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The extraordinary relationship between Vermont Law School and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) goes back to the very beginning, when an attorney named Doug Costle, as part of President Richard Nixon’s Advisory Council on Executive Organization, helped draw up the blueprint for a wide-ranging new federal agency that would protect the nation’s air, land, and water. Costle would go on to lead the EPA for four years during the Carter administration and, from 1987 to 1991, serve as Dean of Vermont Law School.

Over the past four decades, scores of VLS graduates have brought their unique brand of activism, civic responsibility, scientific understanding, and legal training into our most important environmental regulator and watchdog. Not surprising, perhaps—given that Vermont’s environmental law program is consistently ranked the best in the nation. Still, with the small size of the school’s alumni body, the numbers are surprising and disproportionate. “VLS has very quietly and systematically penetrated the public sector,” notes Vermont Law School Dean Marc Mihaly. “At EPA, in energy, we’re virtually a mafia.”