The Burlington Free Press has posted an article about the possible conflict of interest created by the new commissioner of environmental conservation and his former jobs as a law professor at the Vermont Law School:
“David Mears, Vermont’s new commissioner of environmental conservation, took steps this week to avoid conflicts of interest created by his former job as a law professor and head of the environmental law clinic at Vermont Law School.”
A more relevant question is whether his background in litigation makes him a choice that would unnecessarily stymie economic growth. Here is some of that background as reported by the Free Press:
“Opposed to permits
Students at the law school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic learn their profession in part by real-world experience doing legal work for nonprofit groups. As their supervisor, Mears was the attorney who filed the appeals or friend-of-the-court briefs.
The cases include:
• Appeals filed by Residents Concerned about Omya against solid waste and Act 250 permits issued to the company allowing disposal of calcium carbonate waste. Those appeals are pending.
• Mears’ work for the Connecticut River Watershed Council on Entergy Vermont’s application to renew its permit to discharge heated water from its cooling tower into the river. That permit is pending. Mears said he had communicated the watershed council’s concerns about the permit to department regulators.
• City of Montpelier wastewater treatment plant. The Conservation Law Foundation appealed the permit as insufficiently stringent. Mears filed a brief on behalf of former state environmental officials, asking the state Supreme Court to send the permit back to the department for reconsideration.
• The Vermont Natural Resources Council’s appeal that challenged an encroachment permit granted to Champlain Marina for a dock extension in Malletts Bay. Mears represented VNRC; the Vermont Environmental Court recently upheld the permit.”
Might it not be a better idea to put someone with a sound background in environmental science in this position, rather than a career litigator? It also might be a good idea if that person understood a little about economics and the fact that the biggest environmental problems around the world come from those countries with a command and control economy.