As the No. 1 law school specializing in environmental law, Vermont Law School has had a front-row seat to the gradual construction of an environmental law and policy canon over the last 40 years. In contrast, the last 12 months have been a demolition derby as the Trump administration attempted to roll back one environmental law after another. If last year’s Top 10 Environmental Watch List was a warning call, this year’s is a fire alarm.
This laundry list of attempted regulatory rollbacks and subsequent litigation does not exist in a vacuum, but rather in the context of an environment in need of a lifeline. 2018 brought deadly forest fires, hurricanes, and floods, to name a few. In stark contrast to President Trump’s climate change denial, the congressionally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessment released this fall by 13 federal agencies confirmed that manmade climate change puts the U.S. economy and human health in grave danger. Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that the Climate Assessment was perfectly clear that “[f]uture impacts and risks from climate change are directly tied to decisions made in the present.” The question is whether we will band together to use the tools we have.
Though the challenges before us are sobering, we find encouragement in the fact that every day VLS transforms hundreds of students into skilled attorneys and professionals who will practice in the environmental field—as advocates, informed regulators, and responsible advisors for industry. Our students enter with purpose and leave with tools. We hope our 2019 Top 10 Environmental Watch List helps fill your toolbox for the work ahead.