Summer/Fall 2018 - A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

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Summer/Fall 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 ten 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 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


Summer/Fall 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 law. 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 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:

• Ama Francis gave a presentation at the World Bank’s Law, Justice & Development Week on “Disaster Displacement in the Caribbean” as part of the Rights and Protection of Climate Migrants panel. • Michael Burger spoke about Legal Liability for Failures to Adapt: the Context and Significance of St. Bernard’s Parish as part of the Environmental Law Institute’s Emerging Issues in Liability for Climate Change Webinar Series. • Dena Adler presented on hurricanerelated litigation trends and policy solutions for the National Flood Insurance Program at the Marine Law Symposium hosted by the Marine Affairs Institute at Rogers Williams Law School. Engagement:

• Partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop an interactive map on flood risk disclosure laws in all 50 states, drawing attention to a lack of statutory or regulatory requirements in 21 states.

• As part of the NRDC collaboration, we also developed legislative proposals and white paper analysis detailing reforms to better prepare the National Flood Insurance Program for climate change. • Submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment for the proposed JFK North Cargo Redevelopment Project, recommending assessment and mitigation of risks from sea level rise and flooding from coastal storm surge. 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. Engagement:

• Michael Burger and Ama Francis participated in an expert meeting convened by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment David Boyd. • Ama Francis participated in a civil society consultation with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants Felipe González Morales.

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

Clean Air Act The EPA 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 Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed revisions to its new source performance standards for the oil and natural gas sector. • Submitted a motion on behalf of a local government coalition for leave to participate as amici curiae in the lawsuit challenging EPA’s decision to revisit the greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standard established for light-duty vehicles. The coalition members include the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), the National League of Cities (NLC), and sixteen individual cities and countries. 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:

• Submitted comments to the FERC’s proceeding on the impact of state renewable energy policies on operation of the wholesale capacity market overseen by PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. • Submitted comments to the FERC’s inquiry into the certification of natural gas transportation facilities.



• The Sabin Center co-hosted a workshop exploring issues relating to electric grid resilience. Discussions focused on, among other things, how the impacts of climate change will affect different parts of the grid and need for changes in grid, planning, operation, and design to manage those effects. Talks:

• Michael Burger gave a talk on Recent Developments in Climate Change Litigation at the Petroleum Marketing Attorneys Meeting hosted by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. • Romany Webb presented on “Climate Change Litigation—Ramifications for Energy Development” at the 9th Law of Shale Plays Conference in Pittsburgh. • Romany Webb presented on the history of electric utility ratemaking at a conference on the “Basics of Renewable Energy Finance” in New York. • Michael Gerrard spoke at Negative Emissions Technologies in the Energy Sector Workshop, University of Houston. • Jessica Wentz presented on “Oil and Gas infrastructure and Climate Change” at the Pipeline Safety Trust Conference in New Orleans. • Michael Gerrard spoke about state override of local zoning in siting renewables at annual conference of Alliance for Clean Energy New York, Albany, New York. • Michael Gerrard spoke about U.S. climate change litigation at the Global Symposium on Judiciary and the Environment: Adjudicating the Future, an international conference of judges held at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.


Summer/Fall 2018

International Law

Environmental Assessment

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.

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.


• Ama Francis will be joining the Legal Response Initiative team at COP24 in Katowice, Poland to provide legal support to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and civil society observer organizations. The Sabin Center will facilitate provision of pro bono services through LRI throughout the event. Natural Resources Climate change is already affecting natural resources, with observed effects on the biophysical characteristics of habitats, the health and distribution of species, and the timing of critical biological events such as spring bud burst. Natural resource management decisions can also have implications for greenhouse gas emissions. The Sabin Center conducts work aimed at ensuring that decision-makers consider these effects when managing lands and resources. Engagement:

• Submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the United State Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities and International Municipal Lawyers Association in support of New York City’s appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in its lawsuit against fossil fuel companies seeking compensation for climate change harms. • Submitted comments on proposed amendments to Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations.


