Harmon "Monty" Cooper is an attorney in an environmental law practice in Washington, D.C., Sedgwick LLP, and a proud member of EESI’s board.
He spoke about his board service with EESI, his dedication to the people of Prince George’s County, and the origins of his nickname.
Q. Why did you decide to join EESI's board?
A. Part of my practice is in the environmental space. I'm a litigator overall, with an emphasis on product liability and environmental law. But my work also involves environmental counseling, so I'm familiar with environmental policy issues. A good friend of mine, Elliott Laws [another environmental attorney], was a member of EESI's board for a number of years and thought that I might be interested in joining and participating. So, it was really Elliott who introduced EESI to me. And then of course the great work that we're doing with EESI encouraged me to participate and join the board.
Q. What are some of the things you admire most about EESI?
A. I love that EESI provides information to policymakers and decision makers on a wide variety of topics, from climate change, to renewable energy policy and energy efficiency. There was just a briefing on environmental justice issues not so long ago. I think we provide a real service to folks on the Hill, staffers, Congressmen, and Senators on an individual level. For example, the Rachel Carson Jubilee Celebration, an all-day affair, was held on November 30 with folks like Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen speaking in the morning. It just shows the level of respect that EESI engenders on the Hill. So that's what I admire the most.
Q. How is EESI, in your opinion, making strides in promoting sustainable solutions for communities and small towns?
A. On-bill financing is one way in which EESI is helping communities. I'm originally from South Carolina, Congressman Jim Clyburn’s district where the on-bill financing project began. Providing low-income people with home energy upgrades that make their homes more energy efficient is a big deal. It's a great thing that, as an organization, puts our money where our mouth is and is really practical for people. The program is one of the reasons why I admire the work that we do at EESI (see article below for more information).
Q. You've spent some time promoting sustainable and affordable buildings in Prince George's County. What drew you towards such work?
A. I’ve lived in Prince George's County in Maryland for more than a decade now. It's a great community with great neighbors. It’s really vibrant there. I’ve gotten involved in the community and was asked by the county executive to chair the Redevelopment Authority of Prince George’s County. We do a couple things: 1. We help people find affordable housing options and 2. We develop and redevelop infill development projects – very large land projects where we'll find developers to come in and redevelop property. All this relates to sustainability because with any Request for Proposal (RFP) we put out, we're asking developers: what are they doing to think about efficiency, sustainable communities, and walkable communities? We want them to incorporate those principles in whatever designs they submit to us. And we score submissions, and a large part of what we score is sustainability because we want Prince George’s County to be a leader in sustainable communities. In fact, we’re building net-zero energy homes in inner-beltway communities in Prince George’s. So we’re excited about the work.
Q. What are you excited about working on next?
A. First, continuing to practice law and be a better professional every day. I’m also excited about our redevelopment work in Prince George’s County. And, with EESI, I’m excited about just continuing to do what we're doing in terms of providing information to stakeholders and expanding the on-bill financing program. In Prince George’s, I want to continue to help redevelop communities in positive ways, bring businesses into the county, and at the same time provide affordable housing options so that when we incorporate change, people in our communities don't feel as if they’re being pushed out. That's important to our board and important to me.
I think overall it's to continue to do more of what we're doing, better.
Q. I'm curious, why do you go by the name Monty?
A. My middle name's Lamont and that's the short answer. But I was almost going to be Harmon Cooper III until my mother stepped in and saved the day. I say that in jest – I’m proud of the name “Harmon,” as it is my grandfather’s and father’s name. But my middle name is Lamont, my dad is Harmon and to avoid confusion, I just go by Monty.
Interview conducted by Dylan Ruan