Environmental Law Student Scholarship

Through their coursework, students develop a basic understanding of what it means to be an advocate on environmental issues in the administrative, mass media, legislative, litigation and other arenas. The skills they acquire include written and oral advocacy in a variety of arenas, reflective capacities, research and communication aptitude, and research paper presentation.

The papers below have been edited by peers/students, by Professors Kim Diana Connolly and Jessica Owley.

The Advocacy Strategies and Efforts of Opponents

Richard J. Andino '12

This paper discusses advocacy strategies and efforts employed by opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Keystone XL Pipeline, proposed by TransCanada (a Canadian energy infrastructure firm), is intended to carry bitumen (commonly known as oil sands) through the heart of the United States to the Gulf Coast. Opponents are concerned with the environmental impacts of oil sands and the pipeline as well as the conduct of TransCanada throughout the process of acquiring right-of-way easements on the land where the pipeline is to be built. [Download Paper]

From Empty Shells to Healthy Homes: Ecologically Re-envisioning American Cities

Alicia M. Bender '13

Although some critics blame U.S. land use regulations and zoning for encouraging sprawl, causing environmental injustice and being anti-environmental, these claims are false. Although Euclidean zoning resulted in all of these injustices, American planning presents several alternatives to what has become the traditional zoning model. New zoning models and concepts can cure environmental injustice, sprawl and anti-ecological incentives. This paper evaluates some of zoning's most pertinent problems and developing alternatives. However, this paper goes further than common alternatives – which operate on a human scale ­– to assert that zoning and land use regulations must be based in ecological carrying capacity. Accordingly, city planning must regard both neighborhoods and regions as central features of new plans and codes. Using a new framework, this paper proposes that ecological considerations, including carrying capacity, must guide all land use regulations to establish ecologically envisioned cities that encourage plant, animal and human health and welfare.  [Download Paper]

Buffalo's Green Code: Opportunities and Challenges

Brian T. Cook Jr. '11

The City of Buffalo is updating its zoning code, to be known as the "Buffalo Green Code." The Buffalo Green Code attempts to incorporate the concepts of sustainability and urban revitalization into its zoning ordinance in an effort to guide future development in a manner sensitive to environmental, economic and social concerns. This paper examines the Buffalo Green Code development project in the context of a city sorely in need of the relief a sustainable zoning code may provide over time. It argues that the tenets of sustainable growth are indispensable to achieving urban revitalization and environmental justice. The paper explains the methods, such as zoning, by which sustainable development may be promoted in Buffalo and elsewhere, and analyzes particular examples of zoning ordinances that have been employed in other cities. Finally, it suggests how similar zoning ordinances might be successfully developed for Buffalo's unique set of circumstances. [Download Paper]

Food With Benefits: Increasing the Accessibility of Farmers Markets to SNAP Recipients

Galena D. Duba '13

Farmers markets provide environmental, economic and health benefits. Unfortunately, most farmers markets are not accessible to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. This paper analyzes federal efforts to increase both the number of farmers markets and the accessibility of markets to SNAP recipients, and finds that current federal support is insufficient to provide adequate accessibility. Finally, the paper includes policy recommendations that address increasing accessibility of farmers markets to SNAP recipients. [Download Paper]

The Natural Gas Explosion: Boom or Bust for New York's Economy and Environment?

Matthew T. DuBois '13

Natural gas development of the Marcellus Shale has the potential to provide substantial economic benefits to New York State. Development is certain to result in job creation, and is almost certain to result in a net economic benefit to the state. Care needs to be taken, however, to avoid disproportionately burdening natural gas boomtowns with the costs of explosive development while they see little of the benefits. New York should follow the lead of every other natural-gas-producing state besides Pennsylvania and adopt a severance tax to ensure both short-term and long-term economic growth in natural gas boomtowns.

While development of the Marcellus Shale presents a likely net benefit to the New York economy, it poses a strong possibility of harm to the state's drinking water. This trend has been observed and proved in other natural-gas-producing states. To prevent environmental impacts of fracking and ensure that the economic benefits of natural gas production are not outweighed by its environmental costs, New York needs to strengthen its regulatory scheme. Finally, the natural gas industry must self-regulate, espousing best practices to ensure that environmental impacts like those in other states do not occur in New York. If the right policies are adopted and consistently enforced, New York can reap the benefits of a burgeoning natural gas economy with few costs to its communities or environment. [Download Paper]

Is Quinoa a Solution for Food Security and Economic Growth in Bolivia?

Matthew N. Eisenste '13

Bolivia is the world's largest producer of the superfood quinoa. Quinoa has been grown almost exclusively in the rural, mountainous parts of the country in relatively the same way for the last 5,000 years. Since the 1970s, when quinoa was “discovered” by anthropologists and sociologists studying indigenous cultures, demand has increased throughout Western countries. This demand has provided economic benefits to Bolivia, but social and environmental costs might outweigh allowing further development of the quinoa industry. This paper discusses whether granting intellectual property rights is a solution to ensure that indigenous Bolivians benefit from their traditional knowledge of quinoa and whether quinoa is actually aiding Bolivia's economic growth.  [Download Paper]

Reflections on Domestic and International Environmental Disasters and Their Influence on Environmental Law and Policy

Ryan Fagen

The relatively new area of law known as Environmental Law is a perfect example of how, as a human race, we tend to learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately however, these mistakes have been unpredictable and catastrophic, and we don’t always learn from them. In recent history, these environmental disasters have had a global impact due to the aftermath of their destruction, their effects on the environment, and the laws that have formed in an attempt to mitigate and prevent future disasters. The most recent event, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (BP oil spill), had major implications under environmental law and policy. This paper will reflect on several international incidents such as the BP Oil Spill and emphasize the need to regulate human interactions in order to preserve and protect the environment. [Download Paper]

It's Like Riding a Bike – How American Cities Can Increase Bicycling by Building Better Bicycle Infrastructure!

Patrick T. Gooch

The built environment shapes our choices. America's built environment is dominated by cars and creating space for them. The result is a removal of alternative forms of transportation, such as bicycling and walking. Bicyclists currently risk life and limb riding alongside cars. One solution to this problem is complete streets, or streets that allocate space for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists. This paper looks at the benefits of riding a bicycle, and the physical and psychological challenges that discourage riding a bike for daily transportation. The paper then uses the National Complete Streets Coalition's ranking to identify the best complete street legislation at the local and state levels. These laws are then compared with those of Buffalo and New York State to determine what improvements the city and state could make to their complete street legislation.  [Download Paper]

Polishing the Rust Belt: Re-Opening New York State's Historic Homeownership Rehabilitation Tax Credit

Robert J. Grimaldi '12

The federal government, along with the governments of all 50 states, has long recognized that historic preservation is an important government objective. Historic preservation is a means of displaying patriotism, educating future generations, enjoying aesthetic beauty in architecture and achieving environmental and social justice. New York is in a state of economic distress, in the midst of a nation shrouded in financial uncertainty. In the current era of state economic problems, New York State government must reopen the book on historic preservation and look to its ability to foster civic pride, economic development and environmental justice. Particularly, New York should amend the Historic Homeownership Rehabilitation Tax Credit, making the credit both more accessible and more beneficial for low-income homeowners, which will stimulate our economic and effect social change.  [Download Paper]

Why the Buffalo Green Code, a land use plan and its resulting future zoning code, should be adopted in Buffalo

Elizabeth J. Henschel '12

This paper explains why the Buffalo Green Code, a land use plan and its resulting future zoning code, should be adopted in Buffalo. Section 2 of the paper looks at the environmental justice issues addressed by the Buffalo Green Code. Section 3 discusses the benefits and challenges of the various environmental components of the code. It will also discuss what the Buffalo Green Code fails to address and why these measures should be included. The paper concludes that the Buffalo Green Code is an excellent tool in promoting an environmentally friendly city despite the challenges it faces and measures it lacks.  [Download Paper]

Toxic Times: the Tuscarora Nation's remedies in response to the Auto City Hazardous Waste Management Sight Expansion

Jeffrey B. Hitchings '12

The Tuscarora Nation is concerned over a recent proposal by Waste Management and its subsidiaries to expand the hazardous waste treatment plant in Model City, N.Y., by 50 acres, bringing the expansion close to the Nation's borders. The Tuscarora Nation, anxious primarily over the potential human health and environmental implications, wishes to commence action in an effort to enjoin the project. This essay opens by discussing the historical context of the controversy and then provides an overview of federal and state hazardous waste laws. It continues by discussing a variety of options, both legal and non-legal, available to the Nation to combat the proposal.  [Download Paper]

Recent Developments in Environmental Law: California’s Targeted Emissions Levels

Lauren Howard '13

This paper will attempt to discuss California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, specifically the Cap-And-Trade Program (AB32) it established, and the Act’s intended and potential influence on domestic and international efforts toward reducing carbon emissions. [Download Paper]

Implications of the recent standing ruling by U.S. Supreme Court in Clapper v. Amnesty International

Morris Ingemanson '14

Abstract not available. [Download Paper]

To Frack or not to Frack: the Advocacy over Hydraulic Fracturing

Katie M. Ireland '12

This paper assesses the advocacy tactics used by proponents and opponents of hydraulic fracturing. Proponents are concerned with the United States’ being more energy self-sufficient; opponents are concerned with the risks and dangers of hydraulic fracturing. This paper explores some of the strategies and efforts on both sides of the debate. [Download Paper]

Sustainability at the University at Buffalo: Current Policies and Recommendations for the Future

