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Winter/Spring 2018 A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law


Contents Summary . .

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Projects . . Events . .

Publications .

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Media Mentions and Interviews . Awards and Recognition .

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Earth Institute .

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Who We Are . .

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Since its creation in 2009, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law has been known as a center of expertise, providing timely information and resources on key topics and promoting advances in the interrelated fields of climate law, environmental regulation, energy regulation and natural resources law. The Center’s activities are spearheaded by Michael Gerrard, Faculty Director of the Sabin Center and Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, and Michael Burger, Executive Director of the Sabin Center and Research Scholar and Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School. The core mission of the Sabin Center is to develop and promulgate legal techniques to address climate change, and to train the next generation of lawyers who will be leaders in the field. The Sabin Center is both a partner to and resource for public interest legal institutions engaged in climate change work. Further, the Center addresses a critical need for the systematic development of legal techniques to fight climate change outside of the realm of litigation, and the compilation and dissemination of information for lawyers in the public, private, academic and NGO sectors

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law


Summary The Sabin Center currently focuses its work within nine programmatic areas: The Clean Air Act, Environmental Assessment, Energy Law, Adaptation, Securities and Climate Finance, Natural Resources, Human Rights, International and Foreign Law, Threatened Island Nations, and Defending Climate Science. The Center’s thought leadership and direct engagement operate at the international, national, state and local levels.

Clean Air Act Environmental Assessment


Threatened Island Nations

Defending Climate Science

Securities and Climate Finance

Energy Transition

Natural Resources

Human Rights International and Foreign Law


Winter/Spring 2018

Projects In the absence of congressional legislation specifically addressing climate change, federal activity under the Obama administration took place under the authority of existing environmental, energy, and natural resources laws. The Trump administration is pursuing a deregulatory agenda that has re-oriented the Sabin Center’s work – from a focus on exercising executive authority to combat climate change to a focus on limiting executive discretion to ignore it. Meanwhile, action continues to be taken at state and local levels. The Sabin Center conducts independent research to produce publications and useful resources; advances new techniques and ideas through direct engagement; and partners with agencies, NGOs, and the private sector to promote climate action. Adaptation As well as taking steps to mitigate climate change, humanity must also find ways to adapt to it. The Sabin Center conducts research into how existing laws and regulations can be used to promote short and longer-term adaptation efforts within government and the private sector. Talks:

• Jessica Wentz gave a lunch-time talk at Columbia Law School on her personal experience with the California wildfire in Sonoma County. • Michael Gerrard gave the keynote talk at the University of Arkansas Little Rock Law Review Symposium, “The Law and Unnatural Disasters: Legal Adaptations to Climate Change.” • Dena Adler presented on how recent climate change litigation concerning failure to adapt and environmental review requirements could be applicable to certain types of coastal energy infrastructure at the Oil and Gas, Natural Resource, and Energy Journal Symposium on the Transformation of the American Energy Sector hosted by the University of Oklahoma College of Law. • Dena Adler presented on potential liability for failure to adapt to climate change at the 2018 Local Solutions: Eastern Climate Preparedness Conference.

• Justin Gundlach was an invited participant in Climate Change and Public Health Symposium, “Is Climate Change Making Us Sick?,” hosted jointly by the University of Houston Law Center’s Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Center and Health Law and Policy Institute. Clean Air Act The Environmental Protection Agency has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate mobile and stationary sources of greenhouse gases. The Sabin Center has been active in informing and defending EPA’s affirmative regulations, in advocating for more ambitious action and in opposing deregulation by the Trump administration. • Filed comments on the EPA’s proposed two-year stay of its new source performance standards for oil and gas development. Defending Climate Science In response to recent attacks on climate science, the Sabin Center has partnered with the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund to develop the Silencing Science Tracker, which records government attempts to restrict or prohibit scientific research. We have also played a pivotal role in advocating for targeted scientists’ rights. • Michael Burger, working with the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic,

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law filed a lawsuit on behalf of a scientist removed from EPA’s Science Advisory Board pursuant to a Administrator Scott Pruitt’s policy barring scientists holding EPA grants from serving on its advisory committees. See Physicians for Social Responsibility et al v. Pruitt, (D.C. D.C., 1:17-cv-02742). • In January 2018, the Sabin Center and Climate Science Legal Defense Fund launched the Silencing Science Tracker.

