Special Institute on

Natural Resources Development and the Administrative State: Navigating Federal Agency Regulation and Litigation

Speakers & committee

Program Chair

HADASSAH (DESSA) M. REIMER is an attorney in the Jackson Hole, Wyoming office of Holland & Hart LLP. Her practice focuses on federal environmental regulation and litigation before the Interior Board of Land Appeals and the federal courts, including environmental impact assessment, endangered species, and public land permitting requirements. Dessa also has an active Indian law practice. Dessa represents a variety of clients including conventional and renewable energy developers, mining companies, and water resource providers, as well as Indian tribes. Dessa has co-authored three papers for past RMMLF Annual Institutes, served as chair of the Public Lands section for the 2013 Annual Institute, and currently serves as a Trustee for the Foundation.

CARLOS R. ROMO is Counsel with Lewis Bess Williams & Weese P.C., in Denver, CO. Carlos practices at the intersection of energy and environmental law. He has helped clients in a variety of industries navigate complex regulatory requirements and has particular expertise in Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act permitting and oil and gas. Carlos’ substantive knowledge of natural resources and administrative law issues allows him to counsel clients on both litigation and transactional matters. His clients include oil and gas companies, renewable energy developers, utilities, trade associations, pipeline operators, ski areas, land owners, investors, and resort operators.


JACOB P. ARECHIGA is a Special Counsel in Duane Morris LLP’s Austin, Texas office. His practice is focused on complex commercial matters in the energy and electric power industries. He works with executives, managers, and counsel in these and other industries to address contested legal matters and mitigate risks associated with capital investments, transactions, and daily operations. Mr. Arechiga also works with clients to ensure compliance with a broad range of rapidly changing federal, state, and local regulatory requirements. In addition, he represents clients in administrative hearings before state agencies and appeals before federal courts. Mr. Arechiga is a 2009 graduate, with honors, of the University of Texas School of Law, where he was a member of the Texas Environmental Law Journal, and a graduate of Princeton University.

DEANA M. BENNETT is a Shareholder with the law firm of Modrall Sperling, in Albuquerque. Deana's practice focuses on federal environmental law and federal Indian law. Deana's experience includes permitting and environmental compliance under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other related federal statutes. Her experience also includes working with renewable resource developers with siting issues on public, tribal, state, and local land. It is not surprising that Deana's practice focuses primarily on public lands. Deana calls the West home, from New Mexico to Alaska. Her early childhood was spent travelling in a Volkswagen bus from Yellowstone National Park to Everglades National Park, where her father was a Park Ranger. After leaving the Park Service, her father worked for the Bureau of Land Management until he retired. Deana is a true coal miner's daughter; her mother worked in an underground coal mine in Wyoming for several years, while her father attended the University of Wyoming. Before attending law school, Deana retraced some of her childhood adventures—working in Yellowstone, working at a ski area in Utah, and working on a luxury passenger train in Alaska, where she bought her own 1979 Volkswagen bus. 

SUSAN JANE BROWN is a staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) in Portland, Oregon.  Her primary focus of litigation is federal public lands forest management, but her practice includes cases involving the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, and other land management statutes. She is a former Co-Chair of the National Advisory Committee for Implementation of the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule and is also heavily engaged in collaborative forest restoration in the Upper John Day Basin in eastern Oregon.

TOM BYRON, Assistant Director, Appellate Staff, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law, Washington, D.C. (invited)

MEGAN CERONSKY, Executive Director, Center for Applied Environmental Law and Policy, Denver, CO

VARU CHILAKAMARRI is an appellate attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She handles complex civil and criminal environmental appeals involving a broad range of issues, including questions concerning justiciability, statutory interpretation, constitutional law, and the Administrative Procedure Act.  She also serves as the Division’s Counselor for Animal Welfare Matters, where she has assisted in the development of the Division’s animal welfare litigation program. Varu previously served as the Acting Chief of Staff to the Assistant Attorney General for the Division from 2015-2016. Prior to that, she served on detail to the Office of the Associate Attorney General, as well as the White House Counsel’s Office. Varu joined the Justice Department in 2006 through the Attorney General’s Honors Program as a Trial Attorney in the Civil Division’s Federal Programs Branch. Varu clerked for Judge R. Guy Cole in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Judge Timothy B. Dyk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Varu graduated with honors from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was an Articles Editor for the Georgetown Law Journal. She earned degrees in Environmental and Political Science from the Ohio State University.

