Environmental Law Courses

The courses listed below provide a taste of the environmental law courses offered. This list includes the courses taught in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. Not all of these courses are offered every year, but this list will give you a representative sample of the variety of courses we might offer over any two-year period. Other new courses will likely be offered during your time at the Law School.

PLEASE NOTE: This page does not include courses for the current academic year. To browse current course offerings, visit my.UChicago.

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Climate Change and the Law

Climate Change and the Law will address doctrinal issues related to climate change. Students will study international climate agreements, the law of climate attribution, and other issues about how the law can be used to address the climate crisis. Readings will be posted on Canvas. Students will be evaluated on the basis of a paper and a presentation. Enrollment limited to 14. Participation may be considered in final grading. Interested students should submit a brief statement of interest to the professors no later than 5pm on Monday, February 21 (hajin@uchicago.edu and jmacey@uchicago.edu).


  • Spring 2023: Hajin Kim and Joshua C. Macey
  • Spring 2022: Hajin Kim and Joshua C. Macey

Energy Law

Energy touches all of our daily lives, even as it historically remained unseen by the public eye and under-considered in the public discourse. Energy law governs the production, consumption, and disposal of energy resources.

This course examines energy law and policy in the United States. Energy law is interdisciplinary by nature, and our study of the field will reflect that. Energy law relies heavily on legal doctrine, but it also raises questions of policy, economics, and the environment. Accordingly, this course will rely on both (1) the traditional study of case law, statutes, and regulations and (2) case studies and materials that draw on and raise other aspects of energy law and policy.

The first part of the course surveys the world's primary sources of energy: coal, oil, biofuels, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear, wind, solar, and geothermal energy. This part also introduces you to the main themes that we will cover throughout the course, namely: (1) the tension between free markets and government regulation; (2) federalism issues and, more broadly, the division of U.S. regulatory authority governing energy production and use among federal, state, and local governmental units; and (3) balancing energy production and use with environmental protection. The second part of the course turns to the two major sectors of the U.S. energy economy: electricity and transportation. The third part of the course explores hot topics in energy law and policy that highlight the complex transitions taking place in today's energy systems. These topics include grid modernization and the continued role of nuclear energy.

This class has a final exam. Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Winter 2023: Joshua C. Macey
  • Autumn 2021: Joshua C. Macey
  • Spring 2021: Joshua C. Macey

Energy Transactions Seminar

The Energy Transactions Seminar exposes students to current issues facing energy transactions practitioners. Topics covered include wind, solar, and pipeline project development, domestic and international upstream oil and gas, facilities procurement/construction, the natural resources curse, energy finance, and energy litigation/arbitration trends. The Energy Transactions Seminar also includes the West Africa exploration bid round simulation, in which teams bid on petroleum licenses in West Africa, engage in a multilateral negotiation with other teams to acquire and divest license interests, and then drill wells by rolling dice to determine which of the 50 petroleum prospects are discoveries.

The student's grade will be based upon in-class participation (15%), negotiation effectiveness and performance in the simulation (25%), and a final paper (60%).


  • Spring 2023: Shelby Gaille
  • Spring 2021: Shelby Gaille

Environmental Law in Bankruptcy and Transactions

This seminar will provide an overview of environmental transactional and environmental bankruptcy topics. Environmental issues often play a critical role in business and corporate transactions. This class will provide practical skills development focusing on the environmental aspects of transactions, with a core emphasis on the identification, management and allocation of environmental liability risks in many different types of transactions. In the bankruptcy arena, this course will provide an understanding of key environmental bankruptcy concepts, how to harmonize the conflicting goals of bankruptcy and environmental law, and how environmental liabilities are managed during the bankruptcy process. Students will gain practical experience in learning how environmental bankruptcy cases are handled. This class requires a series of reaction papers. Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Spring 2023: Tobias D Chun and Jeanne Cohn
  • Spring 2022: Tobias Chun and Jeanne T. Cohn
  • Spring 2021: Tobias Chun and Jeanne T. Cohn

Environmental Law: Air, Water, and Animals

This survey course explores the major domestic policies in place to protect the environment, with a focus on clean air and water and animal conservation (e.g., the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act). The course is a complement to Professor Templeton's Toxic Torts and Environmental Justice course; neither is a prerequisite for the other, and the two share little overlap. We'll spend some time on the regulation of climate change and will discuss issues of environmental justice embedded in each of the major topics.

