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Navigating NEPA 50 Years Later: The Past, Present, and Future


December 17, 2019
8:30 am - 4:15 pm


Dentons US LLP
1900 K Street, NW (map)

Washington, DC (and webinar)


This event is open to the public but registration/payment is required by December 12. Registration fees: ELI members $150-$75; non-members $250-$175.
If you are unsure if you are an ELI member, contact mcmurrin@eli.org PRIOR to registering (or go HERE to join).

  • For in-person attendance, REGISTER HERE.
  • For webinar/telecon, REGISTER HERE.  Webinar information will be emailed one business day prior to the event. If you are unsure if you can access the webinar via the GoToMeeting platform, please go HERE to view system requirements prior to registering.
  • ELI is an accredited CLE provider in Pennsylvania and Vermont and is therefore approved in those jurisdictions. Applications to California and Virginia will be submitted. Many states have reciprocity with these jurisdictions – please check with your affiliated bar first. We will apply for any additional states when you register and indicate which state by December 3. You must request CLE when you register and by any deadlines given. Please READ the CLE information at the bottom of this page for your participation requirements.

  • Any cancellations after the registration deadline will be subject to a $35 charge. See ELI's Event Policies and CLE Financial Hardship Policy.
  • Webinar start times are as follows:  9 AM Eastern, 8 AM Central, 7 AM Mountain, and 6 AM Pacific. Please note that your browser may/may not automatically adjust the time for your zone when you register.
  • Contact mcmurrin@eli.org with questions.

NOTE: All registrants for ELI events need to have an ELI "account." When you click on the above Register Here link, you will be asked to log in.

  • ELI members and previous registrants have accounts. If you don't remember your password, please click on the "Request new password" tab.
  • Non-members who have previously not set up an ELI account may click on the "Create new account" tab, complete the process, and then return to this page to register. While creating this account does not confer membership, it will allow you to register for this and future events at any appropriate non-member rate that may be required.

Co-Sponsored by the hosting firm Dentons US LLP

An ELI 50th Anniversary Conference

Acting as the key federal charter for environmental protection, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) plays a crucial role in the authorization and approval of more development projects than any other federal law. However, with great power comes great responsibility, as NEPA has faced numerous criticisms over the past five decades. Proponents believe NEPA protects communities and the environment from potentially detrimental infrastructure projects, while critics counter that NEPA creates impossible hurdles to development, and advocate for amendments that would cut through regulatory red tape preventing the timely review and undertaking of important infrastructure projects. Join ELI, hosting firm Dentons, the DC Bar, and leading experts as they reflect on NEPA’s past and successes, explore the current challenges NEPA faces, and look to the  Act’s future.

8:30 AM

Registration and Light Breakfast

9:00 AM

Opening Remarks and Morning Keynote:

9:30 AM

Panel 1: The History of NEPA will explore the creation and evolution of NEPA since the Act’s enactment 50 years ago and reflect on the lessons learned along the way.  Leading panelists will dive into the opportunities and obstacles of establishing and implementing this regulatory framework, including the Council on Environmental Quality regulation, NEPA’s overall regulatory process, review, standards, and enforcement.


  • James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney, Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program, Environmental Law Institute, Moderator
  • Sharon Buccino, Senior Director, Land Division, Nature Program, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
  • Robin M. Rotman, Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources, College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, University of Missouri and Counsel, Van Ness Feldman LLP
  • Suzanne R. Schaeffer, Counsel, Dentons

10:45 AM

Networking Break

11:00 AM

Panel 2:  How to Successfully Conduct NEPA Reviews will explore best practices for approaching NEPA’s regulatory process and avoiding potential pitfalls. Leading panelists will explore top tools for preparing effective NEPA documentation, methods for engagement with the public and with project proponents during all stages of the process, promoting environmental and climate justice within NEPA, and successful case examples.


  • James M. Auslander, Principal, Beveridge & Diamond PC, Moderator
  • Matthew Adams, Partner, Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell LLP
  • Edward Boling, Associate Director, National Environmental Policy Act, White House Council on Environmental Quality
  • Dava Kaitala, General Director, Permitting and Sustainability and Senior Supervisory Attorney, BNSF Railway
 12:15 -1:00 PM


 12:40 -1:00 PM

Keynote Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)

 1:00 PM

Panel 3: Roles in NEPA Reviews will explore the role of the project proponent in NEPA reviews and the relative roles of the lead federal agency, cooperating agencies, consultants, and more. Leading panelists will confront the firm and unwritten rules of NEPA reviews, the varied expectations across agencies, and the growing trend of P3 projects.


  • Stephen Schima, Senior Legislative Counsel, Earthjustice and Campaign & Legislative Director, Partnership Project, Moderator
  • Alexander Herrgott, Executive Director, Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, General Services Administration
  • Brenda Mallory, Executive Director and Senior Counsel, Conservation Litigation Project
  • Manisha Patel, Vice President, Environmental Policy Practice, WSP
2:15 PM  Networking Break
2:30 PM

Panel 4: The Future of NEPA will  tackle the modernization and reinvigoration of NEPA as expert panelists look towards the Act’s near and distant future. Leading panelists will explore recent developments regarding permitting, the project approval process, collaboration with regulatory agencies, recent legislation (such as “FAST-41”) that may affect NEPA, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions-related NEPA claims.


  • Seema Kakade, Assistant Professor of Law and Director, Environmental Law Clinic, Francis King Carey School of Law, University of Maryland, Moderator
  • David Bancroft, Executive Director, International Association for Impact Assessment
  • Oliver A. Houck, Professor of Law, Tulane University Law School
  • Viktoria Seale, General Counsel, White House Council on Environmental Quality
 3:45 PM Closing Remarks: 

Nicholas C. Yost, former Partner, Dentons and former General Counsel, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)


NEPA at 50
, Nicholas Yost (The Environmental Forum, Nov./Dec 2019)

Speaker materials will be posted as they are received...


In-person CLE Attendees:

  • We will have a sign-in and sign-out sheet for you to initial and fill out with time total time of attendance for the event.
  • We will provide you with your CLE information at the end of the event.

Webinar CLE Attendees (you must have selected CLE info when you registered):

  • When watching the webinar you will need to have the webinar at the forefront of your computer screen as GoTo webinar software will be tracking attentiveness and creating an attentiveness report.
  • You will need to be watching the webinar for a majority of the time to receive CLE Credit.
  • We will email you the CLE information and certification within one week of the event.