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Law Courses Catalog

Environmental Advanced Seminar

  • Typically offered every other year

This seminar will explore current issues in environmental and natural resources law. Possible topics include in-depth analysis of current national or international environmental problems and the successes or failures of the relevant legal regime in addressing that problem; issues related to climate change; or other cutting-edge developing issues in environmental or natural resource law.


Spring 2014  Environmental Decision-Making Laws Seminar

Visiting Professor: Nicholas Fromherz

Since its enactment in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has fundamentally altered the way government makes decisions affecting the environment. By forcing agencies to consider environmental impacts and by allowing the public and other agencies to comment on proposals,NEPA has a profound bearing on the process by which decisions are made and, indirectly, on the content of those decisions. Nevertheless, the policy choices reflected in NEPA are the subject of much debate. While the U.S. approach has inspired similar regimes all around the world, the laws adopted by other nations differ in significant ways. If we add in the rules of international environmental law and “mini-NEPAs” at the state level, the diversity of approaches increases only further.

In this class, we will explore NEPA and its foreign counterparts using the comparative method. To a lesser extent, we will also consider the mini-NEPAs (like the California Environmental Quality Act) and environmental impact assessments under select treaties. Topics to be covered include: the historical evolution of NEPA and related regimes, exemptions and exclusions, triggering events, scoping, notice-and-comment (and other forms of public participation), alternatives, mitigation, judicial review, and several rules for certain types of projects (e.g., projects in indigenous territory).

Grading will be based on examination. Meets no writing requirements.

Spring 2013 Env Adv Topic: Comparative Agriculture Law Seminar

Visiting Professor: Nicholas Fromherz

In this seminar, we explore the legal and policy issues surrounding agriculture and its relationship to the environment. Employing a comparative perspective, we examine the range of laws and policy approaches that nations have adopted to manage farming and livestock production. Specific areas of focus include land use, agricultural subsidies, trade agreements, pesticides, water management, genetically-modified foods, soil conservation, disclosure requirements (e.g., in the case of bovine growth hormones), and animal treatment. Along the way, we also discuss related topics such as agricultural economics, cultural factors, changes in technology, and social movements seeking to modify global agricultural practices. The class grade is based primarily on a paper, but participation will also be considered.

Meets WIE requirement. With professor permission, up to four students may complete the course for Capstone credit. The Capstone option is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Spring 2012 Public Lands Law and Policy

The purposes of this course are to examine substantive legal and policy issues relating to the disposition, reservation, and use of public lands, and to provide guidance, assistance, and critical feedback to students in the writing of an academic research essay. Substantive topics will include a brief history of the public domain in America, the allocation of decision-making authority over public lands, the development of policies and laws regarding the use and enjoyment of the various “natural resources” found within the public lands, the application of environmental protections to public lands, the relationship between scientific discourse and the decision-making of legislators, bureaucrats, and judges, and possibilities for reform. In addition to reading and discussing class materials, each student will be required to research and write an analytical paper on a seminar-related topic of their choosing.

Meets WIE writing requirement. Also meets Capstone requirement with professor permission.

Spring 2011 Env. Law Adv. Topic: Deepwater Horizon Blowout

Limit: 20 Students

This research seminar, focused around the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, will explore regulatory options for environmentally risky industrial activities, particularly ocean-based energy development. The course will look at the uses of law to prevent such disasters, to coordinate the emergency response, and provide remedies. The class will use the oil well blowout as a case study of theories of regulatory oversight; the incentives and disincentives provided by law; and to evaluate why corporations choose more or less risky behavior. Topics covered will include federal, and to a lesser extent state and local, law governing the incident from the initial emergency response to the capping and clean-up phase; litigation, compensation commissions, and the role of federal and state trustees in restoring the damage. Finally, the class will compare the US approach — which is in many ways one of the most environmentally protective — to the international legal regimes for oil tankers and deep seabed mining.

Students will write a research paper that will fulfill the WIE writing requirement. A few students may request to fulfill the Capstone writing requirement.

A reader will be used; most assigned materials will be available electronically.

Meets the WIE writing requirement.