This week, we sat down with Andy Bockis of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, LLP to learn more about his career path as well as how the firm supports companies in the energy space.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. Can you briefly tell us about Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, and a little more about your role in the company?
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP is a full-service law firm with approximately 400 attorneys that offers clients the national reach and sophisticated experience of a large firm, as well as the local connections and value of a boutique firm.
On the energy team, we routinely represent companies in the traditional energy and alternative energy sectors in supporting their activities in the Northeast and Midwest. Our attorneys are experienced litigators, former regulators, and active participants in state and local affairs, so we provide clients accurate on-the-ground perspective and assistance for facility siting, financing, compliance and operations.
As oil and gas projects are subject to ever-changing rules and increased agency review time, I help clients obtain and defend environmental permits for their projects. Many business leaders struggle with the uncertainty created by complex environmental regulation. The situation is magnified when there is public opposition to a project. Based on my prior experience as counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, I help clients minimize project delays and secure the permits they need. When projects are challenged, my colleagues and I help companies defend their permits in court.
Q. How does your company support clients or customers in the energy space?
Public resistance to oil and gas projects is high. Opponents have scored legal victories that have delayed or shut down key projects, leading to higher costs and greater uncertainty for companies in the energy industry – but companies that design projects that are protective of the environment should have confidence that they are doing things right. We help clients navigate their interactions with regulatory agencies in order to help avoid extra costs and lost time so that they can commence construction and operate with confidence.
We’ve helped clients through the permitting process associated with some of the largest oil and gas projects in the Marcellus shale region. And when projects are challenged, we’ve defended those permits in court, including before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Third Circuit, D.C. Circuit, and in response to petitions for certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Q. What has your career path looked like? How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP for the past 10 years.
Prior to law school, I worked for a national environmental organization in Portland, Oregon. During law school, I interned in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s litigation office, and since graduating, have worked as counsel to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board and then as an attorney within PADEP’s Bureau of Regulatory Counsel.
Seeing environmental issues from multiple angles (nonprofit, government, and business) has helped me guide clients in devising strategies and solutions to address multiple vantage points. In this day and age, where energy projects face near constant opposition, you can lose sight of the big picture by managing a situation too narrowly.
Q. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?
The importance of finding solutions to problems. Having the right legal answer doesn’t mean anything if it can’t solve a client’s problem. By analogy, it makes no difference that a plumber went to the best trade school if he or she can’t fix a broken sink. Lawyers need to focus on helping their clients solve problems.
Q. What advice would you give to someone interested in working in the energy sector?
The energy sector is multi-faceted and presents opportunities to solve real challenges. If you just listen to politicians, you’d think there are only two approaches to our energy supply. But in a country and region as resource-rich as ours, we can achieve significant environmental protection goals while also reducing carbon emissions. Natural gas has helped foster and speed that reduction. Just as we teach our children how a bill becomes a law (queue “Schoolhouse Rock!”), it is important to know how our energy is created and distributed.
Q. What has MSC membership meant to you both personally and professionally?
I had a professor in college who advocated taking as many classes outside of your major as possible. We live in an interdisciplinary world. You need to know what people do outside your area of focus so you can spot solutions. The Marcellus Shale Coalition channels that approach, linking professionals across a variety of fields with the goal of finding real solutions to some of our most challenging energy questions today. It is a great organization to interact with other professionals across the region committed to the MSC’s goals.
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