Richard Hammond

Law, Policy and Politics

Recorded: December 27, 2012

Attorney, former Deputy Secretary of Resources, and lobbyist, Richard Hammond has been actively involved in environmental issues since the early 1980s. In this video Richard talks about his work as Deputy Secretary of Resources, as a lobbyist on energy topics, and how he was involved in creating the California Conservation Corps-North Bay.

Harvard scholar and Columbia School of Law graduate, Richard Hammond has had a long environmental career as an attorney and advisor for energy issues. Early on, he was a public servant with the State of California and served as a Senior Energy Advisor and Staff Counsel for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, where he where he was the principal author of the “Energy Element, California Coastal Plan.” Following this work, in 1977-1980 he became the Undersecretary for the State of California Resources Agency and Special Consultant to the Governor in California in 1981. Mr. Hammond went on to run a private law practice that focused on industry government affairs, and became a registered lobbyist in California. He was a partner at the international corporate law firm of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe in San Francisco, specializing in environmental, regulatory, and transactional law. He presently serves as the General Council and Vice President of Projects at Optimal Technologies International Inc.

Huey Johnson:    Richard Hammond, one of my favorite people.  Thank you for joining me.

Rich Hammond:    Thank you Mr. Secretary.

Huey Johnson:    Secretary is right.  Well, that deserves an explanation I think.

Rich Hammond:    Well, I was Huey’s Deputy Secretary in the California State Resources Agency, three years and out the door.  Didn’t feather the nest, made a contribution and passed on out, but very much a changed person.

Huey Johnson:  And you have worked as a lobbyist.  I was always intrigued about you with your tremendous ethical base.  Here you are as a lobbyist, can you tell us about lobbying generally and your reflections on this place?

Rich Hammond:  The legislative system is set up so that everybody gets to try to participate in the legislative process.  And those who are representing public interests and public values feel as if typically they’re underfunded versus the industry lobbyists who are very well funded by the industry to go in and make the case why they should get to have their continued top piece of the roast.  I had a heavy experience of being a public servant, lobbied heavily typically the oil industry, but the nuclear power industry, the natural gas industry.  I had a lot of experience of the clashing, but it also made me aware that you get to sharpen your own weapons against their arguments and they’d bring their arguments and if you’re honest about listening, you hear things that sometimes will allow you to take a little bit of the value that they bring, or the information they bring.  Sometimes turn it back against them, sometimes have a stronger package.

Huey Johnson:    You’re seen as the founder of this CCC group and recently it had its 40th anniversary was it?

Rich Hammond:    The 30th.

Huey Johnson:    Thirtieth.

Rich Hammond:    Yeah.

Huey Johnson:    And as it has grown and had very effective.

Rich Hammond:    Well the idea was that there had been a national Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930’s to put people to work, it had been focused on public lands and particularly in the National Park System.

Rich Hammond:    Jerry Brown, in his excitement and wisdom in his first term had brought back to California the next version.  As the California Conservation Corp, it was an idea of bringing urban youth into nature to do work, but also literacy and education and human development.

Well, and I should say, that I had the three years with Huey as the keeper of the green card themes.  And the green cards again, were Huey’s way of allocating time and energy and political capital to important themes.  The theory was, that if you picked 12 themes and could look at this flow of paper and look at your disposition and leveraging of what political capital you had, you could allocate according to those priority themes.  Among these green card themes were natural systems and stewardship of natural resources and environmental education and so on.

And so I thought about the California Conservation Corp model and I thought about the green cards, and I thought what could be really useful here would be a local version of a Conservation Corps, a perfect vessel for educating people about all of the aspects of managing that public part of this landscape, from the top of Mt. Tam out into the water.  So we started what came to be the very first community-based, nonprofit version of a conservation corps. and this was, to our knowledge, the first local conservation corps in the country.  The mission is to take every kid as far as we can possibly inspire them to go.

Huey Johnson:    I am a great believer in generalists and listening to you I realize what an effective generalist you have been and are and I would be interested in your reflections on the role of preparing people to be generalists if you’re going to be dealing with your subjects of law policy and politics.

Rich Hammond:    People come at it from all different backgrounds and I came at it yes, a generalist in the sense that most lawyers are generalists, but if I had a trade, a specific skill to bring to it, it was the law part and maybe the politics part.  As long as I live, I will never not think about you coming to it with your combination of traditional hunting and fishing conservation values but also your special skills as a sausage casing salesman.

Huey Johnson:    Terrific!

Rich Hammond:    And pencils.

Huey Johnson:    Good memory.

Rich Hammond:    It was day one of your tenure as secretary when you talked about selling.  I had a mentor of sorts who said to me  “You know Rich, you are among the salespeople I’ve known but you just haven’t tried to sell commercial products.”  And listening then to you about selling things, made me aware that as generalists, sales people, we all have to learn to be sales people for any specialist to get to come to their specialization out of a broader general background, a background that includes humanities and social sciences and you hope some other experiences in the community of a variety of kinds makes that person that much more capable.  I mean the last 20 years have been all about personal toolkits and skills that you bring to it and not just skills but points of view.