Ronald A. Shems

Clark University (B.A., 1981)
Vermont Law School (J.D., 1985)

Bar Admission
Admitted to bar, 1985 Vermont; 2007, Maine

U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont

U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th and D.C. Circuits

U.S. Supreme Court


  • Moretown Elementary School, Board of Directors
  • Moretown Board of Civil Authority
  • Mad River Glen Cooperative Board of Trustees, Vermont’s cooperatively owned ski area.
  • Board of the Vermont Environmental Consortium, an organization dedicated to making Vermont a leader in the green economy, promoting growth and supporting economic development in Vermont’s environmental business sector.

Practice Areas

  • Environmental Law
  • Energy Law
  • Administrative Law
  • Appellate Law
  • Consumer Protection
  • Non-profit and Cooperative Governance
  • Civil Rights
  • Land Use
  • Government Transparency and Accountability

About Ronald A. Shems

Ronald A. Shems has extensive experience in private and government practice.  He spent four years as Chair of the Vermont Natural Resources Board, the agency that administers and enforces Act 250, the state’s land use and development law.  He was a founding partner of a large Burlington law firm.  Prior to that, he worked for fifteen years at the Vermont Attorney General’s Office where he split his time between special assignments managing complex constitutional and regulatory cases, and as the Environmental Unit’s senior Assistant Attorney General.  He comes to Tarrant, Gillies & Shems from another prominent Montpelier law firm.

His practice areas include environmental, energy, land-use and zoning, municipal, administrative, and appellate law, civil rights, and has extensive experience with complex state and federal permitting, trial, and appellate proceedings.

At the forefront of environmental regulation for decades, Ron led national efforts on a number of complex issues with historical implications.  Ron led the successful effort to clarify how federally licensed hydro-electric facilities comply with the Clean Water Act.  He also successfully litigated the first case to hold that climate change injuries provide Article III standing.

Ron represents companies, municipalities, developers, non-profits, and individuals. 

Ron is a recipient of the prestigious “Best Brief Award” presented by the National Association of Attorneys General for excellence in brief writing in the United States Supreme Court.

Ron’s CV can be viewed here.

Examples of Ron’s work include:

  • General Counsel to Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc., a customer-owned utility that provides 100% renewable energy to rural areas of Central and Northern Vermont.
  • Counsel to UMB Bank, N.A. as Bond Trustee for the Vermont Housing Finance Agency Bondholders in a claim that the City of Winooski illegally took parking from the downtown housing project financed by the Bonds.
  • Lead counsel for First Wind in successfully obtaining and defending permits for the Sheffield Wind Project.
  • As Chair of the Natural Resources Board, the state agency that administers Act 250, Ron helped negotiate, draft and shepherd Act 250’s recent amendments through the Legislature, including provisions to encourage downtown development and simplify the permit process.
  • Lead counsel for the parties that successfully blocked the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway.
  • Lead counsel for Maine and New Brunswick tourist industry, Passamaquoddy Tribe members, residents, and lobster fishers in their successful opposition to three liquefied natural gas terminals proposed for Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine.
  • Advised developer of transmission line proposed to run under Lake Champlain.

Leading Representative Cases

In re Morrisville Hydroelectric Project Water Quality, 2019 VT 84, 224 A.3d 473 — Successfully represented American Whitewater in appeal before the Vermont Supreme Court regarding flows from hydroelectric dam necessary to maintain habitat and recreation. 

In re Derby GLC Solar, LLC, 2019 VT 77, 221 A.3d 777 — Successfully represented Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc. in upholding the VT Public Utility Commission decision denying a generation project because of transmission constraints. 

Washington Elec. Coop., Inc.’s, Tariff Filing for Rate Design Changes & A Change in Rate Schedules to Be Effective on Servs. Rendered Beginning June 17, 2019. — Successfully represented Washington Electric Cooperative before the VT Public Utility Commission in rate design proceeding contested by the Vermont Department of Public Service. 

UMB Bank, N.A. v. City of Winooski, Vermont, No. 2:17-CV-00231, 2018 WL 4080384 (D. Vt. Aug. 27, 2018) — Successfully represented UMB Bank, N.A. in claim that the City of Winooski illegally took parking from building financed by UMB Bank. 

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