Dainia J. Jabaji '13

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important. Natural resources are limited, and the human population is continually growing. This paper first clarifies what sustainability means. Second, it explains why it is important for universities to have sustainability initiatives. Third, it discusses the University at Buffalo's sustainability initiatives. Finally, it sets forth ways the University can better fulfill its goal of becoming a more sustainable school. This will be accomplished by creating a sustainability ethos among the students and faculty. [Download Paper]

Moving From Sustainability to Survivability: Analysis of the Financially Troubled New York State Park System

Michael D. Leafe '13

Any resident of New York State is aware of the state's ongoing budget deficit problems, as news stories highlighting the issue pervade daily media. Caught in the midst of the budget woes is one of the state's most valuable assets: the state park system. The state park system's difficulty in securing proper funds is not unique in a time when across-the-board budget cuts are affecting other critical areas, such as the education and transportation departments. However, years of underfunding and neglect have left state parks in such poor condition that current budget reductions are threatening to close the system. Many citizens are perplexed by the state government's choice to minimize funds allocated to its historic parks, as they hold an abundance of natural resources, provide immense recreational value and generate a substantial economic return. This report analyzes New York State park policy and the actions of government entities charged with executing it. Part 1 provides background information on New York State's park system and examines the system's public value. Part 2 details the park system's budget crisis and the historical practices that led to the system's current plight. The paper concludes with several suggestions for actions that New York State should take to ensure that the state park system survives this period of hardship, and is revitalized to a point that it may rightfully reclaim its status as one of the finest in the nation. [Download Paper]

The Emergence of Green Infrastructure as a Solution to Combined Sewer Overflows

Alexia Martinez

Abstract not available. [Download Paper]

Green Infrastructure: A Stormwater Pollution and Economic Solution for Buffalo, NY

Theodore J. Maul '14

Abstract not available. [Download Paper]

The Buffalo River Restoration Project and the Path to Success in Planning Multi-Level Environmental Remediation Efforts

Stephen T. McLinden '13

The Buffalo River Restoration Project is a comprehensive, multi-entity pollution cleanup effort in downtown Buffalo and on Lake Erie's Harbor. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Great Lakes Legacy Act were established in the last quarter-century to help reverse much of the industrial degradation that fills the history of Great Lakes (and now some “Rust Belt”) cities. For the Buffalo River, this means removal of contaminated sediment that has covered the riverbed and floor of the harbor for more than a century, and a rejuvenation of aquatic and plant life in the impact area. National programs like GLRI enable federal agencies, New York State and non-profit organizations to work together in cleaning up polluted locations around the U.S. side of the Great Lakes pursuant to an agreement with Canada. This environmental remediation should be inspiring to citizens, assuming it results in the restoration of a natural, vibrant habitat in and around the aquatic ecosystem on Erie Harbor. The greatest measurable success the BRRP could achieve would be the eventual delisting of the Buffalo River area from USEPA's Great Lakes Area of Concern. Environmental advocates should hope that the Buffalo River, for its utility and health as a natural ecosystem, restores itself post-pollution cleanup. In order for the BRRP to be a success story in the narrative of all of North American environmental remediation work, efforts of similar programs must progress across polluted regions through the 21st century, regardless of political obstacles threatening the efficacy of governmental environmental stewardship. [Download Paper]

Storm Water Pollution: Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.

Jon P. Monna '13

Abstract not available. [Download Paper]

Shadow of Fukushima: The Future of Nuclear Energy in Japan

Ryan Mooney

This paper analyzes the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Specifically it addresses the growing sentiment in Japan that nuclear power is unsafe and is therefore an undesirable source of energy. The goal of this paper is to illustrate that the disaster at Fukushima was caused by and exacerbated by human failings. It suggests that because Japan relies on nuclear energy, the preferred course of action is not to abandon nuclear power, but instead to address governmental and regulatory flaws in the Japanese system. [Download Paper]

All Aboard: will the United States Jump on Board High-Speed Rail or Miss the Train

Andrew J. Olek '11

This paper discusses high-speed rail on multiple levels, particularly as it relates to the United States, New York State and Western New York. The paper examines the various benefits of high-speed rail, including economic and environmental benefits. It also examines the reasons for continued delay in the high-speed rail project both locally and nationally due to budget constraints (coupled with the belief by some that high-speed rail is not an efficient or worthwhile project). [Download Paper]

U.S. Supreme Court Affords Pre-Enforcement Judicial Review of EPA Administrative Compliance Orders For Landowners in Scakett v. Environmental Protection Agency

Michael Oliver

Abstract not available. [Download Paper]

Emotional Intelligence: A Valuable Skill for Environmental Lawyers

Dannielle O’Toole '14

Emotional intelligence involves one's ability to manage themselves and their relationships effectively. Individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence can persuade, influence, and communicate proficiently. Environmental law encompasses an extensive range of substantive, ideological, and procedural issues and crosses a wide range of practice areas. Environmental law is always changing and many environmental matters are subject to hot debate and highly emotionally charged. Thus, emotional intelligence is a valuable tool in supporting the creative deal making environmental lawyers must often engage in.

