Mary Ellen Ternes, Esq.
Senior Fellow, Law and Policy

Mary Ellen Ternes is a senior fellow at GCSE for environmental law and policy particularly carbon pollution, climate change and plastic pollution, including plastic production, use, waste and mitigation. Mary Ellen is a senior environmental attorney with a prior career working for the US EPA and industry utilizing chemical engineering in emergency response, environmental remediation and hazardous waste treatment and disposal. Throughout her legal career, Mary Ellen has represented manufacturing, energy production, waste management, drinking and wastewater utilities, including both industrial and municipal clients regarding environmental and administrative law issues arising in permitting, enforcement, transactions, remediation and litigation pursuant to the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and other regulatory programs. 

Over the past thirty-five years, Mary Ellen has led professional organizations in science and law, filling gaps to better support intelligent, science-based environmental policy. Mary Ellen is a Fellow and Life Member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), where she won the AIChE Environmental Division 2020 Dr. Peter B. Lederman Service Award, having created and led the Climate Change Policy Review Project, founded the Chemical Engineering and the Law Forum, the Public Affairs and Information Committee, chaired the Environment Division’s Climate Change, and Legislation and Regulation Sections, and co-chaired the 2010 international AIChE Spring Meeting. Mary Ellen is also a Fellow and past President of the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL), and after serving in many other capacities, currently serves as a co-chair of the ACOEL Environmental Justice Working Group. Mary Ellen has served the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (ABA SEER) as a member of SEER Council, as well as Committee Chair for the Air Quality Committee, the Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Ecosystems Committee, Ethics Committee, Special Committee on Year-in-Review (2013-2017), and the 2004 Annual Conference on Environmental Law. Mary Ellen also served the ABA Business Law Section as Chair of the Environment Committee.

Mary Ellen is a frequent author and contributor to publications regarding the law and science of environmental pollution, including: Author, Plastics, Global Outlook for Multinational Environmental Lawyers, Natural Resources & Environment, Vol. 35, No. 2, Fall 2020; Co-Author, Waste Plastic: Challenges and Opportunities for the Chemical Industry, Chemical Engineering Progress, Nov. 2020; Contributor, National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) 2021 consensus paper “Reckoning with the United States Contribution to Global Ocean Plastic Waste”; Author, Environmental Aspects of Real Estate and Commercial Transactions (5th Edition), ABA Press (Chapter 9, Environmental Due Diligence: Identification of Environmental Issues, Chapter 10, Environmental Consultants, Chapter 11, Understanding Environmental Reports and Risk-Based Cleanups: Science Issues for Transactional Lawyers); Co-Author, Clean Air Act Handbook (2nd, 3rd and 4th Editions), ABA Press (New Source Review); Co-Author, Air Pollution Control Technology Handbook (2nd Edition), CRC Press.

Mary Ellen is currently a partner with Earth & Water Law, LLC, and serves as a Board Member for Empowered Solutions for Environmental Sustainability (formerly Engineers for Sustainable Energy Solutions). 

Mary Ellen is listed in Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, The Best Lawyers in America©, Oklahoma Super Lawyers and the International Who's Who of Environment and Climate Change Lawyers. She received her J.D. (high honors) from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law, participating in the EPA’s Office of General Counsel Summer Honors Program with the Air and Radiation Division. Mary Ellen earned her B.E. (ChE) from Vanderbilt University School of Engineering. Mary Ellen is admitted to practice law in Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia.