Zak Smith is a Staff Attorney for NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. He is currently litigating a case against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement – the former Minerals Management Service – challenging the agency’s compliance with key environmental laws when approving and permitting oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico. Reflecting the breadth of issues addressed by the Marine Mammal Protection Project and the depth of his expertise, Zak has been working closely with others at NRDC in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf, helping coordinate the organization’s response to the disaster. Zak’s work at NRDC also includes protecting whales and dolphins during Navy training and testing activities along the coast of the US, defending Alaska’s Bristol Bay from the threat of hard-rock mining, and attaining greater restrictions on the international trade in polar bear parts.
Prior to working at NRDC, Zak worked as an associate in Bingham McCutchen’s Environmental Law Practice in Los Angeles, where he worked on complex environmental litigation cases. Before going to law school, Zak worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce, enforcing U.S. fair trade laws. Zak is a product of California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, earning his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley and his law degree from UCLA School of Law, graduating from the law school’s Program in Public Interest Law & Policy. Zak also holds a Master’s Degree in International Economics and European Studies from the Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.