Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law companion page

Welcome to the online resources for

Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law




This course introduces major concepts in environmental law with a focus on U.S. statutes, regulations and guidance for managing waste, air and water pollution, toxic substances, preservation of nature and endangered species, and global environmental resources. Alternative policy approaches, such as market-based incentives, information disclosure requirements, and voluntary programs will also be considered. Overarching legal and policy concepts, including federalism, administrative procedure, separation of powers, environmental justice, judicial review, and statutory interpretation will be explored throughout the semester.


Student Learning Outcomes/Objectives:
  1. Students will learn the basic design and the key terms and concepts for all the major U.S. environmental laws.
  2. Students will also be exposed to key policy issues and critiques of U.S environmental law, including how economics and environmental justice values are incorporated.
  3. Success and failures will be discussed, including the difficulty that the current system has experienced in dealing with climate change and protection of wetlands.


Grading: Grades will be based primarily upon a written final exam, but class participation also counts for up to 15% of a student’s grade. The exam typically consists of a fact pattern, several short answer or true-false questions and an essay.


The required texts for the course are:

Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
E. Donald Elliott and Daniel C. Esty
(Edward Elgar Publishing, Nov. 2021), ISBN: 9781800374911  EISBN: 9781800374904
(paperback or electronic version).

Available to order in paperback 
Electronic copies are available on VitalSource, Google Play and other leading vendors. 


Mountains Without Handrails: Reflections on the National Parks
Joseph L. Sax
(University of Michigan Press, 1980) ISBN-10: 0472063243; ISBN-13: 978-20472063246

Retail price: $20.95.
Available to read for free online


Topics and Reading Assignments:

I. Introduction to the Course and to One Another.

Wednesday, January 19th

  1. This Syllabus.
  2. The Tragedy of the Commons,
    Garrett Hardin
    162 SCIENCE 1243 (1968),
  3. The Tragi-Comedy of the Commons: Evolutionary Biology, Economics and Environmental Law,
    E. Donald Elliott,
    20 VA. ENVTL. L. J. 17 (2001) 


II. Recurrent Issues and the Role of Economics

Monday, January 24th

  1. Chapter 2, Recurrent Themes in U.S. Environmental Law, pp. 13-30.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. Industrial Union Dept., AFL-CIO v. American Petroleum Inst., 448 U.S. 607 (1980) (OSHA Benzene)
  3. Only a Poor Workman Blames His Tools: On Uses and Abuses of Benefit-Cost Analysis in Regulatory Decision Making About the Environment
    157 U. Pa. L. Rev. PENumbra 178 (2009)
    Elliott, E.D.
  4. The Sounds of Silence: Cost-Benefit Canons in Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, Inc.,
    34 HARV. ENVTL. L. REV. 425-460 (2012)
    Jonathan Cannon
  5. Michigan v. EPA,
    576 U.S. ---, 135 S. Ct. 2699 (2015). No. 14-46 (June 29, 2015)


Discussion with Guest Prof Ricky Revesz on the Role of Cost-Benefit Analysis in Environmental Decision-making.

Wednesday, January 26th

  1. Please review the 17 short blog posts in the Symposium on Michael Livermore and Richard Revesz's "Reviving Rationality," but especially The Future of Cost-Benefit Analysis, by Michael A. Livermore & Richard L. Revesz


An Alternative Rights-Based Theory.

Monday, January 31st

  1. The End Environmental Externalities Manifesto: A Rights-Based Foundation for Environmental Law,
    29 NYU ENVT L. J. 505 (2021)


III. Legal Structure and the Making of Environmental Law

Wednesday, February 2nd

  1. Chapter 1, How U.S. Environmental Law is Really Made, pp. 1-12.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. “Everything You Need to Know About Administrative Law in One Easy Lesson”
    Elliott, E.D.  
    (Slides to be shown in class and circulated thereafter).
  3. Chevron v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837 (1984)
  4. Chevron Matters: How the Chevron Doctrine Re-Defined the Roles of Congress, Courts and Agencies in Environmental Law,
    16 VILL. ENVTL. L.J. 1 (Spring 2005),
    Elliott, E.D.
  5. Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S. Ct. 2400 (2019),
    Pay particular attention to Chief Justice Roberts’ concurrence which begins on page 2424.

Optional: Recommended for Additional Reading but NOT Required:

Judicial Deference to Administrative Interpretations of Law,
Antonin Scalia,
UKE L.J. 511, (1989)

To the Chevron Station: An Empirical Study of Federal Administrative Law,
Peter H. Schuck & E. Donald Elliott,
1990 DUKE L. J. 984 (1991),

"Chevron as a Doctrine of Hard Cases"
Liu, Frederick,
(2008). Student Prize Papers. 


