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By Renee Schoof
President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the environment section at the Justice Department is a Washington litigator known for his advocacy on behalf of clients such as BP PLC in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in opposing EPA climate regulations.
Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, would lead the career attorneys of the Environment and Natural Resources Division who enforce environmental laws and defend federal agencies in court. The division’s work on behalf of agencies in the Trump administration will include litigation to explain the administration’s reasons for rescinding environmental rules.
If confirmed, Clark would oversee a Justice Department division that handles enforcement cases brought by the Environmental Protection Agency. It remains to be seen how those cases will change as the administration works out its views on how much enforcement should be done at the state level versus at the federal level and how budget cuts will affect enforcement work.
Attorneys who know Clark said he has deep knowledge of environmental law. He also understands how the Justice Department’s environment division operates.
Clark was was deputy assistant attorney general there from 2001 to 2005 when his duties included supervising the appellate section of 50 lawyers and staff.
“That’s often the area where some of the more difficult and significant issues are litigated. So he’s pretty well in tune with what the department’s procedures and policies are,” said Jim Rubin, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney who worked for 15 years in the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Joel Gross, a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP who was formerly chief of the Justice Department’s Environmental Enforcement Section, said Clark was a “very zealous advocate” for his clients and has conservative legal values. Gross said he knew Clark from their work as co-counsels defending BP in the oil spill case.
Clark has worked for Kirkland & Ellis since 1996, except for his time at the Justice Department. About 38 percent of the firm’s appearances in more than 1,000 cases in the past five years were on behalf of BP PLC and two of its subsidiaries, BP Exploration and Production Inc., and BP America Production Co., according to Bloomberg Government’s Litigation Analytics.
Gross said one of Clark’s challenges would be to get career people “on board” even if they do not share his political views. He said he expected Clark would “respect the rule of law and be an advocate for the division.”
The Environment and Natural Resources Division is expected to have a large docket of cases as it handles challenges to regulations.
Much of the work of the division is to represent federal agencies in court consistent with the administration’s policies, Gross said.
“But traditionally the assistant attorney general of ENRD is not a potted plant and gets involved in what those policy issues will be,” he told Bloomberg BNA. “And many of the issues that have been in the forefront of what the administration’s been talking about so far have been things that will fall in the scope of what the environment division does.”
That work will include efforts to jettison the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would put the first greenhouse gas limits on power plants.
While representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2011, Clark signed a legal brief asking the court to overturn the EPA’s landmark finding in 2009 that greenhouse gases should be regulated because they endanger health and welfare. That endangerment finding was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review that decision.
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