E N VI RO N M E NTAL LA W AT VE RMONT LAW S CHO OL On the South Royalton green
Collaborating for Climate Equity The new Climate Justice Practicum is an innovative collaboration between Vermont Law School and the Yale School of Public Health. In the course launched this fall, students attend a weekly seminar with Environmental Justice Clinic Director Marianne Engelman Lado, while also conducting applied fieldwork on the Marianne Engelman Lado frontlines of climate justice. One student team is analyzing transportation justice issues in rural areas with the Conservation Law Foundation. A second group is working with the Connecticut Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3), figuring out how to integrate questions of equity into state climate action plans. A third group is working with the nonprofit Public Justice and community-based groups, conducting a climate impact assessment of biogas from California’s industrial dairying operations and analyzing legal options. “It is so important that we expose our students to cross-disciplinary approaches to solving environmental problems,” said Associate Dean for Environmental Programs Jenny Rushlow. “Climate justice is a complex dilemma requiring contributors from many disciplines and walks of life to work together. This new course will give our students the opportunity to practice partnering with scientific experts, as they would in many careers in the environmental field.”
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE MEANS RACIAL JUSTICE Students fight for an environmental movement that serves all communities. Nearly 600 protesters gathered on the South Royalton green on the evening of June 6—an unusual sight in Vermont Law School’s tiny town with a population of around the same size. In a speech during the Rally to End the Violence, Associate Dean Shirley Jefferson JD’86 captivated Associate Dean Shirley Jefferson JD’86 the crowd, chronicling her journey to “SoRo” after growing up in the segregated South and marching for civil conducting outreach and “ We’re going to need rights in Selma, Alabama. selling t-shirts to raise money you lawyers. You can’t Jefferson, who organized the for local organizations. EJLS just tell them what event in response to police co-chair Jameson Davis JD’20/ brutality against Black Americans, the law is. You’ve got MELP’19 followed Jefferson with reminded law students of their a powerful speech about how to change the law and role in the continued fight for “I can’t breathe,” the last words policy in this country.” racial justice. “We’re going to of Eric Garner, apply not only — A SSOCIATE DEAN need you lawyers,” she said to the to chokeholds, but also to the SHIRLEY JEFFERSON JD’86 crowd. “You can’t just tell them choking effects of pollution that what the law is. You’ve got to disproportionately affect BIPOC change the law and policy in this country.” communities. Meanwhile, in the center of the green, students The coming weeks and months revealed the in VLS’s Environmental Justice Law Society (EJLS)— community’s commitment to the movement for which, when founded in 2018 was the first law the long haul. Davis’s words echoed in an official school organization of its kind in the country—were statement of solidarity and call to action published by EJLS, followed with statements from several other student groups including the Food and Agricultural Law Society. Jefferson, environmental law professor Mark Latham, and other faculty members launched an ongoing virtual panel series “Embedded Racism in the Law.” Faculty, students, (continued on page 2)
F rom left: Kendall Keelen JD’22, Jameson Davis JD’20/ MELP’19, and Sierra Suafoa-McClain JD’21
In the Environmental Justice (EJ) Clinic, students work on real-world cases, partnering with marginalized communities to address racial disparities in polluting sources and ensure residents can fully participate in decisions affecting their health and welfare.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE MEANS RACIAL JUSTICE (continued from page 1)
EJ CLINIC CONVERSATIONS
For their blog series, Environmental Justice Clinicians interviewed partners and clients on the frontlines of the EJ movement.* View all of the interviews, including videos, at vermontlaw.edu/blog/environmental-justice.
and invited guests now gather biweekly to discuss how racism pervades the legal system, with rotating topics including policing and qualified immunity, racism in the food system, and indigenous rights. Meanwhile, students continue the work that they started well before this summer’s protests swept the nation. The EJLS released a documentary film featuring members of its executive board and activists Mustafa Santiago Ali, Raya Salter, and Nadia Seeteram. Titled Trace the Roots: Voices Left Out of Environmental Conversations, the video examines how traditional environmentalist spaces continue to exclude BIPOC voices, and how white-led organizations can align themselves with the current social and racial movement. In late August, students in VLS’s Environmental Justice Clinic launched a multimedia blog that gives a glimpse into their work. The series “EJ Clinic Conversations” features articles and video interviews with clients and partners, amplifying their perspectives on the connections between environmental justice, the struggle for racial justice, and the Movement for Black Lives. “Of particular significance for our work, [Environmental Justice Principles] include a demand that policy be based on mutual respect and an affirmation of the fundamental right to self-determination,” wrote Davis and EJ Clinic Director Marianne Engelman Lado in an introduction to the series. “Support for the right to self-determination begins with hearing the voices of environmental justice communities.”
It’s easier to hide pollution and undesirable land use in poor, more rural areas… we in Vermont shouldn’t automatically assume ‘Well we’re rural, we don’t have the same environmental justice issues.’ It’s not as obvious as when you’re in cities... but rural environmental injustice is very much present here. We have a lot of work to do in Vermont.”
— KESHA RAM, S enior Fellow at Center for Whole Communities (CWC)
and Vermont State Senate Candidate
I want to be very, very clear, this is about race. You put on [a U.S. map] where the heaviest densities of people of color live, and then you take another map with the heaviest densities of industrial pollution, industrial waste, waste dumps, incinerators, other things, and you put them right on top of each other. You see that they are mirrored.”
— JOSÉ BRAVO, Executive Director, Just Transition Alliance
Before [Black Lives Matter] came about, we were in the movement, it just did not have a name. [BLM] is a continuation of something that… should have been done years and years and years ago. You’re in for a big fight. A long fight. Patience is a virtue. Consistency is a virtue. We have to keep going.
— BEN EATON, President, Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice
People don’t sit around and do nothing because they don’t want to. You don’t do anything when you don’t know what to do. Once [people] get the right information, you see them go from, I can’t do anything, to standing up and fighting back. That is the most encouraging thing that can happen in this work.”
— NAEEMA MUHAMMAD, D irector of Organizing, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN)
Until we have state and federal and local governments that prioritize public health at all costs, environmental justice communities and organizations are going to need to be better-funded. When we prioritize Black lives, all lives will benefit. All of our struggles are tied together.”
— KERENE TAYLOE, Director of Federal Legislative Affairs, We Act for Environmental Justice
*Quotes have been condensed for brevity.
PUBLICATION INFORMATION This is a publication of the Environmental Law Center. We welcome your questions, comments, corrections, article proposals, and updates.
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© 2020 V ermont Law School Environmental Law Center Written and edited by: Molly McDonough Design: Wetherby Design | 9/20, .5K Photographs by: Rob Bossi, Jay Ericson, Migrant Justice, istockphoto.com, and members of the VLS community. Illustration: Michael Mullan, mullanillustration.com Printing: R.C. Brayshaw & Company, Inc., environmentally certified to the Forest Stewardship Council Standard. Printed on 100-lb. Mohawk Options PC 100 text. This paper is manufactured entirely with non-polluting, wind-generated energy, V isE Process R M O Chlorine-Free, N T L A W . Eand D is U certified / E L C using 100% post-consumer recycled fiber, by Green Seal and SmartWood to the Forest Stewardship Council Standard.
SoRo and Surrounds: Get to Know VLS’s Hometown Wedged between rolling hills covered in fall foliage, South Royalton, Vermont may not be world-famous—but it’s packed with hidden gems. Here are some of our favorite spots for autumn and fall fun. VLS’s Environmental Law Center is headquartered in historic Debevoise Hall.
Our go-to co-op, South Royalton Market is filled with quality groceries from near and far.
Head to First Branch Coffee for the espresso drinks; stay for the tacos and live music.
Don’t miss Worthy Burger’s famous patties.
Local farmers sling goods on the town green each Thursday into mid-October during Royalton Farmers Market.
Sample local suds at “nanobrewery” Brocklebank Craft Brewing.
Cross-country ski on the snow-covered pastures of a dairy farm at Strafford Nordic Center—and don’t forget to sample some of the chocolate milk from the farm’s cows.
Hike up the hills of Braintree Mountain Forest for backcountry skiing and a stop at a hidden hut.
Hike less than two miles from campus to Kent’s Ledge for impressive fall foliage views.
PYO apples in a picture-perfect setting at Moore’s Orchard.
From karaoke to cribbage tournaments, there’s always something going on at friendly Babe’s Bar.
Illustrations: Michael Mullan, mullanillustration.com
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Even during the social distancing era, VLS students found opportunities aplenty to gain on-the-ground experience last summer. We caught up with some of them to learn more about the virtual positions they held. Read more throughout this issue.
Suhasini Ghosh JD’21 POSITION: Summer law clerk at Dunkiel Saunders Elliott Raubvogel & Hand, a missiondriven law firm; remote research assistant at VLS’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) PERSPECTIVE: “One of the most fascinating aspects of [the clerkship] is the opportunity to engage in the different stages of environmental litigation. Being able to take part in drafting documents and attending hearings has been extremely valuable. I am also a research assistant for the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems. I am researching and drafting updates and additions to the Farmers Market Legal Toolkit, which includes updates related to COVID-19. Even though both positions have been virtual, I have been able to connect with, meet, and work with a lot of amazing people in the field.” PURPOSE: “I am passionate about environmental law and both of these experiences have supported my goals to engage in environmental practice after graduation.”