This class has a final exam. Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Spring 2023: Hajin Kim
  • Spring 2022: Hajin Kim
  • Spring 2021: Hajin Kim

Environmental and Energy Justice

This seminar will examine environmental and energy laws and policies from the perspectives of distributive, procedural, corrective, and social justice. After reviewing causal theories, risk and public health considerations, and constitutional and civil rights claims, the course will turn toward a review of how environmental standard-setting, permitting, and enforcement affect communities, with a particular focus on low-income communities and people of color. The seminar will also cover the emerging field of energy justice, which examines how the burdens and benefits of the energy system impact different communities. Each student will be expected to help lead at least one seminar session, and assessment will be based on class participation and a final paper (6000-7500 words)


  • Winter 2023: Mark N Templeton

Food Law

This seminar will examine issues relating to food law and food policy. Topic covered will include: food safety, food advertising and labeling, genetically modified agriculture, food deserts, regulation of food quality, restaurant regulations, and more. Students will have to write 6000-7500 word research paper (which could, but does not have to, satisfy WP or SRP credit) and make a presentation in class.

Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Winter 2023: Omri Ben-Shahar
  • Autumn 2021: Omri Ben-Shahar
  • Autumn 2020: Omri Ben-Shahar

Law and the Economics of Natural Resources Markets

Market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading are becoming widely accepted as cost-effective methods for addressing environmental concerns, especially as societies move towards a carbon-constrained future. In the last decade, we have witnessed the expansion of environmental finance to new products - carbon dioxide spot and futures contracts, sulfur dioxide futures and over-the-counter water contracts - that are now fully integrated financial instruments for hedging and speculation. These mechanisms also have potential benefits to address issues in other pressing matters such as water quality, fisheries and biodiversity protection. Non-law students must apply by emailing a resume and letter of interest to Levi Haas at lhaas@uchicago.edu. Applications are due February 29th. This class requires a series of research papers (6000-7500 words). Participation may be considered in final grading.


  • Spring 2023: Richard Sandor
  • Autumn 2021: Richard Sandor
  • Spring 2020: Richard Sandor
  • Spring 2019: Richard Sandor

Project and Infrastructure Development and Finance

This seminar is focused on the development and project financing of infrastructure facilities. These transactions feature a wide variety of commercial agreements and financial instruments, legal and financial structuring, and a significant role for lawyers. Public private partnership structures will be examined. Representative transactions, principally in the energy, transportation and public infrastructure sectors, will be selected for analysis and discussion. Infrastructure projects such as these provide a convenient vehicle for discussion of contractual provisions, structuring parameters, financial analysis, and legal practice issues common to a broad range of business and financial transactions. The classes will be discussion oriented; there will be 3-4 short papers, an analytical paper of at least 10- 13 pages based on a case study and class participation. Cumulatively, the writing assignments will require papers totaling 6000-7500 words. There are no pre-requisites, although basic corporation law is recommended. The readings will be taken from textbooks, professional journals, and actual commercial and financial contracts. A speaker from the financial community with a wide range of experience is expected. Enrollment is limited to 20 students.


  • Autumn 2022: Martin Jacobson
  • Autumn 2021: Martin Jacobson
  • Autumn 2020: Martin Jacobson
  • Autumn 2019: Martin Jacobson
  • Autumn 2018: Martin Jacobson
  • Autumn 2017: Martin Jacobson

Toxics, Toxic Torts and Environmental Injustice

This course will expose students to common law and administrative approaches for addressing actual and potential public health and environmental harms from toxic substances. The course will begin by examining concepts of risk assessment and risk management. Next, the course will look at common law approaches, including theories of liability, causation, admissibility of evidence, proximate cause, damages, and defenses. The course will then review in-depth federal laws to address these issues, such as statutes that cover solid and hazardous waste (RCRA and CERCLA (Superfund)) and potentially toxic products (FIFRA, TSCA). Throughout the course, students will learn about how individuals and groups, including low-income and people-of-color communities, have sought redress for the toxic exposures they have faced. The course is a complement to Professor Kim's Environmental Law: Air, Water, and Animals course; neither is a prerequisite for the other, and the two share little overlap.

Participation may be considered in final grading. This class requires a series of research papers (6000-7500 words).


  • Winter 2023: Mark N. Templeton
  • Winter 2022: Mark N. Templeton
  • Winter 2021: Mark N. Templeton