Glenn J. Berger
I do a lot of work with entrepreneurial people in an alternative energy environment. Working with them is exciting—they’re creative rather than bureaucratic. Vermont Law School is like that...”
Remember the Energy Security Act—that federal push for energy alternatives such as biomass, geothermal, and solar—in 1980? Remember when President Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House roof? When President Reagan took them down?
Glenn J. Berger does. “It’s déjà vu,” he says of developments in his energy-focused practice. A Washington, D.C.-based partner in the Energy and Infrastructure Projects group of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Berger started studying energy issues at VLS before they were a formal part of the curriculum. He credits the late VLS dean Tom Debevoise for channeling his environmental interests along energy lines.
“Tom had been a utility lawyer in Washington,” Berger notes. “When I was a second-year student, somebody from Dartmouth needed a VLS student to help research New England energy issues—biomass, hydro—and I got involved. Tom tutored me about those issues.”
After graduation and another year with the Dartmouth project, Berger became a trial attorney with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and chaired their Cogeneration Task Force. “We were implementing Carter’s 1978 National Energy Act, encouraging renewables and the use of excess steam—cogeneration—to get more bang for the energy buck,” he says. “It’s come full circle.”
Berger, who has also worked on energy issues in Asia and South America, feels that now, timing trumps territory when it comes to how energy is used. “Because energy is a commodity, price changes rapidly and radically,” he says. “Price and supply have traditionally driven how people use energy. What’s different now is that carbon dioxide and climate change are starting to drive energy use and are sustaining efforts to develop alternatives.” He doesn’t see any simple answers to the collision of energy consumption and environmental damage. “The government has to start requiring alternative energy or we’ll destroy ourselves. Are people going to be willing to pay a higher price? Are politicians going to be willing to pay the political price? There are a lot of issues.”
There are also careers available for attorneys interested in those issues. “Energy is an infrastructure, and someone in the infrastructure business can develop a practice. You need a business sense,” he adds of the kind of work he does, “because while it’s legal work, it also involves making deals happen and working with entrepreneurs who want to raise money. You can’t be a shrinking violet—you have to push people. What makes it interesting is being a problem-solver in diverse issues.”
Berger raises those problems and shares his perspective in courses he teaches during VLS’s Summer Session, a stimulating change and convenient to his family’s home not far from the law school. His involvement with VLS is deep and longstanding, and includes 15 years (so far) as a trustee. He feels working with VLS allows him greater impact than he’d have at his undergraduate alma mater, Cornell University. “I see the law school as an entrepreneurial institution,” he says. “I do a lot of work with entrepreneurial people in an alternative energy environment. Working with them is exciting—they’re creative rather than bureaucratic. Vermont Law School is like that—it started with nothing, and that we made it beyond the first couple of years is remarkable,” he recalls. “Tom Debevoise brought it together and made it work. I felt VLS was a place that was going to grow and do well and needed people to help move it along.” He adds, “This is still a young school, but our alumni are maturing and can play more of a role.”