Miami Law Augments Offerings with Environmental Law Visiting Scholars Program

Miami Law Augments Offerings with Environmental Law Visiting Scholars Program

By Catharine Skipp

Miami Law Augments Offerings with Environmental Law Visiting Scholars Program

By Catharine Skipp
Environmental Law Program brings in distinguished scholars each semester to teach innovative courses.

The energy system is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by concerns about climate change and efforts to decarbonize the energy supply. Technological innovations have made renewable energy, energy storage, and electric vehicles economically competitive amid a constantly shifting regulatory landscape. Global conflicts have revived calls for the United States to become both energy independent and ramp up its fossil fuel exports. 

Miami Law is expanding the Environmental Law Program with a series of innovative short courses bringing in distinguished visitors, innovative scholars, and cutting-edge researchers.

"Bringing these scholars into our community enriches us all," said Jessica Owley, faculty director for the program. "Our students get to focus in on a current topic in environmental law. Our faculty gain the opportunity to meet with potential collaborators. The experts participate in our law school community and are exposed to our great community."

Energy Regulation

Professor Melissa Powers, Lewis & Clark's Jeffrey Bain Faculty Scholar, is teaching at Miami Law this semester. She directs the Green Energy Institute, an organization that designs policies to transition to a zero-carbon energy system. The co-author of the books "Climate Change and the Law" and "Principles of Environmental Law," Powers is addressing energy law in a series of lectures, "Energy Regulation in an Age of Transition," Powers will delve into why analysts are increasingly endorsing an "electrify everything" approach to energy decarbonization and the legal challenges that approach present. 

Specifically, students will learn about the traditional model of utility regulation, the incentives that the model creates, and how electrifying everything could upset a century-old legal structure. Students will also be introduced to the most common state and federal policies driving changes in the energy systems. Students will then explore how incumbent energy suppliers and utilities use existing laws to respond to such changes. Finally, students will engage with these issues through a mock "utility proceeding," in which students will act as regulators, incumbent utilities, new market participants, ratepayer representatives, and environmental organization representatives to decide how and whether regulators should respond to proposed changes to the existing regulatory structure.

Climate Change and Human Rights

In the spring, Daniel Magraw will again teach climate change and human rights, focusing on the fast-moving area of international law.

Magraw is a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and president emeritus at the Center for International Environmental Law. He has extensive experience in international law, institutions, processes, and policies, particularly concerning environmental protection and human rights, including working in government, non-governmental organizations, inter-governmental organizations, business, and academia.

The course discusses the history and substance of the relationship between human rights and the environment, including the ongoing work of both the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment, David Boyd, and to a lesser extent, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxic Substances, Marcos Orellana. The course examines several controversial issues, including the relationship between human rights and climate change, whether there is a human right to a healthy environment, whether corporations have human rights obligations, and the extent to which States have human rights obligations regarding effects outside their territory. Although significant issues remain unresolved, this area is one of the success stories of international law generally over the past several decades and of the development of the law of sustainable development. 

Managing and Preserving Natural Resources

Keith Hirokawa visited in the spring 2022 to teach a course on natural resources. The Albany Law School professor teaches environmental and natural resources law, land use planning, property law, and jurisprudence courses. Hirokawa's scholarship has explored convergences in ecology, ethics, economics, and law, with particular attention given to local environmental law, ecosystem services policy, watershed management, and environmental impact analysis.

His course provided an overview of the laws aimed at managing and preserving natural resources—including land, water, energy, and biodiversity—through various private, regulatory, informational, and public land-management mechanisms in the United States. It examined statutes, regulations, and other mechanisms governing the management of federal lands and their resources, considering the historical, political, and ecological influences on the law and management of these resources. The course considered the impacts on tribal resources and communities, the disparities in access to natural resources, and the harms related to resource exploitation. This course will introduce the agencies with jurisdiction over federal natural resources regulation. 

Miami Law's Environmental Law Program is unique due to its South Florida location, enabling the focus on the prism of issues affecting the environment — from maritime to real estate to land use to the cruise industry to environmental law to law of the sea. The program also offers unique intersectionality with other University of Miami graduate programs in marine affairs, land use, architecture, and business. With a Concentration in Environmental Law and an Environmental Justice Clinic, the program trains students to become future attorneys, policymakers, and scholars in environmental law locally, nationally, and internationally.

More on studying Environmental Law at Miami Law