Environmental Law

This course examines the large and growing body of law addressing relationships between human activities and the environment, including the legal regimes governing air, water, toxic chemicals, hazardous waste, resource use, biodiversity and ecosystems, and climate change. The course assesses key features of these legal regimes, including the array of rationales for environmental protection (ethical, economic); the choice of policy instruments (e.g. standards, taxes, trading, information disclosure); the roles of different branches of government (legislative, executive, judicial) and levels of government (local, state, national, international), and of non-governmental actors; and the skills of policy analysis, policy design, and regulatory and statutory construction. Throughout the course, we will study how each component of this body of law handles four key questions: How serious a problem (risk assessment and priority-setting)? How much protection is desirable (risk management and tradeoffs)? How to achieve this protection (instrument choice)? Who decides and acts upon these questions (federalism, branches and levels of government, and institutions)? The focus is on the U.S. legal system, with some comparative analysis of the law in other countries and international regimes.

This course, Law 235, is intended for professional and graduate students, and is also cross-listed as Environ 835 in the Nicholas School of the Environment. Professional and graduate students in the Nicholas School who would like to enroll in this course under Environ 835 should contact the NSOE Office of Academic & Enrollment Services, Erika Lovelace, e-mail or telephone 919-613-7459. (The Law School and the law professor teaching this course do not have "permission numbers.") (Professional and graduate students in the Sanford School of Public Policy, or other schools outside the Law School, should also contact the Nicholas School's office of Enrollment Services to enroll in Environ 835.) For undergraduate students, the Nicholas School offers a different course, Environ 265.

Course Number: 
Course Credits: 
Course Types: 
Course Learning Outcomes: 
(a) Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law
(b) Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context


*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.