by Amanda A. Reeve and Lucas J. Narducci

After hosting its 2020 Environmental & Sustainability Summit (“ESS”) virtually due to the COVID Pandemic…after all, what else could keep Phoenicians from fleeing the scorching heat and heading up to the cooler temps of Flagstaff…, the Arizona Manufacturers Council (“AMC”) and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry (“Arizona Chamber”) were eager to get back to normalcy with their 2021 ESS. However, due to the ongoing uncertainties accompanying COVID, the AMC and Arizona Chamber decided to host their 2021 ESS both virtually and in-person in downtown Phoenix with a condensed format that turned the normally three-day event into one day while still covering all of the critically important content. To distinguish this one-time format from the normal ESS held in Flagstaff – as it will be again in 2022 – this year’s event was referred to as the AMC 2021 Environmental & Sustainability Summit Lite (“ESS Lite”).

Snell and Wilmer LLP, as it has been for years, is proud to be a Presenting Sponsor, along with Intel, of this annual event, which has been and continues to be Arizona’s premier environmental conference each year. Attorney Luke Narducci, in his capacity as an AMC Board Member, has been critical in organizing and sponsoring this event since its inception; and, has had the great pleasure of watching the attendance and notoriety of the ESS increase with each passing year.  Policy Advisor Amanda Reeve, in her capacity as the Chair of the ESS Planning Committee, has solely or jointly with the AMC Executive Director, been emceeing this event for well over five years now.   This annual event, focusing on current and emerging critical environmental issues impacting Arizona and highlighting the sustainable measures that significant local manufacturers employ, has been ongoing for over 25 years…even persevering the COVID Pandemic.

Like every other year, the ESS Lite agenda provided a non-stop array of interesting topics and two outstanding Keynote Presenters: the Honorable Deborah Jordan, Region IX Acting Regional Administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”); and the Honorable Henry Darwin, a long-time friend of the ESS and the USEPA’s former Chief Operating Officer under the Trump Administration. The Arizona Commerce Authority (“ACA”) generously hosted this one-day jammed packed event in a conference room just large enough to accommodate the over 80 people who attended the event in person.  Thanks to the video and audio crew brought in by the AMC and AZ Chamber, countless other virtual attendees were also able to enjoy and benefit from the excellent content, presenters, and panelists the ESS Lite offered. Even though the event had to move at a rapid pace to ensure proper coverage of all important topics, there was still a little time set aside to network and to once again refamiliarize ourselves with the faces of our friends, colleagues, fellow professionals, and elected officials.

State Representatives Shawnna Bolick, Frank Carroll, and Joanne Osborne were in attendance at the ESS Lite and the reception that followed, as were the Natural Resources Policy Advisors from the Office of Governor Ducey and the Arizona State House of Representatives. Representative Carroll moderated a fascinating panel with Lucid Motors and Republic Services discussing the evolution of the auto industry and the challenges that need to be addressed for the electric vehicle market to flourish. Other topics included an elections preview; an informative discussion regarding PFAS; learning from the mining industry the trends and updates of operating safer, greener and better; receiving the latest updates from the agency and division directors of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality; a discussion between the Arizona Department of Water Resources, water providers, and industry about Arizona’s water future; hearing from Arizona’s utility providers about the future of reliable and renewable energy in the state; and learning about the impact of regional haze, ozone, and the implications of the Biden Administration’s Environmental Justice actions on business operations and agency regulations. Additionally, the air panel discussion included an ozone litigation update from attorney Mike Ford and the purpose for the amicus brief Snell & Wilmer filed on behalf of the AZ Chamber and AMC supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s attainment designation of the Maricopa County area for the 2008 ozone standard.

While the content of the ESS was spectacular, the best part, as most presenters and panelists emphatically stated, was just being able to see everyone in person again.  The ESS Lite may have been more condensed and left less time for visiting; but it was still just as informative as ever.  That said, the AMC and AZ Chamber have already booked Flagstaff for the 2022 ESS next summer.  The format will return to the more relaxed one that allows for more discussions, Q&A, and an abundance of opportunities to network and catch up with all in attendance.  Snell & Wilmer is looking forward to seeing everyone in Flagstaff at next year’s ESS.