Vermont Law School Associate Professor David Mears, a national leader in environmental law, was appointed by Vermont Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin today as commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

Mears, who is director of VLS’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic and Land Use Clinic, is currently on a Fulbright Scholarship at Sun Yat-Sen University in China, where he was to spend the 2010-2011 academic year lecturing and developing environmental clinical programs to strengthen enforcement of China’s anti-pollution laws. He will cut his Fulbright Scholarship to one semester and return to Vermont in January to assume his position as DEC commissioner.

VLS Dean Jeff Shields and Professor Marc Mihaly, director of the school’s Environmental Law Center, said Mears contributed greatly to VLS. “We’re confident David will play a leading role in the new administration at this critical time in Vermont’s history,” Mihaly said. Associate Professor Teresa Clemmer has been acting director of VLS’s environmental law and land use clinics while Mears has been in China and will continue in that role until a permanent director is appointed.

Mears, who joined the VLS faculty in 2005, specializes in environmental law and environmental litigation. He has expertise in the major pollution laws, water resources law, federal facilities regulation and state and federal sovereignty. He received his B.S. degree from Cornell University in 1985 and his J.D. degree, summa cum laude, and Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree from Vermont Law School in 1991. Following law school, he was an assistant attorney general in the Texas Office of the Attorney General, a senior attorney with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and the energy and environmental policy director with the Texas Office for State-Federal Relations in Washington, D.C. He then served as a trial attorney and counselor for state and local affairs with the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division. In 1998, he was appointed senior assistant attorney general in the Washington Office of the Attorney General, Ecology Division.

“I am excited about this new opportunity but sad to leave VLS,” he said. “It’s been an inspiring place to teach environmental law—the students, faculty and staff share a love of learning and are committed to using the law to make the world better. I take solace in the fact that I will be just up the road in Waterbury and look forward to staying in touch with my friends and colleagues in South Royalton.”