Committee Q&A: A Conversation with the Co-Chairs of CPR’s Environmental Committee

We sat down recently with the Co-Chairs of CPR’s Environmental Committee, Steven Antunes of AEGIS Insurance Services, Inc. and John Bickerman of Bickerman Dispute Resolution, PLLC, to learn more about what this dynamic committee has been up to and has planned for the future.

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The Environmental Committee focuses generally on promoting the use of ADR in the environmental context and identifying best practices for mediation and arbitration in this highly technical area of the law. What are some of the specific issues that the Committee has focused on recently, and how?

John Bickerman: As working effectively with the government is almost always a critical component of environmental matters, the Committee organized a presentation on “Best Practices for Resolving Government Disputes” in Washington, D.C. in April 2018, featuring senior jurists from the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board and directors of the dispute resolution divisions of FERC and the DOI.  Every agency has its own dispute resolution program. In the future, we intend to engage other agencies and have meetings outside of Washington, DC.  For example, we are considering holding meetings in the cities where EPA has regional offices because much of the interaction that the business community may have will come through the regional offices.

Steven Antunes: And just last month, we hosted a lunch time webinar on Ash Pond featuring Vivek Chopra of Perkins Coie and Kieran J. Purcell, Environmental Division Director of Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc. A recording of this webinar is available, for CPR members only, on CPR’s website HERE (members must be logged in to access). The Committee provided a primer on the functionality of an ash pond and its potential environmental affects and how ADR is utilized in resolving legal conflicts arising there from.

Can you give us a preview of some of the important environmental issues the Committee will be focusing on next?

Steven Antunes: The re-emergence of asbestos litigation has become an issue. The Committee will offer a comprehensive webinar in December 2019 regarding the role ADR plays in resolving asbestos-related matters.  The Committee is also putting together a session on how ADR should/could resolve potential environmental issues arising out of a Green New Deal scenario.

John Bickerman: One of the very significant challenges industry faces is the shifting regulatory and enforcement regimes of different Administrations. How much does the mission of an environmental agency change with each new Administration and how do companies plan and manage their environmental programs?

What have you both personally gotten out of participating in CPR’s committee structure, and what would you say to busy CPR members about why they should become more involved?

John Bickerman: Committee work gives a member the opportunity to immerse oneself more fully in specific areas of interest. Through committee work, a member can meet and develop meaningful relationships with colleagues who have shared interests. And, as a full-time neutral, CPR programs have provided an opportunity to understand better the thinking and approach of key corporate decision makers on how they approach resolving disputes.  And, it has also given prospective clients an opportunity to meet me and understand how I do my job.

Steven Antunes: My company is a longstanding CPR member and advocate of ADR so, I acknowledge that there may be a bias in my experience but every time I leave a CPR event, including Environmental Committee meetings, I walk away having learned something that will assist me in reaching an acceptable resolution to a matter. Committee members can be involved to whatever extent works for them. One can choose to formally participate and volunteer for projects, such as creating the resources that committees often collaboratively author. The opportunity to assume leadership roles on the CPR Committees exists or one can just take advantage of the events, which are an exclusive benefit of CPR membership. These events alone provide incredibly rewarding educational and networking experiences and truly should not be missed. They are also a great way to explore various committees one might be interested in before formally joining. The exchange of ideas and experiences that takes place during CPR events is invaluable. I challenge anyone to find an organization that offers its membership comparable access to business, corporate and legal talent.

Why would you encourage people to join the Environmental Committee?  

John Bickerman: Environmental issues will always be at the forefront of public policy and draw great public attention. The committee provides an opportunity to learn about these issues and be better prepared for the future impacts environmental policies will have on the business community.

Steven Antunes:  First of all, there can never be too much talent or knowledge associated with a given topic. If your practice involves any type of environmental issue, this CPR value added opportunity will only enhance your ability to successfully navigate the process of resolving environmental issues without the high costs and drawn out litigation process. This Committee offers first class interaction between/among some of the best in the environmental business.

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CPR committees are always looking to increase membership and participation, and there are no extra fees or costs associated with joining. Learn more about CPR’s other industry and subject matter committees here. To become a committee member, log in and join the committee(s) of your choice or email a note of interest to Richard Murphy at rmurphy@cpradr.org.

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