Kate Konschnik appointed Policy Director of HLS’s Environmental Law and Policy Program

Kate Konschnik, Chief Environmental Counsel to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), will join Harvard Law School on Aug. 1 as Policy Director for the Environmental Law and Policy Program.

Konschnik will launch a new HLS environmental policy initiative, which will serve as a companion component to HLS’s Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic and will work to promote HLS’s influence in ongoing debates about environmental, climate and energy issues. Konschnik will collaborate with the clinic to build out existing projects into longer-term initiatives, to launch independent policy initiatives from scratch, and to help advance policy-relevant faculty research. Much of the role will involve working on an interdisciplinary basis with other Harvard departments and schools.

Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law and Director of HLS’s Environmental Law Program, said: “As the new Policy Director, Kate will add a critical component to our burgeoning environmental law program—developing policy initiatives on issues like renewable energy, fracking, offshore drilling and carbon capture technology. Some of this work will build on projects initiated in our highly successful Environmental Law Clinic and some will be entirely new. Kate’s work will help to promote policy relevant faculty research and enlarge HLS’s footprint in important environmental, climate and energy debates.”

Said Richard Lazarus, Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law: “Kate will be a spectacular addition to the Environmental Law Program here at HLS. She brings to HLS a wealth of experience and stellar reputation for excellence as an environmental enforcement litigator at the U.S Department of Justice and environmental policy expert in the U.S. Senate.”

Wendy Jacobs, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, said: “It will be wonderful to collaborate with Kate to build out the policy aspects of the work we do in the clinic! Kate has just the right balance of strong legal and policy skills, energy and dynamism to launch a high-level policy program within ELP.”

Konschnik currently serves as staff director for Sen. Whitehouse’s Oversight Subcommittee on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. For the last three years, she has worked with Sen. Whitehouse’s office on a number of nationally significant environmental policy issues, including negotiations around Senate climate bill provisions (carbon offsets, carbon capture and sequestration, and adaptation funding), defense of EPA Clean Air Act rulemaking, and oversight of the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Most recently, Kate worked to help Sen. Whitehouse achieve a milestone in his efforts to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans, when that proposal passed the Senate in March.

“What an honor to work alongside Professors Jody Freeman, Richard Lazarus and Wendy Jacobs, three environmental law superstars,” Konschnik said. “I am eager to apply my practical experience to the Harvard Law School Environmental Law and Policy Program, to build on the program’s commitment to producing innovative scholarship and policy tools that will inform today’s energy and environment debates, and to raise new questions for tomorrow.”

Prior to her current position, Konschnik worked for in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division for seven years. As an Environmental Enforcement Trial Attorney hired through the Attorney General’s Honors Program, she represented the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and other federal agencies in litigation involving the Clean Air Act, the CleanWater Act, the federal Superfund, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. 

Konschnik was a member of the Power Plants litigation team, participating in five New Source Review lawsuits against owners of coal-fired electric generating units. She also led and successfully litigated the department’s first New Source Review case against a Portland cement plant. EPA awarded Konschnik two Bronze Medals for Commendable Service and a Gold Medal for Exceptional Service for her work. In addition to her litigation caseload, Kate mentored junior attorneys, taught a Clean Air Act survey course for incoming Federal government attorneys, and in 2008, was tasked with drafting Clean Air Act legislative proposals on behalf of the Department’s Environmental Enforcement Section, for consideration by the incoming presidential administration.

She holds a B.A. in political science from Tufts University and a J.D. from Hastings College of the Law, where she graduated cum laude.

During law school, Konschnik spent a summer working for the Attorney General of the Northern Mariana Islands, helping the commonwealth convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revisit a Superfund site remedy. She was also awarded an International Environmental Law Fellowship at Earthjustice, to work on sea turtle protection and the application of international law to prevent oil spills in ecologically sensitive areas of the world.  Kate also studied international environmental and human rights law at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies.