Students organize environmental law conference

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Photo by Jacob Geiger.

This Saturday, students from Yale College, the graduate and professional schools and universities in the surrounding area gathered in Kroon Hall for the 4th annual New Directions in Environmental Law Conference.

The conference, which was organized entirely by graduate students in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the Law School and a few area universities, was entitled “Breaking the Stalemate,” which refers to political inaction on environmental issues on the part of both American and international legislative bodies, according to Noah Kazis LAW ’15, one of the organizers of the conference.

The daylong conference featured 10 workshops covering a wide range of environmental issues, two panels and an address by keynote speaker Jim Gordon, CEO of Cape Wind, an offshore wind energy company.

“It’s not that we don’t know how, it’s that we don’t have the politics to do it,” Kazis said, referring to the gridlock that has characterized Washington’s approach to climate change and environmental issues in general.

According to Kazis, while over 360 people registered, around 200 ended up attending. However, this attendance was equal to or greater than attendance in previous years, according to Zach Arnold LAW ’15, who was in charge of publicity for the conference. Arnold also said that the conference had never had such strong attendance from regional schools, which included UConn, Quinnipiac, NYU and Pace.

Both organizers and attendees commented on the diversity of the workshops and panels.

The morning panel included speakers such as Daniel Esty, a Yale Law School professor and former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Policy, and Josh Silver, CEO of United Republic. The range of speakers offered local, state, national and international perspectives on environmental law, not to mention perspectives from both the public and private sector, Kazis said.

“With just one panel, we had pretty much the entire range of experience covered,” Kazis said.

Topics from the workshops included fossil fuel divestment, local food and environmental law in India. Each of the 10 workshops was planned by FES and Law School students, with assistance from students from New York University Law School, Columbia Law School and Pace Law School.

Kazis said the individual visions of each student were really able to take off in the workshops.

Lynsey Gaudioso LAW ’16 said she thought that both panels were great, but particularly enjoyed the workshop on Indian law. She also commented that Kroon Hall was an excellent venue for the event.

“The second panel was a refreshing focus on 21st century environmental policy solutions and coalition building,” said Dena Adler LAW ’16, who both helped plan and attended the conference.

Kazis said he hopes the conference gave voice to those who have been able to “break the stalemate” innovatively, and that it will be a place for inspiration in environmental law to take place both this year and in years to come.

“[Cape Wind] has been involved in a 13-year legal battle, and they’re still not done,” said Lauren Sanchez FES ’14, the other lead organizer of the conference, describing the speech as “incredibly motivational.”

The student planning committee for the conference was made up of 27 students.

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