Attorneys Thomas S. Burack

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shareholder | Manchester, NH

Tom is a nationally recognized strategic leader in the fields of environmental, public health and energy regulation, as well as organizational management and governance.  At the start of 2017, Tom returned to Sheehan Phinney after serving for over ten years as the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.  His thirty years of experience working in all three branches of government as well as the private sector enable him to provide clients with an in-depth understanding of how the federal, state and local governments operate, and how the public and private sectors can constructively collaborate to solve problems and resolve disputes.  He looks for simple and direct ways to address any situation or challenge. As a visionary and transformative leader and strategic project manager, Tom seeks to both prevent and solve problems by pursuing systemic, root-cause solutions and approaches because the best problem of all is one that never arises.

Tom guides and advises clients and other attorneys in envisioning, planning, launching, implementing and monitoring projects — ranging from the simple to the complex — in the environmental, energy, development, organizational management and governance arenas.  He helps clients to build teams, analyze challenges, develop effective policies and procedures, continuously improve, streamline, modernize, and increase efficiency.  He derives great satisfaction from assisting clients in successfully achieving their goals, such as addressing regulatory issues, increasing profitability, reducing liability risks, achieving better environmental outcomes, strengthening corporate culture, and effectively sharing their stories with their employees, stakeholders and the public.

On the national level, Tom spearheaded creation of E-Enterprise for the Environment, a shared governance approach among the US Environmental Protection Agency, states and tribal governments to modernize and streamline the business of environmental protection and regulation in the United States.  He served as the first state co-chair of the E-Enterprise Leadership Council, which provides strategic direction for the overall initiative and oversight of dozens of E-Enterprise projects. He now serves as an executive advisor and consultant to the initiative.

Tom has also been actively engaged in helping businesses and communities to become more sustainable, including by increasing their energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources.  He led the effort to develop the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan, played key leadership roles in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and co-facilitated efforts to develop voluntary agreements among more eastern and mid-western states to address the challenge of ozone transport.  He also served as Chairman of the NH Site Evaluation Committee, which oversees the siting and permitting of energy facilities in New Hampshire. He has worked tirelessly to support efforts to adequately fund water infrastructure needs, and helped create New Hampshire Lives on Water — a public-private partnership that is building public awareness and understanding of the need for good quality drinking water and wastewater systems and wise stewardship of the state’s water resources.  Tom also helped to develop the Northeast Ocean Plan, the first regional marine spatial plan in the nation.  Within New Hampshire, he initiated and for eight years led a voluntary, informal group of some two dozen state agency commissioners in efforts to improve the operations of state government; consequently, he has substantial knowledge and understanding of many aspects of the Granite State’s government.

Tom grew up in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and loves to hike, ski and canoe.  As a professional raconteur, he is known for calling moose and has regaled many an audience over the years with tales of the North Country. Tom is a Harry S. Truman Scholar, served as Law Clerk to the Honorable David H. Souter on the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, and as Legislative Assistant for Environmental Matters to U.S. Senator Gordon J. Humphrey (R-NH) in Washington, DC.

Admissions and Certifications

  • State of New Hampshire
  • Lean Green Belt - Bureau of Education and Training, NH Dept. of Administrative Services
  • National Incident Management System/Incident Command System (NIMS/ICS)
  • NH Certified Hazardous Waste Coordinator

Industry & Civic Involvement

  • E-Enterprise for the Environment: Former State Co-Chair of E-Enterprise Leadership Council
  • Environmental Council of the States: Former President, Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Inc.: Former Member, Board of Directors and Executive Committee; Secretary, and Chairman of Audit Committee
  • Northeast Regional Ocean Planning Body: Former Member
  • New Hampshire Climate Change Policy Task Force: Chairman
  • New Hampshire Water Sustainability Commission: Member
  • New Hampshire Lives on Water: Former Steering Committee Member
  • Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers: Former Co-Chair of Regional Climate Change Action Plan Development Workgroup
  • Leadership New Hampshire (Class of 1997) and Leadership Greater Manchester (Class of 1993)
  • Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire; Former Chairman of the Institute for Community, Business and the NH Economy; Former Chairman of the WasteCap Resource Recovery Network
  • NH Land & Community Heritage Investment Program: Former Chairman, Board of Directors
  • Audubon Society of New Hampshire: Former Chairman, Board of Trustees
  • Truman Scholars Association: Founding President
  • George C. Marshall Foundation: Former Member, Board of Trustees; Member, Council of Advisors
  • Dartmouth Environmental Network, Dartmouth College: Founder and First President

Awards

  • Joseph E. Stevens Award, Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
  • President's Award, Environmental Council of the States
  • Paul G. Keough Award, Environmental Business Council of New England
  • Cotton Mather Cleveland Leadership Award for Exemplary Leadership, Leadership New Hampshire
  • Environmental Excellence Award, Resource Conservation Network
  • EPA New England’s 2017 Ira Leighton “In Service to States” Annual Award

Publications

  • Collaborative Federalism,” with A. Stanley Meiburg, The Environmental Forum, May/June 2016, pp. 22-27

  • “Of Reliable Science: Scientific Peer Review, Federal Regulatory Agencies, and the Courts,” 7 Virginia Journal of Natural Resources Law 27 (1988)

Sheehan Phinney is honored to have been named the 2016 Business of the Year for Business Services by Business NH Magazine.

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