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Environmental and Energy Law

The United States has had an administrative or bureaucratic arm to enable it to carry out the tasks of government since the Founding. Indeed, the first act of Congress in 1789 was to authorize the administration of Oaths of Office for government officials and officers. The second act in the same year was a set of tariffs and other regulations intended to enable the US to act as an economic power on a world stage.

Over the years, of course, the country’s administrative functions have changed. Notably, during the Progressive Era and the New Deal Era government regulation was aimed at correcting imperfections in specific industries such as food and drugs and it was aimed at stabilizing the economy as a whole. During the Great Society Era, government regulation was directed to improve the health safety and welfare of the citizens through legislation that protected civil rights, consumers, the environment, and worker safety among other areas of concern.

In short, New Deal economic regulation and Great Society social regulation today form the basis of the modern regulatory state. Consequently, the well-rounded lawyer must necessarily have an understanding of the administrative state and how and why it functions the way it does. Energy law and environmental law are excellent vehicles for understanding the administrative state. More specifically, economic regulation is the basis for energy law and policy in the US. Similarly, social regulation is the basis for US environmental Law and policy.

Few areas of the law have such vast national and international impact as environmental law and energy law. These two subjects encompass a number of subspecialties including energy and natural resources, green law, climate change, and sustainability as well as clean air, water, land, and ecosystems more generally.

Federal statues aimed at the protection of our environment, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act, are all regulated extensively through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Similarly, energy law statues such as the Federal Power Act, the Natural Gas Act, and several comprehensive Energy Policy acts are regulated by several federal agencies. Further, both environmental law and energy law also are regulated by state and, sometimes, local administrative agencies. Through courses such as administrative law, environmental law, and energy law, the University of Cincinnati College of Law prepares students to handle this complex regulatory world.

Academics

All Cincinnati Law students take Contracts and Constitutional Law in their first year. Students are strongly encouraged to take introductory courses Environmental Law I and Administrative Law in their second year. Administrative Law is recommended due to the many federal, state, and local government agencies that regulate the environmental and energy areas. Energy Law, then, can serve as an excellent third year elective.

Students who have an interest in transactional work also should consider practical skills-based classes designed to replicate the types of legal tasks typical of an environmental law practice. Students more focused on environmental litigation should consider courses and experiences that build courtroom skills, such as Trial Practice.

Students can also design an independent research project under the direct supervision of a faculty member.

Students are encouraged to meet with a faculty member and the Center for Professional Development staff during their first year to develop a plan best suited to their professional career goals.

Environmental and Energy Law Selected Course Electives

  • Administrative Law
  • Environmental Law I
  • Environmental Law II
  • Environmental Law - Practice One
  • Energy Policy and Climate Change

Environmental and Energy Law Selected Practical Skills Courses

  • Advanced Legal Drafting
  • Corporate Transactions: Term Sheet to Closing
  • Legal Drafting
  • Real Estate Transactions
  • Trial Practice

Environmental and Energy Law Faculty

Experiences

Cincinnati Law provides excellent preparation for the real world of law practice. The Center for Professional Development and UC Law faculty assist student in obtaining related positions with local companies, agencies and nonprofit organizations. These externships provide practical experience in addition to classroom credit. Recent externships include D. David Altman Company, LPA, a legal professional association devoted to environmental law, the Ohio River Foundation, and Contech Engineered Solutions.

The Environmental Law Society regularly sponsors programs featuring key speakers on issues in the field of environmental law.

Students in the Entrepreneurship and community Development Clinic provide advice to clients in areas such as contract and lease preparation, review, and negotiation, and corporate governance and regulatory compliance. The ECDC also partners with Duke Energy each year to conduct a pro bono event that provides free legal services to local business owners and entrepreneurs.

The Trial Practice Team and Moot Court competitions are designed to hone courtroom and appellate advocacy skills. Each year, Moot Court hosts the August A. Rendigs, Jr. National Product Liability Moot Court Competition for other law schools across the nation.

Careers

The field of environment and energy law is broad and diverse. Many Cincinnati Law graduates have charted rewarding career paths in these areas, whether at the international, national, state or local level.

Lawyers interested in regulatory work may focus on ensuring compliance with the significant statutory laws and regulations that monitor these industries or work with industry organizations to influence rules and policy-making.

Some attorneys concentrate on litigation work in these areas. Law firm practice groups or law firms specializing in environmental law may litigate cases such as those concerning the adverse health impact to residents or employees from contaminated sites.

The environmental and energy industries also require lawyers who have solid experience in transactional work, such as the negotiation and drafting of land use agreements, contracts for the sale and purchase of natural gas or related products, and real estate transactions or development of contaminated properties.

Green law is a growing specialty in environmental law. Lawyers advise clients of green initiatives, LEED design and certification, sustainability practices, and renewable energy developments.

Our graduates work at organizations such as:

  • Eastman Chemical Company (Johnson City, TN)
  • Aloterra Energy (Houston, TX)
  • Frost Brown Todd, Environmental Practice Group (Cincinnati, OH)
  • GE Gas Turbine (Greenville, SC)
  • Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Environmental Enforcement Section (Columbus, OH)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Washington DC)
  • Formica Corporation (Cincinnati, OH)
  • Emery Oleochemicals (Cincinnati, OH)
  • Marathon Petroleum Company (Findlay, OH)