Winter/Spring 2019 - A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

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Winter/Spring 2019 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 .

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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.


Winter/Spring 2019

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

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


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, in the courts, and in other countries around the world. 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. Natural Resources

Clean Air Act

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.

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.


• Submitted two separate amicus briefs to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the United States Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities and International Municipal Lawyers Association in support of lawsuits filed by Oakland, San Francisco, San Mateo County and other California cities and counties against fossil fuel companies, seeking abatement of climate changerelated harms. ·· Amicus Brief in Support of PlaintiffsAppellees in County of San Mateo v. Chevron Corp. by Michael Burger and Ama Francis ·· Local Government Amicus Brief in City of Oakland v. BP by Michael Burger • Filed comments on the Proposed Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


• Filed comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed revisions to its new source performance standards for oil and gas development. • Filed comments on EPA’s proposed revisions to the new source performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed stationary sources. • Filed an amicus brief on behalf of a local government coalition in the lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s revised determination that the GHG and fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles are too stringent and should be weakened. The coalition members include the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), the National League of Cities (NLC), and sixteen individual cities and counties that are home to more than 22 million people.


Winter/Spring 2019

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, state, and local laws and regulations related to clean energy development and integration, public utility regulation, and the extraction, transport, and consumption of fossil fuels. Engagement:

• In April 2019 the Environmental Law Institute published Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, co-edited by Michael Gerrard, with chapters by Michael Burger, Romany Webb, and Jessica Wentz. Prof. Gerrard is now helping lead an effort to recruit pro bono lawyers from around the United States to draft model laws, regulations, and other legal instruments to implement the more than 1,000 specific recommendations in the book for federal, state, local, and private action. • Filed comments on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Section 206 Inquiry on PJM’s Open Access Transmission Tariff. Workshops:

• Romany Webb participated in a workshop at the University of Victoria on offshore carbon dioxide storage as part of the Center’s ongoing participation in a study to assess the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide in sub-seabed geologic formations off the coast of British Columbia.


• Michael Gerrard testified before Congress during an oversight hearing on “Public Lands and our Clean Energy Future.” • Michael Gerrard spoke at a launch event for Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States held at the Environmental Law Institute. • Romany Webb presented on legal tools to accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy at an event titled “The Race to Zero Carbon” at the United Nations. • Michael Burger spoke at Princeton University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs on Climate Legislation 2.0: the Green New Deal vs. the Carbon Tax, and on The Law and Science of Climate Change Attribution. • Dena Adler gave a public talk on “Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump” at Union College as part of the environmental program’s winter seminar series on “the War on Facts.” • As part of the 9th Annual Yale New Directions in Environmental Law Conference, Dena Adler presented on the latest developments in U.S. climate change litigation during the Trump Administration.

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



International & Foreign Law

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.

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.


• Michael Gerrard delivered the keynote talk at the Fifth Annual Sustainability Conference of American Legal Educators at Arizona State University in Phoenix on the topic “Taking 1.5 Degrees Seriously:Tradeoffs and Triage.” • Ama Francis represented the Center at the Platform on Disaster Displacement Advisory Committee Workshop in Bogis-Bossey, Switzerland. The Committee discussed strategies for implementing the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly & Regular Migration, and work related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Task Force on Displacement report and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction. Engagement:

• Dena Adler and Michael Burger completed a joint project with the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop a suite of proposals detailing reforms to better prepare the National Flood Insurance Program for climate change. • Dena Adler participated in Georgetown Climate Center’s Roundtable on Managed Retreat.


• Ama Francis joined the Legal Response Initiative team at COP24 in Katowice, Poland to provide legal support to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and civil society observer organizations. She also served on Dominica’s delegation. Talks:

• Ama Francis presented at Connecting Environmental Changes and Human Mobility as a Way to Draw New Maps of Knowledge, a World Trade Institute conference in Ascona, Switzerland. The presentation title was “Regular Migration Pathways for Climate Migrants: Leveraging Free Movement of Persons Frameworks to Facilitate Climate-Induced Migration.” • Michael Burger spoke on a panel hosted by Thompson Reuters Foundation, What are the legal ramifications of event attribution?


Winter/Spring 2019

Environmental Assessment

Threatened Island Nations

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.

Climate change poses a substantial risk to many small island nations. These nations may be partially or completely submerged by rising sea levels in the coming decades, and are also vulnerable to other disruptions caused by increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns. We have worked with threatened island nations since 2009 to develop legal strategies to address these problems.


• Submitted comments on FERC’s Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Pointe LNG Project. • Submitted comments on the draft environmental assessment for runway reconstruction and taxiway development at JFK International Airport. • Submitted comments on the draft scope of work for the Environmental Impact Statement for the New York City Borough-Based Jail System. 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. • The Sabin Center filed an appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals of a district court decision dismissing a lawsuit brought by individual scientists and others challenging EPA’s policy barring scientists with agency grants from serving on science advisory committees (Physicians for Social Responsibility v.Wheeler (D.C. Cir., Case No. 19-5104).


• Michael Gerrard spoke at the United Nations at a workshop convened by the Asian African Legal Consultative Organization on the topic “Legal Implications for Maritime Activities, Zones and Treaties: Effects of Changing Coastlines.” • Michael Gerrard addressed a special meeting of the Sixth Committee (the legal committee) of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters. The meeting concerned maritime boundaries. He discussed the effect of sea level rise on maritime boundaries, especially the potential loss of the exclusive economic zones of the small island states.

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


Events From January–June 2019, the Center sponsored or co-sponsored a total of 8 events and conferences.

• Anote’s Ark Film Screening & Discussion: The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law hosted a public screening of Anote’s Ark, an award-winning documentary that tells the story of Kiribati’s fight against the existential threat of climate change, at Columbia Law School.