Energy Law The Sabin Center seeks to advance the decarbonization of the energy sector and to encourage a more rational accounting of climate change-related impacts of energy use in the U.S. and elsewhere. Our current efforts focus on federal and state laws and regulations relating to clean energy development and integration, utility regulation, and the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels. Engagement:

• Filed comments on EPA’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan and the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to revise the gas waste prevention rule. • Submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s ongoing proceeding on electric grid resilience. Workshops: Hosted a workshop on legal issues

relating to offshore carbon dioxide storage as part of its ongoing participation in a Department of Energy funded-study to assess the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide in sub-seabed geologic formations off the coast of Washington state and British Columbia. Talks:

• Justin Gundlach was an invited participant in the “Federal Options for Pricing Carbon” workshop at the University of Houston Law Center.


• Justin Gundlach presented “To Negotiate a Carbon Tax: a Map of Policy Interactions, Tradeoffs, and Risks” at the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law’s Annual Climate Change Symposium. Environmental Assessment The National Environmental Policy Act and its state and international analogs provide for the assessment of environmental impacts of proposed projects, plans and programs. The Sabin Center examines legal requirements and practices relating to the analysis of GHG emissions and the impacts of climate change on proposed projects under these statutes. Engagement:

• Submitted scoping comments on FERC’s Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for The Planned Commonwealth LNG Project in Louisiana. • Submitted scoping comments on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s 2019-2024 OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program and the Notice of Intent to Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Human Rights Climate change poses serious risks to human rights for individuals and communities around the world, including the rights to life, health, food, and an adequate standard of living. The global response to climate change also poses risks to human rights, as mitigation or adaptation projects threaten to displace or dispossess communities, potentially without adequate participation. Amicus Brief: Michael

Burger and Jessica Wentz contributed to the Joint Summary in the Philippines Human Rights Commission investigation into potential human rights violations by the so-called “Carbon Majors.”


Winter/Spring 2018


• Michael Gerrard spoke at a conference, “Dignity Rights and Environmental Justice,” at Widener University Delaware Law School in Wilmington, Delaware. International and Foreign Law Climate change is a global problem that demands a global response. Recognizing this, the Sabin Center provides legal support for and participates in international efforts to address the causes and effects of climate change.We also track how foreign jurisdictions are addressing climate change through legal reforms and litigation. Talks:

• Romany Webb presented on “Climate Change, the United Nations, and the Path Forward” at the National Model United Nations Conference in New York. • Michael Gerrard spoke about the evolution of climate change litigation at the University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne in Paris, France. • Michael Burger gave talks on climate science and legal liability at the Columbia Global Center and at the Sorbonne Law School in Paris, France. • Michael Burger spoke at a program on national climate change legislation at the Ministry of the Environment Santiago, Chile. • Dena Adler attended intersessional meetings for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Bonn Germany. She supported the Legal Response Initiative in their program to provide poor, climate vulnerable countries with legal support during the international climate change negotiations.

Publications: David Sive Visiting Scholar Susan Biniaz published three blog posts on the Climate Law Blog: [1] What Happened to Byrd-Hagel? Its Curious Absence from Evaluations of the Paris Agreement, [2] Join the Parties: 25+ Ways to Promote Participation in Multilateral Environmental Agreements, [3] Setting the Table for an International Environmental Agreement: A Beginner’s Guide to Negotiating Mandates.

Securities and Climate Finance The response to climate change demands the mobilization of billions of dollars to support mitigation and adaptation projects worldwide. Businesses and investors will also need to prepare for the effects of climate change on their assets and operations, and disclose climate-related risks to their shareholders. The Sabin Center explores how legal tools can be used to mobilize funds and ensure that companies prepare for climate risks. Talks:

• Michael Burger presented “Climate Change Risks and Opportunities: What the Paris Agreement Means for Business” at the Columbia Global Center in Santiago, Chile.

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law



• Energy Finance: Strategies for Using Investment Dollars to Navigate the Risks of Climate Change and Opportunities in the Clean Energy Economy, a conference co-sponsored by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, the Earth Institute and New York State, highlighting strategies for moving portfolios away from fossil fuel investments, including divestment, featuring insights on trends and opportunities in clean energy, such as workforce transition.

• Weathering the Storm: Resilience & Sustainability in Design and Construction, a conference co-sponsored by the American College of Construction Lawyers and the American College of Environmental Lawyers on resilience and sustainability, including legal and planning issues.


