Environmental Law Center
Featured Students and Alumni
Joint Degree Alum Facilitates Community Partnership in Coastal Virginia
Featuring: Emily Steinhilber, JD/MELP '12
Emily Steinhilber graduated magna cum laude from Vermont Law School in 2012 with a JD and MELP. During her time at VLS, she served as Business Manager of the Vermont Law Review, co-chaired a Law Review symposium on constitutional constraints on state health care & privacy regulation, earned the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal of Excellence, and took every opportunity to explore the Green Mountain state.
Interested in the intersection of corporate America and the environment prior to law school, Emily used her time at VLS to explore the role of government in this relationship. As a research associate for the Environmental Tax Policy Institute and Professor Janet Milne, she and fellow student Jonathan Voegele (JD 2012) were invited to present research on tax incentives for offshore wind transmission at the 12th Global Conference on Environmental Taxation in Madrid, Spain. Other research included tax policy surrounding the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, tax subsidies for electric vehicles, transferrable tax credits for conservation easements, and greening of the corporate supply chain.
Always a "beach kid" she returned home to Virginia Beach, Virginia following graduation and joined the Virginia Coastal Coalition as Executive Director in 2013. Founded by local business leaders, the new nonprofit facilitates collaboration between the business, environmental, and academic communities in the area, provides reliable information on the local impacts of sea-level rise, and guides development of policies that promote the region's unique environmental and economic identity.
Facing a 1.5 foot rise in sea levels in the next 50 years, the Hampton Roads region at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay is the second most vulnerable location in the United States to sea-level rise and 10th in the world. The area is also home to one of our country's largest ports, the largest naval base in the world, and a thriving tourism industry. Though a challenging project, Emily is excited to help turn "living with the water" into an economic opportunity for the region.
Emily lives two blocks from the ocean with her husband Dylan and dog Linus. For more information or to follow her work on sea-level rise adaptation in Virginia, visit www.vacoastal.org.
MERL Student Pursues Energy Efficiency and Access
Featuring: Achyut Shrestha, MERL '14
Energy is one of the biggest constraints when dealing with environmental issues. For Achyut Shrestha, energy consumption is decidedly personal, having grown up in Nepal where he experienced firsthand daily 12-hour blackouts and a country shorted of natural gas and other petroleum products. Since then, energy efficiency and access has been a driving motivation behind his focused studies.
Achyut currently attends Vermont Law School as a Master's candidate for Energy Regulation and Law (MERL). He is one of the student research assistants with the Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE), known as Energizers, where he presently researches Smart Grid development in Denmark. He is also working with Professor and IEE Associate Director Kevin Jones, along with fellow students, on a law review paper presenting a case study of different urban microgrids in the U.S. Outside of the classroom, Achyut takes time to volunteer at the South Royalton Senior Society, where he helps to organize weekly bingo, and enjoys a connection to the local community. Achyut is also the creator and author of the blog Energist, where he writes about global sustainable energy, at greenenergist.blogspot.com.
In his undergraduate studies at Hampshire College, Achyut served as a wind energy research assistant where he designed and modeled a flanged diffuser for wind turbines to increase their energy harvest. He earned a BA in physics, focusing his senior thesis research project on increasing efficiency in Organic-LEDs. After graduating and teaching physics for a year, Achyut joined the World Resources Institute in Washington, DC as a climate energy and policy intern. There, he coauthored the research paper, "Comparative Assessment of Industrial Energy Efficiency Programs," in collaboration with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Achyut found his path to VLS through Jonathan Lash, president of Hampshire College and former director of VLS' Environmental Law Center. "He really inspired me," says Achyut, "and played an important role for me to attend VLS." Achyut looks forward to continuing his work in the field of energy after graduation from VLS this fall. "I want to dedicate my career towards expanding clean energy access in the developing countries," he affirms.
Dual Degree Alum Directs At Iowa's Largest Energy Company
Featuring: Jennifer McIvor, JD/MEM '08
Jennifer McIvor graduated from the joint degree program at Vermont Law School (2007) and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (2008), with an emphasis on environmental law and policy. Jenny joined MidAmerican Energy Company, based in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2008. MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, is Iowa's largest energy company, providing natural gas and electric service to customers in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska.
Jenny is the Director of Environmental Programs, Compliance and Permitting, where she ensures that MidAmerican Energy and its facilities obtain the appropriate permits and remain in compliance. Jenny supports MidAmerican's renewable energy programs by providing environmental expertise for their extensive wind energy installations in Iowa and MidAmerican Renewable's wind and solar energy facilities in Illinois, Arizona and California. Jenny integrates environmental assessments of existing and anticipated environmental regulations into planning and operating decisions of the company's business units, advising management of the impact of proposed regulations and developing compliance strategies.
During her time at Vermont Law and Yale, Jenny explored how the legal framework of regulation could support and work alongside a strong land ethic in the Midwest to accomplish environmental change. She participated in a natural resources policy practicum to consult with Defenders of Wildlife on the nexus between forest carbon and biodiversity conservation and with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Sustainability on the sustainability of biofuels. Jenny clerked for The Wilderness Society and the Nebraska Attorney General's Section of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, focusing primarily on the legal and hydrologic connectivity between ground and surface water protection. Her master's project focused on environmental issues in her home state of Nebraska and culminated in a policy proposal, Climate Change Action in Nebraska.