• 2019 Climate Change Symposium: An annual climate change symposium hosted by the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

• At What Point Managed Retreat? Resilience Building in the Coastal Zone:

• Making it Happen: Legal and Policy Tools to Accelerate Energy System Decarbonization:

An event co-hosted by the Sabin Center and Energy Innovation, featuring Michael Gerrard (Sabin Center), Dale Bryk (Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo) and Sonia Aggarwhal (Energy Innovation).

A conference co-sponsored by the Sabin Center, Columbia Business School and CCRUN and organized by the Climate Adaptation Initiative at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. This conference addressed a range of issues facing coastal communities in the United States and around the world as sea levels rise and coastal flooding becomes more frequent and intense.

Other events • Paris to Pittsburg: Documentary Screening & Panel Discussion

• Lawyers and Climate Change: Third National Conference of Lawyers Committed to Addressing the Climate Emergency

• An Action Agenda for Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States

• Seventh Annual Sabin Colloquium on Innovative Environmental Law Scholarship


Winter/Spring 2019

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, including on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, as well as a YouTube channel. Highlights • “Breaking the Cycle of “Flood-RebuildRepeat”: Local and State Options to Improve Substantial Damage and Improvement Standards in the National Flood Insurance Program,” by Dena Adler & Joel Scata

• Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, edited by Michael B. Gerrard and John C. Dernbach (ELI Press, 2019) • Heat waves: Legal adaptation to the most lethal climate disaster (so far), by Michael B. Gerrard (University of Arkansas Law Review, April 2019) • “Changing the National Flood Insurance Program for a Changing Climate,” by Dena Adler, Michael Burger, Rob Moore, & Joel Scata, Environmental Law Reporter, April 2019 • Congress Can Stop the War on Science, by Romany Webb and Lauren Kurtz, The Hill

• Overcoming Impediments to Offshore Carbon Dioxide Storage: Legal Issues in the U.S. and Canada, by Romany Webb and

Michael Gerrard • State Public Nuisance Claims and Climate Change Adaptation 36 Pace Envtl. L. Rev.49 (2018), by Michael Burger and Albert Lin

• “Turning the Tide in Coastal and Riverine Energy Infrastructure Adaptation: Can An Emerging Wave of Litigation Advance Preparation for Climate Change?”

by Dena Adler, Oklahoma Oil and Gas, Natural Resources, and Energy Journal, December 2018

Highlights from the Climate Law Blog • Testimony of Michael Gerrard to Congress About Siting Renewable Energy on Public Lands, by Michael Gerrard

• Ensuring Electricity System Resilience in the Face of Climate Change: Report of a Workshop Co-hosted by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, by Romany Webb

• Maritime Boundaries, Sea Level Rise and Climate Justice, by Michael Gerrard

• “The Trial of the Century”: A Preview of How Climate Science Could Play Out in the Courtroom, Courtesy of Juliana V. United States, by Michael Burger and Jessica Wentz

• International Processes Consider Importance of Climate-Induced Migration and Displacement, by Ama Francis

• Climatic Recent Weeks for International Climate Change Litigation, by Dena Adler

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 55 media and news items. Highlights • Hope is a far more powerful force than confrontation when it comes to climate change, The National

In this article that mentions the Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States book, Michael Gerrard stresses the importance of localism to achieve climate-friendly policies and laws in the United States. • ‘This is how to build it’: Book aims to provide a legal guide to decarbonization, Energy News

This article promotes the new Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization book as a “playbook” to arm policymakers, lawyers and the private sector with legal options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. • Climate Change Could Destroy His Home in Peru. So He Sued an Energy Company in Germany, The New York Times

In this article, Michael Burger weighs in on current climate litigation and the legal liability of companies such as RWE. • The Green New Deal Shows How Grand Climate Politics Can Be, Wired

Michael Burger discusses the Green New Deal and its authors’ efforts to link climate change to issues like justice, equity and inclusion. • New governors accelerate clean energy action, propelled by Democratic midterm wave, Utility Dive

In this article, senior law fellow Romany Webb discusses one of the challenges of increasing our use of renewable energy— the need to build transmission infrastructure.

• Alaska judge reinstates drilling ban, striking down Trump’s 2017 executive order, CBSN

In this TV interview, Michael Gerrard discusses a federal court decision that struck down President Trump’s actions concerning offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic oceans. • Environmental lawyers fight fire with fire, adopt ALEC’s methods to tackle climate change, Think Progress

This article mentions Michael Gerrard and John C. Dernbach’s book, Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the U.S., and their call to gather lawyers across the country to write laws based on the recommendations in the book. • Declaring a National Emergency Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis, Pacific Standard

Michael Burger points out that a provision under the Clean Air Act gives the President authority to deal with climate change. • How to Solve Climate Change? There are a thousand answers, The Hill

In this op-ed, Michael Gerrard and John C. Dernbach give an overview of the various tools to achieve deep decarbonization in the United States— from progressive platforms like the Green New Deal to carbon pricing options and “everything in between.” • Meet the Black Climate and Social Justice Leaders You have Never Heard Of, Huffington Post

Climate law fellow Ama Francis is featured as a climate leader.


Winter/Spring 2019

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.) The Sabin Center continues to track the growing wave of international and domestic climate change litigation. Our databases of climate change litigation now provide a resource with information and case documents for over 1000 climate change lawsuits from around the world. 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


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, as co-chair 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 decisionmaking relating to emissions and energy use on campus.


Winter/Spring 2019

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

Kemi Adetayo Program Coordinator

tel: 212-854-0594

tel: 212-854-8213

The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law Columbia Law School  |  Jerome Greene Hall 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

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