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Summer/Fall 2017 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, and Threatened Island Nations. 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

Energy Transition

Securities and Climate Finance

Human Rights

Natural Resources

International and Foreign Law


Summer/Fall 2017

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. 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. Engagement:

• Submitted comments on EPA’s proposed a 2 year stay of its new source performance standards for oil and gas operations. 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. Engagement:

• Submitted comments on the draft and final versions of the Nationwide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the National Flood Insurance Program.

• Submitted comments on review of marine protected areas pursuant to Exec. Order 13795. Talks: Justin Gundlach presented “Interactions between Climate Change, Public Health, and Law; a (Quick) Survey at the American Public Health Association’s annual conference in Atlanta.

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. Engagement: Supported the Legal Response Initiative in their program to provide poor and particularly climate vulnerable countries with legal support during the international climate change negotiations. The Center fielded legal queries submitted by the Least Developed Countries Group during COP23, held in Bonn, Germany in November. Talks:

• Romany Webb participated in a workshop hosted at NYU School of Law on expanding renewable energy microgrids in

A Summary of the Key Activities of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law the Caribbean, and presented on resiliency in the storm-prone region. • In September, Jessica Wentz led a webinar on climate change and human rights as part of the UN System Staff College Foundational Course on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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 comments on FERC’s Draft Supplemental EIS for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project in Florida. • Submitted comments on the environmental review and an objection to the U.S. Forest Service’s final decision to expand coal extraction at the West Elk Coal Mine. • Submitted scoping comments on FERC’s Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environ­ mental Impact Statement for The Planned Fourchon LNG Project in Louisiana. 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. Workshops: Hosted a two-day workshop for

energy regulators from the U.S., Europe and Australia. Workshop participants discussed emerging trends in the electricity sector, including challenges associated with increased renewable generation, and exchanged information on their responses. Talks

• Justin Gundlach presented on the significance of environmental regulation and Trump Administration regulatory rollbacks at a panel hosted by the Great Lakes Energy Institute and the Property & Environmental Research Center at Case Western Reserve Law School. • Romany Webb travelled to Seattle to present on a legal framework for offshore carbon dioxide storage and moderated a panel of regulators as part of the Sabin Center’s 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. Engagement:

• Submitted comments to FERC on DOE’s proposed “Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule.” • Submitted comments to the Department of the Interior in response to its request for input on regulations to repeal, replace, or modify pursuant to Executive Order 13777. • Submitted comments to the Bureau of Land Management in relation to its proposed suspension of the Methane Waste Rule.


Summer/Fall 2017

Events From June to December 2017, the Center sponsored or co-sponsored a total of 5 events and conferences. Highlights


Monday October 23, 2017

The Why and How of an International Covenant on the Right of Human Beings to the Environment

After 15 years of climate change litigation, the question of whether anybody can be held legally liable for the adverse impacts of climate change remains unanswered. However, the Trump administration’s

6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

effort to roll back climate regulation in the United States; the devastation caused by Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey; developments in the science of


climate change attribution; and a handful of recent lawsuits filed by cities and counties in California

Peter Frumhoff Director of Science & Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists

have put the question front and center. This panel discussion will look at one particular set of defendants

Sharon Eubanks

– companies involved in the extraction, production

Partner, Bordas & Bordas

and marketing of fossil fuels. Panelists will summarize

Thomas A. Lorenzen

the current state of attribution science, and present

Partner, Crowell & Moring

core legal arguments for and against liability.

Thursday, October 5, 2017 12:00-1:10 p.m.

Gerald Torres

Non-pizza lunch will be served

Professor, Cornell Law School

This program is supported by the David Sive Memorial


Fund, which is generously supported by Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C.

Michael Burger

Executive Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Columbia Law School William & June Warren Hall, room L107 1125 Amsterdam Avenue (btw 115th and 116th streets) New York, NY 10027


Michel Prieur, Emeritus Professor at the University of Limoges, President of the International Center for Comparative Environmental Law

Co-sponsored by Program is sponsored by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Human Rights Institute, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, Columbia Law School Environmental Law Society, Columbia Journal of Environmental Law This program is generously supported by the David Sive Memorial Fund

• Can Fossil Fuel Companies Be Held Liable for Climate Change?, a panel discussion moderated by Michael Burger featuring speakers Peter Frumhoff (Union of Concerned Scientists), Sharon Eubanks (Bordas & Bordas), Thomas A. Lorenzen (Crowell & Moring) and Gerald Torres (Cornell Law School).

