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Vermont Journal of Environmental Law Releases Top Ten Watchlist for 2021

February 10, 2021

What environmental law and policy issues will be at the forefront of 2021? The Vermont Journal of Environmental Law has released its predictions in the Top Ten Watchlist for 2021, expecting racial justice, COVID-19, and federal policy shifts to dominate the year.

Topics are accompanied by journal articles, co-authored by a VLS student and a faculty member, and written with a lay audience in mind. The articles are available at the Journal’s freshly redesigned site,

“To say 2020 was apocalyptic is an understatement,” said Associate Dean and Environmental Law Center Director Jenny Rushlow. “At the same time, we are wrapping up a presidential administration that has decimated environmental protections, with a new Biden presidency on the horizon—and cautious optimism is creeping in.”

The 2021 list includes:

1. Environmental Justice in 2020: Racial Disparities Shocking, but not Surprising

2. An Era of Pandemics: How China and the U.S. Must Take the Lead in Wildlife and Human Health Protection

3. Making America Green Again: Rejoining the Paris Agreement on Day One of the Biden-Harris Administration is a Welcome First Step

4. Wildfires, Air Pollution, and the EPA

5. COVID-19’s Shot Across the Bow: Create Resilient Regional Food Systems

6. Climate Science and Energy Policy Heading in Opposite Directions

7. Kenya’s Petrochemical Problem: Negotiating the U.S.-Kenya Free Trade Agreement

8. Unearthing Virtual Pipelines

9. To Rebuild or Not to Rebuild? An Examination of NEPA and the Environmental Regulatory State

10. Looming United States Water Wars

Writing the list presented a special challenge in 2020, as students and faculty had to coordinate remotely. “Even though we had to be physically distant, developing the Watch List gave us some sense of normalcy in communicating with faculty that we no longer see in the hallways at VLS,” said VJEL editor Hunter Sutherland JD’21. “I am proud of the passion and resilience shown by these students and their faculty partners.”

“As we look ahead to 2021, the Vermont Law School community remains steadfastly focused on the future, honing our skills to protect future generations. Let’s use the warning calls on the Watch List to batten the hatches, band together, and move forward.”
–Associate Dean Rushlow