Environmental Law introduces students to the field of environmental law and regulation. We divide this survey course into thirds. We start by focusing on risk, legal process and torts, that is, the common law (judge made law) related to the environment — nuisance, trespass, strict liability and negligence. We also talk about toxic torts and we watch the movie A Civil Action. The next third of the course focuses on the major federal environmental pollution statutes — the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Superfund and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (hazardous materials). We spend two days talking about administrative law and constitutional law as background to the environmental statutes. The final third of the course begins with a discussion of disclosure statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act. We then turn to a discussion about natural resource protection by studying the public trust doctrine (i.e., public interest in resources), the Endangered Species Act, and wetlands protection. We will try to arrange a tour of the Central Power Plant late in the semester. We also spend two days talking about the Gulf oil spill and climate change. Finally, the last two lectures focus on far regulations can go before they constitute an unconstitutional taking of property (a regulatory takings).
The textbook is Environmental Law and Policy by Plater, et al. (4th Edition, 2010). You need the 4th edition because the book was significantly re-written in 2010.
The grade is based upon two midterm exams, a final exam, 10 sets of reading questions and, to a lesser extent, class participation. The exams include various types of questions, including an essay question.
The course is designed for anyone with an interest in environmental law. There are no prerequisites but students tend to be upper class or even graduate students. Some students do in fact have some environmental policy background but that is not required to enjoy or be successful in the course.
There are two 80-minute lectures each week and one 50 minute discussion section.