Each year, the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (ELPAR)—a collaboration between Vanderbilt University Law School (VULS) and ELI— identifies some of the year’s best academic articles that present legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems. The selection process is part of a class taught by ELI Senior Attorney Linda Breggin and Vanderbilt Law Professor Michael Vandenbergh. The students work in collaboration with ELI Research Associate Tori Rickman, Environmental Law Reporter (ELR) Editor-in-Chief Jay Austin, and ELR staff to select 20 of the most creative, persuasive, and feasible proposals in the environmental legal literature. The methodology used is available here. They then consult with an expert advisory committee of environmental professionals to select the top three to five articles to highlight at an annual ELPAR conference and to include in condensed form in a special issue of the ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter.
Following article selection, ELI and VULS recruit expert commenters for several of the articles from government, nongovernmental organizations, law firms, and corporations.
The project culminates in a joint ELI/VULS publication, the August issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter. It includes condensed versions of the selected articles and short written pieces by the commenters, as well as abstracts of the articles selected for Honorable mention.
The articles selected this year span a range of topics:
- Quinn Curtis, Jill Fisch, and Adriana Robertson, Do ESG Mutual Funds Deliver on Their Promises?, 120 MICH. L. REV. 393;
- J.B. Ruhl and Robin Craig, 4°C, 106 MINN. L. REV. 191;
- Sonya Ziaja, How Algorithm-Assisted Decision Making is Influencing Environmental Law and Climate Adaptation, 48 ECOLOGY L.Q. 899;
- Ari Zevin, Sam Walsh, Justin Gundlach, and Isabel Carey, Building a New Grid without New Legislation: A Path to Revitalizing Federal Transmission Authorities, 48 ECOLOGY L.Q. 169; and
- Cass Sunstein, Arbitrariness Review and Climate Change, 170 U. PA. L. REV. 991.
Additionally, three articles were selected to receive honorable mentions:
- Albert Lin, Making Net Zero Matter, 79 WASH & LEE L. REV. 679;
- Justin Pidot and Ezekiel Peterson, Conservation Rights-Of-Way on Public Lands, 55 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 89; and
- Danielle Stokes, Renewable Energy Federalism, 106 MINN. L. REV. 1757.
To view the complete list of top 20 article selections, click here.
This year, ELPAR hosted two events:
Webinar on Building a New Grid without New Legislation Webinar (February 27, 2023)
The webinar highlighted the article, Building a New Grid without New Legislation: A Path to Revitalizing Federal Transmission Authorities with co-authors Gundlach and Carey who joined ELI and VULS to discuss their proposals for how the U.S. Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can use existing authorities to advance transmission development—even in the absence of Congressional action. In total, well over 250 people registered for the webinar. View the webinar recording here.
16th Annual ELPAR Conference in Washington, D.C. (March 31, 2023)
The hybrid ELPAR Conference, which is attended by a range of stakeholders, including Capitol Hill and federal agency staff, trade association representatives, law firm associates and partners, and nonprofit leaders, highlighted three articles. Over 50 people attended the conference in-person and over 400 registered to participate virtually.
In 4° Celsius, Professors J.B. Ruhl and Robin Craig argue that the scientific evidence indicates that the planet is well on its way to at least 4°C of warming—a scenario that presents categorically different adaptation challenges including large migrations within U.S. boundaries. Conference participants discussed the authors’ suggestions that a range of anticipatory governance practices to facilitate “redesign adaptation” should be initiated now, beginning with a new national foresight research program.
Conference participants also discussed How Algorithm-Assisted Decision Making is Influencing Environmental Law and Climate Adaptation by Professor Sonya Ziaja. Professor Ziaja argues that to assess the existence of bias and hidden values in the algorithm-based decision tools that are increasingly used in the development and implementation of environmental law and regulation, advocates and legal practitioners should employ a six-part framework. The framework would consist of a series of concrete interrogatives that assess how effectively an algorithm and its design process address issues of uncertainty, transparency, and stakeholder collaboration.
In Do ESG Mutual Funds Deliver on Their Promises? by Quinn Curtis, Jill Fisch, and Adriana Robertson, the authors present a first-of-its-kind empirical study that indicates that environmental, social and governance (ESG) mutual funds are consistent with their labeling—they offer investors increased ESG exposure, vote their shares differently from non-ESG funds, are more supportive of ESG principles, and do not increase costs or reduce returns. Accordingly, they proposed that regulators such as the Securities Exchange Commission and the Department of Labor should adopt a presumption against special regulations for these ESG mutual funds.
Commenters on the articles included leading practitioners and policymakers, such as:
- Keith Benes, Senior Fellow, U.S. Department of Energy (Algorithm-Assisted Decision Making)
- Mohit Chhabra, Senior Scientist, Climate & Clean Energy Program, Natural Resources Defense Council (Algorithm-Assisted Decision Making)
- Carlos Evans, Director of the Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability, City of Dallas (4°C)
- Kathryn Geoffroy, Associate, Arnold & Porter (ESG Mutual Funds)
- Debra Gore-Mann, President and CEO, The Greenlining Institute (Algorithm-Assisted Decision Making)
- Stephen Hall, Legal Director and Securities Specialist, Better Markets (ESG Mutual Funds)
- Anne Kelly, Vice President, Government Relations, Ceres (ESG Mutual Funds)
- Joel Scheraga, Senior Advisor for Climate Change Adaptation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (4°C)
- Rod Schoonover, Founder and CEO, Ecological Futures Group (4°C)
- Hana Vizcarra, Senior Attorney, Earthjustice (4°C)
Shortened versions of the articles, written comments from the speakers, and summaries of the three honorable mention articles are published in the August issue of ELR. Condensed articles and comments are also available on ELI’s ELPAR webpage. And be sure to view the Conference recording here.