First, this paper explains the conceptual framework and central concepts of emotional intelligence. Next, the role of the modern environmental lawyers in varying contexts is examined. Finally, the benefits of strengthened emotional intelligence in advancing the goals of environmental lawyers are considered. This paper concludes that emotional intelligence can resolve legal problems by carefully bearing in mind human desires, emotions, relationships, convictions, values, and morals. [Download Paper]

Native American Tribal Rights: How Arizona's Looming Water-Shortage Threatens Tribal Sovereignty

Jonathan C. Placito '12

In 2004, Congress passed the Arizona Water Settlement Act, providing set acre-feet allocations of water to two tribes while limiting future allocations to other Arizona tribes. This paper investigates the potential impact of AWSA on Native American tribes, as well as the water rights of Native American tribes in Arizona, the potential for a water shortage in Arizona, and the impact a water shortage could have on the existence of tribes in Arizona. The paper concludes that AWSA limits the amount of future water allocations in a way that could leave tribes with unsettled water rights lacking in legal recourse to receive necessary water supplies. This could mean the disbandment of some Arizona tribes if reforms are not made. The paper then makes recommendations to address the issues. [Download Paper]

Avoiding Apocalypse: Congress Should Ban Nuclear Power

Timothy J. Ross '13

Congress should ban nuclear fission as an energy source. The nuclear power industry has grown exponentially since its beginnings in the 1940s and 1950s, and shows no signs of slowing down on its own. There are numerous health risks, including cancer, from exposure to radioactive isotopes associated with the production of nuclear power. Chernobyl and Fukushima provide examples of the potential catastrophic effect of a nuclear plant disaster. West Valley, N.Y., and Yucca Mountain, Nev., illustrate key difficulties with waste disposal and containment in the United States. There are numerous flaws with the current regulatory system governing the nuclear power industry, and have been for years. Further, there are other – less malignant – means of producing the nation's energy or reducing its requirements. Therefore, Congress should limit production of nuclear material to smaller-scale, non-energy-related uses – such as medical radiology – as well as ban the construction of new nuclear power plants and phase out the use of existing ones. [Download Paper]

Hydrofracking Litigation in New York

Richard Porter '13

Abstract not available. [Download Paper]

Fighting Frack: an Analysis of Advocacy Against Hydraulic Fracturing in New York and Pennsylvania

Leia D. Schmidt '12

This paper examines the reaction of two neighboring states, New York and Pennsylvania, to a new natural gas extraction technique, high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing ("hydrofracking"). New York has a moratorium on hydrofracking, while the technique has been used in Pennsylvania for several years. The focus of the research is the different advocacy techniques used by opponents of hydrofracking in each state, pre- and post-hydrofracking. Advocacy does not end after hydrofracking begins, but the results of this research indicate a shift in strategies used. This shift in advocacy techniques after the commencement of hydrofracking may be an evolution of advocacy on this issue that is transferable to other states facing hydrofracking, and may even be applicable to other environmental issues. [Download Paper]

Tribal Implementation of the Clean Water Act

Neasa Seneca '13

Abstract not available. [Download Paper]

Assessing the Differences Between LEED and BREEAM Building Codes

Kyle D. Taylor '12

In the past two decades, green building codes have become a hot topic. The movement took off in the early 1990s with BREEAM. Today the two most recognizable schemes are LEED (U.S.) and BREEAM (U.K.). However, there are significantly more BREEAM-certified buildings than LEED-certified buildings. Why is this the case? This is one of the questions this paper attempts to address. This paper begins with an assessment of the two schemes, in an attempt to determine whether one is more stringent than the other. BREEAM appears to be slightly more stringent, but this does not explain why there are more BREEAM-certified buildings. Essentially, BREEAM's impact has been greatly aided by government regulation, and for LEED to experience similar success domestically, it will be necessary for the United States to enact more green building codes. For LEED to be more successfully internationally, it will be necessary for LEED to develop a scheme that is more adaptable to the location of the project. [Download Paper]

Wind Energy: The Changing Face of New York State

Megan Van Wie

This paper addresses the issue of wind energy in New York State. The goal is to illustrate the negative aspects of wind energy and the arguments against wind energy, and prove that wind energy will be a critical part of New York State in the future. The paper addresses the state, then focuses on Western New York. It highlights the positive economic and environmental benefit of current wind farms in Western New York. Finally, the paper discusses Article X and how advanced wind turbine technology will increase the use of wind energy. This paper highlights that individuals in New York should embrace wind energy to seek the most possible benefits because wind farm development is going to continue to occur. [Download Paper]