Environmental Law/Public Health

Class Unique: 28465

This course teaches about the substance of environmental law, while pursuing the broader goal of also teaching about how the legal system functions in this area of vital public concern. We review common law toxic tort, administrative law in the context of environmental law, and several federal statutory programs. Historically this class has included planning and law students, as well as masters and PhD students from other fields, including environmental engineering, marine science, public policy, geography, business, and architecture. 

The course focuses on the structure of the legal system as its organizing principle, selecting the best examples of how the process works, including an array of classic environmental cases. We classify statutes by type, i.e., quality-based controls, technology-based controls, roadblock statutes, market-access regulation, and standard setting by cost-benefit analysis. Students learn about the dynamics of the legal system, the difficulty of bringing toxic-tort cases, and the powerful political forces and corporate dynamics that influence the development of our environmental regulatory system. We discuss issues at the intersection of law, science and economics.  Topics include:

The Common Law in Modern Environmental Law, Toxic Torts The Administrative Law Governing Environmental Law Disclosure Strategies: NEPA’s Stop-and-Think Logic Public Participation, Bent Science and Uncertainty: Prop. 65, EPCRA  Market Forces, Trade Secrets & Free Speech: Toxins, GMO’s, FDCA Harm based Ambient Standards: The Clean Air Act’s Stationary Source Regulation Administrative Standards Based on “Available Technology:” The Clean Water Act Cost-Benefit, Uncertainty, and Economics:  Safe Drinking Water Act Market Access Regulation: Toxic Substances, Pesticides, Products


Course Requirements

30%   2 quizzes (15% each)

20% Class Participation:  presentation of cases and reports, and general participation.

35% Closed Book Final (Application of rules of law to hypothetical fact situations, multiple choice and policy questions).

15% Report. (approx. 10 pages, 12 point, double spaced) Prepare a report on a state or local environmental controversy after attending a public hearing or meeting and interviewing at least two people. The paper should identify the hearing/meeting, the institutional framework for decision, and include a “road map” in the introduction. Paragraphs should have topic sentences, and footnote citations. Discuss the legal and/or policy issue(s), the arguments and perspectives on each side, and any equity or environmental concerns. Provide your perspective on the relevant issues and likely outcome. Use material from the public hearing or interviews to inform and support discussion of law and policy issues.

Learning Objectives

Understand the historical context and common law; the regulatory system and the institutional framework that governs change; roles and relationships between governmental entities and the judicial system; the importance of public involvement in shaping U.S. environmental law; and develop critical thinking, analytical, presentation and writing skills.

Class Details

Meeting Days Time Location
Monday, Wednesday 12:30 - 2:00 pm SUT 3.112

Examination information not available

Additional Information

Course Type
Grading Method
Pass/Fail Allowed
Will not use floating mean GPA


Rawlins, Rachael Rawlins, Rachael