The Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic offers students an opportunity to do real-life and real-time legal and policy work. Clinic offerings include local, national and international projects covering the spectrum of environmental issues. Depending on the project, students may undertake litigation and advocacy work by drafting briefs, preparing testimony, conducting research, developing strategy, and reviewing proposed legislation.
Some students work off-campus with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, while others work on-campus on cutting-edge projects and case work under the supervision of Clinical Professor Wendy Jacobs, Senior Clinical Instructor Shaun Goho, and Clinical Instructor Aladdine Joroff.
For the 2014-15 academic year, the Clinic’s projects include:
Cambridge Climate Adaptation: The Clinic and the City of Cambridge will be working together this year on an exciting new collaboration to contribute to the City’s climate change adaptation work. Clinic students will focus on adaptation strategies and preparedness planning, including analyzing the City’s existing legal authority under a variety of laws to address and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The project builds on previous climate adaptation planning work that the Clinic has done for the City of Boston.
Boston Microgrids: The Clinic and the City of Boston have been developing a strategy for promoting microgrids (small, spatially-defined areas in which electricity, heating-, and cooling- distribution systems are coordinated), with a particular focus on the regulatory changes and contractual agreements needed to enable microgrids in Massachusetts. The Clinic is currently researching pilot project permitting issues.
Dispersants: In this project, Clinic students are working to identify legal strategies for addressing public health and environmental harms caused by toxic chemicals used to disperse oil spills (known as “dispersants”) and then develop recommendations for concrete actions that environmental groups, local communities, and individuals can take to prevent these harms.
Oil by Rail: The recent dramatic expansion of oil production in North America (driven in part by increased extraction of oil from unconventional sources such as Alberta’s oil sands and the Bakken Shale in North Dakota), coupled with the lack of an oil pipeline infrastructure, has resulted in a surge of transportation of oil by rail. A major concern raised by this surge in oil transport by rail is the risk of derailment and spills – however, railroads are currently not typically required to prepare comprehensive oil spill response plans. To address this regulatory gap, the Clinic is currently preparing comments on an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the threshold that triggers a duty for railroads to prepare comprehensive oil spill response plans.
Behavior and the Law: The Clinic is working to develop innovative strategies for shifting the American public’s perception of and response to climate change to a more engaged and proactive position. Clinic students are researching whether laws or other interventions, such as educational campaigns and incentive programs, are most likely to be effective drivers of behavioral change.
Green Infrastructure: Clinic students and the HLS Environmental Policy Initiative are looking to identify and propose ways to align local codes and policies to enable and encourage green infrastructure in municipalities, particularly with regard to regional stormwater and waste water management. Students are looking into legal obstacles (state and local) and benefits to regionalizing stormwater management, creative financing mechanisms, incentive structures, and potential regional trading systems. In the summer of 2014, the Clinic and Policy Initiative released white papers on regional and municipal stormwater management and certifications for green infrastructure professionals. This year, students will build upon the previous work and are currently focusing on analyzing other (non-GI) U.S. certification programs as well as Chinese green infrastructure certification programs and performance standards to identify the components of successful programs and thereby provide guidance for the development of successful GI certification programs in the U.S.
Solar photovoltaic litigation: Over the last several years, the Clinic has represented several small renewable energy companies in litigation related to a new interpretation of the electrical licensing laws adopted by the Massachusetts Board of State Examiners of Electricians. In this interpretation, the Board claimed that all aspects of a solar photovoltaic (PV) installation must be performed only by licensed electricians. The Clinic has been defending the ability of small businesses to continue performing the financial, planning, and other non-electrical parts of PV projects. This year, a Clinic student will present oral argument in an appeal of an enforcement action against one of these PV installers in state Superior Court.
To learn more about how you can register for the clinic please the read the information on
Faculty and Staff
Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic
Harvard Law School
6 Everett Street, 4th Floor, Suite 4119
Cambridge, MA 02138