VLS Alumnus Reflects on Path to Energy Law
Featuring: Christopher Supino, LLM 2013
Christopher Supino graduated from Vermont Law School's LLM program summa cum laude and with an Energy Certificate in August 2013, and began working as an energy lawyer at The Holsclaw Group in Indiana. The Holsclaw Group is a boutique energy law firm representing the interests of utilities and RTOs before state commission and FERC. Among its clients is the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which operates one of the world's largest real-time energy market and oversees the electricity transmission system for much of the U.S. Midwest and parts of Canada. Chris has made an immediate impact in the industry serving as part of a team of attorneys at the Holsclaw Group and MISO that was successful in completing one of the largest utility - RTO integrations in history.
Chris came to VLS as an experienced land use and commercial litigation attorney (JD from William & Mary) in order to pursue an LLM in Environmental law and an Energy Certificate to refocus his practice on energy law. "I wanted to work with utilities and RTOs and build from my experience in land use and litigation practice. But energy law is highly specialized and can be difficult to break into if you are not already familiar with the maze of federal and state regulation that governs the energy industry." On choosing VLS, Chris said "I spent months researching the best programs to help me build a solid education in the field of energy law. I realized early on in the process that I would need a strong background in environmental law to be an effective energy lawyer because the fields are so heavily intertwined. No environmental law school even came close to the depth of curriculum that Vermont Law offered. There was a course for pretty much any topic I could think of, usually taught by a leader in the field. On the rare occasions when I could not find a course that matched one of my interests, VLS' accessible faculty worked with me to set up an independent study."
In reflecting on his time at VLS Chris said, "One thing that really stood out about VLS was the strong sense of community. It was easy to forget the incredible prestige of the faculty and guest lecturers when I was meeting with them for coffee, dinner or drinks. They really went out of their way to be available to students outside of class and to be active participants in the campus community."
VLS Alumnus Named Government Environmental Lawyer of the Year
Featuring: Mike Myers, JD 1993
Congratulations to VLS Alumnus and New York Assistant Attorney General, Mike Myers, JD '93, who was named the Government Environmental Lawyer of the Year by the American Bar Association. This is a significant achievement in recognition of Mr. Myers' work on EPA air standards and as a leader in government on climate change. Mr. Myers exemplifies our alumni, who continue to make a difference in our communities and in the world.
Read the press coverage from Greenwire here.
Recent Alum Spearheads Endangered Rivers Protection
Featuring: Alex Funk, JD 2013
Alex Funk (VLS '13) is the Lapham River Conservation Fellow at American Rivers, a national organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the nation's rivers and streams. Alex is working in their national office in Washington, DC, and using his Vermont Law School legal education to draft federal legislation to target funding for water conservation programs in the western United States. He is spearheading the creation of a program to work with agricultural communities in order to increase instream flows and restore threatened riparian habitat in the Colorado River Basin, which American Rivers recently identified as America's Most Endangered River. During his time at VLS, Alex took advantage of nearly every clinical and externship program VLS has to offer. In his 2L year, as part of the Semester in Practice program, Alex worked as a law clerk for the United States Department of the Interior on Cape Wind project litigation and Endangered Species Act consultations for natural gas leases. As a 3L, Alex worked for both the Vermont Attorney General's Office and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic on a number of environmental cases including stormwater pollution in the Connecticut River and Vermont Yankee.
Rising 3L in Iraq on Prestigious Helton Fellowship
Featuring: Carina Roselli, JD 2014 (Yale MEM)
In her 2L year, VLS student Carina Roselli wrote her International Human Rights seminar paper on the United Nations human rights mechanisms that could be used to address the situation of the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq caused by the intentional destruction of the marshes - once the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East - that had been their home and provided their unique culture and way of life. She first became aware of their situation when flying US Army helicopter missions over the area in 2009, where she saw the breathtaking environmental devastation first-hand. Now a 3L, Carina is back in Iraq this summer with the assistance of a prestigious Helton Fellowship from the American Society of International Law, using her legal training to work with Nature Iraq on its program to restore the marshes, and with them, the human rights and cultural heritage of the Marsh Arabs.
- Read the press release from Nature Iraq about her work there.
- Visit Carina's blog on SAGE Magazine.
- Listen to Carina's interview on the National Public Radio program, Here and Now, recorded on September 10, 2013: "From the Military Base to the Marshlands: A Soldier Returns to Iraq". The program is about her work this summer with Nature Iraq and what it was like to be an Iraq war veteran returning to Iraq as a civilian.
- Listen to Carina's interview on Public Radio International on June 10, 2014: "This Iraq War Veteran Goes Back to Iraq on a Different Mission: To Save the Wetlands."
JD/MELP Alum Blogs About Sustainable Tuna Fisheries in Sardinia
Featuring: Shannon Cosentino-Roush, JD/MELP '09
After graduating from Vermont Law School, Shannon worked for a year as a Sea Grant Knauss fellow, followed by a year in the same position as part of an organization combatting illegal fishing and strengthening international enforcement. Last summer, when her contract ended, she traveled to Europe for three months to gain field experience in tuna fisheries, all while working on a project as an international consultant. In the next two months she will also be doing two short term consulting projects on fisheries law in Tanzania.
Read the National Geographic blog posts about Shannon Cosentino-Roush's adventure at a traditional tuna trap off of Italy.