Led by Clinic Director and Clinical Professor Wendy Jacobs, Harvard Law School students have prevailed in a two-year battle to lift restrictions on the installation of solar power in Massachusetts.
For more than two years, Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic has represented a group of general contractors who specialize in renewable energy projects but were being blocked from installing solar power by a state licensing board. Taking a position that was contrary to a host of state programs designed to promote solar energy, the Massachusetts Board of State Examiners of Electricians tried to prevent anyone other than licensed electricians from organizing, managing or installing solar power in the state. The clinic stepped in to defend the solar contractors in enforcement actions and challenge the Board’s policy.
On July 18, the Massachusetts Superior Court granted summary judgment in the clinic’s favor, holding unequivocally that: “Plaintiffs may advertise and contract for PV System installations and subcontract with licensed electricians.”
The court agreed with the clinic and rejected the Board’s interpretation “because it ‘is not supported by the language of the statute, the context from which it arose, any consistent administrative interpretation, or the legislative policy on which the statute is based.’” The case is Carroll v. Massachusetts Board of State Examiners of Electricians, No. 10-3408-C.
According to Jacobs, the win is a testament to the hard work and commitment of the HLS clinic students. “I could not be prouder of them,” said Jacobs. “At least seven of our students have worked on this case since 2009, representing the clients in administrative hearings and litigation and filing at least a dozen briefs. Four students presented oral arguments in this case, and two of them, Nick McDaniel and Chris Rendall-Jackson, even returned after graduation to do so.”
HLS Environmental Law Program Director Jody Freeman praised Jacobs, Staff Attorney and HLS Lecturer on Law Shaun Goho ‘01 and the students for their persistence.
“After a hard fought battle, our Clinic finally prevailed,” Freeman said. “The result is good public policy and a significant step forward for clean energy in the state of Massachusetts.”
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