KEVIN D. COLLINS, Partner, Bracewell LLP, Austin, TX

R.J. COLWELL, Vinson & Elkins LLP, Houston, TX

NADA WOLFF CULVER is Senior Counsel and Director of the BLM Action Center at The Wilderness Society, providing technical advice and support to citizens and conservation groups working to protect their public lands. The Wilderness Society’s mission is to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. The BLM Action Center, located in Denver, Colorado, assists and encourages people to participate in land use planning processes and management decisions, including those addressing transmission, renewable energy, fossil fuel development and protection of wilderness. The BLM Action Center also seeks to influence national policy on management of our federal public lands. Before joining The Wilderness Society, she practiced law in the private sector for more than 10 years, working on a variety of environmental issues including energy development and environmental remediation, and was a partner with the law firm of Patton Boggs. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

CHRIS FRENCH, Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

WENDY HARVEL was licensed as an attorney by the State of Texas in 1996. She is in private practice in an of counsel role with Coffin Renner LLP, specializing in utility regulatory law. She served as an administrative law judge at the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings from 2000-2018, where she was both a master administrative law judge and the head of the public utility team, supervising the work of other public utility administrative law judges. She is a mediator, and has mediated disputes in all types of administrative cases, from health care licensing to complex public utility law. Prior to serving as an administrative law judge, Wendy was in private practice in Washington, DC and in Austin. She is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and the University of Michigan. Her husband and fellow law school classmate is Blake Hawthorne, the clerk of the Supreme Court of Texas.  They have two daughters.

KENT HOLSINGER, Managing Partner, Holsinger Law, LLC, Denver, CO

TINA HYMER, former Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Standards of Conduct, U.S. Department of Energy; Senior Counsel, Chevron, San Ramon, CA

SAM KALEN is the Winston S. Howard Distinguished Professor, at the University of Wyoming College of Law. Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Kalen practiced in Washington, D.C. for over 20 years, both in the private and public sectors. He practiced at an energy, environment, and natural resources law firm, and worked in the Solicitor’s Office at the Department of the Interior. He also has held various teaching positions at the University of Baltimore, Florida State University, Washington & Lee University, and Penn State University. Immediately after law school, Professor Kalen began his career as a law clerk for Justice Warren D. Welliver of the Missouri Supreme Court. Professor Kalen’s research focuses on the fields of energy, environment, public lands and natural resources, administrative law, and constitutional law. He has published a variety law review articles, chapters in books, and is a co-author on two books. He also is active in the American Bar Association’s Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources.

POE LEGGETTE recently received special recognition from the Board of Directors of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.  Poe has represented IPAA for over 25 years and, according to the Association’s citation, has saved the oil and gas industry over $25 billion dollars in needless regulatory costs and in unlawful royalty demands. Poe is the national head of the Baker & Hostetler Energy Practice Team and is based in the firm’s Houston office. That practice was named a 2015 Practice Group of the Year by Law360. Before entering private practice, Poe served as Assistant Solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior. He has worked on federal administrative law issues since 1977, when he graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law.  Additional information about his practice may be found in a predictably stuffy web biography found at https://www.bakerlaw.com/LPoeLeggette?fullassoc=1.

LAURA L. LOPEZ, Attorney, Jones & Keller P.C., Denver, CO

JANE C. LUXTON, former General Counsel, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce; Member, Clark Hill PLC, Washington, D.C.

MATTHEW J. MCKEOWN is the Regional Solicitor, Rocky Mountain Region, for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, in Lakewood, Colorado. In this capacity, Matt oversees the legal work for every Interior Department agency within his region. Prior to taking his current position, Matt was Associate Solicitor for Mineral Resources, Associate Solicitor for Land and Water, and Deputy Solicitor. Matt also served as Principal Deputy Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. Before commencing federal service, Matt spent seven years as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of Idaho. Matt received his law degree from the University of Oregon and his bachelor’s degree in English (with a Film and Communications focus) from McGill University in Montreal.

