This year Robert Bilott will be accepting the David Brewer Lifetime Achievement Award award. He will be giving an acceptance speech followed by a book signing.
Robert is a partner in Taft’s Environmental, Litigation, and Product Liability and Personal Injury groups. For more than 29 years, Rob has handled a wide variety of highly complex environmental matters and related toxic tort litigation for a diverse array of clients, including the nation’s first cases involving PFAS drinking water contamination. To date, Rob has secured benefits in excess of $1 Billion for clients impacted by PFAS contamination, including through key leadership positions in the nation’s first class action, personal injury, medical monitoring, and multi-district litigations and trials. In 2017, Rob received the international Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for his decades of work on PFAS issues. Rob is the author of the book, “Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle against DuPont,” and his story is the inspiration for the new motion picture, “Dark Waters” from Participant Media and Focus Features, starring Mark Ruffalo as Rob. His story is also featured in the documentary available on Netflix, “The Devil We Know.” Rob is a graduate of New College in Sarasota, Florida and has a Juris Doctor degree from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
PIELC 2019 Keynote Speakers
Thursday February 28, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. in Straub Hall
Eric was an inquisitive child growing up, always reflecting on himself in relation to unfamiliar others in the suburbs of Phoenix-metro, with endless questions about tradition as practiced back home in the rural “rez” settings of northern Arizona. Raised Catholic, he sought to reconcile such teachings with the religious traditional life of his own People, but his efforts early on revealed little. He struggled to find the kind of answers that would ease his frustrations and begin to piece together a cognitive map that could help navigate slippery concepts like “spirituality” and “sacred” or to substantiate what it meant to be Navajo, other than a demographic variable. It wasn’t until he stumbled into a religious studies course at Arizona State University where he began to find answers, and those answers, which have served as a platform for evolving truths to take shape, have inspired much of his life personally and professionally. The once latchkey kid finally found the intellectual footing he longed for, igniting a personal transformation.
Eric has pressed against governance at virtually all levels with what it means to be Indigenous, what it means to be a good relative. That is to say, the space between our intentions and performance professionally and our conduct personally must close, especially in relation to place, from the environment to the cosmos. Western culture, of course, insists they remain separate, making it easier to disavow personal accountability or those of familial recourse. This is a challenge that Eric has failed at over the years, but not without some meaningful success, and it’s because of those periodic triumphs, he is able to offer insight into new ways of governance.
In 2015-16, as an advisor for the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, Eric served as the founding Co-Chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. The Coalition, consisting of five tribes, rooted in traditional religious purpose, delivered its formal proposal October 15, 2015 to President Obama seeking a Bears Ears National Monument of 1.9 million acres. Further, the proposal sought to establish a federal commission that would help facilitate land management planning and administration consistent with Indigenous Traditional Knowledge systems.
On December 28, 2016, President Obama proclaimed the Bears Ears National Monument of 1.35 million acres and established the Bears Ears Commission. Relatively speaking, Eric asserts that all of that was the easy part, mainly because the means to achieve such, the structures and processes, are widely known. Innovating new ways of public land management using intellectual lenses of Indigenous Peoples, a genuinely alternative way of interpreting reality from Western Thought, remains the challenge.
Since 2004, he has held political appointments with the Arizona Governor’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Arizona Department of Housing, Office of the Speaker – Navajo Nation Council, Navajo County Administration, and the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President. He is alumnus of Arizona State University and the 2018 United Nations Institute for Training and Research(UNITAR) – Program to Enhance the Conflict Prevention and Peacemaking Capacities of Indigenous Peoples’ Representatives. In 2017-18, Eric served a term in the Arizona House of Representatives – 53rd Arizona State Legislature.
Eric is Diné, originally from Chinle, Navajo Nation (Arizona). He is Ma’ii deeshgiizhinii (Coyote Pass People Clan), born for Kiyaa’aanii (Towering House Clan). His grandfathers are Bit’ahnii (Folded Arms People Clan) and his paternal grandfathers are Honághááhnii (One Who Walks Around Clan). Today, he and his family reside in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he operates as an independent consultant in facilitation and strategic planning.