Through Farmland Access The Farmland Access Legal Toolkit aims to make farmland more accessible to new and beginning farmers while supporting conservation efforts. Developed by students, staff, and faculty at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS), the online resource helps break down complex legal processes that come with acquiring, transferring, and leasing farmland. “The original version of the toolkit does a great job of confronting some of the obstacles to access for young and beginning farmers,” said CAFS Director Laurie Beyranevand JD’03. “But we know that not all farmers face the same challenges. BIPOC farmers, for example, face discrimination and the legacies of structural racism that have unfairly shaped the U.S. agricultural system and access to land. That’s why we’re expanding the toolkit—in the hopes that it can provide resources for more underserved and under-resourced communities.” In 2019 CAFS hired Senior Legal Fellow Francine Miller LLM’17 to do just that. Miller teamed up with Deborah Nares, a consultant with decades of experience working with Spanishspeaking farmers. The first Spanish-language section of the toolkit, which deals with leasing arrangements, was published in August, with more culturally-appropriate resources in the works. Miller is also building out a new section of the toolkit focused on a significant cause of involuntary
The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) trains law and policy students to develop real-world solutions for a more sustainable and just food system. At CAFS’s in-house Food and Agriculture Clinic, student clinicians and research assistants work with local, regional, national, and international partners to solve food systems challenges.
Latest Podcast Episode Explores Farmworkers’ Rights They keep our farms running and our communities fed. But farmworkers suffer some of the most dangerous work conditions in the country. And as a predominantly immigrant workforce, the challenges they face—from exploitation to exposure to COVID-19— are magnified by racism and the threat of deportation. In the latest episode of the Environmental Law Center’s Hothouse Earth Podcast, find out why the law fails to protect these essential workers, and follow along as hosts visit nonprofit organization Migrant Justice and a local dairy farm to learn how advocates are stepping in where the law falls short. Visit hothousearthpodcast.com or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
F rancine Miller LLM’17 with the Eady family at the National Heirs Property Conference sponsored by Federation of Southern Cooperatives. The Eadys have 75 acres of property in Newton, Georgia, and are farming corn, peanuts, peas, watermelon, and animals (cows and goats). They are working on clearing title to their land and resolving all ownership issues so that the land can stay in the family. Black land loss in the United States: heirs’ property. Heirs’ property is land passed to family members by inheritance, but usually without a will. Descendants inherit the land but as “tenants in common,” owning interest in the property without a clear title. And that makes the land prone to unscrupulous acquisition by real estate developers. A 2001 report from the US Agricultural Census estimated that about 80 percent of Black-owned farmland was lost between 1969 and 2001, and half of that was due to partition sales of heirs’ property (the forced sale of the land for much less than it is worth). It’s a legal issue with major implications—and the “Land Transfer” section of the toolkit would be incomplete without it. In partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University (and with help from Food and Agriculture Clinic students), Miller is creating legal resources for owners of heirs’ property: fact sheets specific to 13 different Southern states, plus essays by lawyers or practitioners in each state that help families understand what they’ll need to bring to a lawyer an attempt to resolve the issues, and preserve and build wealth from their land. “Especially in this moment of reckoning with racial justice issues, we think it’s important to directly reach out to Black, Indigenous, and Spanish-speaking farmers in particular,” Miller said. “Resources are more limited for those folks, and providing legal educational materials is what we do at CAFS. We want to use our resources to support those farmers.”
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HEIRS’ PROPERTY ISSUES? In September, CAFS hosted a panel on the topic titled “Rooting Out Structural Racism in American Agriculture.” Watch a video of the event at: livestream.com/vermontlawschool.
V E R M O N T L A W . E D U / E L C
CAFS Alumna Heads to Harvard Esther Akwii LLM’20 worked with smallholder farmers and held a position at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations before coming to Vermont Law School. As an LLM Fellow at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS), she helped to pilot a range of projects in partnership with organizations across the U.S. She wrote a background paper on rural development for the Farm Bill Law Enterprise; developed legal memos on farm business structures, agritourism, food safety and labor for Farm Commons; created a brief on rural food access for the Healthy Food Policy Project; and worked on a handbook about policies that promote farm to school programs for the National Farm to School Network. She also taught at VLS as an adjunct professor and presented at conferences alongside scholars from across the country. Now Akwii will be joining some of those scholars in her new position as a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. CAFS partners with the Harvard clinic on projects including the Blueprint for a National Food Strategy and the Farm Bill Law Enterprise. Akwii will keep shaping those projects in her new position, and the CAFS team is thrilled to continue working with her. “Esther is one of the hardest working people I know, taking on more
Esther Akwii LLM’20
work than seemed humanly possible. All the while she brought a lot of sunshine into otherwise gloomy Vermont winters,” said CAFS Director Laurie Beyranevand JD’03. “While we are reluctant to see her go, we take some solace in knowing she’ll be just a short drive away.”
