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Submitting a Proposal for SPIEL

If your proposal qualifies for Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) credit, please see the CLE deadlines. If your proposal does not qualify for CLE credit, please see the non-CLE deadlines. If no one on your panel knows whether your proposal qualifies for CLE, then it almost certainly does not qualify. But if you have questions about whether your proposal qualifies for CLE credit, please reach out to us at  The typical presentation timeframe is 75 minutes.


To receive priority consideration for the inclusion of your presentation on the schedule, be sure to apply by the priority deadline. Applications received by the deadline for non-priority consideration will be considered for inclusion in the schedule, but will be less likely to be accepted or receive a priority timeslot on the schedule.

Priority CLE presentation proposal deadline: Friday May 31

Deadline for non-priority consideration of CLE  proposals: Friday June 14

Priority non-CLE presentation proposal deadline: Friday June 28

Deadline for non-priority consideration of non-CLE  proposals: Friday, July 12

Deadline for SPIEL to notify panelists whether their panel has been accepted: Wednesday, July 31


A committee will vet proposals for factors like relevance to the mission of the conference, clarity, and in the interest of presenting a broad selection of topics.


The scope of topics covered at this conference includes any compelling topic that provides information that is useful to public interest environmental advocates. Academic researchers are encouraged to present on any findings or publications that would be useful to our movement’s work.  Experienced conservationists are also encouraged to submit work, and as SPIEL is a place to bring together people across disciplines,  team presentations by people from two or more fields  are certainly encouraged! Examples of topics covered include impacts to aquatic ecosystems, air pollution, new research on forest ecology; public lands defense; mining; pipelines; imperiled species; agricultural policy; transportation policy; climate justice; environmental justice; and hot litigation topics.  


SPIEL provides flexibility of presentation formats, including lecture/discussion, roundtables, hands-on workshops both indoors and out.  

Your presentation proposal should include a description of the topic you intend to cover, a list of presenters on your panel, how the topics will be split up between the presenters on your panel (including how many minutes will be allotted to each speaker), and whether you intend to pursue Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) credit for your panel. Generally, only lawyers can give presentations that provide CLE credit. In the “Biography” field, you do not have to submit a resumé or CV, but can instead provide a written description or list of the qualifications of each of the proposed speakers on your panel for giving this presentation.  


Presenters who submit separate but related proposals may be encouraged to team up on the same panel. This may result in your participation on an interdisciplinary panel, which is exactly the kind of cross-pollination that SPIEL aims to foster. 

We will be curating presentations long-term for those who request it in a mixture of print and multimedia formats for those who would like this service.   Also, let us know if you are interested in a presentation qualifying for CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credits.

Sample Proposals

      The following are presentation ideas that have been submitted  by potential presenters at SPIEL 2024. 


Transforming TVA from Climate Laggard to Leader   

Gaby Sarri-Tobar, Energy Justice Campaigner, Center for Biological Diversity 


The climate emergency and extinction crisis demand an immediate end to fossil fuels. Yet our country’s largest federal power utility – the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”) – is actively fueling the problem. TVA have the largest gas buildout of any utility by 2030 and on its current path will only achieve federal targets for 100% clean electricity by 2050. With every new gas plant TVA announces, it will burden communities with decades more of toxic pollution, high utility bills, fossil-fueled extreme weather, and unreliable power.  In this panel, we will explore how TVA can abandon its fossil fuel plans and become a leader on climate by pioneering a renewable, public, and equitable energy future. We will cover how the Center for Biological Diversity and partners are challenging TVA’s gas buildout in both the 2024 Integrated Resource Plan and in a lawsuit over the proposed Cumberland gas plant. We will also discuss the Center for Biological Diversity, Synapse Energy Economics, and GridLab’s groundbreaking report – TVA’s Clean Energy Future – which shows how TVA can advance 100% renewable energy by 2035 and reduce emissions, save billions for families, and create jobs. 

