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Lawyer Brian O’Neill: Battling Exxon for more than 20 years

In the fight for the environment against those who would harm it, one of the country’s top soldiers in that battle has retired from the field.

He is Minneapolis attorney, Brian O’Neill, and the military analogy is apt. The son of an army officer, he grew up all over the world as his father’s assignments carried the family to the distant corners of the earth. Brian attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an army officer he specialized in field artillery until he took a leave to get his law degree. Upon his graduation, he joined the staff of the general counsel’s office in the Pentagon. He is retiring, not retreating. Retreat is not a word in O’Neill’s field manual.

O’Neill never lost the fire to engage an enemy. In his legal career he took on forces determined to change the nature of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. He fought those who attacked the Wilderness Act. He was in the frontlines of the fight against those who would lift the protection of wolves. And he took on the biggest oil company in the world after the Exxon Valdez ran aground at Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in March, 1989.
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