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Lewis & Clark Celebrates 50 years of Environmental Law, 1970 - 2020

January 28, 2020

Lewis & Clark Law School was one of the first law schools to create an environmental law program. Today, celebrating a 50-year milestone, it is one of the most robust programs in the nation and has consistently been ranked by U.S. News as the Number 1 or 2 environmental law program in the nation.

In 1969, Lewis and Clark Law Professor Bill Williamson and attorney Charles Merten founded the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC), which was a precursor to creating an environmental law program the following year, in 1970. While NEDC is independent of the law school, it maintains a symbiotic relationship with the school, enriching students’ legal education through volunteer programs, externships, and fellowships.

In 1970, the first legal journal dedicated to environmental issues, Lewis and Clark Law’s Environmental Law Journal, published its first edition. The following year, Lewis and Clark Law offered its first course exclusively in environmental regulation and in 1981, after expanding the environmental law program to include natural resources classes, the certificate in environmental law was first offered.

Throughout the following thirty years, Lewis and Clark expanded its environmental law program and opened several clinics including the Natural Resources Law Institute in 1974, the International Environmental Law Project in 1994, Earthrise Law Center in 1996, and the Green Energy Institute in 2012. The school further expanded the degrees offered to include an LLM degree in environmental law in 1988, an MLS degree in environmental law in 2014, a certificate in energy, innovation, and sustainability in 2018, and an online environmental law LLM in 2019.

In 2001 the school was awarded the ABA’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Environmental Law and Policy for “improving the substance, process, or understanding of environmental protection and sustainable development.” Five years later, in 2006, the Environmental Law Program was ranked No.1 by the U.S. News and World Report, an honor the school would receive six more times between 2001 and, most recently, 2019.

In 2020, Lewis & Clark Law School is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its environmental law program. To honor this momentous date, Lewis and Clark is hosting several renowned guest speakers throughout the year.

Michelle J. DePass is the guest speaker for the 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture Series. DePass is the president and chief executive officer of Meyer Memorial Trust. DePass recognizes the need to invest in the next generation and educate them on the importance of social, economic and environmental justice. The lecture was held on the Lewis & Clark Law School Campus on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at 5:30 p.m.

This year’s James L. Huffman Lecture in honor of the Western Resources Legal Center and Professor Gerald Torres will be the guest speaker at the event. A leading figure in critical race theory, environmental law, and federal Indian Law, Torres and Huffman frequently enjoyed debating their respective perspectives with each other. Understanding the rules of civil discourse is the underlying theme of Torres’ talk, entitled, “Law Making: Formal and Informal Paths to Durable Legal Change.” The event will be held on the Lewis & Clark Law School Campus on February 17, 2020, at 5:30 p.m.

In March, the Justice Kennedy Lecture Series is hosting Harvard Professor Richard Lazarus who will be discussing his book, The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court. This book tells the inside story of the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, the Court’s most famous environmental law case. The event will be held on the Lewis & Clark Law School Campus on March 4, 2020, at 5:30 p.m.

Also in March, Lewis and Clark will host the International Law Distinguished Visitor, Professor Elizabeth Kirk. Kirk is a Global Professor in Global Governance and Ecology at the University of London.  Her current research addresses complex, multi-faceted problems such as plastics pollution, energy efficiency and governance of the Arctic. The lecture, titled “The Case for a Plastics Treaty” will be held on the Lewis & Clark Law School Campus on March 9, 2020, at 12:10 p.m.

Finishing off the spring semester is the 32nd Annual Environmental Law Distinguished Visitor Lecture. Professor Alexandra Klass’s lecture, titled “U.S. Energy Transitions in the Trump Administration: A Law and Policy Perspective,” addresses regulatory challenges to integrating more renewable energy into the nation’s electric grid, transportation electrification, oil and gas transportation infrastructure, and the use of eminent domain for electric transmission lines and pipelines. The lecture will be held on the Lewis & Clark Law School Campus on April 2, 2020, at 5:30 p.m.

Later, in the fall, a Gala Celebratory event is being planned for early November 2020. More information will be forthcoming.

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