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Persistence or Desistence: Prosecuting Environmental Crimes During the Trump and Obama Administrations

Donald Trump was hostile towards environmental regulation from his first day in office. From rolling back regulations, to appointing industry insiders and anti-environmentalists to important positions within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Justice (DOJ), and other agencies tasked with the enforcement of environmental laws, Trump intended to weaken environmental protections, noting he would only leave the EPA “little tidbits” when he slashed their budget. It is undeniable that the Trump Administration went to great lengths to damage the federal environmental enforcement apparatus. Some early research even shows that criminal prosecution may have been significantly reduced. Yet we still know very little about whether the Trump Administration was able to substantially reduce the ability of federal agencies to investigate and prosecute serious environmental crimes and how this may have varied from the Obama Administration. Answering this question is crucial, as we need to assess the impact of the Administration on criminal enforcement. More broadly, we must evaluate how environmental law enforcement agencies persist or desist in their efforts under hostile versus supportive presidential regimes. To understand these issues, we gathered data on EPA criminal investigation that led to a prosecution during the Trump Administration. We explored the frequency of such prosecutions and trends in charging patterns, whether environmental law enforcement agencies were able to prosecute serious violations of law, and if they were able to obtain significant penalties during this time. We then gathered extensive prosecution data during the Obama Administration to compare prosecution outcomes. This approach gave us over 1,200 cases to explore in our analysis.

Sep 28, 2023

Racism in the Water: Access for All in Outdoor Recreation

This Article seeks to answer the following questions: What does the academic literature say about POC access to and use of blue space? What role, if any, does systemic racism and inequality play in creating barriers to access? Most historical accounts of any water-race nexus focused on the Black experience, and there is little academic research studying the connection to water, or lack thereof, among other POC. Thus, this Article focuses on the Black experience of and connection to water, which includes the lack of access to blue spaces. Additionally, this Article demonstrates the need for more studies to evaluate the experience of other non-Black POC regarding access to blue spaces.

Sep 28, 2023

The Federal Reserve’s Responsibilities in a Warming World: A Normative Case and Strategic Primer for Fed Action on Climate Change

As this Article argues, then, we cannot achieve our climate goals without tackling fossil fuel financing, and that requires leadership by the Federal Reserve (the Fed)—the U.S. governmental institution that has been given primary responsibility for regulating our financial system. Part I of the Article grapples with the normative questions that surround the proper role of the Fed in our larger system of government, responding to the arguments that are frequently deployed against Fed action on climate and making a legal, comparative, and constitutional case for the Fed to pursue as robust a climate agenda as it possibly can. Part II describes various regulatory and monetary-policy tools that the Fed could conceivably utilize under its current statutory authority to achieve critical climate goals. And Part III analyzes the vulnerability of these different strategies to judicial review, resulting in the somewhat paradoxical observation that the Fed’s use of its more sweeping monetary powers may in fact be more strategically viable than the deployment of its arguably less controversial regulatory tools.

Sep 28, 2023

Keeping All The Lights On: A Roadmap to Affordable, Universal Electricity Service In the Clean Energy Transition

The Article identifies state innovations in four categories that go beyond widely adopted “baseline” policies. They include policies that: establish affordability and access policy goals, provide express legal authority, and require data collection; reduce electricity demand through efficiency and renewable programs targeted to the most vulnerable; make electricity affordable, for example, through rates or credits guaranteeing affordability for particular income levels; and reduce disconnections, especially by providing help with arrears. The Article also identifies and compares the different ways states pay for these policies where necessary—through utility rates, universal service charges, climate program revenues, taxes, or one-time windfalls. The Article concludes by identifying important policy considerations related to this emerging model.

Sep 28, 2023


Animals Too Ugly to Protect? The PACT Act Needs an Update

This Article examines the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. This Article argues that the definition of animal crushing should include the torture of low-value animals. Because the PACT Act presents a legitimate governmental interest in preventing animal cruelty, this interest could extend to low-value animals in other federal animal welfare law.

Apr 27, 2023

Redressing the Loss of Slave-Era Trees: Evans v. Bedsole and What Louisiana Timber Trespass Law Can’t Do

In Part I, I review timber trespass under Louisiana law, including its triple damages provision. In Part II, I discuss the availability of mental distress damages for timber trespass. Finally, in Part III, I use Critical Race Theory to analyze the 1988 case of Johnny Evans v. B.R. Bedsole Timber Contractors, especially in comparison to Harkness v. Porter, a case with very similar facts but a quite different outcome.

So You Want to be an Environmental Law Professor… An Empirical Analysis of the Environmental Law Hiring Market from 2011 - 2022

Using data collected by Professor Sarah Lawsky for her annual entry level hiring report, I analyzed trends in the hiring of environmental law professors (“ELPs”) from 2011 2022. With this Analysis, I provide insight into the hiring market for environmental law professors. I hope this Analysis is useful and edifying for both aspiring environmental law professors and those in positions of hiring authority within the academy.

Nov 23, 2022

Holey Cow: The Legal Exploitation of Cattle in the United States

This paper aims to unearth patterns, successes, and shortcomings of the legal landscape for cattle in the United States. While U.S. law occasionally works to protect cattle against human exploitation, it is not enough. Instead, the United States’ legal approaches to cattle activity should strive to develop empathy and compassion for cattle, in turn promoting and protecting their health and welfare.

Sep 21, 2022

Ecology Law Quarterly, one of the nation’s most respected and widely read environmental law journals.