THOMAS P. MCLISH is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in Washington, DC. Mr. McLish represents clients in complex civil litigation, primarily focusing on cases involving the Federal government, including government contract disputes, allegations of fraud or false claims, and 5th Amendment “takings.” He has represented owners, contractors and design engineers in complex lawsuits concerning the construction of large projects throughout the country, as well as health care companies, defense contractors and suppliers of commercial items and services. Mr. McLish litigates before Federal appellate and district courts, the Court of Federal Claims, federal boards of contract appeals, state courts and arbitration panels. He has handled disputes involving many U.S. agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Navy, Air Force, Army, the Army Corps of Engineers, Interior, Agriculture, NASA and the General Services Administration. From 1990 to 1995, Mr. McLish was a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch. In that position, he handled civil contract, fraud and federal labor law disputes, including major weapons system procurement, construction and Fifth Amendment “takings.” From 1989 to 1990, he was a law clerk to the Honorable Robert P. Patterson Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

JULIE MURPHY, Director, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Denver, CO

JUSTIN PIDOT, Professor, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Denver, CO

CONNIE L. ROGERS is a partner with the law firm of Davis Graham & Stubbs, LLP, in Denver. She advises companies in project development, litigation, and transactions, primarily on federal public lands and Indian lands, with particular emphasis on compliance with federal land management statutes, the National Environmental Policy Act, species protection statutes, federal Indian law and cultural resource and religious freedom concerns, and state and local permits. Prior to resuming her practice at Davis Graham & Stubbs, LLP in the fall of 2010, Ms. Rogers served as Deputy Solicitor for Energy and Mineral Resources at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she was the lead Interior lawyer on all manner of issues relating to the development of renewable and conventional energy and mineral resources on Interior-managed lands. Ms. Rogers’ project development experience includes renewable/conventional energy and mineral and infrastructure projects on public and Indian lands; environmental and cultural resources compliance in federal permitting; financing, due diligence, land acquisition, and leasing for wind, solar, transmission, and biomass projects; special use authorizations for educational and research facilities on federal lands; working with stakeholder groups; and defense of legal challenges to project approvals. Ms. Rogers is a trustee of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and is vice-chair of the Public Lands Committee and a former co-chair of the Native American Resources Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section on Environment, Energy and Resources. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center of the American West. Ms. Rogers has been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the field of Native American Law and Who's Who Legal: Mining 2015. She was named to the Denver Business Journal’s 2014 list of Top Women in Energy. She received her JD in 2000 from Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., magna cum laude, Order of the Coif.

BARCLAY T. SAMFORD, U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, Washington, D.C. and Denver, CO; Adjunct Professor, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Denver, CO

MICHAEL SCHON, Deputy Chief Counsel, U.S. Chamber Litigation Center, Washington, D.C.

PAUL M. SEBY is a Shareholder with Greenberg Traurig LLP, in Denver. Mr. Seby is a leading environmental and natural resources practitioner in the Rocky Mountain region, with nearly 25 years' experience analyzing a myriad of environmental issues. He has vast experience counseling clients in both responsible actions and, when necessary, prosecuting cases to enforce and overturn administrative agency regulations and decisions. He represents clients in federal and state agency proceedings and in appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court, several U.S. Courts of Appeal, and the Colorado Supreme Court, among others. His notable recent representations include litigation surrounding the EPA Clean Power Plan, Waters of the U.S. Rule, and O&G Methane regulations, and the BLM Hydraulic Fracturing and Venting and Flaring Rules. Mr. Seby counsels public and private clients in the energy, mining, manufacturing, and service industries on how to navigate and successfully operate within the complex framework of state and federal environmental regulations and policies. Bearing in mind that a successful outcome is often a combination of traditional and non-traditional legal and policy strategies, he leverages his experience to negotiate with government agencies and adversary groups. Whether a lending transaction or other business venture or issues of state sovereignty, clients across the country trust Mr. Seby to draw upon his comprehensive understanding of how government programs and agencies function to identify existing and potential pitfalls they may face in achieving their business goals. He efficiently and effectively guides his clients in developing practical, workable solutions that overcome legal and business challenges, and has been recognized for his work by many leading legal publications.

