newseventsFrom across the campus to around the globe, the Harvard Law School Environmental Law Program is making waves. Students, faculty, and staff are forging groundbreaking scholarship, connecting with decision-makers, and engaging in critical policy discussions around today’s biggest energy and environmental challenges.

ELP News & Events

Peskoe Visiting Scholar at Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

November 6, 2017
Policy Initiative Senior Fellow Ari Peskoe spent a week on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, as a visiting scholar at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. While at Penn, Ari was a guest lecturer at Penn Law’s Energy and Climate Change Law course, gave a public talk attended by students, professors, and people from the private sector and government, and appeared on a podcast.

Ari’s public lecture focused on the roles of state and federal regulators in shaping the mix of resources that powers the U.S. electric grid.  He discussed the history of state and federal regulation and explained how current disputes about New York and Illinois programs to support nuclear power could undermine state authority. In the Kleinman Center’s Energy Policy Now Podcast, Ari discussed how state and federal regulators allow distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar, to sell energy.

Policy Initiative Hosts Workshop on the Future of Electricity Markets

October 13, 2017
The Environmental Policy Initiative welcomed a group of consumer advocates, former state regulators, environmental advocates, economic analysts, wholesale electricity market participants, and law professors to discuss the future of wholesale electricity markets. Ari Peskoe and Kate Konschnik of EPI facilitated the workshop which focused on how regulatory models may inhibit or foster the development of a cleaner electric grid. Read more here.

Emmett Clinic Hosts Workshop on Citizen Science

October 13, 2017
The The Emmett Clinic released its Manual for Citizen Scientists Starting or Participating in Data Collection and Environmental Monitoring Projects in September, 2017. Building on this work, on October 13, 2017, the Clinic, together with the Environmental Defense Fund and the Environmental Law Institute convened a workshop called “Citizen Science and Environmental Protection.” Read more here.

Peskoe Discusses Wholesale Electricity Markets and State Roles in DC

September 13, 2017
On September 13, Ari Peskoe delivered the Energy Bar Association’s semi-annual “Author Talk,” to discuss his latest article. Peskoe’s paper, which was the featured article in the most recent issue of Energy Law Journal, is about integrating state renewable energy and carbon reduction policies into FERC-regulated electricity markets. The article concludes that FERC’s legal authority is adaptable to industry changes, and FERC’s approval of market rules that facilitate compliance with state carbon reduction goals would be consistent with the law. Read more here

Lazarus Argues Before Supreme Court

March 25, 2017
Monday, March 20 was a busy day in Washington, DC, including at the Supreme Court. Professor Richard Lazarus argued before the Supreme Court in Murr v. Wisconsin. The case addresses an important regulatory takings issue stemming from the 1978 case Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City. The Court is considering how to define the baseline “parcel as a whole” to determine whether government action constitutes a regulatory taking. As the advocate for St. Croix County, Wisconsin, Professor Lazarus argued that to determine the “denominator” of property at issue in a regulatory taking analysis, the Court should consider multiple factors: economic impact, reasonable expectations based on state law, and physical and geographic characteristics of the parcel. Professor Lazarus is an experienced Supreme Court advocate who has participated in 42 cases and 14 oral arguments.

Listen to the oral argument here.
Read analysis of oral argument from SCOTUS Blog here.

Konopacky Presents Watershed Management Findings at Symposium

February 24, 2017
EPI fellow Jamie Konopacky attended and presented at the 9th annual watershed management symposium focused on urban and agricultural collaborations in Dubuque Iowa on February 9. Jamie discussed topics covered in her forthcoming publications. The first part of her talk focused on developing a healthy watershed policy matrix through amendments to and integration of Clean Water Act and Farm Bill conservation programming, and the second part of her talk focused on opportunities to evolve state urban stormwater, agricultural nonpoint and TMDL programming to better support a small watershed policy approach to restoring nutrient impaired waterbodies. Other presenters at the conference discussed a diverse array of topics including Iowa’s leadership in nitrate water quality monitoring, the pending Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, agricultural conservation practices, and development and implementation of urban stormwater programming and projects.

Konschnik’s Study Finds High Level of Hydraulic Fracking Well Spills

February 22, 2017
A new study co-authored by Harvard Environmental Policy Initiative Director Kate Konschnik in the journal Environmental Science & Technology used state-level data to assess the scope and frequency of spills at hydraulic fracturing wells. The research also uncovers the inconsistent state reporting schemes for well spills, which Konschnik calls “scattershot.”

Using data from four states, the authors analyzed spills associated with unconventional oil and gas development at 31,481 hydraulically fractured wells from 2005 to 2014. Their analysis identified 6,648 spills in those states, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania, over 10 years. The study found that 2 to 16 percent of fracking wells in the four states spill annually. North Dakota had the highest reported spill rate, with 4,453 incidents over the decade. Across all states, the spill risk is highest in the first three years of the well’s production.

The authors conclude that improved requirements for reporting spills at hydraulic fracturing sites could help to identify and avoid spills, as well as mitigate environmental harms. While reporting rates varied by state, this study provides critical insight into the frequency of spills associated with hydraulic fracking — and the paucity of data on those incidents across the country. The authors conclude that along with better data collection, transparency in data sharing and analysis will also be increasingly critical to reducing future spills.

Read the full study here.

Explore the interactive spills data visualization tool here.

ELP Hosts Environmental Law Boot Camp on Capitol Hill

February 3, 2017

In the early days of the 115th Congress, many proposals are being floated to disapprove of recently promulgated federal agency environmental regulations and amend environmental statutes. On January 25, Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program provided an environmental law “boot camp” to Capitol Hill staffers to provide an overview of major environmental statutes, recent agency rulemakings, and landmark cases. The training also reviewed key components of administrative law and the Congressional Review Act.

Law professors who are leading experts on environmental and administrative law topics including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, public lands law, and more presented to a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 100 staffers. Presenters included Jody Freeman of Harvard Law School, Richard Lazarus of Harvard Law School, Matthew Stephenson of Harvard Law School, JB Ruhl of Vanderbilt University Law School, Robert Anderson of the University of Washington Law School, Mark Squillace of the University of Colorado Law School, and Jon Cannon of the University of Virginia Law School.

Freeman and Lazarus Discuss What’s Ahead in the Trump Administration

January 30, 2017

On January 30, Professors Jody Freeman and Richard Lazarus gave a talk at Harvard Law School examining why the Trump administration portends a historic shift on environmental and energy policy. The event, which was standing room only, drew a wide range of students from across the university and community members. Freeman and Lazarus addressed what makes this election potentially unprecedented for environmental law, what is at stake, and what all of us can do.

View Freeman and Lazarus’s slides here.

Freeman and Lazarus began by discussing the progress on environmental law in the Obama administration across executive agencies, highlighting clean air protections including fuel efficiency standards, the Clean Power Plan, land and ocean conservation through national monument designations under the Antiquities Act, entering the Paris climate agreement, and more. They then turned to potential vulnerabilities for environmental law in the new administration, including rolling back a range of public health protections in the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, weakening fuel standards, and withdrawing from international climate commitments.

For most post-inauguration analysis, don’t miss Professor Freeman’s latest blog post, which weighs in on why Trump’s new Executive Order that requires that two rules be “identified for elimination” for every new one proposed is “arbitrary, not implementable, and a terrible idea.”