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Vermont Law School will continue with mostly virtual classes during the spring semester, however limited on-campus classes and access to campus services will be offered. For information on campus access, health and safety protocols, and testing requirements please visit vermontlaw.edu/covid19.

Environmental Courses

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​Find all Environmental Courses currently available to students below.

Environmental Courses

5105/Administrative Law

Provides students with a working knowledge of the general principles of administrative law; implementation of legislative policy through administrative agencies, including the role of administrative agencies in the governmental process, rule making, adjudication, and judicial review of agency actions.

5108/Introduction to Agriculture and Food Law and Policy

Feeding a growing global population—9.6 billion by 2050—without destroying our planet is one of the critical challenges of our time. Overlay the impacts of climate change, international trade, and the influence of corporations on agricultural production, and this is one of the most complex areas of the law and policy. It is also one of the fastest growing areas, fueled by the food movement both domestically and internationally, greater public awareness of food issues and concerns related to the healthfulness of our food. Indeed, this is an exciting time to be studying food systems law.

5112/Science for Environmental Law

Introduces students to the science critical to environmental law and policy, including climate science, air pollution, toxicology, and natural resource management. It also introduces students to scientific thinking and culture, and explores some of the challenges involved in effectively using science in legal and policy decision-making.

5113/Legal & Policy Writing Seminar

This course will introduce students to key principles of clear and precise writing, familiarize them with legal organization and IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion), and teach them the basics of legal research. These basic skills help students succeed in their other classes, as well as in their professional careers. For Masters Students Only

5115/Environmental Law

An introduction to the broader categories of protecting human health and the environment to both assess the successes and failures of environmental protection in the U.S. and gain more detailed substantive knowledge of several key statutes.

5122/Communications, Advocacy and Leadership

Designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to operate effectively in a variety of careers. Topics include communications to achieve public policy aims; development and implementation of legislative and policy campaigns; and management of enterprises. Offered as both ENV and RSJ.

5125/Land Use Regulation

A basic course in land use law. Covers planning and all manner of private and public land use regulation from common interest communities, to subdivisions, to zoning, to variances, to planned development districts, to transit-oriented development, to traditional neighborhood design, to form-based codes, to growth management.

5205/Air Pollution Law and Policy

An exploration of the major programs and regulatory strategies embodied in the Clean Air Act that are used to address conventional air pollution, toxic air pollution, and greenhouse gas pollution.

5209/Law of Toxics and Hazardous Waste

Examines CERCLAs broad liability and cost recovery provisions, emergency response and cleanup requirements that extend beyond the usual Superfund sites. Brownfields, natural resources damages, community involvement, recent Supreme Court decisions and statutory amendments will also be addressed. The course will examine how parties escape or limit liability through due diligence, defenses, pollution prevention, settlement, and cost allocation.

5212/Climate Change and the Law

Climate change is the most profound social and environmental issue of the 21st century. This course will integrate the emerging science and law of climate change along with economic and inter-generational equity aspects of the problem. We will consider how existing federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and NEPA may be used to address climate change as well as how new more comprehensive laws may be fashioned. Different policy instruments will be considered including carbon taxes and emissions trading.

5214/Climate Change Mitigation

Addresses current legal, policy, and economic incentives and problems in our attempt to mitigate our carbon footprint and reduce greenhouse gasses to a more tolerable level. Examines on-going controversies and initiatives at the local, state, regional, national, and international level.

5218/International Climate Change Law

Classes offered under this designation explore special areas of interest, including newly developing areas of law, or specialties of visiting faculty and fellows. Students should consult registration information specific to this course.

5220/Environmental Economics and Markets

Introduces students to the discipline of economics and exposes them to debates over the use of market-based instruments in environmental and energy policy. Through a mixed media approach discussion offers a comparative economic approach that highlights how the prevailing economic system has been incongruous with the social and ecosystem welfare.