• Submitted scoping comments on the FERC’s Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for The Planned Commonwealth LNG Project in Louisiana. • Submitted comments on the Scope of the EIS for the Proposed Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. • Submitted comments on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Call for Information and Nominations for Proposed 2019 Lease Sale in the Beaufort Sea Planning Area. • 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 EIS. 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. • In September 2018, the Silencing Science Tracker expanded to include antiscience actions taken by state and local government actions.

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


Events From June-December 2018, the Center sponsored or co-sponsored a total of 8 events and conferences.

• Key environmental issues in US EPA Region 2: A biennial conference which examined key and emerging environmental issues in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 area, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

• Fighting Back Against Attacks on Climate Science: An event co-hosted by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, the Sallan Foundation, the Earth Institute, and Climate Week NYC, featuring key note speaker, Gina McCarthy and panel discussion moderated by John Schwartz (The New York Times). • Climate Change, the Courts, and the Paris Agreement: An event co-hosted by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment. Panels moderated by Michael Gerrard and Michael Burger.

• Responsibility and Climate Change Litigation in France and in Europe:

A lunchtime talk by Marta Torre-Schaub, Senior Researcher at the French National Center of Scientific Researchers (CNRS) at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.

• Fourth David Sive Memorial Lecture: Featuring Professor Lisa Heinzerling, an event co-sponsored by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Earth Institute. Professor Lisa Heinzerling, of Georgetown University Law Center, delivered a lecture on the role of climate change litigation during the Trump Era.

Other Events • The Basics of Renewable Energy Finance • California Greenin’ Book Event

• How Climate Change Will Affect Non-Environmental Law Practice


Summer/Fall 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 at 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 6,788 Twitter followers and over 2,123 Facebook followers (as of December 2018) well as a YouTube channel. Highlights • “Legal Tools for Cities to Cope with Extreme Heat,” by Michael B. Gerrard and Edward McTiernan, New York Law Journal, November 2018 • “Holding Fossil Fuel Companies • “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

Accountable for their Contribution to Climate Change: Where Does the Law Stand?,” by Jessica Wentz and

Michael Burger, November 2018 • “Deploying Advanced Metering Infrastructure on the Natural Gas System: Regulatory Challenges and Opportunities,”

by Romany Webb • “Geological Storage of CO2 in Sub-Seafloor

• “Climate Change, Public Health, and the Law,” edited by Michael Burger and Justin Gundlach, Cambridge University Press

Basalt: The CarbonSAFE Pre-feasibility Study Offshore Washington State and British Columbia,” by Michael Gerrard,

Romany Webb, et al.

Highlights from our Climate Law Blog • “Preparing the Electricity System for Future Hurricanes and Other Extreme Weather Events,” by Romany Webb

• “Six Important Points About BLM’s

• “Global Perspectives on a Global Pact for the Environment,” edited by Lisa Sachs and Teresa Parejo • “State Disclosure Laws Leave Homebuyers

Revised Methane Waste Prevention Rule,”

in the Dark About Flood Risks,”

by Romany Webb

by Dena Adler

• “Six Important Points About the Affordable Clean Energy Rule,” by Jessica Wentz

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 110 media and news items. Highlights • “Exxon Mobil Sued for Fraud” Living on Earth In this radio interview, Michael Burger explains the nuances of the New York State lawsuit against Exxon Mobil. • “Juliana v. U.S. with Jessica Wentz” Santa Fe Radio Station, KTRC

In this radio interview, Senior Fellow Jessica Wentz speaks about the Sabin Center’s efforts to track climate change litigation and the status of the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit brought against the federal government for failing to take action to stop climate change. • “Feds ‘trying to silence’ the kids suing the Trump administration over global warming” CNN

Michael Gerrard comments on the importance of the Juliana case in relation to communicating about climate science to the public. • “Young People Are Suing the Trump