Law at the Intersection of Agriculture and Energy In August, the VLS team behind the Farm and Energy Initiative—a collaboration between the Institute for Energy and the Environment and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems— announced the launch of their new website. Directed by Staff Attorney and Assistant Professor Genevieve Byrne, the open-access resource helps farmers, researchers, and policymakers craft solar siting policies that build a renewable energy infrastructure while also preserving farmland. Many students contributed to the initiative, including Carlson Swafford JD/MELP’20, who shares his insights. “I came to VLS to learn how to use policy to create enabling environments that reward appropriate economic activity and propagate equitable socio-ecological systems. I was and am convinced that our economy can and does thrive with more complete environmental value sets. When I learned about the Farm and Energy Initiative (FEI), I jumped at the opportunity because it touched so many points I wanted to address. My work with the FEI has been really useful because my project—analyzing solar siting on agricultural land— focused on questions at the nexus of economic and environmental change, including development pressure, existing activities, ecosystem services, and planning. Renewable energy generally provides a fascinating case study that illustrates how small policy shifts can change revenue flows and alter the economics of downstream projects significantly. Our work revealed how complex the question of renewable energy siting can be. The work showed me how farmers could diversify operations in a way that provides more financial stability
while also decreasing inputs and environmental harms. However, the work also raised many ancillary questions that have driven me to explore other policy areas, including local and impact investment pathways, producer and consumer cooperatives, securities reporting and regulation, zoning, open-source licensing, the sharing economy generally, energy cropping, and most recently, renewable natural gas. Working with the FEI is like a thread that you can’t stop pulling. You may pick up the thread on a farm in Windsor County, Vermont, only to look up and discover that you’re discussing the Paris Agreement. On the way back home, you’ll talk about FERC, regional energy and compliance markets, state-level planning, and local zoning and implementation. All in all, the FEI helped me examine how the economy at large interacts with the biosphere, listen to the pain points environmentally and economically, and dream up ways to make it all flow more freely.”
— CARLSON SWAFFORD JD/MELP’20
Maggie Curran JD/ MERL’21 POSITION: Summer Associate, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Philadelphia Energy Practice Group PERSPECTIVE: “My summer at Morgan Lewis was everything I had hoped it would be, even in a remote environment. Projects I worked on included Virtual Power Purchase Agreement deals for the purchase of solar and wind energy. I completed research and drafted testimony for a Default Service Program proceeding before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Additionally, I completed research to support client interests in areas such as energy storage, offshore wind, electric vehicles, and microgrids. I was able to gain experience with a variety of different matters within the energy law field. This experience provided a great foundation for my future career.” PURPOSE: “As a JD/MERL student, I’m interested in the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. When applying for summer internships last fall, I knew that I wanted to work in energy law and I knew that I wanted to work in Philadelphia. The Masters in Energy Regulation and Law (MERL) program at VLS made that possible for me.”
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@cafscenter to see food law and policy work in action
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Bringing Community Solar to a Local Farm Community solar projects allow households and businesses to join forces and “go solar” even if they don’t Kevin Jones own a space to support a solar panel. This past summer, Energy Clinic students supported one such project close to VLS campus: at Putting Down Roots Farm, a sustainable, diversified animal and vegetable operation in Royalton, Vermont. The students successfully developed and filed a permit application for a 150-kilowatt solar array that will be owned and managed by around 30 local businesses and residents. The renewable energy credits generated will remain with the community members and reduce their carbon footprints. “The permitting process was funded with an innovative seed capital grant, that, once repaid at project closing, will be available to fund future community solar permitting projects,” said Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) Director Kevin Jones. “That will reduce the financial risk to participants, making solar energy more accessible in our local community.”
E nergy Clinic students Bede Emuka MELP’20, Christopher Heine MERL’20, Sally Natasha LLM’20, and Lucas Joseph, JD/MERL’21 visit the White Rock resident-owned community in New Hampshire.
CLIMATE JUSTICE THROUGH COMMUNITY SOLAR The team at Institute VLS’s Energy Clinic for Energy is committed to making renewable and the energy accessible Environment to all. In New Hampshire, the clinic has emerged as a leader in the field, developing groundbreaking projects that bring the benefits of solar power to low-moderate income resident-owned communities (private mobile homes on cooperatively owned land). “One barrier to solar power is the perception that solar, and other renewables, are a luxury for wealthy communities only,” said Energy Clinic Staff Attorney Jeannie Oliver LLM’14. “Our projects are helping to break down this barrier.” For example, the clinic recently completed a project at the Mascoma Meadows community in Lebanon, New Hampshire that includes 384 solar panels, which together can produce enough electricity annually to power approximately half of the 50 homes in the park. The panels were estimated to offset approximately 185,862 pounds of carbon pollution each year—the equivalent of taking 17 cars off the road annually. The panels will also save each participating household hundreds of dollars in annual energy costs.