5223/Environmental Governance in the Developing World

This course is designed to introduce students to the unique challenges regarding the development, implementation, and enforcement of good environmental governance systems in the developing world. To that end, this course will generally eschew discussions of international environmental law and multilateral environmental agreements, and will instead focus on the domestic environmental law of developing countries, with a focus on China and South East Asia.

5225/Environmental Governance Field Study

This course can only be taken in conjunction with ENV5223.

5226/Energy Law and Policy in a Carbon-Constrained World

Examines key issues in American energy policy and searches for ways to ease the strains which that policy puts upon environmental sustainability. The course reviews fundamental facts about our energy demands and sample regulatory orders and legal writings that address many of those elements from the perspective of a legal review. Background readings will include ethical issues of social justice in siting projects and meeting or limiting energy demand, the statutory schemes underlying traditional regulation, and an introduction to wholesale electric markets.

5228/Energy Regulation, Markets and the Environment

Builds on the course Energy Law and Policy in a Carbon-Constrained World by exposing students to the legal, economic, and structural issues involved in energy regulation and energy markets, focusing on electricity. The course examines the evolution, theory and techniques of monopoly regulation; the current processes for rate setting; and the development of competitive, market-based alternatives. The course exposes students to the latest approaches to managing the electric grid, to renewable energy strategies and procurement, energy efficiency, demand side management and green markets.

5229/Environmental Issues in Business Transactions

An exploration the types of environmental risks and issues that are commonly confronted in a variety of business-related transactions such as the acquisition of all of the stock of a company, asset purchases, real estate deals, leases and financings. Special focus on how the environmental issues in transactions are identified and managed in the course of a deal. The unique environmental issues associated with the purchase and redevelopment of contaminated properties or so-called Brownfield sites are also covered.

5230/Global Energy Law

Global Energy Law and Policy explores the current policy framework in a particular region outside of the United States with a focus on clean energy policies. The course will explore the regions policy development process, the current energy policy framework, policies implementing global and regional climate commitments and emerging issues.

5235/Natural Resources Law

Examines the statutes and regulations governing the management of the federal lands and their resources. Considers the historical, political, and ecological influences on the law and management of these resources, and includes an introduction to the agencies with jurisdiction over the components of the federal estate.

5238/Global Sustainability Field Study

The Cuban Farm and Energy Tour.

5239/Land Transactions and Finance

An introduction to land transaction and finance, covering the study of the title system, title insurance and land contracts, the private development process, and modern real estate financing, including private financing and public financing. The course also introduces the public-private development process including redevelopment, military base conversion and Brownfield's redevelopment.

5242/Resilience and Sustainability

There is a rapidly growing global movement to integrate "resilience" and/or "sustainability" into decision making at all levels in the public and private sectors. In this course, we will explore the law’s role in this movement, and how it can serve as a mechanism for positive change. We will see how far we can push the law to help promote a more resilient and sustainable future.

5245/Water Resources Law

Water is the planet's most precious natural resource. Deciding how it will be shared among competing demands is one of a society's most challenging questions. Water Resources Law is a review of the law and policies concerned with the allocation of water resources in the United States. This course will examine the three main systems of water law in the United States: Eastern riparian systems, the prior appropriation doctrine of the West, and the nationally diverse laws regulating the use of groundwater.

5246/Water Quality

An in depth analysis of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Ocean Dumping Act, along with relevant regulations, policies and case law. Other federal statutes are covered more selectively, along with state laws. Regulation of groundwater contamination is included as well as tort claims for damages.

5304/Comparative Environmental Law Research

A research and writing seminar that provides a framework and faculty supervision for students to engage in comparative environmental law research. While the seminar is designed primarily to support VLS students participating in the US-China joint student research projects and will focus generally on China, the seminar is sufficiently broad to accommodate students interested in researching the environmental law systems of other countries. An AWR class.

5305/Environmental Ethics Seminar

Explores the ethical foundations of environmental reasoning, including: intrinsic value, biocentrism, utilitarianism, eco-feminism, deep ecology, social ecology, and religious/spiritual foundations of environmental reasoning. These theoretical approaches are applied to concrete environmental policy issues. A central goal of the course is to assist students in developing a personal and professional environmental ethic. AWR.