Keynote Topic: To better understand Indigenous connections with the landscape of the Bears Ears National Monument, it helps to consider different ways of knowing. Traditional Knowledge holds that what Western cultures might think of as “things” or “wildlife” – such as rocks, wind, and water – actually have agency, the potential to be alive, and the capability to think intelligently and intentionally. Eric Descheenie will speak to what hinders our ability to engage these concepts, as well as, introduce unprecedented possibilities to the way we manage public lands using Indigenous intellectual lenses.
Friday March 1, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. in Straub Hall
Norris is the founder and president of the Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy and its outreach arm, the African American Environmentalist Association. He has been a career environmentalist for thirty-six years. Formerly with the Environmental Policy Center (now Friends of the Earth), as Director of the Energy Conservation and Transportation Project, he is an energy and environmental specialist and has served as an advisor to industry and local neighborhood community groups. McDonald was president of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) from 1982 to 1984. He organized the first Energy Braintrust for the late Congressman Mickey Leland. He has authored and successfully worked for the passage of national energy legislation before the U.S. Congress. He has presented testimony before federal, state and local regulatory agencies, U.S. House and Senate Energy and Environmental Committees. He was a participant in the original meetings with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt environmental justice policies.
McDonald led the fight in Congress in the early 1980s to maintain Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) Standards. He presented testimony before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at the confirmation hearing of John Herrington as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy in 1985. McDonald drafted and led the lobbying campaign in the U.S. Congress to pass the Federal Shared Energy Savings Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He served as a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) instructor in 1997 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School. He assisted in the passage of the first civil rights legislation of the Twenty-first Century, the No Fear Act, signed by President Bush on May 15, 2002. He also authored and led passage of the New York City Environmental Justice Act.
He was recognized by Ebony magazine as one of its Power 100 in 2012. He was the author of the first comprehensive study of pollution in Washington, D.C. He is a recognized national speaker on energy and environmental issues and has appeared in numerous print and electronic media. He has received special recognition from the U.S. Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior. He has served on several federal, state and local environmental advisory committees. He served as a consultant for the East Bay Conversion and Reinvestment Commission, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Pilot Project Report for the Alameda Naval Air Station, Oakland, CA, 1996.
Keynote Topic: The African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA) was founded to address the continuing crisis of pollution that disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color. Our strategy is to conduct cutting edge research on the causes and consequences of air, water and land pollution. We seek to change public policy and regulations at the federal, state and local levels to better protect vulnerable individuals and communities. We also promote African American ownership of energy infrastructure and resources because Blacks have virtually no ownership in these sectors.
The AAEA is pragmatic and pro-technology and believes technological progress is a necessary pre-condition for prosperity, freedom, equality, and solving environmental problems. We also believe that the values of freedom and equality have been essential to the development and diffusion of world-changing technologies. AAEA seeks to realize the initial promise of the environmental justice movement. At the top of our agenda is the health of all people. A healthy person is a happy person. A healthy populace is a happy populace. A happy populace is more inclined to pursue policies that continue to enhance societal health. We seek opportunities for the many, including jobs, productivity, and personal power. Whether industrial or post-industrial, a society needs abundant power in order to be prosperous. Our challenge is to produce the most power with the least amount of pollution.
Friday March 1, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. in Straub Hall
Dominique Bachelet is an ecologist with thirty-nine years of combined education and work experience in the United States. Her research has focused on global climate change impacts since 1989, and she has been involved in several IPCC reports since 1995. She has published over eighty peer-reviewed papers and thirty book chapters, co-edited two books, and participated in model documentation and data archiving. She contributed to the development of the first dynamic global vegetation model (MC1) that included a dynamic fire model. In 2017, she was elected AAAS fellow in recognition of her climate change science contribution. For a decade she worked in the NGO world focusing on science information delivery and communication. With her team at the Nature Conservancy, Dominique initiated the creation of the “climate wizard” (climatewizard.org) to deliver climate projections. At Conservation Biology Institute, she worked closely with web application developers to ensure that the most relevant state-of-the-art climate change information, particularly about impacts, was delivered to the stakeholders who need it (e.g. climateconsole.org/conUS, climatemapper.org). She went back to Oregon State University in 2017 and is currently teaching an online class at as well as helping develop the Climate Change Track in the Environmental Science Program. The rest of the time, she is trying to work on a backlog of publications and paint a few new watercolors.
