members, which tend to be lawyers practicing full-time in its fields.  SCEL’s role has been to coordinate the work of 70 different ABA committees scattered throughout numerous ABA sections and draw attention to major environmental law issues that are coming but are not yet on practitioners’ screen.  Notably, many legal academics have served on SCEL since its establishment in 1975.  Presently, Edith Brown Weiss (Georgetown) is the Chair of SCEL, and Rebecca Bratspies (CUNY), Fred Cheever (Denver), Ann Powers (Pace) and Stephanie Tai (Wisconsin) are among its 11 members.  Moreover, I serve as a liaison to SCEL from the Section of State and Local Government Law, and Joe Dellapenna (Villanova) and Cynthia Drew (Miami) serve as liaisons from the Section of International Law and the Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice, respectively.

Importantly, the ABA states that the Resolution is being put forth for financial and budgeting reasons, but it hasn’t produced any findings or conclusions on the financial impact of SCEL.  From the information I have, SCEL is actually revenue-positive. Its programming produces profits to support its operations, and its staff supports other ABA functions such that no financial savings would be achieved by the Resolution.   

If you would like to express yourself in the debate about the abolishment of SCEL, the best way to do so at this point is to make contact with those who will vote on the Resolution.  Of the 566 voting members of the ABA House of Delegates, major groups include 230 State Bar Association Delegates, 81 Local Bar Association Delegates, and 72 representatives of ABA Sections and Divisions.  Contacting your State Bar might be a good bet.  For example, the Colorado State Bar lists its delegates here, and other bar association may do the same.  Also, if you are a member of an ABA Section, you could contact your Section leaders.  

- Lesley McAllister

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Before law school, I had been a political activist and worked on environmental issues. I won a paid legal internship through a writing contest during law school and chose to intern at NYPIRG that summer, working on environmental issues there also. I got very discouraged after a while from fighting for the underdog and always getting outspent by the corporate interests. This post makes me sad, as it seems many others have shared my sentiment and the almighty dollar prevails.

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Posted by: Dana Atman, Esq. | Aug 17, 2011 11:17:22 AM

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