5307/Animals and the Law

This course considers the tensions inherent in trying to serve the needs of humans and animals, plus constitutional limitations of justifiability, due process, and First Amendment guarantees. Students become familiar with litigation tools commonly used in animal law practice.

5310/Environmental Health Law Seminar

Using federal environmental law and state public health law this seminar addresses human health impacts resulting from exposure to physical, chemical, biological, and social factors in the environment. Coverage includes toxic torts, lead poisoning prevention, food protection, and pesticides. Public policy, and the role of government as policymaker and regulator, are emphasized. AWR

5322/Public Lands and Tribal Rights

This course provides a specialized field setting in which students will learn about the statutes, regulations, and other legal mechanisms (like tribal treaty rights and governmental rights) that govern protected public lands, such as National Parks and National Monuments. It will also give students an in-depth legal, cultural, and historical perspective on the various rights and interests held by the indigenous peoples who ancestors occupied these lands for thousands of years prior to European settlers arriving on the Colorado Plateau.

5335/Extinction and Climate Change

Examines the ecological, social and ethical consequences of biological impoverishment and considers various legal and policy options to address the phenomenon of climate change. The course addresses the extent to which laws like the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and some international laws can be used to address both conventional threats to species as well as the threat of climate change. An AWR class.

5336/Climate Change, Extinction and Adaptation

Students examine the ecological, social and ethical consequences of climate change impacts on the natural world. After reviewing climate disruption's potential to invoke significant habitat modification and biological impoverishment, students consider various legal and policy options to address both the phenomenon of climate change and its effects.

5342/Legal Adaptation to Global Warming

Using global warming adaptation as an example of how the law and legal institutions evolve in response to major social changes, the course examines the legal challenges raised by the need for our society to adapt to the impacts of global warming. Topics include the need for alternative tools for dealing with eroding coastal shores and higher flooding risks, strategies for relocating urban populations to higher ground, modifications to the Endangered Species Act and other wildlife laws, federal and state property insurance policies, and techniques for reallocating water supplies.

5343/Climate Change Adaptation in Human Systems

Examines the legal challenges raised for society to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Students will examine the confusion and inadequacy of current legal and policy structures to address new risks, and the need for alternative tools in light of rapidly changing circumstances.

5344/Alternative Fuels and Renewable Energy

With an eye toward the impacts of climate change on both natural systems and possible interference on current energy production, this course considers emerging distributed generation models, surveys the range of emerging energy technologies, and examines the local, state and federal laws and policies that govern transition to renewable energy sources.

5346/New Frontiers in Environmental Policies

Explores the proposition that successfully coping with current environmental threats requires deeper challenges to our prevailing system of political economy than mainstream environmentalism in the United States has been willing to mount. The course develops the idea that a new American environmentalism is needed and with it new environmental policy and law that go beyond the traditional realm of environmental affairs.

5349/Regulating the Marine Environment

Examines the interaction of state, federal, and international regimes in the regulation of the marine environments through the examination of issues such as the marine environment as a source of energy; the nonrenewable resources of the seabed; and the winds, waves, currents, and temperatures of the sea itself. An AWR class.

5361/Forest Policy and Law

This course will introduce students to the significant policy and legal issues affecting forests and forest management, using the forests of New England as a case study. Topics to be discussed include the management of forests on private and public lands, forest fragmentation and biodiversity loss, the impact of invasive species, recreational and other evolving forest uses, and the implications and impact of climate change.

5365/Climate Change: The Power of Taxes

This seminar explores the ways in which tax systems can effect change in the energy consumption behavior of business, industry, and consumers. The seminar addresses issues of theory, policy, politics, and law and while focusing on climate change provides students with a framework for understanding how and when to use tax measures to address other environmental problems. An AWR class

5380/Food Regulation and Policy

Presently, the United States is experiencing a resurgence in public concern over the safety of our food supply due to biotechnology, pesticide use, and unsafe food packaging, etc. This course will introduce students to the laws and policies that govern food regulation and policy in the United States.