Keynote Topic: This year marks the thirtieth year Dominiwue has stimulated climate change impacts, particularly vegetation shifts and wildfires. Her keynote will discuss her experience working with federal agencies and their variable budgets, competing for dwindling resources among Academic and NGO, working with the general public and deniers attacks, and guiding students wondering what the future might bring them.
Saturday March 2, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. in the Straub Hall
Dr. Richard McLaughlin is Endowed Chair and Professor for Coastal and Marine Policy and Law at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Dr. McLaughlin has over 30 years’ experience in a broad range of marine and coastal policy and legal issues including the international law of the sea, ocean energy policies, transboundary ocean and coastal governance, and marine ecosystem-based management. He has been actively involved in a variety of leadership positions in the marine law and policy field, is a former Fulbright Scholar to Japan and has published over eighty-five articles and monographs on marine and coastal policy issues. Prior to joining HRI in 2005, Dr. McLaughlin was Professor of Law and Ray and Louise Stewart Lecturer at the University of Mississippi School of Law where he regularly taught International Law, Property Law, Admiralty Law, Ocean and Coastal Law, International Environmental Law, and other courses. Dr. McLaughlin currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences and Engineering Committee on Scientific Assessment, a group that advises the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) regarding the development of Outer Continental Shelf energy and mineral resources. A graduate of Tulane University Law School and the University of Washington School of Law, he holds a doctorate degree in law from University of California at Berkeley’s School of Law.
Keynote Topic: Technological advances are allowing scientists to place satellite-based and other tracking devices on a variety of marine animals. This biologging research is providing unprecedented insights into ecological behavior and associated ocean conditions that would be difficult to obtain using other scientific methods. However, the increasing use of marine animals for collecting oceanographic data raises important legal implications under the marine scientific research provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Marine animals, once tagged with tracking devices, are capable of continuously collecting valuable scientific information as they move into and out of different nations’ maritime zones. These movements bring into question the age-old controversy over how to balance the international community’s freedom to engage in marine scientific research with the sovereign rights of coastal States to control foreign exploration and exploitation of natural resources within their national waters.
Saturday March 2, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. in Straub Hall
Vickie Patton serves as Environmental Defense Fund’s General Counsel and leads the organization’s U.S. Clean Air Program. For over thirty years, she has worked with partners and allies to protect human health and the environment. She has helped secure numerous national and state protections addressing dangerous climate and air pollution, participated in a variety of cases enforcing and defending key protections including successful cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeals, testified before congressional and state legislative committees, and authored a variety of articles on air quality protection and environmental policy. Prior to joining Environmental Defense Fund, she worked in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C., where she worked on the historic 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and received the Agency’s Gold Medal for Exceptional Service. Vickie has received a number of awards including the Air & Waste Management Association’s Richard Beatty Mellon Environmental Stewardship Award, the Wirth Chair Award for Creative Collaborations in Sustainability, and the Healthy Community Award received from her local health department. Vickie serves on the Board of Directors of the Environmental Law Institute and was selected a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.
Keynote Topic: Forging common ground on climate action in the age of Trump.
Sunday March 3, 2018 at 1:15 p.m. in Straub Hall
Amy Cordalis is a staff attorney for the Yurok Tribe Tribal Attorney’s Office. Amy graduated from the University of Oregon in 2003 with a degree in environmental studies before earning her J.D. at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Amy then spent six years working as an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund before joining Berkey Williams, LLP to continue advocating for Native American tribes. After her time at Berkey Williams, Amy joined the Office of the Tribal Attorney with the Yurok Tribe.
