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Harry H. Kelso

Harry H. Kelso, an attorney and environmental consultant (as well as a student of military history), specializes in solutions to the inter-dependent industrial challenges facing federal and state governments and the private sector regarding contaminated real estate. His experience, gained over 16 years in dealing with governmental properties and industries, has concentrated on federal facilities, particularly active military facilities, closing- and closed bases and facilities, and formerly used defense sites (FUDS). Employing innovative methods to reach comprehensive solutions that do not detract from core military missions, his expertise lies in industrial property reuse and redevelopment, including environmental cleanup and compliance, economic redevelopment, human health and safety.

Accomplishments.  Examples of accomplishments achieved for public and private sector clients:

  • Leading a Fortune 10 energy company's fast-track acquisition of a Defense Department industrial facility;

  • Serving as an outside counsel to a state Attorney General which had serious environmental, health, safety, and economic development differences with a military Service regarding a sensitive, active military facility. This work was presented to a presidential commission on the status of this facility, and was ultimately resolved by an agreement between the state's Governor and the President

  • Advising the Executive Director of a BRAC Local Reuse Authority on effective strategies by which to craft a "win-win" approach benefiting the LRA, the military service, the EPA and the state regulators, thus solving a perpetual challenge encumbering (and frustrating) each of the stakeholders

  • Leading a state Governor's negotiating team which reached an Agreement by which the state's National Guard operates a 45,000 acre Army post closed under the 1995 round of BRAC. Under the Agreement, the facility hosts continued and expanded military training for the U.S. Department of Defense as well as state police training and new private sector redevelopment, with virtually all environmental costs borne by the Army. Kelso was awarded the Bronze Star by the State's Adjutant General for this accomplishment, and the success, a "win-win" for both the State and the Army, was the subject of a major story in the Richmond, Virginia Times-Dispatch in 2000

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Previously, Kelso served as the Director of Enforcement at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, where he was successful in reaching agreements which hold federal and state government facilities (as well as non-government facilities) to the same environmental, health and safety laws as apply to the private sector. Among his accomplishments were enforcement cleanup agreements with the University of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Department of Defense and the EPA.

U.S. Department of Justice, Environment Division.  Prior to his service to the Commonwealth, Kelso served the Bush "41" Administration as Counsel to the Assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. In that capacity, he was actively involved in legislation and inter-agency policy development, Congressional oversight hearings, and oversight of enforcement litigation. During the Reagan Administration, he served as a Trial Attorney in the Environment Division, conducting both environmental enforcement and federal agency defense litigation.

Publications and Speeches.  Kelso has published law review articles and spoken on the industrial and environmental challenges from military facilities, among them:

  • "How to Create 'Win-Win' Resolutions That Promote Good Working Relationships and Future Successful Negotiations with the Department of Defense," April 2001, RTM Conference address.
  • "Preparing to Win in the Pentagon's Environmental Cleanup System and Recognizing Warning Signs on the Horizon," National Environmental Enforcement Journal, March 1999 (National Association of Attorneys General, NAAG)
  • "Protecting States from the Unfunded Mandate of Cleaning Up Military Base Contamination," Environmental Communiqué of the States, December 1999 (Council of State Governments);
  • "How Virginia Obtained Unprecedented Legal Protections from the Federal Government," ICMA Base Reuse Consortium Bulletin, March/April 1998 (International City/County Management Association)

He is currently drafting a law review article that documents military downsizings since the American Revolution, and proposes a new approach to funding military-related cleanup that will not undermine readiness spending in the Pentagon.

Congressional Attention to Kelso Articles.  The NAAG article, referenced above, was the subject of a March 25, 1999 Congressional "Dear Colleague" letter from U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) to her fellow U.S. House Members ("Why Isn't the Federal Government Held to the Same Environmental Standards as the Private Sector?") as well as remarks at a March, 1999 House Commerce Subcommittee hearing.

Press Coverage of Kelso Accomplishments.  In May 2003, a Kelso Op-Ed ("The Pentagon Makes a Huge Environmental Mistake"), questioning environmental exemptions requested by the Department of Defense, was published in several newspapers around the U.S. In addition, Kelso and his accomplishments were the subject of discussion in two investigative journalism series on military contamination: The Boston Globe ("Environmental Injustice: Government as Polluter," Sunday, November 14, 1999); and The San Antonio Express-News ("The Kelly [Air Force Base] Legacy: The Money Pits," Saturday, October 21, 2000). In addition, his work was the subject of an article in Defense Environment Alert ("Army Provides Extensive Environmental Liability Protection in Agreement with Virginia," November 4, 1997).

Education.  Kelso holds a B.A. from Emory University, a J.D. from South Texas College of Law, and an LL.M. (International and Labor Law) from Georgetown University. Following law school, he clerked for the Texas Court of Appeals (14th District) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Personal.  Kelso is married to Catherine M. Kelso, M.D., and they have three children.

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