We recently caught up with rising third-year JD student Ben Champion to find out more about what brought him to Arizona Law and to hear about his summer internship with the U.S. EPA Region 7 office in Kansas.
Ben grew up in the Kansas City area, earning his undergraduate chemistry degree at Kansas State University. He then received a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where he earned a doctorate in geography, researching the political economy of emerging food trends like local food trading networks.
Next, Ben worked as sustainability director for Kansas State, later moving to Tucson to lead the University of Arizona's sustainability efforts. Ben also held a two-year appointment as a part-time assistant professor in the UA School of Geography, Development, and Environment.
With former UA President Ann Weaver Hart as she signed the UA's commitment to addressing climate change in 2015.
Why law school? Ben says his greatest mentor as an undergraduate and during grad school was an environmental lawyer and lobbyist for the Sierra Club in Kansas named Charles Benjamin.
"He let me tag along as he met with legislators about energy infrastructure policy, attended county land use planning meetings around wind energy developments, and worked behind the scenes to help non-profits have sound legal analysis for their policy efforts. It was exciting, fast-paced, and challenging work. I guess I was hooked."
After grad school, Ben's work as a sustainability director developed a lot of the skills he had watched his mentor deploy as a lobbyist. But after 10 years in this role, Ben felt it was time to branch out and that law school would bring new skills and serve as an excellent bridge to the future.
I got to know Ben when he was the sustainability director at the UA, and provided absolutely neutral counsel on why I thought Arizona Law would be a perfect fit.
Celebrating the end of finals.
Arizona Law has, indeed, been a great fit. Ben appreciates the vibrant intellectual community at the law school along with his coursework in environmental law and in related areas. He is also part of the Environmental Law Society and an editor on the Arizona Journal for Environmental Law and Policy. As a law student, he says,
"I've found that good environmental leadership is less about environmental knowledge, and more about leadership skills, organizational change management, and business dynamics.
Solving the climate crisis requires shifting our entire economy and many societal institutions, so I've really valued the courses related to these governance issues."
Ben says he hopes to parlay these interests into a career in energy, agricultural, and land use law and policy.
This summer, Ben has been working remotely as a legal intern in the Office of Regional Counsel (ORC) for Region 7 of the EPA, in the Kansas City area. He says he's extremely grateful that the EPA was able to follow through with its summer internships this year, in light of COVID-19 and the heavy disruption to many summer positions.
Having secured the internship, and not knowing when it started whether it would become in-person at some point during the summer, Ben and his wife and son moved to Kansas City in late May and have been able to stay with Ben's parents.
"Even though the continued growth in infection rates will prevent any in-person experience this summer, it's still been a blessing to be here with family all summer to support each other."
The ORC assigned Ben his own "docket" of projects for the summer, a list of eight projects across each of their four main branches -- air, water, chemical, and Superfund.
He's performed research on novel procedural questions involving LLCs and legislative history about public notification requirements for violations of safe drinking water standards, developed an assessment of ongoing litigation regarding a citizen suit, and is working on drafting an environmental covenant and a complaint regarding a RCRA underground storage tank violation.
Ben is grateful for the opportunity to learn and do so much in his summer positions and says that, especially under this year's unusual circumstances, "It's really been the best experience I could have hoped for."