Keynote Topic: Amy will be discussing issues surrounding the Klamath Basin from tribal, environmental, and legal perspectives.
Born in Mexico City, Sergio Avila-Villegas grew up exploring in the Chihuahuan Desert of north- central Mexico, while dreaming of becoming a big-cat scientist. Sergio is a wildlife biologist graduated from the University of Baja California with a Master’s degree in Arid Lands Management (2000), and University of Aguascalientes with a B.S. in Biology (1997). Sergio has lived and worked in Arizona since 2004 and became a U.S. Citizen in 2016. He is a member of City of Tucson’s Committee on Climate, Energy and Sustainability (2018), Board member of the Society for Conservation Biology, North America Chapter (2017), a Conservation Science Fellow with the Wilburforce Foundation (2015), and a certified wildlife tracker with CyberTracker
Sergio Avila now works for the national Sierra Club in the Outdoor Activities Team. His focus is to support staff and volunteers in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah, with the mission to connect all people with the natural world and with the Sierra Club, by maintaining and enhancing diversified, superior, volunteer-run outdoor activities that support the Sierra Club’s conservation mission.
For over twenty years, Sergio has worked on local and regional conservation efforts along theU.S.-Mexico borderlands, as a conservation scientist, wildlife researcher and facilitator of bi-national conservation projects. He has led collaborative efforts on connectivity for wildlife, habitat restoration, public education and interpretation in the U.S. southwest and northwest Mexico. Sergio has traveled extensively across all Mexican states and western United States.
Sergio Avila’s varied experience includes living with the indigenous Tarahumara of the Sierra Madre, which transformed his vision of environmental stewardship and conservation focus. For over ten years, Avila tracked and studied borderland jaguars and ocelots in Sonora and Arizona.Two live encounters with jaguars in the mountains of Sonora have been life-changing experiences that shaped Sergio’s personal and professional life. More recently he led efforts to protect monarch butterflies promoting pollinator gardens in Arizona, and connecting efforts with a new monarch-monitoring network in northwest Mexico.
Sergio enjoys trail running, gardening, bird and butterfly watching, and looking for wildlife tracks and sign. He lives in Tucson with his wife Jenny, their three cats Lupe, Carlos, and Pancho, and Toby, the desert tortoise.
Facebook: Sergio Avila
David Bookbinder is Chief Counsel at the Niskanen Center, a think tank in Washington, DC, where he focuses on issues of federal carbon taxation, climate nuisance litigation, the abuse of eminent domain by oil and gas pipeline companies, and trying to curb the lawlessness of the Trump administration.
Mr. Bookbinder began practicing law at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, handling securities, mergers and acquisitions, product liability, white-collar criminal, intellectual property and other matters.
In the public interest sphere, Mr. Bookbinder has litigated dozens of cases under all of the major environmental statutes including, as Sierra Club’s Chief Climate Counsel, initiating and managing Massachusetts v. EPA. In addition to overseeing Sierra Club’s climate docket, he represented the environmental community (including as trial counsel) in the thicket of litigation over California’s greenhouse gas vehicle standards, and brought In re Deseret Power, which effectively imposed a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. He also led Sierra Club’s work on judicial nominations, including the filibusters of 2003 – 2006 and litigation over the constitutionality of recess appointments for federal judges, and was counsel in In re Cheney.
Dealing with Congress and federal agencies, Mr. Bookbinder helped lead efforts on both global warming legislation and greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act, and has testified in front of House and Senate committees on these issues (and may be the only person ever invited by both Barbara Boxer and James Inhofe). He has also advised states as to their greenhouse gas regulatory authority.
Mr. Bookbinder was trained at Princeton University (summa cum laude) and the University of Chicago Law School. He has designed and taught courses on “Environmental Litigation” at Georgetown University Law Center and “Environmental Law and Science” at the William and Mary Law School/Virginia Institute of Marine Science.