“The Mascoma Meadows project has not only brought direct benefits to its members through lot rent reductions and reduced carbon footprint, it has also inspired other communities like it to explore the possibility of renewable energy,” Oliver said. The clinic recently completed another similar project at the White Rock community in Tilton, NH and is now working with a resident-owned mobile home park at Aberdeen West Cooperative in Stratham, NH to develop a third. Clinic students work with the client communities to apply for grant funds, contract with solar installers, draft legal agreements, apply for necessary land permits, and assist with grant compliance.
“ One barrier to solar power is the perception that solar, and other renewables, are a luxury for wealthy communities only. Our projects are helping to break down this barrier.”
— J EANNIE OLIVER LLM’14
They are also working to shape state policy. When New Hampshire was revising its net metering program—a billing mechanism that credits solar energy owners for the electricity they add back to the grid—students participated in a Public Utility Commission rulemaking to implement an “adder” (extra compensation) for solar projects in low-moderate income communities. The adder provides an additional 2–3 cents per kilowatt hour to the previous rate for electricity produced by low-moderate income solar projects, amplifying the positive benefits of renewable energy for the communities the clinic serves.
The Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) is a national and global energy policy resource focused on the energy policy of the future. Its energy law program has the largest selection of clean energy law and policy courses available, leading clean energy experiential opportunities, and a seamless integration with a world class environmental law and policy program, including unparalleled climate law course offerings. The IEE maintains a unique and vibrant student-staffed Energy Clinic, which works on developing and implementing legal and business models for community energy resources.
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Clinic Co-Pilots Legislation to
PROTECT VERMONT’S SURFACE WATERS
For evidence of Vermont’s unusually dry summer season, look no further than Vermont Law School’s backyard. This past summer the White River—a mecca for swimmers, tubers, fishers and kayakers that flows past campus—dropped to its lowest level in years. “Water levels in Vermont and across much of New England are scary right now. Fish are stressed and schooled up next to cool-water springs and the mouths of tributaries”, said Mason Overstreet MELP’13/JD’16/LLM’19, who is an avid fly fisherman, whitewater paddler, and an Environmental Advocacy Clinic (EAC) Staff Attorney. “The drought is a wake-up call that Vermont is not immune to the effects of climate change.” At the same time, demands for surface water from Vermont’s industrial, agricultural, and municipal users are growing, further stressing surface water levels strained from erratic weather patterns. That risk is magnified by a lack of clear policy. In particular, there is no permit system in place for most surface water diversions (the act of withdrawing water for a specific use, such as crop irrigation). That means diversions can occur essentially unnoticed and without regulation. That’s why Overstreet, along with a group of student clinicians in the EAC, has been working tirelessly to pass legislation aimed at protecting Vermont’s surface waters. Most recently, the EAC represented a coalition of environmental organizations—including National Wildlife Federation and the Vermont Natural Resources Council—to introduce and advocate for a new bill to protect water resources: Act H.833. Act H.833 would establish a Surface Water Diversion and Transfer Working Group to investigate the environmental, economic, and
recreational impacts of surface water diversions. The group would research current surface water diversions in the state, evaluate the need for quantifying and regulating surface water diversion, and, if appropriate, propose legislative changes to protect the state’s watersheds. “The group is tasked with giving the aquatic environment a voice at the negotiating table when multiple cumulative uses of the same surface water are under discussion,” said Grey Hagwood of Trout Unlimited State Council, one of the coalition members. “We might actually know for the first time how much of our surface waters are diverted from our rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds.” This summer, H.833 passed the Vermont House of Representatives, followed by the Vermont Senate. In October it offically became law, and that is a major step in the right direction, says Overstreet. “On first glance, it looks like a small piece of legislation,” Overstreet said. “But it’s a huge step forward toward Vermont proactively protecting its precious surface waters in an era of climate change and competing uses.”
The Environmental Advocacy Clinic (EAC) is a public interest law firm housed within VLS, focused on safeguarding climate, protecting waters, championing wildlife and habitats, and fighting for healthy communities. EAC students learn how to be lawyers by tackling real-world environmental cases. They represent clients ranging from major conservation organizations like National Wildlife Federation to marginalized communities struggling to access justice.
