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U.S.-China Partnership Chief Joins EPA, Partnership Expands Under New Leadership

May 18, 2010

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- President Obama has appointed Professor Tseming Yang, director of Vermont Law School's U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law, to serve as deputy general counsel for international affairs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Yang, whose research and teaching have focused on U.S. and international environmental law, will assume his new duties as of June 1. He will support the EPA's efforts on international and tribal affairs through his expertise in international law, knowledge of foreign environmental governance systems, and past work on federal Indian law. Yang will work most directly with the EPA's Office of International and Tribal Affairs but also expects to work on bilateral and multilateral efforts across the agency.

Yang, who will join two other deputy general counsels at EPA, will report directly to EPA General Counsel Scott Fulton, who was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2009.

"I am excited about the opportunity to serve President Obama's EPA under the leadership of Administrator Lisa Jackson and General Counsel Scott Fulton" said Yang, who will be on a leave of absence from VLS, where he joined the faculty in 1998 and became director of the U.S.-China Partnership in 2007.

He also was a member of the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council from 1998 to 2003 and chaired the International Subcommittee in 2002-03. He was a J. William Fulbright Scholar at Tsinghua University Law School in Beijing during the 2005 fall semester.

VLS Dean Jeff Shields said President Obama's selection of Yang for one of the EPA's top posts underscores the innovative work being done by the school's U.S.-China Partnership. "This is an extraordinary honor for Professor Yang and certainly reflects well on the faculty and staff of Vermont Law School," Shields said.

Taking on the leadership of the U.S.-China Partnership is Siu Tip Lam, who was promoted from her position as deputy director. The partnership also is adding two new assistant directors and moving to larger quarters on campus to strengthen VLS's position as the premier American law school working on environmental and energy governance issues in China.

"I am honored to have been chosen as the new director of the U.S.-China Partnership," Lam said. "Vermont Law School and its partners will continue to expand our efforts to assist Chinese citizens and grassroots organizations to strengthen policies and laws that affect environmental justice."

Lam joined VLS in 2009 as an assistant professor of law and the deputy director of the U.S.-China Partnership. She came to VLS from the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, where she was an assistant attorney general in the Environmental Protection Division for 11 years. During her tenure there, she enforced state environmental laws and litigated throughout the Massachusetts court system, including the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Before that, she practiced law with the Boston firm of Brown, Rudnick, Freed & Gesmer as a litigation associate. She graduated from Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges with a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and received her law degree from Northeastern University Law School. A native of Hong Kong, she speaks Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.

"Professor Yang leaves the China program in very good shape and we are confident that Director Lam will continue to build on the wonderful platform established for this young program over the last four years," Shields said.

China's rapid economic growth has resulted in severe environmental problems, including greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming worldwide. Every year, an estimated 460,000 people die prematurely in China due to exposure to air and water pollution, according to a World Bank study.

In 2006, VLS in collaboration with Sun Yat-sen University launched the U.S.-China Partnership to provide greater knowledge, skills and academic infrastructure to solve environmental and energy problems in China through the rule of law. Since then, the partnership has received more than $5 million in grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development, trained more than 1,000 individuals in environmental and energy law, helped to expand Sun Yat-sen University's environmental law program, fostered a variety of research and policy development projects, started an exchange program for young environmental professionals and conducted numerous workshops.

The partnership's most recent initiative was a series of workshops in China earlier this month with China's Supreme Peoples Procuratorate (SPP), the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA to discuss using public interest litigation to protect Chinese citizens from pollution and other environmental violations. VLS, Justice Department and EPA officials advised Chinese prosecutors on how civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions are used for environmental issues in the United States. Lam, Yang and David Mears, director of the VLS Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, represented VLS at the workshops.

"These developments are real opportunities for the partnership to continue expanding our efforts to build China's capacity to solve its environmental and energy problems," Lam said. "We're working to establish a strong network of environmental law professionals in Guangdong Province and Beijing and are expanding the collaborative effort to other educational institutions on the national level as well as key government agencies. Through these efforts, the program is giving Chinese legal professionals, government officials and others the tools to become better environmental problem-solvers."

VLS's partners include Sun Yat-sen University, the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims at the China University of Political Science and Law, the Regulatory Assistance Project, the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and China's National Development and Reform Commission.

John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
802-831-1106, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

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