Former EPA counsel sees stronger partnership with government, industry and public
Nov. 14, 2013 – Enlightened by self-interest and pressured by social media and community involvement, industry is stepping up and playing a greater role in protecting the environment in partnership with a government agency facing long-term budget cutbacks, according to the former general counsel of the EPA.
In his 30-plus years of government service, most of which was in the environment sector, Scott Fulton said Thursday he has watched the evolving role of government, industry, and the public in forging a new sensitivity and attitude toward the environment.
“I feel very much encouraged by the changes,” he told students, professors, and practitioners in the third and final presentation of the Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Center Fall Speaker Series at the University of Houston Law Center. “I am optimistic despite recent controversies and the emergence of new challenges such as global climate change.”
One major challenge for the EPA is “doing more with less” as budget constraints, which he said started long before this year’s sequester, will continue. “It promises to be a long and difficult slug,” he said, trying to meet priorities set by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy with a smaller agency and fewer resources. At the top of the EPA list is addressing the issue of climate change, improving air quality, and sustainability of energy sources.
“We’re at a watershed moment of sorts with industry,” said Fulton, now a partner in the Washington office of the environment law firm of Beveridge & Diamond P.C. He foresees a greater emphasis on innovation and a much closer partnership between government and industry.
A prime motivator for industry’s environmental efforts has been the “social media revolution,” he said, calling the communication explosion “a third-rail issue that cannot be ignored.” The public today is much better informed and has an enormous amount of information at its fingertips, he said. It demands greater transparency from industry and, as a “shareholder” in the well-being of a community, Foster said, these “new regulators” can exert tremendous pressure on development.
“I find what’s happening in this area absolutely fascinating with the potential for change beyond the limits of current understanding,” he said in concluding his remarks on the future of environmentalism. “The trick is to keep one eye trained on the horizon so we can see the way it’s coming.”
The EENR Center Speaker Series is made possible through the generous support of Connelly Baker & Wotring LLP, Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, Vinson & Elkins LLP, Porter & Hedges LLP, Blackburn Carter, P.C. , Kinder Morgan, and the Environmental & Natural Resources Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.