Constitutional Environmental Law

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Pre-Dawn_PurpleBuilding on Widener Law School’s traditional strength in both constitutional and environmental law, the Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s leaders in constitutional environmental law. Thirty years ago, constitutional issues rarely arose in environmental law. Nowadays, nearly two in three federal environmental, energy and land use cases are decided on constitutional grounds invoking no fewer than 18 issues. Further, Constitutional environmental law is emerging at the state and international levels and reverberates throughout other fields of law. Two dozen states have constitutional provisions that address environmental matters. 130 countries have constitutions that address its nation’s environment, 70 of which provide individuals with some degree of what might be called “fundamental” rights to a “clean,” “healthful,” or “favorable” environment. The intersection of constitutional and environmental law also influences real estate, land use, administrative, torts, civil procedure, workplace safety, tax, and international law.

Professor May is known for his contributions in shaping this emerging field. He is the founder and inaugural chair of the American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy and Resources Law’s Task Force on Constitutional Law, for whom he writes the annual “Year in Review.” His most recent works in this area include examinations of how constitutional law affects environmental litigation, and how it might shape the future of natural resources law. He designed the nation’s first course in Constitutional Environmental Law, and will shortly publish a book on the subject for the American Bar Association and the Environmental Law Institute. Professor Hodas has written about the constitutional dimensions of state efforts to address climate change. Professor Kristl has written about the constitutional components of state disagreements over environmental policies. Professor Daly has written about the constitutional limits of environmental justice claims.

Professors Dernbach and May are both known for their work examining efforts to entrench fundamental environmental rights in constitutions. Professor Dernbach has studied Pennsylvania’s efforts to guarantee a constitutional right to a healthy environment. Professor May has examined efforts to extend such a right in national constitutions worldwide.  And numerous other members of the Widener faculty (such as Professors Barros, Culhane, Daly, and Williams) teach or write in this area.

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