I have always had an interest in law, especially environmental law. I am even considering going to law school. I thought it would be very useful for me to sit down with Bob Peachey, to learn more about his legal career at the EPA.
What is your position at the EPA?
I am an Assistant Regional Counsel in Region 5 on a two-year Honors Attorney Fellowship. I am tasked with advising various regional divisions on what the law is, particularly in compliance and permitting matters, and I represent the EPA in enforcement matters.
What is a typical day like for you?
It depends on what stage of development my cases are in. I start each day off with a to-do list of all the cases I am working on for that week, and I prioritize the day’s tasks by due dates or meetings. I call program clients to check in at least once a week. We are providing them a service, and I want to make sure that I keep them up to date and that our work proceeds efficiently.
What is the best part of your job?
It is most rewarding to work on enforcement matters. Our work encourages the type of behavior in a community that fulfills duties under environmental law and thereby helps reduce the costs that our modern economy imposes on the public and planet.
Do you have prior work experiences in environmental law that led you to the EPA?
No, but I always keep up on environmental issues in the news. In law school I worked as an extern at Region 5 in my second summer and in spring semester of my third year. I enrolled in a clinic, which allowed us to work at the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago. I also helped reinstate Northwestern’s Environmental Law Society, which invited speakers on environmental issues and lobbied the law school for additional environmental classes.
Did you always have an interest in the environment?
Yes. I grew up in eastern Oregon, where the culture values being outdoors and hiking, raising animals, and rafting. My hometown has an enormous hydroelectric dam in it, and it was taken for granted that you thought critically about issues like dwindling salmon runs, invasive species, renewable energy, and Native American fishing and property rights. I’d like to say I was inspired by a book like Walden or the Sand County Almanac, but instead, that book was 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth by the Earthworks Group. It had suggestions for fixes around the house to conserve energy. In fact, I put a lot of pressure on my parents to put water jugs in the toilet! It was so empowering to me, at 10-years-old, to have this book show me how I could make a difference.
What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?
In law school I took seminar classes in environmental law and natural resource law. My corporate law, tax law, and bankruptcy classes also help on the job, because I am constantly working with corporations and ability-to-pay determinations. Of course, my on-the-job training as an EPA extern was invaluable.
Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?
They are stakeholders in the planet – that means they have the same duty as their parents to take care of the planet, and the same rights to speak out when other people make a mess. Being an environmental activist isn’t something you have to wait for until you turn eighteen, yet it’s just as important as being able to vote. I also think it is important for kids to get exposed to animals and get outside. I’m starting to sound like my parents here. But I think they are right – my childhood would have been just as much fun, and maybe more so, if I didn’t sit around watching television, and instead had to go outside and make up my own adventures. Kids instinctively love nature, and when they are with animals or outside they gain awareness and develop a desire to protect nature.
Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends