Keynote Address at ABA SEER Environmental Law Conference

Keynote Address at ABA SEER Environmental Law Conference

Introduction and Acknowledgment

In my capacity as the Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice, I would like to express my gratitude to ABA SEER for the invitation to this environmental law conference.

It’s a pleasure to be here, alongside Tommy Beaudreau, the former Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Interior.

A Homecoming at ENRD

For those who may not be familiar, I am Todd Kim, and it’s an honor to serve as the Assistant Attorney General of ENRD.

My journey here feels like a homecoming since I initially joined the division as an Honors Attorney and spent nearly eight years in the Appellate Section.

I’m proud to return to ENRD and eager to discuss how our work aligns with your experiences in representing private clients in environmental compliance or working on public sector environmental initiatives.

Overview of ENRD

ENRD is one of the key litigating divisions at the Department of Justice, often referred to as the “world’s largest environmental law firm.”

We comprise over 600 employees, including more than 400 attorneys. Our mission revolves around safeguarding the health and well-being of Americans, preserving our natural resources, and ensuring fair treatment under the law.

Our civil and criminal enforcement efforts have a substantial nationwide impact, with impressive results in fiscal year 2023.

Supreme Court Cases and Administrative Law

ENRD is actively involved in handling environmental and natural resource cases that appear on the Supreme Court’s docket.

I’d like to highlight three cases, one ongoing and two recent, that illustrate the intersection of environmental law and administrative law.

The current case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, addresses the Chevron doctrine, with potential implications for administrative practice across the federal government.

In June of last year, the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA introduced the major questions doctrine, influencing various challenges to agency actions.

Another significant case, Sackett v. EPA, clarified the “water of the United States” definition under the Clean Water Act.

Environmental Justice

A key priority for this Administration is advancing environmental justice. Communities, often low-income, communities of color, and indigenous communities, disproportionately suffer from environmental injustice.

The Department of Justice established an Office of Environmental Justice within ENRD, aiming to protect these communities and promote fair treatment in decision-making processes.

We’ve launched the Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy, which prioritizes cases to reduce public health and environmental harms in overburdened communities.

Environmental Justice in Action

We’re actively addressing environmental justice concerns through actions such as the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands Environmental Crimes Task Force, investigations into illegal dumping in communities, and efforts to support tribal sovereignty and homelands.

Our enforcement decisions are guided by the imperative to advance environmental justice, and we encourage industry clients to fulfill their obligations under federal environmental law to prevent federal enforcement actions.

Climate Cases

Addressing the climate crisis is another significant priority. ENRD partners with client agencies, state, local, and tribal entities to combat climate change.

Our climate cases encompass actions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, protect natural resources and wildlife threatened by climate change, and defend regulations, controls, and policies supporting the transition to cleaner energy.

Versatile Approach to Climate Cases

We engage in classic climate cases targeting emission sources, including petrochemical plants, power plants, and more.

Additionally, we protect critical carbon “sinks” like wetlands and forests and contribute to international efforts to combat illegal timber trafficking.

Our climate cases also include defending greenhouse gas emissions regulations and supporting cleaner energy conversion.

Closing and Future Prospects

The current climate in environmental law is exciting and crucial.

I am enthusiastic to be at ENRD, contributing to the vital work we have ahead. Thank you for your attention.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the remarks delivered by Todd Kim at the ABA SEER Environmental Law Conference covered various topics, including the role of ENRD, Supreme Court cases, environmental justice, and climate change.

His speech provided insights into the current landscape of environmental law and the priorities of the Department of Justice in these critical areas.