Shutting Down DAPL Aided by a brief filed by the Environmental Advocacy Clinic, a federal judge ordered the shutdown of the Hillary Hoffmann Dakota Access Pipeline in July. Vermont Law School Professors Hillary Hoffmann and Ken Rumelt LLM’12, along with Environmental Advocacy Clinic Director Jim Murphy LLM’06, contributed to the historic July ruling. They filed a “friend of the court” amicus brief in the case earlier this summer on behalf of 37 members of Congress, including Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Representatives Raul Grijalva, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Debra Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna), and other champions of indigenous rights. “This is a victory for good government and protection of our waters and other resources,” said Hoffmann. “And above all, it gives a voice to the marginalized communities who are most directly affected by major federal actions like the approval of potentially dangerous pipelines.” Hoffman, an expert on federal Indian law, natural resources law, and public lands law, also released a new book this summer detailing the history, context, and future of the ongoing legal fight to protect indigenous cultures. Titled A Third Way: Decolonizing the Laws of Indigenous Cultural Protection, the book discusses how tribes are reshaping various laws in a way that protects and invigorates their own cultural values.
“ This is a victory for good government and protection of our waters and other resources. And above all, it gives a voice to the marginalized communities who are most directly affected by major federal actions like the approval of potentially dangerous pipelines.” The banks of the White River in Vermont Law School’s backyard T H E
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— P ROFESSOR HILLARY HOFFMANN
PA R T N E R S H I P S F O R
Environmental Law AT V E R M O N T L AW S C H O O L
The U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law (PEL) is a collaborative program to advance environmental and energy law and policy in China and throughout Southeast Asia. The goal of PEL, which is supported by a number of public and private organizations, is to strengthen the rule of law in environmental protection and to build capacity among individuals and academic, government, and privatesector institutions to solve environmental problems. VLS Mission Scholars visit a Chinese NGO in 2019
ENVIRONMENTAL MISSION SCHOLARS IN ACTION Through its Environmental Mission Scholars program, the U.S.Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law (PEL) supports young legal professionals in China on their paths to becoming environmental advocates and stewards. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the PEL 2020 student cohort has continued engaging in environmental legal advocacy on the ground and providing legal services to environmental NGOs in China.
HERE ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS: ■ A ttorney Lu Peiyuan, a mission scholar
based in the Environmental Law Clinic at Wuhan University, assisted an NGO in filing environmental public interest litigation (EPIL) to stop water pollution allegedly caused by a chemical plant in Shiyan City of Hubei Province— the very first EPIL case this NGO has filed. The court has accepted the case, and attorney Lu will help to litigate it. ■ W orking at the Research Center of Duke
Kunshan University, mission scholar and
Latest from THE
A meeting of the Research Initiative on Sustainable Trade and Investment
The Law Laboratory for International Sustainable Development researches innovative law and policy instruments, working globally with research institutes, NGOs, and international development agencies to promote an integrated and sustainable approach to economic, environmental, and development law.
attorney Li Mengqi LLM’21 supported a civil society organization by filing a legal opinion letter. The letter challenged the local government’s decision to develop a wetland in Shanghai that is an important habitat for migratory birds. ■ M ission scholars Qiao Hailing and Wang Xinyi
are working as legal and policy assistants for Friends of Nature, a Chinese environmental NGO. They helped to draft a legislative study report on China’s National Park and Protected Areas legislations.
Trade and investment policies figure prominently in policy debates—and for good reason. These policies not only shape economic opportunities within and between countries; they also affect environmental and natural resource conservation, health and security, poverty reduction, social justice, and economic justice. “In order for global society to fully reap the benefits of trade and investment,” said Law Laboratory for International Sustainable Development Director Sheng Sun MELP’18, “policies need to not only promote growth, but also provide precautionary safeguards against a variety of public interest risks.” That’s why the Law Lab recently launched the Research Initiative on Sustainable Trade and Investment (RISTI), a group of researchers from around the globe studying how trade and investment law and policy interact with other sectors, and challenges and opportunities arising from this interaction. RISTI seeks to build shared knowledge based on evidence and full-
spectrum perspectives from government entities, civil societies, and private companies upstream and downstream. Back on campus, the Lab is preparing the next generation of law and policy practitioners to Derek Tanizaki-Hudson JD’21 confront the challenge of what Sun describes as “the partisan tumult that is becoming an inescapable part of public service.” Derek Tanizaki-Hudson JD’21 joins the Lab this fall as a research associate studying methods of resolving policy conflicts in international renewable energy markets and supply chains. Sun is excited to have TanizakiHudson on the team as they delve into research on real-world policy gridlocks, create space for dialogue and deliberation, and propose innovative ideas for dispute resolution and collaboration. V E R M O N T L A W . E D U / E L C
Mariana Muñoz JD’21 POSITION: Litigation Law Clerk, Earthjustice PERSPECTIVE: “I have been fully engaged
ENVIRONMENTAL TAXATION IN THE COVID-19 ERA Can clever tax policies help solve environmental problems? VLS’s Environmental Tax Policy Institute, directed by Professor Janet E. Milne, aims to address that question. By serving as a resource for the public and private sectors, nongovernmental organizations, the press, and academia, the institute seeks to better inform the public policy debate about the role of environmental taxes at the federal, state, and local levels. In September, the institute chaired the 21st Global Conference on Environmental Taxation (GCET21) along with Aarhus University in Denmark and Macquarie University in Australia. Around 70 experts from six continents met virtually to explore a wide range of topics, all centered around the theme of Environmental Taxation in an Era of COVID-19. An opening keynote panel highlighted COVID-related opportunities and hurdles for market-based instruments, while the closing keynote session discussed litigation challenging Canada’s carbon pricing framework, argued before the highest court the week of GCET21.