Winter/Spring 2018

Publications The Sabin Center produces papers, surveys, and other legal resources, and its members edit and co-author books with other climate law and energy experts from around the globe. Our website,, contains landing pages for each of our program areas, which include links to relevant projects, publications, and other resources. In addition, the Center publishes the Climate Law Blog and maintains a growing presence on social media, which now includes over 6,500 Twitter followers and over 1,885 Facebook followers (as of May 2018), as well as a YouTube channel with videos of our live events. Highlights • “Climate Engineering and the Law: Regulation and Liability for Solar Radiation Management and Carbon Dioxide Removal,”

edited by Michael Gerrard and Tracy Hester, Cambridge University Press • “Climate Change and Human Trafficking After the Paris Agreement,”

by Michael Gerrard, Miami Law Review • “Human Rights and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement: Ensuring Adequate Protection of Human Rights in the SDM and ITMO Frameworks,” by Romany Webb and

Jessica Wentz • “U.S. Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump: Year One,” by Dena P. Adler. • “Climate Change Impacts on the Bulk Power System: Assessing Vulnerabilities and Planning for Resilience”

by Justin Gundlach and Romany Webb.

• “Microgrids and Resilience to ClimateDriven Impacts on Public Health,”

by Justin Gundlach. • “The White House’s Attack on Scientists Could Manipulate Public Opinion,”

op-ed by Lauren Kurtz & Romany Webb, The Hill, Feb. 22, 2018. • “Distributed Energy Resource Participation in Wholesale Markets: Lessons from the California ISO,” by Justin Gundlach and

Romany Webb, Energy Law Journal, May 2, 2018. • “Patterns of Climate Change Litigation During Trump Era,” by Michael Gerrard and Edward McTiernan. • CCS in the US climate change policy context (Justin Gundlach and Michael Gerrard), in Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Emerging Legal & Regulatory Issues, 2nd ed. (Richard Macrory, ed.)

Highlights from our Climate Law Blog • “2° C” Reports by Fossil Fuel Companies and Utilities: a Brief Survey,” by Justin Gundlach • Utilities’ Tax Cut Windfall: How Should They Spend Their ($4bn) Spare Change, by Justin Gundlach and Romany Webb • Colombians Youth Plaintiffs Sue for Recognition of the Rights of Future Generations by Jose Felix Pinto-Bazurco

• Integrating Distributed Energy Resources into Wholesale Markets: What FERC Can Learn From the California ISO’s Experience,

by Romany Webb and Justin Gundlach • Pipelines and Climate Change: New Cases on FERC’s Obligation to Assess Indirect Greenhouse Gas Emissions in NEPA Reviews

by Jessica Wentz and Michael Burger

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law


Media Mentions and Interviews Sabin Center experts were interviewed and/or quoted directly or mentioned via one of the products produced by the Center in approximately 102 media and news items. Highlights • “Trump Has Tried to Restrict Science Almost 100 Times Already” New Republic

This article covers the newly released online resource, the Silencing Science Tracker. • “Federal regulator rejects Trump coal rescue plan” CNN Money

Justin Gundlach comments on the rejected Trump administration proposal to rescue coal companies. • “Trump’s courtroom battles over global warming” Axios

This article covers and summarizes the key findings in Dena Adler’s report, “Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump:Year One” • “Those leaving the Marshall Islands fly standby” Mashable

Michael Gerrard discusses the climate impacts that the Marshallese people are facing which leads many of them to migrate. • “Beer, but to get your attention on climate change” MPR News

In this radio interview, Justin Gundlach discusses the climate science tutorial in San Francisco. • “In a San Francisco courtroom, climate science gets its day on the docket” Science Magazine

In this article, Michael Burger weighs in on the climate science tutorial ordered by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup.

• “National Park Service Has Tried to Delete Mentions That Climate Change is Caused By Humans” Wyoming Public Radio

In this radio interview, Romany Webb explains how the National Park Service’s move to delete mentions of climate change in a report is part of a broader trend to silence science. • “Three Climate Updates You Might Have Missed (and One We Did, Too)” The New York Times

This article mentions Jessica Wentz’ tweet storm at the climate science tutorial as well as Michael Burger’s comments on what this tutorial could mean for the climate lawsuits. • “Can the courtroom save the planet?” France 24

This documentary features Michael Gerrard, who speaks about global climate litigation on the rise. • “Climate change goes to court” The Christian Science Monitor

Michael Burger comments on the nature of the climate science tutorial in San Francisco. • “The Dangerous Belief that Extreme Technology Will Fix Climate Change” Huffington Post

Michael Gerrard discusses the topic of his new book he co-edited with Tracy Hester, “Climate Engineering and the Law”. • “Climate Lawsuits, Once Limited to the Coasts, Jump Inland” The New York Times

Michael Burger comments on the Boulder and San Miguel Counties climate lawsuit.


