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Friday, February 24, 2012

Report from Yale Environmental Law Association’s Inaugural Conference Now Available; Second Conference to be Held This Saturday

Environmental law students and practitioners should focus their efforts on attacking the often hidden architecture of the polluting state, according to a report released Feb. 22 by the Yale Environmental Law Association.

The report details insights from the Yale Environmental Law Association’s inaugural conference, New Directions in Environmental Law, which took place April 2, 2011. The theme of last year’s conference—A Climate of Possibility—represented the goals and spirit of the day. The conference drew together over 200 practitioners, policymakers, students, and academics to critically examine law’s confrontation with climactic environmental and social challenges.

The conference galvanized participants to see environmental law in new ways—reflecting a range of social justice and scientific concerns and replete with unexplored possibilities. It inaugurated an annual series of conversations intended to challenge the present and imagine the future of environmental law. The report, publically available through the website of the conference co-sponsor, the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, provides fresh perspectives on environmental law that grew out of the day.

The conference addressed new possibilities emerging in environmental law from the challenges posed by complex environmental dilemmas like climate change. In his opening remarks, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post ’77 emphasized that continuous imagination is required to bring law, whose strength lies in isolation, to bear on all-encompassing environmental problems.

The report captures this spirit. It features a student manifesto on environmental law by the Yale Environmental Law Association, an overview of challenges and possibilities in environmental law raised by conference speakers and organizers, the keynote speech by Professor Lisa Heinzerling, summaries of panels and workshops, and an essay on environmental law and indigenous rights by two practitioners in the field.

In her keynote speech, Professor Heinzerling, former Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of Policy and recipient of the first New Directions in Environmental Law Award, urged listeners to approach law and regulation more creatively than through end-of-the-pipe regulation. Legal experts in two panels addressed the changing nature and role of environmental law in the academy and in the regulatory apparatus, with a climate change agenda shifting from the legislature to EPA and the courts. Workshops embodied the expansive convergences and challenges emerging in a climate change era, including discussions on state solutions to energy and the environment, international farmland investment, food policy, cultural cognition of climate change, indigenous peoples and human rights law, and emerging labor and environment alliances.

Student conference organizers brought the conviction that new energy, creativity, and alliances are needed to invigorate this generation of environmental law. According to the report, the magnitude of today’s challenges demands that we use existing laws in reimagined ways to shape environmentally responsible governmental, industry, and individual behavior. Today’s challenges require that students of environmental law look beyond the now traditional statutory canons of the field, drawing on diverse fields and forging partnerships with diverse communities.

The conference series continues this Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with the second conference, [Re]Claiming Accountability. Mary Nichols ’71, former Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, will give the keynote address. The conference is free for all members of the Yale community and New Haven residents. Schedule and registration are available on the [Re]Claiming Accountability conference website.

For more information, contact Stephanie Safdi (Yale Law School/Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies) at Stephanie.safdi@yale.edu.