5401/Agriculture and the Environment

Land used for agricultural purposes (timer land excepted) accounts for nearly 53% of the total land area of the United States - the largest category of land use by far. This course addresses the complex and interconnected relationship of environmental and agricultural law, its historical roots and modern developments.

5410/The Farm Bill

Introduces students to the breadth of policies and legal authorities included in the Farm Bill that Congress re-evaluates every 5 years. Time will be spent on farm safety nets, conservation and nutrition policies. This course will also demonstrate the depth that a modern farm bill reaches with impacts on private working lands and consumers. International trade, clean energy, forestry, rural development, and overall food policies will be reviewed.

5422/Animal Welfare

A broad and rapidly evolving field of law has developed concerning the welfare of animals that are used for a variety of human purposes, including food, entertainment, research, and companionship. Animals used for these purposes often endure a wide range of abuses that diminish animal welfare while also having an impact on humans. Public views about such uses of animals are rapidly changing.

5423/Ocean and Coastal Law

A review of domestic and international laws and treaties relating to coastal management, pollution, protected areas, endangered species, fish, marine mammals, wetlands, and seabed mineral and hydrocarbon resources. The course considers how effectively these legal authorities blend together to provide rational and comprehensive management and protection of marine resources.

5424/Current Issues in Western Resource Litigation

The vast majority of the United States’ public lands – National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges – are located in the West. Increasing conflicts over resource use, such as extraction versus preservation and motorized versus non-motorized recreation, has led to thousands of court cases in the last three decades. Courts play a major role in public land management. This class explores the intersection of environmental and administrative law with public land management.

5425/Clean Transportation Law and Policy

Transportation is the leading source of climate pollution in the United States. This course focuses on a key pathway to reduce those harmful emissions: the electrification of our cars, tracks and buses. We will examine the current federal landscape for regulation of tailpipe emissions and the range of clean transportation poicy options, with a particular focus on the role of electric utilities and how electric vehicles can support a smarteer, cleaner electricity grid.

5430/Ecology

Explores the principles of ecology using an interdisciplinary approach and field-based work. Course work stresses the inventorying of biotic and physical components of a landscape, examining how these components are distributed, and determining what forces drive these patterns. Topics include interpreting the natural and cultural histories of a landscape, biodiversity conservation, and the scientific method, among others.

5442/Human Rights and the Environment

Explores the links in theory and in law between the enjoyment of internationally recognized human rights and protection of the environment through the study of case law finding environmental degradation to constitute a breach of established human rights, and through the analysis of the value and limits of procedural rights and remedies in environmental law.

5446/Environmental Justice

Examines the issues of environmental justice from an environmental law perspective and from a civil rights law perspective. Explores how environmental justice issues are framed, addressed, and resolved through litigation and mediation n the U.S. and internationally.

5462/Public Lands Management - Montana Field Study

A comparative approach to competing legal mandates and diverse philosophies that make federal land management a lively topic not only in the West, but throughout the country. Resource extraction, preservation, and sustainable/multiple-use concepts are addressed.

5469/Oil & Gas Development & the Environment

Examines the legal and regulatory framework of domestic and international upstream and downstream oil and gas activities.Explores key domestic statutory and common law sources, regulations, and industry standards. Surveys selected international and comparative materials such as oil spill prevention agreements, arbitral decisions, and technical regulations.

5472/Law of Ecosystem Management

The concept of ecosystem management is sweeping through federal and state resource agencies, altering their orientation toward resource use and conservation issues, but what is the law of ecosystem management? This course explores that question beginning with an introduction to the concept of ecosystem management-its history, principles, and current state of play in concrete policy settings.

5474/Land Conservation Law

Examines the tools available to preserve ecological diversity, historic places, working lands, scenic viewsheds, and open space, such as conservation easements, purchase of sensitive lands, and private/public partnerships for land conservation. The course provides a practical understanding of both the legal and nonlegal dimensions of land conservation transactions involving conservation easements.