• Third David Sive Memorial Lecture: Gina McCarthy, a presentation by Gina McCarthy, Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013-2017.

Monday, September 18, 2017 7:00-9:00 p.m. Admission is free but registration is required. RSVP to

Columbia Law School Jerome Greene Hall, room 104 435 West 116th Street (at Amsterdam Avenue) New York, NY 10027 th

NEAREST SUBWAY: 116 Street stop on #1 line.

Offshore Wind In New York: What's Next? brings together industry leaders, advocates, policy makers and project opponents to examine leading edge developments and prospects for the northeast. As the cost of producing wind turbines has plunged 35% over the last decade, public policies in coastal states like New York have made a commitment to advancing clean energy sources like offshore wind, and industry is stepping up with money and know-how. At the same time, federal energy policy has veered sharply toward fossil fuels. The challenge of siting offshore wind farms in light of concerns raised by the Atlantic coast fishing industry and localities that rely on it cannot not be ignored.



Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013-2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017 6:15 p.m. Wine and cheese reception 7 p.m. Lecture and Q&A Session

Admission is free but registration is required. Register here:

Welcome Nancy Anderson, The Sallan Foundation Keynote speaker Michael B. Gerrard, Professor and Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School Moderator Amy Harder, Axios Panelists Doreen Harris, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Anne Reynolds, Alliance for Clean Energy Edward Anthes-Washburn, Port of New Bedford, MA Megan Kesier, Statoil Katherine Kennedy, Natural Resources Defense Council Program is sponsored by Climate Week NYC, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, the Sallan Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and NYC Bar Association

Columbia Law School

Jerome Greene Hall, room 104 435 West 116th Street (at Amsterdam Avenue) NEAREST SUBWAY: 116th Street stop on #1 line.

CO-SPONSORS Sabin Center for Climate Change Law • The Earth Institute of Columbia University This program is supported by the David Sive Memorial Fund, which is generously supported by Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C.

• The Why and How of an International Covenant on the Right of Human Beings to the Environment, a lecture delivered by

Michel Prieur, Emeritus Professor at the University of Limoges and President of the International Center for Comparative Environmental Law.

• Offshore Wind in New York: What’s Next?, panel discussion moderated by Amy Harder (Axios), featuring keynote speaker, Michael B. Gerrard, welcome remarks by Nancy Anderson (Sallan Foundation) and panelists Doreen Harris (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), Anne Reynolds (Alliance for Clean Energy), Edward Anthes-Washburn (Port of New Bedford, MA), Megan Kesier (Statoil) and Katherine Kennedy (Natural Resources Defense Council)

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


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 5,800 Twitter followers and over 1,700 Facebook followers (as of December 2017), as well as a YouTube channel with videos of our live events. Highlights • “Policy Readiness for Offshore Carbon

• “To Negotiate a Carbon Tax: A rough Map

Dioxide Storage in the Northeast,”

of Policy Interactions, Tradeoffs, and Risks,”

by Michael Gerrard and Romany Webb

by Justin Gundlach

• “Legal Pathways for a Massive Increase in Utility-Scale Renewable Generation Capacity,” by Michael Gerrard, 47

Environmental Law Reporter 10591 (2017) • “The Price of Climate Deregulation: Adding Up the Costs and Benefits of Federal Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards,”

• “Debate Over Environmental Rights and State Constitutional Convention,”

by Michael Gerrard and Edward McTiernan, New York Law Journal • “We Need to Be Better Prepared for the Next Irma,” by Michael Gerrard and Justin Gundlach, Fortune

by Nadra Rahman and Jessica Wentz

Highlights from our Climate Law Blog • “Scott Pruitt’s Attack on Scientists Serving on Advisory Boards is Illegal,”

by Michael Burger • “Human Rights And The Paris Agreement: The Need To Incorporate Safeguards Into The Cooperative Approaches Established Under Article 6,” by Romany Webb

• “Transforming Puerto Rico’s Electricity Grid: The Benefits of Shifting To A More Distributed Generating System,”

by Romany Webb • “Hurricanes’ Contaminated Floodwaters Might Crest Next Wave of Climate Change Litigation,” by Dena Adler

• “Congress Can Help Make Houston More Resilient To The Next Hurricane By Adding 3 Words To The 2017 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill,”

by Justin Gundlach • “Climate Law Issues Related to Hurricane Harvey,” by Sabin Center staff • “Eight Things Environmental Lawyers Can Do In The Age Of Trump,”

by Michael Gerrard • “Local Governments In California File Common Law Claims Against Largest Fossil Fuel Companies,” by Michael Burger


Summer/Fall 2017

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 115 media and news items. Highlights • “How Trump White House Wound up

• “Trump executive order: The White House

Releasing Dire Climate Report” Bloomberg

doesn’t think sea-level rise is important to US infrastructure” Quartz

Michael Gerrard explains how the comprehensive climate report issued by federal agencies will create a legal hurdle for rescinding the endangerment finding.

