Environmental Law Program

ELP Travel Grants for Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC)

ELP Travel Grants enabled third year law students Emily Gaskin and Claire Colegrove to attend the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), hosted by the University of Oregon School of Law in Eugene, Oregon from March 2-5, 2017.

This year over 3,000 activists, attorneys, students, scientists, and concerned citizens shared their experience and expertise at the world’s largest environmental law conference. Participants attended 125 panels, workshops, and multi-media presentations addressing a range of environmental law issues. The theme of this year’s conference was “One Cause, One Voice.” The theme aimed at addressing the notion that clean air, water and land, as well as a stable climate, are necessary for all human health and welfare — regardless of differences of geography, culture, and political ideology.
Emily and Claire were joined via Skype by Environmental Law Program (ELP) Director David Forman and Associate Dean Denise Antolini, for a panel discussion on the role of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in shaping international and domestic law. One of the panel attendees was former Richardson Law Professor Casey Leigh (formerly Jarman) who founded ELP in 1987. The panelists showcased the role of law students, law professors, and environmental lawyers at the IUCN World Conservation Congress held in Honolulu, Hawai‘i (September 1-10, 2016), including the IUCN Members’ Assembly as well as the Tony Oposa Intergenerational Moot Court and workshop (held during the IUCN Forum). Our Richardson representatives also discussed key strategic outcomes including: the World Commission on Environmental Law, the World Declaration on the Environmental Rule of Law, and the Global Judicial Institute of Environmental Law.

PIELC 2017 included panels on a great variety of environmental topics spanning from oil and gas infrastructure to climate change migration to endangered species protection. At a panel on Legal Strategies for Combatting Predator Control programs, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorney Zach Strong discussed the effectiveness of State Environmental Policy Acts (SEPAs). Mr. Strong noted that the Hawaiʻi Environmental Policy Act (HEPA) was among the five strongest SEPAs in nation for wildlife protection. Additionally relevant to Hawaiʻi was a panel on contrasting the environmental implications of distributed versus utility scale energy systems. The panelists discussed large-scale renewable energy impacts on ecosystems, unanticipated and unmitigated impacts of large-scale projects, as well as legal challenges to large-scale renewable energy projects on public and private lands. Most critically, the panelists discussed efforts in several states to expand distributed energy resources (DER) including rooftop solar, and how the drafting of relevant policies to hold DER back despite widespread public support.

The conference concluded with a keynote presentation by ELP Professor Maxine Burkett on climate displacement, migration, and relocation.  In setting the stage for the current state of the law concerning climate migration both internationally and domestically, Professor Burkett stated: “What we know from the climate projections is that the kind of surprises I’ve described and phenomena like climate induced displacement, migration and relocation will shake the foundation of the rule of law at its core.  There is no current body of law that is equipped to help us navigate this future, and do so in a spirit of cooperation, partnership, trust and a sense of shared purpose.”  Professor Burkett’s entire presentation can be viewed here.