Vermont Law School Spotlights 10 Critical Issues

Professors examine significant legal responses to such topics as climate change, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and greenhouse gas rules.

Vermont Law School (VLS) released its inaugural Top 10 Environmental Watch List spotlighting the nation’s most critical environmental law and policy issues of 2010 and how they may play out in 2011.

The items on the list are addressed in a report. VLS instructors evaluate each of the 10 judicial, regulatory, legislative and other actions that significantly affect humans and the natural world.

“We can continue our short-sighted addiction to fossil fuels or we can adopt innovative, healthier, more sustainable practices,” said VLS Dean Jeff Shields. “The Environmental Watch List will help improve public understanding of how to use the law to take action on the critical issues of our time.”

The actions making the list are:

  1. Congressional failure to enact climate change legislation. Professor Gus Speth, a pioneer of the environmental movement, explores what went wrong and whether EPA and state and local lawmakers will step forward in 2011.

  2. The nation’s worst oil spill. Associate Professor Betsy Baker, an expert in the law of the sea, examines the legal and policy fallout from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

  3. First U.S. greenhouse gas rules. Professor Pat Parenteau, whose expertise includes climate change, looks at whether EPA’s efforts to restrict global warming pollutants will survive judicial and political challenges.

  4. Climate change in the courts. Associate Professor Martha Judy, an expert in environmental liability, delves into a Supreme Court case that would allow public nuisance lawsuits against major air polluters.

  5. California’s climate law dodges a bullet. Professor John Echeverria, whose expertise includes climate change, looks at what’s next for the Golden State’s landmark anti-global warming law that survived a challenge at the ballot box.

  6. EPA clamps down on mountaintop removal coal mining. Professor Mark Latham, an expert in environmental enforcement and regulation, examines EPA’s crackdown on the coal industry’s practice of tearing off mountain peaks.

  7. Wind and solar projects make breakthroughs. Assistant Professor Don Kreis, an expert in energy efficiency, law and regulation, examines plans for the nation’s first offshore wind projects and the largest solar energy projects on public lands.

  8. Supreme Court reviews genetically modified crops. Professor Jason Czarnezki, whose expertise includes food law and agricultural policy, scrutinizes the Supreme Court’s first ruling on so-called Frankenfoods.

  9. EPA’s water transfer exemption remains in force. Assistant Professor Laura Murphy, an expert in the Clean Water Act, explores the conflict over transferring polluted water from one waterbody to another.

  10. U.S. military going green. Professor Stephen Dycus, an expert in national security law and environmental law, delves into the Pentagon’s efforts to use more renewable energy and decrease its reliance on fossil fuels.

Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.