III. The Clean Air Act

Monday, February 7th

  1. Chapter 3, The Clean Air Act: Successful but Slow, pp. 31-35.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. A Roadmap to the Clean Air Act
    Elliott, E.D.
    (slides to be shown in class and circulated thereafter).
  3. [Enforcement] CAA §113, 42 U.S.C § 7413
  4. A Critical Assessment of the EPA’s Air Program at Fifty and a Suggestion for How It Might Do Even Better,
    Elliott, E.D.
    70 CASE W. RES. L. REV. 895 (2020)
  5. The Clean Air Act Is in No Shape to Be Celebrated
    Schoenbrod, David
    Huffington Post (2010, September 3).

Optional: Recommended for Additional Reading but NOT Required:

Toward a Theory of Statutory Evolution: The Federalization of Environmental Law,
E. Donald Elliott, Bruce A. Ackerman & John C. Millian,
1 J. LAW, ECON. & ORG. 313 (1985),


Wednesday, February 9th

  1. Chapter 4, Climate Change: An ‘Existential Threat’ Not Yet Addressed, pp. 46-64.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. Mass. v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007)
  3. Summary report on Glasgow Climate Change Conference
    (Oct 31-Nov 12),


IV. The Clean Water Act

Protecting Surface Waters

Monday, February 14th

  1. Chapter 5, Clean Water Act: Major Progress but Persistent Challenges, pp. 65-76.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. EPA, Summary of the Clean Water Act


Preserving Wetlands

Wednesday, February 16th

  1. Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006),
    (esp. Kennedy, J., concurring at pp. 779-80, discussing the “significant nexus” standard
  2. Portage Strategies for Adapting Environmental Law and Policy During a Logjam Era,
    Elliott, E.D.  
    17 NYU ENVTL L.J. 24 (2008),  
    (esp. pp. 42-44 and footnotes discussing Rapanos as “Policy-Making by Default by the Courts”).
  3. [Trump] EPA, Revised Definition of ‘‘Waters of the United States,”
    84 Fed. Reg. 4154 (Feb 14, 2019),
    (The Federal Register notice is 67 pages long, but the only portion assigned is the “Background” section on pages 4155 to 4169 that reviews the history, the rationale and key provisions of the rule.)
  4. EPA, Definition of "Waters of the United States": Rule Status and Litigation Update.


V. Safe Drinking Water and Preventing Oil Spills.

Monday, February 21st

  1. Chapter 6, Safe Drinking Water Act: Once Seen as a Problem Solved, But Now New Worries, pp. 76-86.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. EPA, Understanding the Safe Drinking Water Act


Wednesday, February 23rd 

  1. Chapter 11, OPA90: Why Economic Incentives Only Work Sometimes, pp. 128-136.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. 33 U.S.C. §§ 2701- 2720,  
    (focus esp. on §§ 2701 (definitions), 2702 (elements of liability), 2703 (defenses to liability), 2704 (limits to liability), 2706 (natural resource damages).
  3. National Academy of Sciences, Macondo Well Deepwater Horizon Blowout: Lessons for Improving Offshore Drilling Safety (2011),
    available for a free download
    (esp. Summary” pp. 3 – 9 (pp. 24-30 of pdf) and Chapter 6 “Regulatory Reform” pp. 111 – 127 (pp. 132 -148 of pdf).

Optional: Recommended for Additional Reading but NOT Required:

A Primer on the Law of Oil Spills (2010).
E. Donald Elliott and Mary Beth Houlihan,

Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471 (2008)


VI. Controlling Hazardous Substances and Hazardous Waste

Monday, February 28th

  1. Chapter 7, Hazardous Waste: Extreme Measures in the Wake of a Crisis, pp.87-101.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. BROWSE the detailed and complex RCRA regulations for identification and management of hazardous waste


Wednesday, March 2nd

  1. CERCLA §§106 and 107(a) and (b), and (e), 42 U.S.C. §§9606 and 9607
  2. Burlington N. & S. F. R. Co. v. United States, 556 U.S. 599 (2009)
  3. EPA In The Trump Era: The Superfund Enforcement Initiative, Law360,
    E. Donald Elliott 


VII. Regulating Chemicals -TSCA and REACH

Monday, March 7th

  1. Chapter 8, Regulation of Chemicals: From Toxic Substance Control to Chemical Safety, pp. 102-112.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. EPA, Summary of the Toxic Substances Control Act
  3. 15 U.S.C. §§ 2601- 2629, esp. Subchapter 1, §§ 2603 (Testing -TSCA §4), 2604 (Pre-Manufacturer Notifications – TSCA §5), 6 and 8
  4. Richard Denison, A primer on the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and what led to it

 Optional: Recommended for Additional Reading but NOT Required:

Corrosion Proof Fittings v. EPA, 947 F.2d 1201, 22 ELR 20304 (5th Cir., 1991)  
(setting aside TSCA §6 rule banning 5 uses of asbestos, 54 Fed. Reg. 29,460 (1989), on grounds that despite ten years of rulemaking, EPA had not compiled substantial evidence to support its action and had failed to consider less restrictive alternatives).


