Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

WHITE PLAINS – Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law Dean Emeritus Richard Ottinger has been recognized by the American Bar Association for his leadership in environmental policy.

The ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources presented Ottinger with its 2017 Award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy at its annual meeting on August 13.

Dean Emeritus Richard Ottinger

Ottinger, who served as dean of Pace’s Law School from 1994 through 1999, was praised as a trailblazer whose work on behalf of the environment has spanned more than 50 years, and encompassed key milestones in the protection of the Hudson River and the Long Island Sound, as well as energy regulation.

In his acceptance speech, Ottinger exhorted his colleagues to be energized in their work on environmental policy and not to be discouraged by the enormity of the challenge ahead.

“I needn’t tell you that this is an unprecedented time of challenge to the environment, indeed the sustainability of our nation and the world,’’ he said. “Our contributions to utilize the law to overcome the deliberate destruction of all environmental treaties, laws and regulations is needed as never before.”

The ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources Distinguished Individual Contribution in Environmental Law and Policy Award is presented annually to those who have made an outstanding contribution to environmental policy.

Ottinger, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives during the period from 1965-1985, is credited with crafting seminal legislation in the protection of the environment, including the 1974 Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act, which required electric utilities to purchase all renewable energy at their avoided cost and was the precursor for electric utility competition. His support for legal activism to save Storm King Mountain from a generating facility produced a precedent-setting case in the U.S. Court of Appeals that established jurisdiction for citizens to sue to protect the environment without having to show monetary damage. He successfully  fought to block environmentally destructive construction projects such as an eight-lane superhighway in the Hudson River from New York City to Putnam County that would have deprived public access to the waterfront and cause extensive environmental damage.

Even after his retirement from Congress, Ottinger continued to be a force in the environmental movement, creating what has become the pioneering million dollar Pace Energy and Environment Center that acts domestically to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.  In New York the Center acts as a principal research institute resource for the NY Public Service Commission in its trail-blazing effort to devise the role of utilities in accommodating distributed energy and energy efficiency and renewable energy, while protecting ratepayers. It also acts as counsel to the RGGI northeast regional greenhouse initiative program. Internationally, he leads the Center in promoting renewable energy in developing country. For many years he headed the World Conservation Union’s Energy and Climate Change Specialty Group.

He has been a prolific environmental law publisher and researcher, writing, editing and co-authoring more than 100 works on energy and the environment. Mostly recently, he was editor and co-author of the United Nations Environmental Program, the 300-page UNEP Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Laws.  It was featured by Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law, at the United Nations Forum on Sustainability as Renewable Energy as the Economic Driver of Sustainability. 

Professor of Environmental Law Nicholas Robinson, who nominated Ottinger for the award, said in his nomination, “Most of these activities Dick has undertaken as a volunteer, above and beyond his formal positions as legislator or professor or dean. Upon leaving the Deanship, he was appointed as the sui generis Dean Emeritus here, and while he may be “retired” from a paying job, he has never retired from his efforts to build environmental law, reform energy law and protect the environment. He is tireless in his voluntary work, and sets an example of professionalism and commitment to pro bono publico service that is an inspiration to all of us at Pace, in New York, nationally and globally.”

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