SHANISHA Y. SMITH is an associate at Baker & Hostetler LLP in Houston and Denver. Shanisha focuses her litigation practice in the energy and natural resources industry. She represents clients in oil and gas litigation, administrative, and environmental disputes governed by the Mineral Leasing Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the False Claims Act, the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act, and numerous other environmental statutes and related regulations. Shanisha holds an LL.M. in Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Law from the University of Houston Law Center. During her LL.M. she worked at the Texas Railroad Commission and the Comisión Nacional de Hidrocarburos during the Mexico Energy Reform. Shanisha also has a wealth of experience working in courts. She has had the opportunity to work with a Texas state civil court judge, a federal magistrate judge, two federal district court judges, and a federal appellate circuit judge. Prior to joining Baker’s Energy Team, Shanisha clerked for the Honorable Judge George C. Hanks, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

PILAR THOMAS (Pascua Yaqui) is Of Counsel at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP in Tucson Arizona, where she provides strategic legal advice to tribal governments and tribal enterprises on energy planning and policy, renewable energy project development and finance; federal and state energy regulatory, programs and policy efforts. Ms. Thomas previously served as the Acting Director and Deputy Director for the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs at the U.S. Department of Energy, where she was responsible for developing and implementing policy and program efforts within the department and across the federal government to achieve statutory policy objectives, particularly the promotion of energy development, electrification, and infrastructure improvement on tribal lands. She spearheaded federal agency efforts to coordinate and collaborate on tribal energy development efforts, in partnership with the White House Council on Native American Affairs, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Environmental Protection Agency. She is also the former Deputy Solicitor of Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she provided legal advice to the Secretary, Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, and other department officials on decisions related to tribes and matters related to federal Indian law, tribal law, administrative law, Indian lands and natural resources, treaty rights and water rights.  She has served as the Interim Attorney General and Chief of Staff to the Chairwoman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, of which she is a member.  In 2002, Pilar was appointed to the position of trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Indian Resources Section. Her practice included Indian treaty rights, water rights, and regulatory litigation. Ms. Thomas graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law, magna cum laude, with a certificate in Indian Law. She received her bachelor of arts in economics from Stanford University.

REBECCA W. WATSON is a shareholder in the law firm of Welborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley, P.C. in Denver and serves on the Board of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Foundation as Vice President and President-elect (2019-2020).  Rebecca has a distinguished 40-year career representing natural resource, oil and gas and renewable energy clients and in high-level public service in the federal government. As Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management of the U.S. Department of Interior in the George W. Bush administration, she had oversight over 3 energy resource bureaus including BLM, led 12,000 employees and managed a $1 billion budget. Prior to that, she served as Assistant General Counsel for Energy Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy. Rebecca was named the 2011 Distinguished Natural Resources Practitioner-in-Residence at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, her alma mater, and has been repeatedly nationally recognized as a top energy and natural resources lawyer. She speaks and writes frequently on public land and energy topics.  Rebecca is a Trustee on the Board of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum in Cody, Wyoming and serves on the Jefferson County, Colorado Open Space Advisory Committee.

MARY WHITTLE, Partner, Guerrero & Whittle PLLC, Austin, TX

EZEKIEL J. WILLIAMS is a partner with Lewis, Bess, Williams & Weese P.C. in Denver, Colorado and Adjunct Professor of Administrative Law, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Denver, CO.  He specializes in oil and gas, energy, federal lands, and natural resources law and litigation.  Zeke advises oil and gas companies on how to obtain, perfect, develop, and defend federal, fee, state, and Indian oil and gas leases in the Rocky Mountain states.  He has litigated and arbitrated disputes involving oil and gas leases, federal exploratory units, title issues, operating agreements, accounting procedures, gas gathering and processing dedications, net profits interests, royalty obligations, produced water processing agreements, and exploration and development agreements.  Zeke has extensive counseling and litigation experience with the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy Management Act, National Forest Management Act, Mineral Leasing Act, Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Clean Water Act, Administrative Procedure Act, and other laws.  Zeke advises oil and gas companies, midstream companies, renewable energy developers, ski areas, trade associations, and others on how to participate strategically in the preparation of NEPA documents, federal land use plans, and environmental permits that will govern their future actions.  Zeke teaches Administrative Law, Environmental Law, and Natural Resources Law as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver College of Law, is a former Trustee of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, and frequently speaks and writes on energy and natural resources issues.  He graduated with honors in 1994 from the University of Denver College of Law where he was the Articles Editor of the Law Review, and has an undergraduate degree from Montana State University.  After law school, Zeke worked as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Bobby R. Baldock of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

EVAN YOUNG, Partner, Baker Botts LLP, Austin, TX

DAVID A. ZISSER, Shareholder, Jones & Keller P.C., Denver, CO

KENNON L. WOOTEN, former Rules Attorney, Supreme Court of Texas; Partner, Scott Douglass McConnico, Austin, TX