The ABA versus the Environment?

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. Lesley McAllister has a posting about this over at the Environmental Law Prof blog:

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 issues that are coming but are not yet on practitioners’ screen. Notably, many legal academics have served on SCEL. . . .

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.

SEER has a built-in conflict of interest since it also represents lawyers for the fossil fuel industry.  For example:

The Oil and Gas Committee provides a venue for energy law practitioners who wish to monitor, discuss and explore legal trends and developments that impact the practice of law within the oil and gas industry. The Committee provides a unique opportunity to establish a strong global network of lawyers and legal associations worldwide to promote professional development in oil and gas transactional areas through exchange of ideas, experiences, and access to the latest best practices.

Combining oil industry lawyers with environmentalists may not be the best idea in the world. The Bible tells us that someday the lions will lie down with the lambs, but an ABA committee may not be the best place to begin the process.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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