Environmental Law

Holly Rachel Smith, Chair

The Environmental Law Section continues to serve the needs of Virginia lawyers by providing opportunities for continuing education, sponsoring projects and programs related to environmental law in Virginia, and keeping section members up-to-date with recent environmental law changes so they can better serve the public.

The Environmental Law Section currently has 389 members. The annual budget for the past fiscal year was $5312.00 and has a remining balance of $4852.44.

The Environmental Law Section Board of Governors met via teleconference in Fall 2019 to brainstorm and set goals for the upcoming Bar year. In February 2020, the board hosted an in-person meeting at the VSB offices in Richmond, which was also open to the entire section membership. Several section members joined the board for a planning session, led by Section Chair, Holly Rachel Smith. Three committees emerged: a CLE committee, a Newsletter committee, and a Networking committee. 

  • The Newsletter committee got to work right away, releasing the section’s first news publication since 2006 with the inaugural issue of The Oyster in May 2020. This news update filters many different sources that share environmental law updates such as, the DEQ, EPA, the Courts, etc. The Oyster will be sent to section members monthly via email.
  • The CLE committee scheduled a webinar for mid-June 2020 and worked hard to pull and organize materials to support their presentation: “Environmental Developments in Virginia: A 2020 General Assembly Wrap-up”. This webinar included 1.5 hours of FREE CLE. This committee is in the process of preparing another webinar to be hosted in late summer 2020. 
  • The Networking committee, in coordination with the CLE committee, had planned to host an in-person CLE event in partnership with the Virginia Bar Association or Richmond Bar Association in late Fall 2020. While this is unlikely to occur due to restrictions from the pandemic, it will remain an item on the agenda as the section moves into the next Bar year. 

Lastly, the board met via teleconference to line up board members for the coming Bar year. Many of the section members who attended the meeting in February took a seat on the board of governors. 

This year was one of rebirth for the Environmental Law Section.  We learned that once presented with an in-person forum, section members devoted themselves to ensuring continued excellency in the practice of environmental law by contributing their unique talent or skill.  Substantial contributions were made by outgoing Board of Governor Members Peggy Sanner, Matt Gooch, and incoming Board of Governor Members Kathleen Hennessey, Cliona Robb and Joe Romero.  Additionally, we observed a generational shift -- younger lawyers actively participating on the Board of Governors and significantly contributing to the new publication called The Oyster! We also found success with involving younger members of the Bar in Section leadership, consistent with one of the Board’s 2019 goals.  None of this would have been possible without the support and direction of outgoing Board of Governor Chairman Gary Bryant.

The leadership of the Environmental Law Section for the upcoming year includes:

Holly Rachel Smith, Chair (until filled)

Paul Kugelman, Vice Chair

Cliona Robb, Secretary

Matthew Gernand

Christiana Lockwood

Creighton Boggs

Chris Kane

Joe Romero

Elizabeth Andrews

Ellen Egen

Gray O’Dwyer

Kathleen Hennessey

Lindsey Rhoten

2019 was a year for the section that could be described as giving back to the Virginia State Bar by standing up the committees and activities that parallel that being accomplished by other VSB sections.  2020, given the unique struggles facing lawyers both personally and professionally, we hope this to be a year of building a strong network inside the Virginia State Bar that will be a support structure for the health of the legal profession.   Finally, not one the Section’s 2019 achievements would have been possible without Mallory Ralston, this Section’s VSB Liaison.  She turned ideas into action, while also maintaining an unparalleled level of excellence.  A big thank you to the Virginia State Bar for all of the support provided to the Environmental Law Section.

  Updated: Jul 16, 2020