Rich Kassel’s passions and beliefs have been the foundation on which he has built his successful career. He brought these – and his many other talents – to AJW in April 2022.
Here’s what you need to know.
Q: How did your career path wind its way to AJW?
RK: I’ve spent four decades working to cut air pollution, improve human health, and reduce climate threats in New York, at the federal level, and in countries around the world.
Most people know me from my many years at the Natural Resources Defense Council, where I ran our clean fuels and vehicles work in New York, then at the federal level, and then in countries around the world. But I’ve also been part of the founding team of three successful nonprofit organizations, I’ve worked in corporate law, I’ve worked on political campaigns, and for the past six years, I have had the honor of chairing one of EPA’s technical review committees. I bring all of this experience to the table when I’m advising my clients at AJW.
I first met Chris Hessler when I was a young staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and he was working as a staffer on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (we both had a lot more hair then). We’ve been in the same orbit ever since, each of us working to remove barriers to decarbonization and cleaner air, each of us focused on how we can use our federal and state policy frameworks to encourage innovation at scale. When the opportunity to work with Chris and the growing team at AJW came up, I jumped at the chance.
Q: What motivates you when you start work every morning?
RK: Three things motivate me every day. First, I think we are at a key inflection point in the fight against climate change, and our actions in the next few years will either limit the impacts of climate change that our grandchildren will live with or exacerbate them. Second, I’m a bike rider in New York City, so urban air pollution has always been a very personal issue for me. And third, perhaps most relevant to my daily work, I’m a problem solver – I’ve always been very focused on solutions that can be scaled cost-effectively and quickly.
Q: What practice areas will you focus on?
RK: Although I’ve spent most of my career working in the transportation sector, my recent work stretches across the sustainability spectrum, including clean fuels, low-carbon concrete, carbon capture, green buildings, renewable energy, zero-emission vehicles, and the broader energy transition.
My work has been – and will continue to be – a mix of New York and federal work because complex projects and issues often require solutions at every level of government. I’ve also done a lot of work in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia over the years, so I hope I can contribute that experience to our clients, as well.
Q: Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?
RK: I’m really excited about all of the recent progress on climate policy. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will create unprecedented climate opportunities nationwide, of course. As a New Yorker, I’m excited to see how the IRA, combined with New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and New York City’s Local Law 97, will create new opportunities for businesses and investors who want to help New York achieve its own ambitious climate goals.
And I’m especially excited to team up with Richard Corey and our California team because I see a lot of synergy between the work they’ll be doing in California and that I’ll be doing in New York.
Q: Anything else?
RK: I enjoy working in mission-driven settings. I like working with people who share my passion for decarbonizing society and solving other environmental problems along the way. At AJW, everybody shares this passion. It’s great to work as a team with clients that include startups, established companies, investors, environmental advocates, research institutes, and philanthropic organizations. The thread that ties everything together is that we all want to contribute as much as we can to meet our climate and environmental goals.
The bottom line? We are at an exciting moment in our work to decarbonize our transportation, buildings, industry, and energy sectors, and I’m really excited to work with my AJW colleagues and our clients to make sure we—and they—succeed beyond our wildest imagination.