• “Climate Change and Its Staggering Refugee Crisis” Yes! Magazine

Michael Gerrard comments on the impact of climate change on the global refugee crisis. • “U.N. Climate Report Painted a Grim Outlook. Here’s How Far NYC Has to Go to Have a Chance of Avoiding Catastrophe” Inside City Hall

In this TV interview, Senior Fellow Romany Webb weighs in on the IPCC report’s implications for the City of New York. • “Can ‘Climate Kids’ Take on Governments and Win” CNN

Climate law fellow, Dena Adler comments on the uphill battle to recognize fundamental rights to an environment as part of international climate change litigation. • “Progress on Environment Could Slow

Administration over Climate Change. She’s Their Lawyer” The New York Times

on Supreme Court without Kennedy” San Francisco Chronicle

In this article, Michael Gerrard explains the Juliana plaintiffs’ perspective on the Obama-era climate policies and the Trump administrations’ reversal of these.

Michael Burger comments on what Justice Kennedy’s retirement could mean for the EPA and the Clean Air Act. • “Judge Dismisses Suit Against Oil

Climate Change Law” Columbia News

Companies Over Climate Change Costs” The New York Times

This article presents the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s work in climate change law, including the Silencing Science Tracker and the Climate Deregulation Tracker.

Michael Burger comments on a federal judge’s decision to dismiss lawsuits brought by San Francisco and Oakland against fossil fuel companies for climate damages.

• “Sabin Center Provides Tools to Track


Summer/Fall 2018

Online Resources

• Climate Change Litigation Database The Center maintains U.S. and non-U.S. climate litigation charts. (The US database is maintained in collaboration with Arnold & Porter.) Cases in the databases are organized by type of claim and are searchable. Links are available to decisions, complaints, and other case documents. We also circulate a monthly update on recent developments in climate-related litigation. To subscribe to the Center’s monthly update, contact:

• Climate Deregulation Tracker The Climate Deregulation Tracker monitors efforts undertaken by the Trump administration to scale back or wholly eliminate federal climate mitigation and adaptation measures. The tracker also monitors congressional efforts to repeal statutory provisions, regulations, and guidance pertaining to climate change, and to otherwise undermine climate action. Finally, the tracker will monitor any countervailing efforts to advance climate change mitigation and adaptation in the face of these deregulatory actions.

• Climate Change Laws of the World The Sabin Center and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment have collaborated to create an online database of the laws, regulations, policy statements, and other directives issued by national governments, with links to the Sabin Center litigation charts.

• 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.

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


Awards and Recognition In August, Michael Gerrard was named “Lawyer of the Year� by Best Lawyers for his work in environmental litigation in New York. Read the press release here. In November, three former students of Michael Gerrard were honored for outstanding legal writing on environmental law issues. Read the press release here.

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. Climate law fellow Dena Adler has 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. The Sabin Center is also a founding member of the United States Sustainable Development Solutions Network (US-SDSN), which launched at Columbia University on December 4, 2018.


Summer/Fall 2018

Who We Are

Michael B. Gerrard Faculty Director

Michael Burger Executive Director

Jessica Wentz Senior Climate Law Fellow





tel: 707-545-2904  ext. 19

Romany Webb Senior Climate Law Fellow

Ama Francis Climate Law Fellow (2018-20)

Dena Adler Climate Law Fellow (2017-19)

tel: 212-854-0080

tel: 212-854-0106

tel: 212-854-0081

Tiffany Challe Communications Associate

José Felix Pinto-Bazurco 2018 David Sive Visiting Scholar

Susan Biniaz 2018 David Sive Visiting Scholar

tel: 212-854-0594


tel: 202-262-0098


The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law Columbia Law School  |  Jerome Greene Hall 435 West 116th Street, New York, New York 10027

Kemi Adetayo Program Coordinator tel: 212-854-8213

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

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