Michael Gerrard comments on the Trump Administration’s executive order that rescinds an Obama-era order requiring government agencies to take into account sea-level rise when building federal infrastructure.

• “EPA, Pruitt may face lawsuits over advisory board changes” The Hill

Michael Burger comments on the EPA’s argument that blocking certain scientists from its board would serve government interests. • “Students Win Environmental Law Writing Competition” Columbia Law School News

Five current and former Columbia Law students—all students of Michael Gerrard—have earned top honors in environmental law writing competition. • “Industry Lawsuits Try to Paint Environmental Activism as Illegal Racket” InsideClimate News

Michael Gerrard comments on the Energy Transfer Partners lawsuit against Greenpeace. • “Is Climate-Themed Fiction All Too Real? We Asked the Experts” The New York Times

Michael Gerrard comments on the topic of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, ‘Borne’: climate-displaced people.

• “Obama Emissions Rules Could Yield $300 Billion Annually by 2030” Scientific American

This article highlights a report by Jessica Wentz and Nadra Rahman, “The Price of Climate Deregulation,” which analyzes the costs and benefits of federal greenhouse gas emission standards. • “Rising temperatures can kill Texas prisoners. Corrections ignored that, says federal judge” PBS Newshour

Michael Gerrard discusses the impact of a federal judge citing climate change in a ruling regarding the extreme heat in a Texas geriatric prison. • “California Climate Loss & Damage” Living on Earth

In this radio interview, Michael Burger explains why the climate lawsuits in California could change the way lawyers approach climate litigation. • “This could be the next big strategy for suing over climate change” The Washington Post

In this article, Michael Burger talks about advances in climate science with respect to the climate change litigation.

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


Online Resources cies, 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 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.

• 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.

• State Attorneys General Environmental Action Database

• 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 poli-

The Sabin Center and have created a database of actions undertaken by state attorneys general as they seek to advance environmental law and policy objectives within their jurisdictions. The State AG Environmental Action Database is intended as an easy-to-use and organized legal resource for state attorneys general as they grapple with how to advance the ball on environmental law and policy in the absence of federal support.


Summer/Fall 2017

Awards and Recognition In November, five current and former Columbia Law students—all students of Michael Gerrard— earned top honors in an environmental law writing competition. Here is the announcement on Columbia Law School News. In October, Michael Gerrard received a “Defender of Science” Award from the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. In August, the Sabin Center was honored by the American Bar Association (ABA) with the Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy Award in recognition of its outstanding contributions to environmental protection and sustainable development efforts in the United States. In June, Michael Gerrard received a lifetime achievement award from the New York City Environmental Law Leadership Institute at the New York City Bar Association.

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: Since

America’s Waters Project: This National Sci-

becoming Chair of the Earth Institute Faculty in July 2015, Michael Gerrard has taken a leadership role in the campus-wide Sustainability Initiative, serving on the Senior Advisory Committee. Justin Gundlach 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.

ence Foundation-funded project, led by Dr. Upmanu Lall, Director of the Columbia Water Center, brings together a wide range of disciplines to comprehensively model water availability, use, and the factors that influence both water demand and supply in the continental United States. The model being developed will inform decision-making in a variety of contexts, from overarching policies to specific infrastructure projects. 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.


Summer/Fall 2017

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

ext. 19

Justin Gundlach Staff Attorney

Romany Webb Climate Law Fellow (2016–18)

Dena Adler Climate Law Fellow (2017-19)

tel: 212-854-0106

tel: 212-854-0080

tel: 212-854-0081

Kemi Adetayo Program Coordinator

Tiffany Challe Communications Associate

tel: 212-854-8213

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

Profile for Earth Institute, Columbia University

Sabin center summer/fall 2017 report  

Sabin center summer/fall 2017 report