Environmental Law Teaching: A Law-focused Citizen-Action Generator

Zygmunt Plater, Professor Emeritus, Boston College Law School


A panel on teaching environmental law to non-lawyers — EL-T (environmental law-teaching) is a program designed to encourage law students and law schools to teach undergraduates (and potentially other non-lawyers), how to bring critical pressures to bear upon environmental problems that government isn’t effectively solving. The EL-T program functioned for several years at the UTK College of Law in Knoxville in the 1970s. Senior law students were trained in pairs during the Fall semester, each then designing their own syllabus and teaching public interest environmental law to sections of college undergraduates. Several teacher alumni are being invited to join the panel. With panel attendees, the EL-T session will discuss the importance of legally-informed citizen action, and how the program can be established in Tennessee and nearby states. The late beloved Pamela Reeves took the EL-T environmental course as an undergraduate at UT. In her case it propelled her into a public interest legal career, and she went on to become U.S. judge for Tennessee’s Eastern District.

Record Making and Record Breaking – Taking on Agency Deliberative Process Claims

Robert Wiygul, attorney for Waltzer Wiygul & Garside

Every environmental lawyer knows that the general rule in Administrative Procedure Act cases is that the case is decided on the administrative record that was before the agency.  That record is supposed to be the “whole record,” which some courts and agency regulations have defined as all documents that were directly or indirectly considered by the agency decisionmaker.  Agencies have frequently worked to narrow the scope of the record to exclude documents that might undercut their final decision, often through invoking the “deliberative process” privilege.  Requiring disclosure through a privilege log of documents withheld from the administrative record has always been a check on this kind of agency behavior.  However, poorly reasoned decisions from the D.C. Circuit and the Ninth Circuit have allowed agencies to assert that they can withhold documents based on an assertion of deliberative process with no privilege log and no other identification of the withheld documents to the parties or the court.   This panel would place this latest battle in the context of other issues involving completing and supplementing the administrative record, and also cover best practices for insuring that there is a check on mass withholding of documents.

Protecting Imperiled Species from the Ravages of Coal Mining    

Perrin de Jong, Southeast staff attorney, Center for Biological Diversity  


Since the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (“SMCRA”) in 1977, the federal government’s coal mine permitting program has operated almost entirely without regard for the imperiled species protections of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) of 1973. In this panel, we will explore the interplay between the SMCRA Title V permitting program and the imperiled species protections of the ESA. We will cover the historical and present-day dereliction of the federal government in imposing and enforcing the protections of the ESA through the SMCRA Title V program and will discuss the Center for Biological Diversity’s and Appalachian Voices’ pending litigation to repair the lack of ESA protections for imperiled species throughout the country from coal mining pollution. This panel will include a special emphasis on imperiled Southeastern aquatic species threatened by coal mine pollution. 

Conservation Value of Mature Forests - A Field Discussion

Jon Evans, Professor of Conservation Biology, University of the South/Sewanee


Mature forests serve as vital reservoirs of biological diversity within the southern Appalachian landscape.   However, the biological integrity of these forests becomes degraded and lost when forest management regimes fail to protect the ecological processes that are critical to their maintenance.  This all afternoon workshop will take place in the field where we will visit forest stands representing different ages and management regimes and discuss how timber harvest, pine conversion, fire restoration, and deer over browse have impacted biodiversity at each site.  We will also visit a vernal pool and discuss how the maintenance of breeding populations of amphibians such as spotted salamanders depends on the protection of both the aquatic habitat as well as the terrestrial habitat in the surrounding forest.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for Beginners

Davis Mounger, Co-Founder, Tennessee Heartwood 


A powerful legal and research tool for professionals and citizens alike, FOIA is invaluable for promoting government transparency.  While there is a standard procedure for making a FOIA request to a government agency, it can seem daunting at first.  It doesn’t have to be.  This workshop is meant to help with writing a request that follows government protocols, while also making the process more efficient and more likely to get needed information.  The presentation will also cover real case studies of how FOIA has assisted an organization in its mission, and  give examples of common roadblocks that an applicant can face and how to overcome them.   We also will address the matters of fee waivers and categorical examptions. 


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