College of Law

Climate Change Publications

Choosing Between Environmental Standards and a Rapid Transition to Renewable Energy Is a False Dilemma, Issue Brief published by the Roosevelt Institute (2023)

Debunking the claim that there must be a choice between progressive climate policy reform and environmental protections. Progressive climate policy reforms can be enacted without compromising environmental protections or communities’ right to engage with infrastructure projects that impact their physical and economic well-being.

Creating a Transparent Methodology for Measuring Success within a Continuum of Conservation for the America the Beautiful Initiative (2023)

Describing the intertwined crises of climate change of biodiversity and the scientific basis for the 30 x 30 target. While the 30 x 30 target is popular, easy to comprehend, and simplifies policy and communication strategies, it is not a fool-proof recipe. It must be implemented promptly, in the right landscapes, without depriving people of their homes, properties, or livelihoods. The Biden’s embrace of a broad definition of a ”continuum of conservation” offers the possibility of creatively re-imagining conservation in a way that addresses these problems. But to achieve that mission, it must develop standardized methods for disclosing the ecological benefits of projects included in the America the Beautiful Initiative.

Protecting Tribal Public Health from Climate Change Impacts (2023)

The COVID-19 pandemic brought national attention to challenges that tribal communities have been facing for decades, such as limited health services and lack of water access. Although the end to the pandemic seems to be in sight, climate change will continue to threaten the public health and survival of tribal communities. With a special emphasis on water, this article identifies climate-change related health threats to tribal communities and analyzes the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibility to protect Native Americans from those threats. It also explores how the federal government can better support tribes in exercising self determination to the fullest to be drivers of their own future.

Synching Science and Policy to Address Climate Change in Tribal Communities (2021)

Climate change is a global environmental problem, and yet, the adverse impacts of climate change are disproportionately felt in tribal communities. The article discusses the federal government’s legal obligations to protect Native Americans and the lands they occupy as well as the disproportionate impacts of climate change on tribal communities. Based upon an extensive review of literature on the nexus between science and law, we identify recommendations on how to better synchronize science and policy to address climate change. While these recommendations are made through the lens of climate change, we explain how they apply more broadly to the special relationship between tribal nations and the federal government.

Using Current Legal Tools to Achieve Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New and Existing Federal Oil and Gas Leases (2021)

A white paper describing specific tools that the BLM could use to require net zero emissions on some existing and all new oil and gas leases without waiting for congressional action or regulatory changes. Applying existing legal tools would allow for continued energy production while a long-term climate strategy is developed, while still driving significant GHG emission reductions in the meantime. Green jobs would be created by incentivizing oil and gas operators to generate offset credits by plugging orphaned and abandoned wells. Plugging idle wells and retiring leases early could also generate offset credits by rewarding operators for deciding to keep some fossil fuel resources in the ground.

The BLM’s Duty to Incorporate Climate Science into Permitting Practices and a Proposal for Implementing a Net Zero Requirement into Oil and Gas Permitting (2021).

Arguing that the BLM has a statutory duty to respond to climate change, which includes the duty to avoid exacerbating climate change. The article then moves the legal discussion from aspiration to action by proposing a legal strategy, using the existing legal framework, by which the BLM can achieve net zero emissions from all new mineral development activity. While the article focuses on oil and gas development, the same methodology could be applied to coal mining, tar sands, and other sources of GHG emissions.

Road Map to Net-Zero Emissions for Fossil Fuel Development on Public Lands (2020)

The lead article ELI’s September 2020 issue, and recognized as one of the top article for 2020, this Article provides a legal road map for BLM to require all new oil and gas development to achieve net-zero emissions as a condition of operation. It argues that BLM has a legal duty to mitigate the risk of catastrophic climate change in its permitting decisions. The road map is based on the existing legal structure and explains how BLM can begin charting a course toward carbon-neutral energy development without waiting for congressional action.