Student-led Symposium Focuses on a Decarbonized Future Each fall, VLS’s student-run Vermont Journal of Environmental Law hosts a symposium drawing experts from around the country and the world. The theme of this year’s event is “Don’t be a Fossil Fool: Transitioning to, living in, and protecting a decarbonized world.” The event will include a keynote speech by University of Dundee Professor Raphael Heffron, as well as panels on clean energy, energy justice, nature-based solutions, and cyber security. It’s also free and open to the public; tune in on October 16 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at vermontlaw.edu/live.
Professor Milne works with students at VLS to research and develop publications on tax policy. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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PURPOSE: “Not only does the work I do daily align with what I want to do as a practicing attorney one day, but the organization, and their work, promotes and advocates for social and environmental justice, which is why I came to law school. I want to fight for a more understanding and equitable nation that addresses challenges and inequities on their face instead of shying away from change because it may be the easier thing to do.”
P rofessor Janet Milne (right) directs the Environmental Tax Policy Institute
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL TAX POLICY INSTITUTE?
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in a variety of projects ranging from opposing challenges to bedrock environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, to conducting extensive legal research regarding standing and venue. Additionally, I am working on a project that involves determining how to bring about a suit from the start; addressing questions such as which statutes are implicated, where and how can we advocate for our clients using existing law, or whether it be more beneficial to fight against the injustice resulting from the current law. Finally, I have attended seminars with attorneys and guest speakers such as Nikkolas Smith, an “artivist” who portrays current social justice issues impacting our nation through art.”
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Andrew Cliburn JD’21 POSITION: Summer Intern, WildEarth Guardians
PERSPECTIVE: “I was fortunate enough to land my dream law school job. What initially attracted me to Guardians was their cutting-edge litigation in climate and energy, a decade-long legacy that has had a huge impact on how legal challenges proceed against fossil fuel extraction on public lands. About one quarter of U.S. CO2e emissions come from fossil fuels extracted from America’s public lands. Fossil fuel reserves currently in the ground on our public lands are enough (on their own!) to force our climate well beyond 2C if they were to be combusted. So the work to quickly slow that extraction down— indeed to shut it down—is very, very important. This summer, I’m working on several projects with the Guardians Climate and Energy group. I’m also fortunate enough to be working with the Wild Rivers group under Guardians’ managing attorney—which is awesome and a priceless learning experience.”
PURPOSE: “As a second-career law student, I knew before coming to VLS what I would do with a law degree. I would work relentlessly, and for as long as I’m able, to get justice for those whose voices are systemically underrepresented in our legal system—non-human and human alike. Our system can work for everyone— including the future generations of all life—it just takes advocates willing to fight vigorously to make that happen.”
