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State of the West Symposium: Energy & Water

Thu May 13th 2021, 10:00am - 12:00pm
Event Sponsor
The Bill Lane Center for the American West
The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
The Hoover Institution
Live Stream

The State of the West Symposium is a gathering at Stanford to take stock of the economic and fiscal health of the Western region. Since 2011, the symposium has featured academic researchers, business and investment practitioners, and other stakeholders concerned with the well-being of the millions of Americans who dwell on the sunset side of the hundredth meridian.

In 2021, the symposium will take place virtually and in three parts in a joint effort between SIEPR, the Bill Lane Center, and the Hoover Institution. The final session will take place on Thursday, May 13 from 10am - noon PT with a focus on energy and water. 

Panel 1: Energy in the West
10 a.m. - 11 a.m. PDT

Sally Benson
Precourt Family Professor, Energy Resources Engineering Department in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University

Sally M. Benson is the Precourt Family Professor in the Energy Resources Engineering Department in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. From 2014-2020 she served as the Co-Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, and was formerly the Director of the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford. Her research is focused on low carbon energy solutions for both developed and emerging economies. She has published widely on CO2 storage in deep underground formations and macro-energy systems, and emerging discipline of the science of the energy transition.


Marshall Burke
Associate Professor, Department of Earth System Science, Stanford University
Deputy Director, Center on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford University

Marshall Burke is associate professor in the Department of Earth System Science and Deputy Director at the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on social and economic impacts of environmental change, and on measuring and understanding economic livelihoods across the developing world. His work regularly appears in both economics and scientific journals, including recent publications in NatureScience, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and The Lancet.  He holds a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley, and a BA in International Relations from Stanford. He is also co-founder of AtlasAI, a start-up using satellites and machine learning to measure livelihoods.


Kate Gordon
Director, California Governor's Office of Planning & Research

Kate Gordon is a nationally recognized expert on the intersection of climate change, energy, and economic development. Gordon was appointed Senior Advisor on Climate to Governor Newsom and Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research in January 2019. Formerly, Gordon was a Senior Advisor at the Paulson Institute, where she oversaw the “Risky Business Project,” as well as provided strategic support to the U.S.- China CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization.  

Earlier in her career, Gordon served as VP for Climate and Energy at the Center for the Next Generation, VP of Energy and Environment at the Center for American Progress, and Co-Executive Director at the national Apollo Alliance.  

 Gordon earned a law and a master’s degree in city planning from UC Berkeley, and a BA Wesleyan University. 



Bruce Cain
Professor of Political Science, Stanford University
Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director, Bill Lane Center for the American West

Bruce E. Cain is a Professor of Political Science at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences and the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West. He received a BA from Bowdoin College (1970), a B Phil from Oxford University (1972) as a Rhodes Scholar, and a Ph D from Harvard University (1976).  He taught at Caltech (1976-89) and UC Berkeley (1989-2012) before coming to Stanford.  Professor Cain was Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley from 1990-2007 and Executive Director of the UC Washington Center from 2005-2012.  He was elected the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and has won awards for his research (Richard F. Fenno Prize, 1988), teaching (Caltech 1988 and UC Berkeley 2003) and public service (Zale Award for Outstanding Achievement in Policy Research and Public Service, 2000).   His areas of expertise include political regulation, applied democratic theory, representation and state politics.  Some of Professor Cain's most recent publications include "Redistricting Commissions: A Better Political Buffer?" in The Yale Law Journal, volume 121, 2012; "Congressional Staff and the Revolving Door: The Impact of Regulatory Change," with Lee Drutman, Election Law Journal, 13:1, March 2014.; "Community of Interest Methodology and Public Testimony," with Karin MacDonald, 3 U.C Irvine Law Review. 609 (2013); and Democracy More or Less: America's Political Reform Quandary, Cambridge University Press, 2014. He is currently working on state regulatory processes and stakeholder involvement in the areas of water, energy and the environment.


Panel 2: Water in the West
11 a.m. - 12 p.m. PDT

Felicia Marcus
William C. Landreth Visiting Fellow, Stanford University

Felicia Marcus is the William C. Landreth Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Water in the West Program, an attorney, consultant and member of the Water Policy Group. She most recently served as chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, implementing laws regarding drinking water and water quality and state’s water rights, hearing regional board water quality appeals, settling disputes and providing financial assistance to communities to upgrade water infrastructure.

