Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) President and CEO Hilary Harp Falk is pleased to announce that CBF has a new top watchdog protecting clean water and the communities that depend on it in Paul Smail, who has been promoted to Vice President for Litigation and General Counsel, Richard T. Pelham Chair.
“Paul has amassed an impressive record of protecting our land and forests, holding industrial polluters accountable, and amplifying the voices of citizens whose neighborhoods are overburdened by pollution,” Falk said. “His nine years on the front lines of the fight for clean water for all watershed residents made him the natural choice to lead the charge for CBF.”
Smail joined CBF in 2014 as Staff Litigation Attorney and became Director of Litigation in 2019. His successes include winning a landmark case affirming citizens’ right to challenge developers’ tree-clearing plans on the merits in court. He also represented CBF in litigation that forced important upgrades to reduce sediment pollution discharged into the Potomac River by the massive water treatment plant that serves Montgomery and Prince Georges counties.
Smail’s current work includes partnering with residents of under-represented communities in Baltimore City and Baltimore County to fight municipal stormwater discharge permits that fail to protect their health and their homes from repeatedly being flooded by polluted stormwater [and untreated sewage] when it rains.
“Environmental litigation is not simply about enforcing the laws meant to ensure clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment,” Smail said. “Especially when you go up against big corporations or government agencies, it’s about connecting the legal issues with how they impact people and the Chesapeake Bay’s delicate ecosystem.
“Every success the litigation team has had, and will have in the future, comes from telling the court how pollution and health hazards affect real people in their everyday lives,” Smail added. “Empowering people in the watershed to tell their stories and seek justice is a privilege and a responsibility I embrace.”
Before joining CBF, Smail worked in private practice representing clients in regulatory compliance litigation, transactions involving land and asset purchases, and resolving environmental enforcement actions. Smail also served as assistant general counsel and litigation associate for a consumer law practice in Towson, Maryland.
After graduating with an English major from Washington College in 1997, Paul began his varied career working for the Maryland Conservation Corps, an Americorps program administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
He spent a year doing botany work at protecting rare and endangered plants Shenandoah National Park before landing at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.
There he worked as a research assistant for Dr. Walter Boynton, a longtime professor and estuarine ecology expert, and studied estuarine ecology and seagrasses in estuarine systems. Smail’s work with Boynton also inspired him to go back to school to study [environmental] law and policy.
Smail is the Immediate Past Chair of the Maryland State Bar Association’s Environment and Energy Law Section, and currently serves on the Board of the Friends of the Jones Falls.