Clearing the Air

David B. Farer on his new gig as president of the American College of Environmental Lawyers

Published in 2016 New Jersey Super Lawyers — April 2016

When David B. Farer was a kid, he says pollution was so bad, he could “see the air” in New Jersey.

Decades later, thanks to environmental lawyers like Farer and his peers, Farer says not only is the state’s air quality much better, but on his commute from New York City to Woodbridge-based Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis, he sees other critical areas of improvement, too.

“I drive by sites each day where I helped in the cleanup and development process, and I pass by brownfields that were revitalized and reclaimed for productive use,” Farer says. “I spent the earlier part of my career handling litigation and administrative proceedings for a lot of those sites, and now many of them have been redeveloped, leading to an improved environmental impact on the land.”

When Farer started out in the late ’70s, environmental law was such a nascent area of practice that classes on the subject weren’t even being taught at his alma mater, Boston University School of Law.

Thirty years later, in October 2015, Farer got the nod for the year-long role as president of the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL).

“It’s gratifying to be nominated by a group of distinguished peers, and it presents a wonderful opportunity to give back to our community through education and further development of environmental law,” Farer says.

Farer sees his tenure as one in which the college can leverage tech to respond to breaking environmental news. He points to the recent Paris Agreement, aimed at governing future carbon dioxide reduction measures, as a key example.

“On December 12, 196 countries signed onto the accord in Paris, and we had fellows of the college in attendance,” Farer says. “Within three days, we began a series of chronological blog posts analyzing the agreement, written by environmental lawyers and scholars from within the college.”

At home, issues like fracking and climate change are the “most volatile issues,” but Farer says he also sees opportunities for legal assistance and pro bono work abroad.

“China has become so industrialized that they will now need to come to terms with the levels of pollution they’re producing, and we have models of enforcement and have implemented laws that can help manufacturers comply,” Farer says. “Further, as Cuba has expanded and opened to more industrialization, we can help provide scholarly and neutral analyses and hope to assist in the development of their environmental regulations. This is especially true with regard to the Clean Power Plan issued under President Barack Obama, which addresses global climate change.”

Farer cites a recent red alert, regarding smog and air pollution in China, as a primary example of how the college can offer a broad range of expertise to help foreign countries.

“We’ve had meetings with industrial organizations, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and lawyers and judges in China to discuss the environmental issues associated with unbridled and somewhat uncontrolled development,” Farer says. “They recognize the need to change, and in 2014, for the first time in nearly 25 years, revamped their environmental protection legislation.”

Though the ACOEL presidency demands a lot of time and attention, Farer says he will continue his daily responsibilities as a partner and chair of Greenbaum’s environmental department.

“It’s a substantial commitment, but I’m delighted to undertake all the requirements that come with this position, including giving back through pro bono activities,” Farer says. “I’m still very involved in the private practice and share many of the responsibilities within the environmental law department here at the firm. My colleagues have been wonderfully supportive.”

Farer focuses his attention at the intersection of environmental and real estate law in New Jersey, including cleanup and redevelopment projects. “My goal is always to find a common ground where there is a dispute, and to always be a student of the law,” he says.

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