NEW ENGLAND REGION PROFILE
Thomas A. Mackie '77
Environmental Lawyer, Managing Shareholder, Mackie Shea O'Brien, PC Law Firm
Thomas A. Mackie, an environmental lawyer and managing shareholder of Mackie Shea O'Brien Law Firm, has spent the past 25 years dedicating his time and effort to offering advice to companies in the environmental industry, as well as other businesses and municipalities facing complex environmental issues. Chambers USA, publishers of America's Leading Lawyers for Business, ranks Mackie among the top environmental lawyers in Massachusetts. He is listed in "The Best Lawyers in America" and as one of the country's leading practitioners by Who's Who Legal USA Environment 2010, the official research partner of the International Bar Association.
For the past several years, Mackie has focused his efforts on the developing field of renewable energy facility siting and energy from waste, in addition to his core practice of landfill, recycling and waste handling facility siting. He handled the environmental permitting for the first Massachusetts biomass plant to be permitted after passage of a suite of new laws and regulations governing biomass and greenhouse gases.
Mackie is actively involved with several other renewable energy project developers seeking to generate energy from waste and other renewable resources, such as anaerobic digestion and solar projects. He assists clients with renewable energy credits and carbon offsets.
As a result of his and the firm's dedication, Mackie Shea O'Brien, PC, was recently awarded a first-tier ranking in the third edition of the U.S. News-Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms" publication. The firm was ranked tier 1 for both environmental law and environmental litigation in the Boston metropolitan area for 2013.
Mackie has chaired or served as a panelist on numerous committees and seminars on environmental issues for the Environmental Business Council, Boston Bar Association and Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education. He is the author of "Solid Waste Law and Regulation" in Massachusetts Environmental Law, widely regarded as the leading treatise on environmental law. He is on the board of directors of the Environmental Business Council.
Originally a pre-med major, Mackie soon came to discover that the heavy lab schedule interfered with his lacrosse spectating schedule. Since he was not cut out to be a doctor like his father and brother, he followed his mother's footsteps into the law, with the intention of being an environmental lawyer. Mackie credits his desire to practice environmental law to his experience living on Seneca Lake and growing up in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Otsego Lake. Concerned with the environmental impact of farming and other practices on lake environments, Mackie felt that he needed to get involved. He made the choice to pursue a career in law instead of science, based upon his belief that the final decisions were made in the court room or legislative chambers, not in the laboratory.
Mackie credits his success to HWS' multi-disciplinary educational approach. "Environmental policy is dominated by a balance between environmental and economic values that intertwine to form the laws and regulations with which I deal daily. This is exactly what my HWS education prepared me to tackle, with its emphasis on the interaction between different fields of discipline, such as ecology and economics or political science." Mackie also regularly finds that his HWS education in the pure sciences, such as organic chemistry has been a huge advantage when dealing with the technical issues of his environmental law practice. "You would not believe how often I rely on what little I can remember from Dr. Ken Carle's organic chemistry class in dealing with groundwater, air and soil pollution cases."
The cases his firm is handling mirror many of the topics Mackie studied at Hobart. For example, his firm recently negotiated a settlement of a groundwater discharge permit appeal on behalf of the Cape Cod Town of Falmouth involving nutrient loading of estuaries that mirrors the topic of his Baccalaureate Essay: Cultural Eutrophication. Many of the economic and biological issues he explored in his essay remain unresolved today and serve as fodder for his firm's environmental practice. Another example is case matters involving use of wood as a fuel for biomass power plants. In these cases, his firm has been dealing with complicated regulations based upon studies of forest ecosystem function in the carbon cycle and sustainable forestry practices. "One matter I handled involved negotiation of a contract for the supply of Eucalyptus wood in Hawaii to a biomass power plant. I later came to find that my housemate at Hobart, Tim Crane '77, who has an advanced degree in paper chemistry, actually understands why Eucalyptus makes such a good fuel. Obviously, Tim paid better attention than I did in botany class."
Mackie was first inspired by his high school biology teacher, Mike "Iron" Lacava, and then by his HWS biology professor and adviser David Sleeper, who constantly reminded him of the importance of being pragmatic. "Although at the time I did not appreciate Dr. Sleeper's advice, today it is incredibly important to temper the purely academic approach to these fundamental societal issues with a healthy does of pragmatism. By emphasizing a multi-disciplinary approach, HWS gave me the tools to balance these often competing and seemingly incompatible interests that allow me to identify solutions and compromise, to the ultimate benefit of my clients and society in general."
Mackie comes from a family of HWS alums, including his wife, Margaret "Meg" Hewit Mackie '78, sister-in-law, Carolyn Trippe Peck '93, and brother, Dr. Robert William Mackie Jr. '70. At HWS, Mackie was a biology major, a member of the soccer team and of the Kappa Alpha Society. Upon graduating, he went on to receive his J.D., cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School. Mackie lives in Sudbury, Mass., with his wife, Meg, and children Callie and Sam.