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Ernest B. Abbott

Of Counsel

Ernest Abbott is the co-leader of the Firm's Disaster Recovery and Government Services Team and has extensive experience with the laws, regulations, policies and procedures relating to eligibility for federal disaster and mitigation assistance.

Featured Videos

Hurricane Recovery: Federal Procurement Guidelines for FEMA Aid Recipients September 13, 2017
Disasters & Public Health Emergencies on Campus: Planning and Preparing for New and Emerging Risks September 16, 2015

Professional Biography


Mr. Abbott has extensive experience with the laws, regulations, policies and procedures relating to eligibility for federal disaster and mitigation assistance, the coordination of federal, state, local, non-profit and private sector responders in catastrophic events, and the elements of the National Flood Insurance Program, including insurance, floodplain mapping and floodplain management. Mr. Abbott assists his clients with issues pertaining to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Program, homeland security, the Hazard Mitigation Disaster Grant Program, flood insurance rate maps, public health emergency laws, disallowance and Office of Inspector General (OIG) audits.

Mr. Abbott is well versed in the administrative appeals process under FEMA's Public Assistance program, and he regularly represents applicants for public assistance in the arbitration process promulgated by Section 601 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Mr. Abbott is a former general counsel of FEMA. In that role, he managed all FEMA regulatory development and coordinated the legislative program for all FEMA agencies. He led expedited development of regulations to implement the Cerro Grande Fire Assistance Act, which created a new $500 million FEMA compensation program. Mr. Abbott developed and implemented an integrated litigation and regulatory program to protect the National Flood Insurance Program from punitive damage awards. He also created the FEMA Office of Dispute Resolution in the Office of General Counsel, which received special mention by the Justice Department. He has extensive regulatory experience with the management of critical infrastructure.

Prior to his role at FEMA, Mr. Abbott worked as managing deputy general counsel of a $3 billion diversified natural gas company, where he led negotiations on a 275 billion cubic-foot international natural gas purchase contract and on the gas processing and liquids transportation aspects of the $500 million sale of a gas liquids business. He has experience in toxic tort litigation and environmental corporate compliance programs. Mr. Abbott has also worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Professional Honors & Activities
  • Professorial Lecturer in Law, Disaster Law Course – George Washington Law School, Washington D.C. (2011 – present)
  • Editorial Board Member – Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (JHSEM) (2008 – present)
  • Member – American Bar Association
    • Special Committee on Disaster Response and Recovery (2006 – present)
    • ABA Section of State and Local Government Law (2003 – 2007); Founding Chair, Committee on Emergency Management and Homeland Security (2002 – 2009)
    • Chair, Multi-Section Task Force on Homeland Security (2005 – 2007)
    • Hurricane Katrina Task Force (2005 – 2006)
  • Associate Member – National Emergency Management Association
    • Private Sector Liaison, Legal Committee
  • United States Soccer Federation
    • Referee (1989 – 2016)
    • Associate Referee Instructor (2003 – 2014)
  • Cathedral Choral Society
    • Past President (2014 – 2017); Chair, Personnel Committee
    • Chair, Music and Program Committee of the Board of Trustees (2012 – 2017)
    • Second Bass
  • Great Falls United Methodist Church
    • Treasurer (2002 – 2006)
    • Chair, Personnel Committee (1997 – 2001)
  • Trustee – Arlington Temple United Methodist Church (2007 – present)
Speaking Engagements
  • "Looking Forward: FEMA Flood and Disaster Programs React to Increasing Disaster Costs and Budget Pressure," International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) 83rd Annual Conference, Houston, Texas (October 2018)
  • "How New FEMA Changes Impact Public Power," American Public Power Association Legal & Regulatory Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana (October 2017)
  • "Getting Disaster Assistance from FEMA: the Basics, the Audits, and the Compliance Risks," Florida Municipal Electric Association Annual Conference (July 2017)
  • "Culture Work: Using Gamification to Change Lawyer Behavior and Develop New Business," 24th Annual Marketing Partner Forum, Los Angeles, California (January 2017)
  • Moderator – "10th Annual ABA Homeland Security Law Institute" (August 2015)
  • Moderator – "National Response and Recovery Framework: Legal Considerations in Emergency Management," 10th Annual ABA Homeland Security Law Institute, Washington, D.C. (August 2015)
  • "Ensuring Reimbursement by FEMA," American Public Power Association' 2015 National Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota (June 2015)
  • Panelist – "FEMA's Public Assistance Program," 2015 National Hurricane Conference in Austin, Texas (March 2015)
  • "Update on De-obligation of FEMA Funding," National League of Cities (September 2014)
  • Facilitator – "Hospital Executives and Disasters: A Stakeholder Meeting," The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthcare Preparedness Activity and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (November 2013)
  • Panelist – "Disasters: Thinking About the Unthinkable," American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government Law, Section of Litigation, Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness (October 2013)
  • "Review of Disaster Law," Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (2011)


  • Harvard University School of Law, J.D., 1976, magna cum laude
  • Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, M.P.P., 1976
  • Swarthmore College, B.A., 1972, with high honors


  • District of Columbia Bar, 1977
  • Massachusetts Bar, 1977
  • Texas Bar, 1985

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