June 2020 – Meet NEBC Member Christopher Rich…
What is your educational background? I studied biology and history at UCLA and then went on to study environmental law at the University of Denver.
What drew you to working in the environmental sector? Having grown up in the west, I was always connected to the outdoors. I spent much of my spare time camping, hiking, backpacking, running, scuba diving, rock climbing, rafting, gold panning, horseback riding, etc., in California, Utah, Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon. I was drawn to the intersection of earth science and the impact of human development and thought that environmental law sounded like a good way to combine my interests.
In one word, describe yourself. Optimist.
What’s one interesting fact about you that most people don’t know? I front a British-style rock band, which has put out three records on a German record label and has played clubs and small festivals in the US, Canada, and the U.K.
How do you balance your career and family? I have been so lucky to have a spouse-best-friend and two amazing kids. I figured the best way to make sure I stayed connected was to make family part of my schedule, so I signed up for everything (soccer coach, school volunteer, scoutmaster, sports team driver, etc.), and I try to be protective of weekends.
CHRIS ON BUSINESS
What drew you to your company originally? Perkins Coie had really smart, accomplished lawyers whom I also knew to be good people. After building a practice (originally working in enforcement at Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, then litigating environmental cases in a small private firm), I jumped at the chance to be part of the Perkins Coie Portland Environment, Energy, and Resources group. The firm’s core values of collegiality, integrity, and diversity/equity/inclusion fit well with my world view – and I have been there ever since 2006.
What are three words to describe your company? Collaborative, Smart, Inclusive
What is your favorite part about working for your company? I really like the way we work together to make better decisions for clients. We have a culture where bouncing ideas off each other, and sharing prior experience is part of the firm’s DNA.
What has been your favorite project at your company? I had the opportunity to be the lead environmental lawyer for the permitting, operation and closure of the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (UMCDF), which was destroying 12% of the stockpile of the U.S. Army’s chemical weapons (and I got to work onsite for over two years, with a gas mask on my belt).
How has your company helped you in your career development? Perkins Coie has invested in my career in many ways, including leadership training, business development coaching, mentoring, professional development, opportunities to speak at conferences, and more. My EER practice group keeps me up-to-date on the latest issues so we can stay ahead of the curve.
CHRIS ON THE INDUSTRY
What has your involvement been with NEBC? NEBC has provided a core group of environmental professionals that really forms my network. I have had the privilege of attending and presenting at many NEBC conferences, including participation on steering committees and other ad-hoc committees, and NEBC members are my go-to consultants and experts.
What is the best professional advice you’ve received? You won’t resolve a conflict until you can make the “other side’s” case against you.
What advice do you have for prospective candidates who want to work at your company or in the industry? Whatever you choose for a career, you’re going to be doing for a lot of hours a day, so make sure it’s what you like doing before you start.
What is on your wish list for the next five years for your industry? More collaborative rulemaking, more reliance on science, and federal regulations that don’t change every time the White House switches parties.
As a part of the industry, what sort of trends do you see? Cleanup of environmental historic contaminated sites will be fewer but old “closed” sited may be reevaluated as new toxicology data is developed; stormwater permitting and management will become more challenging as discharge benchmarks are reduced; air toxics emissions regulations will continue to push for more reporting, monitoring, and restrictions; climate change regulation is going to be a partisan football for many legislative sessions to come.