Wednesday, March 9th

  1. Who's Afraid of the Precautionary Principle?,
    Robert V. Percival,
    23 PACE ENVTL. L. REV. 21 (2006)
  2. European Commission, REACH IN BRIEF
    (October 2007),
  3. Ortwin Renn and E. Donald Elliott, Precautionary Regulation of Chemicals in the US and EU in THE REALITY OF PRECAUTION: COMPARING RISK REGULATION IN THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE 223-256 (eds. Jonathan B.Wiener, Michael D. Rogers, James K. Hammitt & Peter H. Sand)
    (RFF Press, 2011)
    (pdf to be distributed by email prior to class)


Monday, March 14th – No Class – Spring Recess

Wednesday, March 16th – No Class – Spring Recess


VIII. Regulation of Pesticides and Workplace Safety.

Monday, March 21st-FIFRA

  1. Chapter 9, FIFRA: From Misbranding to Reasonable Certainty of No Harm, pp. 113-123.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. EPA, Office of Pesticide Programs Label Review Manual
    BROWSE particularly the table of contents but also a couple of chapters to get a feel for the matters addressed 


Wednesday, March 23rd-OSHA

  1. Chapter 10, Occupational Safety and Health Act: Making Environments Safe on the Job, pp. 124-127.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. OSHA at a Glance


IX. Preserving Nature: Endangered Species Act, National Parks and Wilderness

Monday, March 28th

  1. Chapter 12, From Protecting Endangered Species to Promoting Biodiversity and Healthy Ecosystems, pp. 137-149.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. TVA v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153 (1978),
  3. Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior v. Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Great Oregon, 515 U.S. 687 (1995)
  4. The Pricelessness of Biodiversity: Using the Endangered Species Act to Help Combat Extinction and Climate Change,
    Alisha Falberg,
    33 UCLA J. ENVTL. L. & POLICY 135 (2015), 


Wednesday March 30th

  1. Chapter 13, National Parks and Wilderness Preservation: America’s Best Idea, pp. 150-158.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. Mountains Without Handrails: Reflections on the National Parks (1980),
    Joseph L. Sax,
    passim but esp. pp. 47-77 (Chapters 3 and 4).


X. The National Environmental Policy Act and Information Disclosure

Monday, April 4th

  1. Chapter 14, NEPA and Information Disclosure: Techniques Copies Around the World, pp. 159-170.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. JUDGING NEPA: A “Hard Look” At Judicial Decision Making Under The National Environmental Policy Act (ELI 2004)
    Jay E. Austin, John M. Carter II, Bradley D. Klein and Scott E. Schang
  3. Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7 (2008),


Wednesday, April 6th

  1. Two Years Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals (2015),
    Philip K. Howard
  2. [Trump] White House Council on Environmental Quality, Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy, 85 Fed. Reg. 43304 (July 16, 2020),
  3. Biden Administration Proposes to Walk Back Key Trump Era NEPA Regulation Changes,
    Jonathan D. Simon et al.,
    THE NATIONAL LAW REVIEW (October 12, 2021),


XI. Property Rights and Environmental Justice

Monday, April 11th

  1. Andrus v. Allard, 444 U.S. 51 (1979), 
  2. Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992),
  3. Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 535 U.S. 302 (2002),
  4. Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management, U.S.S.C. No. 11–1447 (June 25, 2013),
  5. How Takings Legislation Could Improve Environmental Regulation,
    E. Donald Elliott,
    38 WILL.& MARY L.REV. 1177 (1997),


Wednesday, April 13th

  1. The Clash of Purposes: Environmental Justice and Risk Assessment (March 20, 1998),
    Christopher H. Foreman, Jr.,
  2. Book Review: The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice. By Christopher H. Foreman, Jr.,
    Alan Ramo,
    40 SANTA CLARA L. REV. 941 (2000),
  3. EPA’s EJ Home Page,
  4. Summary of Executive Order 12898 - Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,
    59 FR 7629; February 16, 1994,
  5. EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council,
  6. EPA’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda,


XII. Evaluating U.S. Environmental Law

Monday, April 18th

  1. Chapter 16, The best and worst, pp. 186-190.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. Report to the Office of the Chairman, Administrative Conference of the United States on Improving Notice of Significant Regulatory Changes
    Josh Ulan Galperin and E. Donald Elliott,
    (link or pdf to be provided prior to class).


Wednesday, April 20th

  1. U.S. Environmental Law in Global Perspective: Five Do's and Five Don'ts from Our Experience, (March 1, 2010).
    E. Donald Elliott,
  2. Red Lights to Green Lights: From 20th Century Environmental Regulation to 21st Century Sustainability,
    Daniel C. Esty,
    47 ENVTL. L. 1 (2017)


XIII. Beyond Traditional Environmental Regulation

Monday, April 25th

  1. Chapter 15, Beyond Traditional Environmental Governance: Corporate Sustainability, Performance Benchmarking, Private Standard Setting, and Public-Private Partnerships, pp. 171-185.
    Advanced Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law
    Elliott, E.D.   Esty, D.C.
  2. Private Environmental Governance,
    Michael P. Vandenbergh
    99 CORNELL L. REV. 129 (2013), 
  3. EPA, Safer Choice,


Saturday, April 30th – noon – Final Exam