“ I would work relentlessly, and for as long as I’m able, to get justice for those whose voices are systemically underrepresented in our legal system. ”
— ANDREW CLIBURN JD’21
Environmental Faculty Profile: JONATHAN ROSENBLOOM When it comes to building a more sustainable “ It is incredibly encouraging to be and equitable society, Professor Jonathan around young individuals who are Rosenbloom believes in keeping it local. constantly talking and thinking “I’ve always been attracted to the concept and the reality of community,” he said. “National about how they can create a better standards may be critical in some instances. But planet and future. And let’s be when we govern at the federal level, policies regulate honest: Vermont is awesome.” generic ‘water’ or ‘forests.’ Whereas at the local level — P ROFESSOR JONATHAN ROSENBLOOM we regulate ‘this river, the river where my kids and I go kayaking’ and ‘this tree, the tree where I proposed to my wife.’ There is a very deep connection to place Associate Dean for Environmental Programs that permeates local regulations.” Jenny Rushlow. “His work reimagining local land Rosenbloom explores that connection between use policies through the lens of sustainability, and policy and place with the Sustainable Development sharing that work through open access resources Code (SDC), a resource that helps communities for local governments, is making a difference in the shape more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world—making him a perfect fit for our community.” communities through local ordinances. Local Rosenbloom officially joined VLS faculty governments face myriad challenges today, from earlier this year, a move that was a long time COVID-19, to climate change, to racial justice. coming. “About 10 years ago I went to the very first The SDC helps them become more adaptable and environmental law colloquium at VLS, and it was resilient, especially in smaller immediately apparent that I found municipalities that might not have my place,” Rosenbloom recalled. the luxury of several planners or “Being around a smart, caring, and a staff member specializing in innovative faculty is critical for sustainability, and whose codes are improving the environment and for often outdated. growing as an individual.” Rosenbloom became involved Now, when he’s not teaching in the SDC while on the faculty at VLS courses like Legislation Drake University in Iowa; since & Regulation and State & becoming the project’s executive Local Government, you’ll find director in 2016, he’s worked Rosenbloom woodworking, creating with an interdisciplinary group large charcoal architectural of academics and practitioners drawings, or kayaking and camping (including lawyers, planners, with his family and friends. city staff, economists, and You’ll also find him continuing A sketch of the Manhattan Municipal Building others) to draft over 450 policy to build out the SDC—now by Jonathan Rosenbloom recommendations supported by alongside Center for Agriculture over 3000 ordinances—all outlined in an easilyand Food Systems and VLS student research digestible format at sustainablecitycode.org. assistants. “It is incredibly encouraging to be In conjunction with the Center for Agriculture around young individuals who are constantly and Food Systems, the SDC’s Food Security and talking and thinking about how they can create a Sovereignty chapter launched on September 1. better planet and future,” Rosenbloom said of the “Jonathan brings so much to the table as students he’s encountered at VLS. “And let’s be a professor, scholar, and innovator,” said VLS honest: Vermont is awesome.” V E R M O N T L A W . E D U / E L C
RANDY ABATE JD/MSL’89 published the second edition of his book, What Can Animal Law Learn From Environmental Law? (Environmental Law Institute Press) in July 2020.
KEVIN BERNSTEIN JD’85 has been selected for inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America 2021 in the fields of energy law, environmental law, and environmental litigation. WILLIAM EUBANKS LLM’08 teamed up with VLS’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic to file an amicus brief on behalf of members of the US House and Senate, seeking to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.
MARGARET EVERSON JD’01 was named acting director of the National Park Service. CEDAR WILKIE GILLETTE JD’17 was appointed as the District of Oregon’s first missing and murdered indigenous persons coordinator. LAUREN HOPKINS JD’08 has been elected to the World Environment Center’s Board of Directors. JEHMAL HUDSON JD’06 was appointed to the Virginia State Corporation Commission.
EDWARD KEABLE JD’86, a longtime top lawyer at the Interior Department, is now the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona.
TAMARA TOLES O’LAUGHLIN JD/MELP’09 penned an opinion piece in Grist titled, “If you care about
Jehmal Hudson JD’06
the planet, you must dismantle white supremacy.” WILLYJANE PATRY JD’19/MELP’16 was named deputy state’s attorney responsible for the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases in Caledonia County, Vermont. JOHN SHEA MSEL’82 has been selected for inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America 2021 for environmental law and environmental litigation.
ALBERTO VALENTIN LLM’19 is the new director of Washington State Transportation Department’s Community Engagement & Environmental Justice Division.
PETER VETERE JD’11 joined the firm of Mackie Shea Durning, PC as an associate. T H E
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ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER Vermont Law School 164 Chelsea Street South Royalton, VT 05068 vermontlaw.edu/elc
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SEPTEMBER 26, 2020 SEPTEMBER 24–25, 2020
GLOBAL CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENTAL TAXATION The 21st “GCET,” co-chaired by VLS’s Environmental Tax Policy Institute, is held virtually this year. The theme is “Environmental Taxation in the COVID-19 Era.”
THE HOTHOUSE EARTH PODCAST! VERMONTLAW.EDU/PODCAST
COLLOQUIUM ON ENVIRONMENTAL SCHOLARSHIP The 11th annual Colloquium on Environmental Scholarship at VLS offers the opportunity for environmental law scholars to present their worksin-progress and recent scholarship.
OCTOBER 16, 2020
VERMONT JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW SYMPOSIUM Organized by VLS’s student-run environmental law journal, this year’s symposium theme is “Don’t Be a Fossil Fool: Transitioning to, living in, and protecting a decarbonized world.” Tune in via livestream at vermontlaw.edu/live.