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Economic prosperity, sustainability are linked, says Guzy

Making the transition to clean energy is vital for achieving a sustainable economic recovery in America, said Gary Guzy, B.A. '79, J.D. '82, in Myron Taylor Hall's Mancuso Amphitheater April 2.

Guzy, deputy director and general counsel for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, speaking at the 2011 Cornell Energy Conference on Gas Drilling, Sustainability and Energy Policy, focused on environmental policy and the role that Cornell Law School students can play.

He noted that the roots for current environmental laws lie in public activism. "We've had some reminders recently with the events in Japan and the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill, but sometimes we forget the groundswell of public concern that grew about the environment during the post-war era," he said.

The first Earth Day in 1970, for example, drew 20 million people to the streets. "The overwhelming sense was that in area after area there was a real crisis," Guzy said. The government responded by enacting the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act, and by instituting the Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality. "The 1970s were an enormously prolific time for environmental regulation," he said, citing the broad array of laws passed during that time to address a range of fundamental issues.

The United States must lead the world in creating new energy sources, he said. The government is making strategic investments in potentially transformative technologies and developing smart policies that foster collaboration throughout the government. "These actions have led to a historic $90 billion investment in clean energy through the Recovery Act," he said. "We're looking for some game-changing technologies by turning to new research and development models, to really look at and foster innovative ideas and transformative technologies."

Cornell Law School graduates are remarkably well-positioned to pursue public interest careers, he said. "You have an important role in ensuring that the best decisions are made, that we are accountable for those decisions, and that we have the means to carry them out. Your work is critical to enhancing public understanding and to the search for those kinds of enduring policies that harmonize our economic and environmental aspirations.

"At Cornell you have special advantages to help you pursue these challenges," he said.

Guzy's talk was the closing keynote address for the two-day conference, which brought together panelists from law, science, government and business to discuss key issues surrounding natural gas drilling and national energy policy. The conference was organized by the Environmental Law Society and the Cornell Water Law and Land Use Clinics.

Matthew Farrell, J.D. '11, volunteer coordinator at the Environmental Law Society and one of the conference organizers, called the event a success. "We hope that by bringing together a group of diverse speakers, those who are interested in energy policy will have a thorough understanding of the issues and be in a position to develop an informed opinion," Farrell said. "This was a chance for the Ithaca community, Cornell community and individuals from across the country to come together to learn about and discuss an emerging issue."

Farhan Nuruzzaman '12 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.

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Joe Schwartz