Before her appointment to the Water Board, Marcus served in positions in government, the non-profit and private sector. In government, Felicia served as the regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest region during the Clinton Administration, where she was known for her work in bringing unlikely allies together for environmental progress and for making the agency more responsive to the communities it serves, particularly Indian Tribes, communities of color, local government and agricultural and business interests. Preceding the EPA, Marcus served as the president of the board of Public Works for the City of Los Angeles presiding over the department through a time of great change and challenge, including numerous emergency response situations (including flood, earthquake and riots).

In the non-profit world, she was the western director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and prior to that the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Trust for Public Land. Marcus also has an extensive background as a private sector and public interest lawyer, as well as a community organizer, most notably as a founder and general counsel to Heal the Bay. She has served as the director of litigation for Public Counsel, a public interest law firm; an associate at the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson; a visiting fellow at the Center for Law in the Public Interest; a law clerk to the Honorable Harry Pregerson (9th Circuit Court of Appeals); and legislative assistant to Congressman Anthony C. Beilenson in Washington, DC.

She has a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from Harvard College, and Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law.


Kathryn Sorenson
Director of Research, Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute

Kathryn served for many years as Director of Phoenix Water Services as well as Director of the City of Mesa Water Resources Department. In these roles she was responsible for the delivery of safe, clean, reliable water for millions of Arizonans, and significantly advanced the sustainable management of water resources in Arizona and the Colorado River basin.  Kathryn earned a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Michigan.  In her position at Arizona State University, she oversees the research efforts of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, serves as a Professor of Practice at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and contributes to the Global Futures Laboratory. 


headshot of Buzz Thompson

Barton H. "Buzz" Thompson, Jr.
Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law, Stanford University
Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University

Professor Barton "Buzz" Thompson's research focuses on the sustainable use of natural resources and the effective reform of regulatory institutions.  The author of several books on water, the environment, and property, Professor Thompson has published articles on such diverse topics as water markets, fisheries management, biodiversity protection, land conservation, the use of economics and market tools in environmental regulation, and cognitive barriers to resource management. 

Thompson is chairman of the board of the Resources Legacy Fund and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, a California trustee for The Nature Conservancy, and a board member of both the American Farmland Trust and the Sonoran Institute. He previously served as a member of the Science Advisory Board for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2008, the Supreme Court appointed Thompson to serve as the special master in Montana v. Wyoming (137 Original).



Deven Upadhyay
Assistant General Manager/Chief Operating Officer, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Deven Upadhyay is the assistant general manager and chief operating officer for Metropolitan.  He is responsible for managing the operational business functions of the district, which include system operations, engineering, planning and water resources management. In this position, one of his primary duties is to implement the Chief Executive Officer's Business Plan and initiatives, as well as, to oversee the application and operational practice of the Board's policies and directives.

Upadhyay began his career with Metropolitan in 1995 as a resource specialist in the Planning and Resources Division.  In 2005 he left Metropolitan to work for the Municipal Water District of Orange County on water policy issues.  In 2008, he returned to Metropolitan as the Budget and Financial Planning Section Manager before becoming Group Manager for Water Resources Management in 2010.

An avid tennis player and a devoted Angel's baseball fan, Upadhyay earned a bachelor's degree in economics from California State University, Fullerton and a master's degree in public administration from the University of La Verne.



Ashley Boren
Executive Director, Sustainable Conservation

Ashley has directed the strategy, growth and operations of Sustainable Conservation since 1997. Ashley received a 2007 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for her unwavering commitment to innovative, balanced problem-solving to address a variety of critical environmental problems facing California.

Prior to Sustainable Conservation, Ashley spent eight years at Smith & Hawken, a mail order and retail gardening company, where she worked in finance, new business development, inventory planning and retail merchandising. She began her career at The Nature Conservancy in program development and fundraising. In addition to her work at Sustainable Conservation, Ashley serves on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, on UC California’s President’s Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources, and on the Executive Committee of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute’s External Advisory Board at UC Davis. Ashley served on the Board of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation from 2002 to 2011, the last two years as Chair, and on Stanford Business School’s Alumni Consulting Team Board from 1995 to 2002, the last three years as Chair.

Ashley is a graduate of the Marlborough School in Los Angeles, which awarded her their 2008 Woman of the Year Award, and has a BA in human biology, an MA in applied economics and an MBA from Stanford University.