5478/Climate Change, Food Security and Environmental Justice

This course addresses the legal landscape of global hunger, and the ways in which climate change, population growth and economic inequality intersect with food security law and policy challenges.

5478/Global Food Security and Social Justice

This course addresses the legal landscape of global hunger, and the ways in which climate change, population growth and economic inequality intersect with food security law and policy challenges. We'll address how "food security" and "hunger" are defined and measured for policy-making purposes.

5479/Law and Policy of Local Food Systems

This course explores state and local policies that impact distribution of food, restaurant regulation, and comparisons of state-level initiatives to bolster local food markets. Students will be exposed to specific skills for small and mid-size producers and entrepreneurs working in the agricultural and food industries. Finally, students will examine the state and local food laws and emerging entrepreneurial trends in food production.

5510/Essentials of Electric Grid: Engineering

The engineering realities of electric power grids and natural gas pipelines greatly constrain the choices that lawyers and policy analysts might otherwise make. This module covers the engineering fundamentals inherent in the current and expected energy infrastructure.

5511/Essentials of Electric Grid: Business

Introduces the major financial and economic factors that energy companies use in making production and investment decisions, and how emerging environmental regulations might affect these decisions. The module will also cover deregulated market structures in the petroleum, natural gas, and electric power industries.

5512/Essentials of Electric Grid: Legal

Provides an overview of the fundamentals of energy law in both the U.S. and the European Union and addresses some of the most important problems faced by energy project development, including facility siting, environmental issues, and authority fragmentation.

5547/Energy Efficiency

This course provides an overview of the energy efficiency policies, programs and measures at the federal and state levels. It covers systems, policies and legal frameworks enabling energy efficiency to serve as an energy resource to the energy system and electric grid. It also highlights new approaches to program design.

5550/Renewable Energy Project Finance and Development

An in-depth look at the legal and regulatory issues associated with the development and project financing of renewable energy projects such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal, and the basic terms and conditions of the contracts that are necessary for a successful project financing, such as power purchase agreements, engineering contracts, fuel supply arrangements, and operation and maintenance agreements.

5550/Renewable Energy Project Finance And Development

This course will provide an in-depth look at the legal and regulatory issues associated with the development and project financing of renewable energy projects such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal. The course will explain the various ownership structures that are used for developing an energy project, such as LLC arrangements and partnership agreements.

5901/Environmental Special Topics

Classes offered under this designation explore special areas of interest, including newly developing areas of law, or specialties of visiting faculty and fellows.

5902/Environmental Special Topics

Classes offered under this designation explore special areas of interest, including newly developing areas of law, or specialties of visiting faculty and fellows.

5903/Environmental Special Topics

Classes offered under this designation explore special areas of interest, including newly developing areas of law, or specialties of visiting faculty and fellows.

6223/Ecological Governance in China

This course will introduce students to current ecological governance, law and operational regulatory requirements in China and Chinese government’s idea and efforts to transform economic development to a more green, just, innovative and inclusive growth.

6225/Ecology in Practice-China

Ecology is the study of living organisms and their environments — and the interrelationships between the two. This course aims to enhance students’ knowledge on ecological principles and applications through online and classroom teaching on key ecological concepts and integrative field investigations of the Dianchi Lake, Yunnan Province, or Beihai Wetland Ecosystem in Tengchong Country, Yunnan Province of China.

6310/Environmental Law Practice-China

This course teaches the actual practice of environmental law in China, focusing on mechanisms for raising and resolving controversies and disputes through administrative and judicial processes. This course aims to prepare students to be able to work as a staff attorney for an environmental NGO in China, but it can also equip students to work as a private attorney or public environmental law officer.

7380/Advanced Environmental Legal Research

Provides in-depth exposure to the most useful, efficient strategies and resources for environmental law research, including highly specialized information databases, advanced administrative law research, legislative history, and environmental news/updating services.