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Vanderbilt Law School Student Wins Constitutional Environmental Law Writing Competition

May 2017

(Washington, DC): Benjamin Raker, a recent graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, has been named the winner of the Environmental Law Institute’s 2016–2017 Henry L. Diamond Constitutional Environmental Law Writing Competition. Mr. Raker will receive a $2,000 award, a one-year membership to ELI, and publication of his article in the Environmental Law Reporter (ELR®), ELI’s flagship journal and one of the most often-cited law journals covering environmental and natural resource issues.

Mr. Raker’s winning entry, Decentralization and Deference: How Different Conceptions of Federalism Matter for Deference and Why that Matters for Renewable Energy, argues that in cases regarding public utility regulation, courts should not be deferring to state agencies whose interpretations of federal law differs from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “Ben’s paper applies a sophisticated federalism analysis to the area of renewable energy, with implications for current cases,” said Jay Austin, Senior Attorney at ELI and Editor-in-Chief of ELR.

Receiving honorable mention was Catherine Danley, a second-year law student at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. Her entry, Water Wars: Original Jurisdiction & Solving Interstate Water Disputes Through an Appellate Process, argues that as climate change exacerbates water shortages, the U.S. Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to determine interstate disputes should be amended to allow for an appellate process that originates in lower courts. “She addresses little-discussed but increasingly relevant aspects of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction,” Austin said.

Each year, this national competition invites law students to explore issues at the intersection of constitutional and environmental law. Entries received were judged by a panel of experienced attorneys. The competition was organized by ELI’s Program on the Constitution, Courts, and Legislation, and made possible through the generous support of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., one of the nation’s premier environmental law firms.