Ben D’Antonio, JD/MSEL 2008
I love my job. I’m always learning something, and I’m in a position to serve the public interest.”
Counsel and Analyst, New England States Committee on Electricity
Benjamin D'Antonio left the financial world to work on environmental issues that he calls "the challenge of our generation." During his studies at VLS, he became interested in air quality and energy regulation, and found mentors who helped connect him with opportunities to match his interests and use his growing skills. He is currently counsel and analyst on policy and regulation for the nonprofit New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE). There he advises and represents the six New England states on issues from transmission planning to wholesale energy markets and renewable energy. "I love my job," he says. "I'm always learning something, and I'm in a position to serve the public interest."
"Putting an emphasis on finding the right people to work with has served me really well," Ben says about a guiding factor of his path at VLS and afterward. Among the faculty members he praises for their intellect and their interest are Professor Emeritus Richard Brooks, founder of the Environmental Law Center and a specialist in air quality law; David Mears, with whom Ben worked when Mears directed VLS's Environmental and Natural Resources Clinic (Mears is now commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation); and President and Dean Marc Mihaly, who was associate dean for environmental programs when Ben was at VLS. Representing the student body on VLS's board of trustees was another learning opportunity. "I was able to develop a sense of how to talk about important issues in an open-minded way," he says.
In and after law school, Ben chose a nontraditional route that has proven successful. His pre-VLS studies in economics and his work in financial analysis quickly oriented him toward energy policy. "The conventional wisdom holds that you strive to be on law review, then you're a litigator, then you'll have earned your stripes and can go anywhere, including policy work or politics," he says, noting, "I skipped that litigation step and went straight into regulation and policy." Encouraged by Professor Michael Dworkin, a veteran energy regulator who directs VLS's Institute for Energy and the Environment, he took his first post-VLS job as an energy and environmental fellow at the nonprofit Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) in Montpelier.
When it comes to jobs and debt, Ben knows firsthand the challenges this economy mounts for new lawyers. He recommends working with mentors and drawing on VLS's institutional support such as career services and the loan repayment assistance program. He notes, "I did whatever it took"-including interning for free while a law student.
Following his two years at RAP, Ben joined the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities as an economist and legal counsel in the regional and federal affairs division. "It was a great experience," he says, that included being a staff technical expert in the Cape Wind proceeding. That position prepared him for his move to NESCOE in January 2012. One of the energy and environmental issues he now works on is the electric sector's growing dependence on natural gas. "The nexus between the natural gas industry and electric industry is increasing," he says. Just one of the concerns: "You hear about natural gas as a 'bridge' fuel to cleaner energy, but some are concerned about that bridge becoming permanent and locking in the environmental impact." Fortunately, Ben D'Antonio is well positioned to advise on energy issues like these.