Environmental Law Courses

The courses listed below provide a taste of the environmental law courses offered. This list includes the courses taught in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 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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Courses

Abrams Environmental Law Clinic

Students in the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic promote clean energy, fight against water pollution, protect natural resources and human health, and address legacy contamination. Students learn practical legal skills, such as conducting factual investigations, interviewing witnesses and preparing affidavits, reviewing administrative determinations, drafting motions, working with experts, arguing motions and presenting at trial or an administrative hearing. The Clinic represents regional and national environmental organizations and individuals and often works with co-counsel. In addition to litigation, the Clinic may also engage in legislative reform and rule-making efforts; students interested solely in that kind of work should notify the instructor before joining the Clinic. While the course does not have any pre-requisites, students are strongly encouraged to take an environmental law, energy law, and/or administrative law courses at some point during their time in the clinic. A student enrolling in the Clinic for the first time should sign up for two credits; in subsequent quarters, the student may enroll for one, two or three credits per quarter after consultation with clinic faculty. Evaluation based on legal research and writing, oral presentation and advocacy. Participation may be considered in final grading.

Previously:

  • Spring 2022: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Winter 2022: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Autumn 2021: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Spring 2021: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Winter 2021: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Autumn 2020: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Spring 2020: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Winter 2020: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Autumn 2019: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Winter 2019: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Autumn 2018: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Spring 2018: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Winter 2018: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock
  • Autumn 2017: Mark N. Templeton and Robert A. Weinstock

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).

Previously:

  • 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.

Previously:

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

Energy Transactions Seminar

The Energy Transactions Seminar exposes students to current issues facing energy industry practitioners. Topics covered include United States shale developments, international energy projects, facilities procurement/construction, the natural resources curse, energy finance challenges, and energy litigation/arbitration trends. The Energy Law Seminar also includes two competitive simulations: (1) shale/private equity simulation in which students are divided into management and private equity backers and seek to negotiate joint ventures; and (2) West Africa exploration simulation, in which teams bid on real 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 grade is based on in-class participation (including presentations and simulation performance), negotiation sessions between class meetings, written agreements/memoranda, and a final essay (in the form of a blog post). Participation may be considered in final grading.

Previously:

  • 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.

Previously:

  • 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 shares 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.

Previously:

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

Food Law

This seminar will examine issues relating to food law and food policy. Topic covered will include: food safety, food labeling, genetically modified agriculture, corn policy, regulation of food quality, factory farming, restaurant regulations, and more. Students will have to write an SRP paper and make a presentation in class. Participation may be considered in final grading.

Previously:

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

Greenberg Seminar: (Re)Building Bridges: Can Reviving & Reimagining Public Infrastructure Save America?

The traditional rationale for government spending on public infrastructure is to solve collective action problems. However, in recent years, governments have struggled to maintain existing infrastructure, much less expand it to be inclusive of new needs. Why is building infrastructure and maintaining it so difficult in the present day? Could government spending on public infrastructure be a means to facilitate collective action and to create collective identity? Can expanding and improving shared resources and public spaces give the United States a better and more unified future? Should we expand our notion of what counts as public infrastructure? In contemporary society, is access to some sorts of public infrastructure essential or even a right? How can or should equity analysis impact public infrastructure? This seminar exploring public infrastructure will raise these and other questions.

We will begin by considering what is - or should be - considered part of our shared public infrastructure. We will then examine classic examples of public infrastructure-think roadways, bridges, and water systems-and the challenge of addressing the current collapsing state of American infrastructure. Then we will move on to press the boundaries of what we consider public infrastructure-from public parks to schools to healthcare access-and to ask how our conception of public infrastructure reflects shared values about what public goods are worth providing at a societal level. We will conclude with a focus on lessons learned throughout the year-why are shared spaces and services important? What are the societal benefits of robust and reliable public infrastructure? As we deal with a tumultuous time, a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and struggles for justice, how should we change public infrastructure-in terms of both its concrete and its conceptualization-in the United States in the coming decade? We are excited to have the conversation with you.

Previously:

  • Spring 2021: Robert A. Weinstock and Amy Marie Hermalik
  • Winter 2021: Robert A. Weinstock and Amy Marie Hermalik
  • Autumn 2020: Robert A. Weinstock and Amy Marie Hermalik

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 Dylan Baker at drbaker@uchicago.edu.

This class requires a major paper (20-25 pages) and will have end of class presentations on November 17 from 4:15-8:15pm. Participation may be considered in final grading.

Previously:

  • 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. 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. Participation may be considered in final grading.

Previously:

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

Public Land Law

This course introduces the law governing public lands in the United States, including the preservation and the exploitation of the natural resources on those lands. The course deals with the administrative structures and the legal doctrines that have been developed to control use and enjoyment of the public lands. It takes up selected subjects to illustrate how the system works. Among possible subjects for inclusion are: the national parks, timber policy, grazing rights, mining law, protection of wildlife, and wilderness preservation. The choice of subjects to be studied will depend in large part on the interests of the students who enroll. This class has a final take-home examination.

Previously:

  • Autumn 2020: R. H. Helmholz
  • Autumn 2018: Richard Helmholz

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 shares little overlap. A series of research papers is required. Participation may be considered in final grading.

Previously:

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