Energy Law and Policy Symposium 2018

VLS Alumni in Energy Affinity Group Collaborate with the Institute for Energy and the Environment on (another) Energy Symposium Series

By Alan Strasser JD/MSL'93 and Dan Phillips JD/MSEL'04

The VLS Alumni in Energy’s Sixth Annual Symposium is set for October 17, 2019, but how did it all begin?
As many of you know, for years, the Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) has worked closely with VLS alumni interested in energy and environmental issues, and this partnership has led to the creation of an annual symposium that taps into the spirit of SoRo while creating a treasure trove of intellectual capital, networking opportunities, and fabulous events for over five years.

The idea to reunite mid-career VLS grads began in 2013, when alumnus Dan Phillips JD/MSEL’04 recognized that VLS graduates have made their way into very prestigious positions and were living very interesting careers yet no forum to reconnect VLS alumni on an intellectual level existed. With this idea, Dan became the Founding Chairman of VLS Alumni and Energy Affinity Group by writing to VLS Dean and President Marc Mihaly in the spring of 2013 to recommend “building out the VLS Alumni network of graduates in the field of renewable fuels and energy.” It was Dan who suggested this could be best accomplished “through the creation of a forum to exchange ideas, identify cutting edge research opportunities, and generate business ideas, while strengthening the Alumni connection to VLS.” That summer Dan helped bring together students’ faculty and alumni for a meeting at the Eaton House on the VLS campus hosted by former IEE Director Michael Dworkin and then Deputy Director, Dr. Kevin Jones, for the first Alumni and Energy event.

 After much enthusiasm and brainstorming by faculty, alumni and students, Alan Strasser JD’93 proposed showcasing VLS alumni and faculty talent, while strengthening the VLS brand, through a live symposium in our nation’s capital, Washington DC, staffed with speakers and moderators associated with VLS. This event has become the annual VLS Alumni in Energy Symposium which is hosted by VLS, IEE, and the Alumni in Energy Affinity Group. Alan’s unparalleled commitment to VLS and this new concept led him to become the D.C. Representative for the VLS Alumni and Energy Affinity Group. Also, in attendance at this first meeting, providing guidance and a “big firm” perspective, Brian Potts JD/MSEL’04, became the group’s consigliere and committed financial supporter of the Alumni in Energy Group.

From concept to reality, much work was done behind the scenes to ensure attendance, appetizers, VT craft beer at the reception, webcasting and CLE accreditation which all would not be possible without the support of the Alumni Relations director Melissa Harwood MELP’12. In 2014, the inaugural Alumni in Energy Symposium was held in Washington DC to great fanfare and was deemed an incredible success. This inaugural event has paved the way for subsequent forums showcasing VLS Alumni talent and Washington D.C. has proved to be the ideal location for Alumni, faculty and staff to reconvene for an informative event and informal reunion on an annual basis. Dean Mihaly started the tradition, which has been continued by Dean McHenry, to provide support and a short commentary at the beginning of each Symposium.

To date, the Alumni in Energy Symposium has featured a broad array of thought leaders at the energy and environment interface addressing an exciting collection of timely issues. Speakers have included former EPA Chief Counsels Avi Garbow and Roger Martella, Richard Revesz, Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus, NYU Law School, David Donniger, NRDC, and Michael Myers (VLS 1993), New York Attorney General’s Office. Prominent keynote speeches have included former FERC commissioners and the President of the Environmental Law Institute. And the five previous symposiums highlighted a wide array of cutting edge topics ranging from EPA’s Clean Power Plan; grid resilience and Puerto Rico’s energy crisis; offshore wind power policy; FERC regulation; EPA’s renewable fuels standard; optimizing the grid for renewables and the role of RTOs and ISOs; and electric vehicles. The panel discussions are always followed by a fun networking happy hour, featuring great food and some Vermont beers.

 The Alumni in Energy Affinity Group has captured these great discussions and broadened the ability of alumni to connect to the event. For instance, although the media is not invited to foster a candid exchange, the symposium is now filmed and the proceedings are published in the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law (see: The symposium is now webcasted for alumni to ensure a national audience can participate. In addition, last year’s event included media presentation by Director Roger Sorkin, American Resilience Project, regarding his most recent film, Current Revolution (see: The symposium continues to evolve and provide unique, cutting edge content

 If you are a VLS alumnus/a and would like to participate in the event or host a panel at a future symposium please reach out to the organizers through the contact information at the end of this article.

In closing, we would like to reiterate that the annual Alumni in Energy Symposium could not have ever become a reality if it were not for the VLS alumni and the critical support of Melissa Harwood MELP’12 and Kevin Jones. This dynamic duo have been critical to the success of these events serving as the critical link for alumni to connect with each other, to generate panel ideas, to participating on panels, recruiting speakers, obtaining high profile keynote speakers, participating in countless conference calls with alumni volunteers, and provide guidance and direction for the symposium. Without you Kevin and Melissa, the Alumni in Energy Affinity Group would not exist.

The sixth annual VLS Alumni in Energy Symposium, “SECURING THE FUTURE LOW CARBON GRID” kicks off on the afternoon of October 17 and will be hosted by Bracewell LLP, Washington DC, where Jason Hutt JD’98, is a partner.
The 2019 Alumni in Energy Symposium will again feature a strong collection of VLS Alumni to moderate and present several timely topics. The keynote address will be by former US Secretary of Homeland Security, and former Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge.

Contact Dan Phillips ( and Melissa Hardwood ( for more information on sponsorship opportunities. 

Register Now for event 2014

 * Note that registration is now closed for the symposium and webcast.



Thank you to our generous sponsors

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Current Officers
Alumni in Energy

Founding Chairmen

Dan Phillips JD/MSEL'04
Dan's Bio

D.C. Representative

Alan Strasser JD/MSL'93

Faculty Liaison-VLS

Kevin B. Jones, Director, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Professor of Energy Technology and Policy Kevin's Bio

Panel Organizers

Samantha Williams JD'05

Mark James LLM'16

Zoe Gamble Hanes JD/MSEL'06