In recognition of 24 years spent building a cleaner, greener, healthier Southeast, Jeff Gleason, SELC’s Deputy Director, has received our 2015 James S. Dockery, Jr. Southern Environmental Leadership Award. With his retirement scheduled for the end of this year, Gleason’s final board meeting with SELC, held earlier this month, was a fitting time to salute his tremendous achievements.
Gleason started at SELC in 1990 to lead the newly formed Energy Program, a job he tackled with skill and zeal. He quickly became one of the nation’s most effective environmental lawyers, and his leadership brought transformational change to energy policy in the South. Some highlights include:
· Driving the successful effort to retire coal plants in the Southeast, with more than half of the coal-fired units in our region now closed or committed to closing;
· Leading a team to a victory in a U.S. Supreme Court case against Duke Energy over air pollution;
· Initiation of the first energy efficiency programs in the Southeast;
· Laying the groundwork for the landmark North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act;
· Launching SELC’s solar initiative.
Gleason remembers the early years when “I spent hours and hours in utility hearing rooms in meetings that seemed to go on forever and, in all these settings, it was always the same thing—there were five or so lawyers for the utility, five or so lawyers for the coal interests, and me. And what motivated me and kept me going in those times was the knowledge that, if I wasn’t there, the environmental position wouldn’t be heard, much less considered.”
Today there is no doubt that his voice—speaking on behalf of everyone who cares about the South’s environment—has been heard.
Gleason also played a central role in the tremendous growth and effectiveness of SELC, taking on the role of Deputy Director and Director of Regional programs as the organization expanded from 7 attorneys to nearly 70, developed a critical on-the-ground presence with 9 offices in our six states, and built strong teams in six different program areas. And he helped build the ethos of collaboration and genuine friendship that characterizes SELC today.
“In short, there is no one who has been more central to the outstanding work of the Southern Environmental Law Center over the years than Jeff Gleason,” says Rick Middleton, SELC’s Founder and Executive Director.
The Southern Environmental Leadership Award was established in 1993 in honor of SELC's co-founder and first board chair, Jim Dockery. Dockery's noted environmental leadership helped protect tens of millions of acres of mountain wilderness around the nation. His contributions to the southeast region are remembered annually by this award, which recognizes leaders at the state and local levels who have helped build excellent environmental institutions.