2023 Symposium: Building Effective, Sustainable, and Equitable Infrastructure.

The NYU Environmental Law Journal’s 2023 Academic Symposium was called Building Effective, Sustainable, and Equitable Infrastructure. The event took place on April 3rd, 2023 and focused on how infrastructure projects are affected by recent legal and legislative developments, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act, and the FY 2023 Omnibus Bill. The Symposium also explored how aquatic animal life is affected by infrastructure and necessary mitigation strategies. See below for a description of the symposium’s discussions.

Event Schedule 

Introductory Remarks

Time: 12:00 PM – 12:20 PM

Speaker: Rick Cotton (Executive Director, The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey)


America’s Ports and Their Low-Carbon Future: The Roles of Law, Policy, and Technology

Time: 12:20 PM – 1:20 PM

Event Description: This will be a discussion with environmental leaders about current sustainability developments at America’s busiest ports and related government agencies. Senior figureheads from the Port of New York and New Jersey & the Port of Long Beach, California, Coast will speak on successful developments happening at their ports now and on projects planned for the future. A top scientist from the EPA’s Ports Initiative (Region 2) will speak about the government’s support for sustainability developments across ports nationwide.

Speakers: Charles Liou (Manager, Environmental Initiatives, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey) ; Heather Tomley (Managing Director of Planning and Environmental Affairs for the Port of Long Beach, California); Daniel Birkett (EPA Region 2, Environmental Scientist); and Prof. Bethany Davis Noll (Moderator. Executive Director, State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU Law)

A Green Horizon: US Government’s Support of Sustainable Aviation (0.5 CLE credit)

Time: 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM

Event Description: The United States government and the U.S. aviation industry have set a goal for the U.S. aviation sector to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. While 2050 sounds far away, in an industry with long-lifetime capital stock, that’s around the corner. Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Aviation and International Affairs Annie Petsonk will discuss how the Biden Administration is building on the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to foster developments in aircraft technology, operational efficiencies, sustainable fuels and airports, and market-based measures to drive progress on path to this goal.

Planned topics to be discussed:

    • Inflation Reduction Act & Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
    • Sustainable aviation fuels
    • International cooperation and partnerships
    • New developments in aircraft technology and operational efficiencies
    • Market-based measures for progress

Speaker: Annie Petsonk (Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Aviation and International Affairs) and Bryce Rudyk (Moderator. Director, International Environmental Law, Guarini Center at NYU Law)

Keynote Seeking Harmony in Our Waters: Impacts of Shipping and Ports on Aquatic Life (1 CLE credit)

Time: 2:15 PM – 3:15 PM

Event Description: Aquatic life is too frequently ignored by governments and corporations in their decision making. We must change this if we are to ensure survival of aquatic animals and their habitats. This keynote is focused on the harms aquatic animals face, as well as the legal and political protections that are necessary for them to thrive, in a world dominated by human infrastructure and activity. Dean Kathy Hessler, an eminent animal law scholar and co-founder of World Aquatic Animal Day (April 3rd), will discuss some of these challenges and consider possible solutions.

Planned topics to be discussed:

  • The 5th Circuit’s holding that the National Marine Fisheries Service lacks authority to regulate aquaculture-permitting regime in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Widening and slowing of California maritime shipping routes, in order to protect Endangered Species Act-protected wildlife, after legal challenges to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Wildlife entanglement and ghost nets, with particular focus on North Atlantic right whale-lobster gear entrapment
  • FY 2023 Omnibus Bill inclusion of a provision allowing Maine’s lobster industry to continue using dangerous lobster traps until at least 2028
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s final environmental impact statement, concluding that seismic oil surveys in the Gulf of Mexico would injure millions of marine animals

Speaker: Kathy Hessler (Assistant Dean for Animal Legal Education at GW Law; Co-Founder of World Aquatic Animal Day)

Biographies (in order of appearance)

 Rick Cotton

       Rick Cotton became Executive Director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in August 2017. Prior to joining the Port Authority, Mr. Cotton served as New York State’s Special Counsellor for Interagency Initiatives, serving as the point person for most of the Governor’s major downstate infrastructure priorities. Mr. Cotton joined New York State following 25 years at NBC Universal, where he held several positions, including 20 years as EVP and General Counsel and four years as President and Managing Director of CNBC Europe. He has served in senior advisory roles at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the U.S. Department of Energy. Mr. Cotton is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, and he served as a law clerk to Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Heather Tomley

