Environmental Law Program

Spilling Tea with ELP

At the start of each school year, the Environmental Law Program (ELP) normally hosts an open house known as “Cookies, Coffee, & Tea with ELP.”  The event provides students with an opportunity to learn about the program, course offerings, and meet the professors.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s spin-off “ELP Tea Time” event took place on September 25 at the weekly Richardson Virtual Courtyard. BYO cookies and coffee were still welcome, of course, but attendees were encouraged to “come spill the tea with ELP” – where “tea” doubled both as a beverage and in its popular culture sense as a form of gossip.

Over forty students attended the lively event, which included a presentation on the program by ELP research associates, a preview of the annual ENVIROmentors event (likely in November), and a discussion of student academic interests that ranged from sustainable development to domestic ocean law. The night’s highlight was the environmental “tea” spilled by ELP faculty in breakout rooms, recapped below for those who were unable to join us:

Professor Forman:  We criticized the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s refusal to certify questions involving implied state law preemption to the Hawai’i Supreme Court, in addition to erroneously calling an important provision of the Hawai’i Constitution “irrelevant.”  We also discussed the importance of legal writing, and why ALL of the courses taken by 1Ls are relevant to environmental law.

Professor Antolini:  Our group first discussed the history of public interest environmental litigation in Hawaiʻi.  Then we examined a specific case involving community groups that have sued a county government to challenge a development permit – and how the private developer has pursued the unusual punitive tactic of bringing claims against the environmental groups (also known as Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP)).  The lively discussion provided insights into the diversity of stakeholders in environmental law in Hawai’i and into some of the cutting-edge issues arising in public interest litigation. 

Professor Akutagawa:  We discussed the origins of the Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) legislation that was passed in 1994 as a result of recommendations that came out of the 1993 Molokaʻi Subsistence Study and Native Hawaiian homesteader efforts to utilize Indigenous knowledge to co-manage with the State, the Moʻomomi fishery important to their subsistence livelihood.  It has been an arduous 26 year journey to achieve State buy-in for CBSFA designation of Molokaʻi’s northwest coastal waters, but finally after statewide public hearings, the matter will come before the Board of Land & Natural Resources (BLNR) for review and approval some time this year.

Professor Wallsgrove:  The breakout began with student questions–discussing areas of student interest including environmental regulation in the age of COVID, and renewable energy trends in Texas and other parts of the continental U.S.   From there, the group briefly discussed some of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s jurisprudence, on topics such as greenhouse gas regulations and water resource protection.

JU 10/6/20

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