Winter/Spring 2018

Online Resources

• Climate Change Litigation Databases The Sabin Center maintains U.S. and nonU.S. climate litigation databases, organized by type of claim. Cases may be filtered by principal laws they address, their filing years, and their jurisdictions. The database also includes links to decisions, complaints, motions, and other administrative and litigation documents. In June, the Sabin Center in collaboration with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP launched a new version of its climate litigation charts at The new website is more easily navigable and searchable than the prior version and for many older cases includes updated information and documents. We also circulate a monthly update on recent developments in climate-related litigation. We continue to add cases to both the U.S. and non-U.S. databases.

• Silencing Science Tracker The Silencing Science Tracker is a joint initiative of the Sabin Center and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. It tracks government attempts to restrict or prohibit scientific research, education or discussion, or the publication or use of scientific information, since the November 2016 election.

• Climate Deregulation Tracker The Sabin Center maintains the Climate Deregulation Tracker, a tool to identify and explain the efforts taken by the Trump administration and Congress to scale back or wholly eliminate federal climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. The tracker is linked to our database of existing climate change regulations and policies, which is being updated to reflect these deregulatory efforts and their effect on the overall regulatory scheme. As of November 2017, the tracker has been newly redesigned.

• Climate Change Laws of the World The Sabin Center in collaboration with the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics maintains the Global Climate Legislation Database, a joint collection of climate change-related legislation and regulations from around the world, with links the Sabin Center’s litigation charts.The uniquely comprehensive, user-friendly website provides practitioners and researchers with easy access to the state of the law on climate change around the world.

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law


Awards and Recognition In February, the Sabin Center was honored with an award from the International Association for Impact Assessment. Read the press release here. Michael Burger and Jessica Wentz’s article Downstream and Upstream Greenhouse Has Emissions: The Proper Scope of NEPA Review was recognized as one of the top-five articles in the field of environmental law published in 2017, and will be reprinted in the annual Land Use and Environment Law Review, a Thomson Reuters/West publication.

Earth Institute The Sabin Center is a member center of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and frequently collaborates with Earth Institute scientists on cutting edge interdisciplinary research. Campus Sustainability and Climate Action:

Michael Gerrard has continued his leadership role in the campus-wide Sustainability Initiative, serving on the Senior Advisory Committee. Justin Gundlach and Dena Adler have also been involved in the Initiative, serving on the Greenhouse Gas and Energy Focus Team. The Initiative is now engaged in a comprehensive greenhouse gas master planning effort that will reshape decision-making relating to emissions and energy use on campus. America’s Waters Project: This National Sci-

ence Foundation-funded project, led by Dr. Upmanu Lall, Director of the Columbia Water Center, brings together a wide range of disci-

plines to comprehensively model water availability, use, and the factors that influence both water demand and supply in the continental United States. Adam Schempp, a visiting associate research scholar at the Sabin Center and director of the Environmental Law Institute’s Western Waters Program is helping to incorporate legal data into the model and to advise on the model’s structure. Seminar on Environmental Law: Michael Burger taught a day-long seminar on environmental law to Columbia University graduate and undergraduate students from across the Earth Institute.


Winter/Spring 2018

Who We Are

Michael B. Gerrard Faculty Director

Michael Burger Executive Director

Jessica Wentz Staff Attorney

tel: 212-854-3287

tel: 212-854-2372

tel: 707-545-2904

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Romany Webb Climate Law Fellow (2016–18)

Kemi Adetayo Program Coordinator

Dena Adler Climate Law Fellow (2017-19)

tel: 212-854-0080

tel: 212-854-8213

tel: 212-854-0081

Tiffany Challe Communications Associate

José Felix Pinto-Bazurco David Sive Visiting Scholar (2018)

Susan Biniaz David Sive Visiting Scholar (2018)

tel: 646-727-5727

tel: 202-262-0098

tel: 212-854-0594

The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law Columbia Law School  |  Jerome Greene Hall, Room 525 435 West 116th Street, New York, New York 10027 tel: 212-854-3287 

|  fax: 212-854-8213

W E B . L AW. C O LU M B I A . E D U / C L I M AT E - C H A N G E Columbia Law School Jerome Greene Hall, Room 525 435 West 116th Street New York, New York 10027 tel: 212-854-3287 fax: 212-854-8213

Sabin center winter/spring 2018 report  

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Sabin center winter/spring 2018 report  

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law