LaJuana S. Wilcher
LaJuana Wilcher is a nationally known environmental attorney who has served in top-level environmental policy positions in federal and state government. She has unparalleled knowledge and experience representing clients before environmental administrative agencies and courts throughout the country, including a matter before the U.S. Supreme Court. Regularly pressing cases relating to environmental permitting, compliance and enforcement issues involving wastewater, air, wetlands and hazardous waste, she also counsels clients on the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.
LaJuana’s experience crafting laws and regulations has served her well in her work. She served as the nation’s senior regulatory official for water programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1989 to 1993. She led EPA’s involvement in the Exxon Valdez oil spill litigation negotiations, in which the government reached a settlement of more than $1 billion with Exxon for the environmental damage sustained because of the Valdez spill. She was also instrumental in launching EPA’s watershed protection approach and Clean Water Act section 319 nonpoint source grant program, and in major policy decisions involving federal drinking water, wetlands and stormwater requirements and permitting.
Following her position with EPA, she served as a partner in the Washington, D.C. offices of two large international law firms, working with corporations (including Fortune 100 companies), municipalities, startup firms and not for profit professional and environmental organizations. She left the east coast after 19 years to work at ELPO in 2002, fulfilling a dream to return to her hometown of Bowling Green.
Another opportunity came her way in 2003 that she hadn’t expected: public service in her home state of Kentucky. “I had no intention to leave for state government, but I do believe in public service,” LaJuana said. “I felt that I had a bit of a debt to pay. The citizens of Kentucky gave me quite an opportunity . . . a great education. I felt it was something I ought to do.”
LaJuana served as Secretary of Kentucky’s Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet from 2003 to 2006. During her tenure, Ms. Wilcher worked on issues as diverse as mine safety legislation and enforcement, air and water quality issues, broadband deployment, insurance and banking regulations, occupational safety and health initiatives, recycling, wildland arson, new regulations for Kentucky horse racing and the regulation of professional boxing and wrestling in the state, among other things. She served as the Co-chair of the Governor’s Energy Policy Task Force and was a member of a number of boards and commissions, including the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (ex officio), the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, and the Kentucky State Board on Electric Generation and Transmission Siting.
Focusing her career on environmental issues was born from a simple love of the outdoors and a strong belief in the importance of stewardship. Her grandfather was a logger, spending every day outdoors cutting timber. Her father regularly took LaJuana camping. “Since I was 15 years old, I wanted to do things to help us have a good place to live on the Earth,” LaJuana says. “God has entrusted this Earth to us and we have an obligation to do the best we can. I like to find creative ways to do things that are good for the client and good for the environment.”
Most recently, LaJuana took on a new position to teach law courses as an adjunct faculty member at Vanderbilt Law School. For many years she has taught environmental law and policy during the summers at Vermont Law School, which is top ranked for environmental law. She is frequently asked to speak to groups on environmental law topics, and has spoken at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Annual Conference on Environmental Law of the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources Law, the Kentucky Bar Association Annual Convention and the International Conference on Water and the Environment, among others.
She’s happy to be back home. LaJuana owns and operates Scuffle Hill Farm in Alvaton, KY. “My whole life I had wanted to live in the country and have a farm, and I decided to move home and try a different way of life,” LaJuana said. “Not a single day do I regret it. I’m happy to be where my heart is.”