       Heather Tomley is Managing Director of Planning and Environmental Affairs for the Port of Long Beach, California, named to the post in 2019, leading the Port’s Environmental Planning, Master Planning and Transportation Planning divisions. She joined the Port in 2005 as an Environmental Planning Associate and was promoted through the ranks to Director of Environmental Planning in 2014. The Planning Bureau’s portfolio includes efforts to implement Green Port Policy, protect habitat, improve air and water quality, manage stormwater, adapt to climate change, implement the Port’s energy initiatives, manage the Community Grants Program, find transportation efficiencies, seek and manage grants for transportation infrastructure and environmental projects, analyze traffic patterns and identify rail improvements, plan for future land uses, and facilitate strategic planning. Since Ms. Tomley joined the Port of Long Beach, California, the sustainability  programs she has lead or was involved in have caused a 88% drop in total diesel emission relative to 2005 levels and assisted native wildlife return.

       Ms. Tomley earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and her Master of Science in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Charles Liou

       Charles Liou is the Manager of Environmental Initiatives Division at the Port Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He is responsible for the planning and implementation of environmental programs that directly impact marine ports in the tri-state region. Mr. Liou’s main responsibilities are to identify, evaluate, plan, and incorporate initiatives that promote sustainable technologies which will benefit both the maritime industry and the communities surrounding the ports. Prior to joining the Port Authority, Mr. Liou served as a Project Manager and Senior Consultant where he provided design, consultation, and support to operations for both private and public sector in ensuring environmental compliance as well as voluntary sustainability practices.

       Mr. Liou received his undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management from National Tsing Hua University and Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Daniel Birkett

       Daniel Birkett is an environmental scientist at the EPA Region 2 Office. He works in the Air and Radiation Division and serves as the Region 2’s Ports contact point. He previously was on the EPA’s mobile source team. Birkett is also a published scientific author. His most recent article, “Three Years of High Time-resolution Air Pollution Monitoring in the Complex Multi-source Harbor of New York and New Jersey,” was published in Aerosol and Air Quality Research. He studied at Utrecht University.

Bethany A. Davis Noll (moderator)  

       Bethany A. Davis Noll is the Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the NYU School of Law and an adjunct professor at NYU. Bethany also serves as co-chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association. She previously worked as Assistant Solicitor General in the New York Attorney General’s Office, where she earned the Louis J. Lefkowitz Memorial Award for her work on several environmental appeals. And she was as a litigation associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and an adjunct lecturer in law at Columbia Law School. She also served as a clerk for the Honorable Chester J. Straub in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and for the Honorable Shira A. Scheindlin in the District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Annie Petsonk

       Annie Petsonk serves as the Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs.  A recognized expert on international aviation and climate change, she has previously served in the U.S. government, including the Office of the United States Trade Representative in the Executive Office of the President, and the Department of Justice; in the United Nations; as international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, and in the private bar; and as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School.

       Petsonk received a BA magna cum laude from The Colorado College and a JD cum laude from Harvard Law School.

Bryce Rudyk (moderator)  

       Bryce Rudyk is the Director of the International Environmental Law Program at the Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law, Director of the United Nations Diplomacy Clinic, and adjunct professor of law at NYU. He teaches International Environmental Law, Global Environmental Governance, and UN Diplomacy. He has authored a number of articles and a book, focusing on the governance of global environmental problems and the incentives and legal and institutional regimes created to manage these problems. He is the also Legal Advisor to the Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) at the United Nations. AOSIS, currently chaired by Samoa, is the negotiating group on climate change, sustainable development, and oceans issues for the 39 small island developing states around the world. He has been legal advisor for AOSIS since 2013.

       He has an LLM in International Law from NYU Law, a JD from the University of Toronto, and a BSc in Biology from McMaster University.

 Kathy Hessler

       Dean Hessler is the inaugural Assistant Dean for Animal Legal Education at George Washington University Law School. She is also the Director of the Animal Legal Education Initiative – a program made possible by generous support from Animal Legal Defense Fund. Dean Hessler has been a clinical law professor for 30 years and has been teaching animal law for 22 years. She is the first professor hired to teach animal law full-time. She also created and directed the Aquatic Animal Law Initiative at Lewis & Clark Law School and is the co-founder of World Aquatic Animal Day (April 3rd) along with Amy P. Wilson. 

       Dean Hessler also co-authored Animal Law in a NutshellAnimal Law – New Perspectives on Teaching Traditional Law, and the amicus briefs submitted in the U.S. v. Stevens and Justice v. Gwendolyn Vercher cases.  She has written numerous law review and other articles. She teaches and lectures widely across the U.S. and world. She is working on a new book, Aquatic Animals: Law, Science and Policy.