Firestone Policy Forum

Remembering Judge Nancy B. Firestone and her Contributions to Environmental Protection


Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd

Judge Nancy B. Firestone (1951-2022) was a preeminent lawyer, leader, teacher, and judge who left an indelible mark on public health and environmental protection in the United States. Throughout her career, she worked for multiple divisions of the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency, including serving as the Deputy Chief of the DOJ’s Environmental Enforcement Section and as the Associate Deputy Administrator and Environmental Appeals Judge at EPA. She was later confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as an Associate Judge on the United States Court of Federal Claims, where she served with distinction until her untimely death in 2022. For many years along the way, she taught environmental law at Georgetown Law School.

Through her jurisprudence and her lasting imprint on countless environmental laws, regulations, and policies, she has marked the work of environmental protection in ways that few others have. For example, she worked closely with the EPA and other government agencies to pass the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 and was tremendously influential in the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the development of the action-forcing regulations implementing that law. She was instrumental to the establishment of the Environmental Appeals Board in 1992, a tribunal on which she would later serve, setting up an impartial and transparent adjudicative process that has been a model for all the world.

Throughout her career, Judge Firestone exemplified legal excellence and served as an extraordinary role model and mentor to countless EPA, DOJ, government, and private sector lawyers, as well as students, many of whom went on to leadership themselves, making their own significant and lasting impact on the practice of law and environmental protection. And her influence did not stop at our borders. She participated as a judicial expert for ELI and EPA in various international judicial capacity building efforts. For example, she was involved in the launch of ELI’s Climate Judiciary Program and shared judicial experiences and best practices in Guatemala and in Panama in support of the Central American - Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.

Awarded the 2022 Environment, Energy, and Resources Government Attorney of the Year Award by the American Bar Association Section on Energy and Natural Resources, Judge Firestone’s actualization of legal excellence and expression of public service were simply unparalleled.

The Firestone Policy Forum

In recognition of the foregoing, and based on the financial support of Judge Firestone’s family, ELI will host a policy forum in Judge Firestone’s name to be held the afternoon of ELI’s annual award dinner. The Firestone Policy Forum will serve as an annual occasion to bring the environmental community together around a cutting-edge question of environmental policy or practice, to imagine, educate, dialogue, problem solve, and co-create together, reflecting the special qualities of the Firestone Policy Forum’s namesake.