John Pendergrass

John Pendergrass
Vice President, Programs & Publications

John Pendergrass leads the Research and Policy Division, which conducts legal and policy research and analyses of pressing environmental and natural resource issues in the U.S. and globally. He also leads the Institute's Educational Programs, numbering more than 100 each year, and the Institute's Publications Division, which produces the Environmental Law Reporter, the Environmental Forum, and books. He manages a staff of 35 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals, plus Visiting Scholars and other volunteers.

John has researched and written on a broad range of legal and policy issues focusing on what works in practice and how to improve the implementation of law. He was among the first to address improving legal and administrative mechanisms for protecting public health and the environment from the risks at contaminated sites where some hazardous substances are left in place. His research and writing on such institutional controls and long-term stewardship have led to changes in national policy and in the laws of many states. He has also written extensively about innovative state environmental and natural resource programs as well as federal preemption of state laws. He established ELI’s Judicial Education Program to educate judges throughout the world about environmental law. Since 1997, Pendergrass has been a member of the accreditation council overseeing environmental and other management systems certification bodies in the United States. He also is a past chair, and current vise chair, of the Greenhouse Gas Validation/Verification Accreditation Committee of the American National Standards Institute. Pendergrass has been with ELI since 1988.


  • Climate Change: UNFCCC, energy subsidies
  • International: governance, enforcement, sustainable development, natural resource management
  • Judiciary: judicial education
  • Law: Superfund enforcement
  • Pollution: Superfund, brownfields cleanup and redevelopment, hazardous substances, nanotechnology
  • Water: national pollutant discharge elimination system permit system and state programs


  • J.D., Case Western Reserve University, 1979
  • B.S. in environmental science, Michigan State University, 1976

Selected Publications

“Reimagining the Future,” in Environmental Forum, July/August 2021 (with LeRoy Paddock).

"Environmental liability litigation could remedy biodiversity loss," Conservation Letters (DOI: 10.1111/conl.12821) (Phelps et. al.)(2021).

“Environmental Rule of Law: First Global Report,” UN Environment (2019) (co-author).

“CLEARING THE PATH: Citizen Science and Public Decision Making in the United States,” James McElfish, John Pendergrass, and Talia Fox (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars 2016).

“Addressing the Risks of Nanomaterials under United States and European Union Regulatory Frameworks for Chemicals,” chapter in Assessing Nanoparticle Risks to Human Health (2d Ed.) (Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Ed) (Linda K. Breggin, Robert Falkner, John Pendergrass, Read Porter, and Nico Jaspars) (Elsevier 2016).

Environmental Law Reporter, Tropical Conservation and Liability for Environmental Harm, November 2015 (Carol A. Jones, John Pendergrass, Jacob Phelps, and John Broderick).

John Pendergrass, Life-Cycle Costs of Institutional Controls, in Amy Edwards, ed., Implementing Institutional Controls at Brownfields and Other Contaminated Sites 2d Ed. (ABA, 2012).

Linda Breggin and John Pendergrass, Regulation of Nanoscale Materials under Media-Specific Environmental Laws, in D. Bowman, G. Hodge, and A. Maynard, eds., International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies, (Edward Elgar, 2010).

John Pendergrass, Guidance Note on the Judiciary, in Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook, (World Bank 2010).

Linda Breggin, Robert Falkner, Nico Jaspars, John Pendergrass, and Read Porter, Securing the Promise of Nanotechnologies: Towards Transatlantic Regulatory Cooperation (Chatham House 2009)

John Pendergrass, Legal Background to Off-Site Contamination, in Robert A Simons ed., When Bad Things Happen to Good Property (Envtl. L. Inst. 2006).

John Pendergrass & Katherine N. Probst, Estimating the Cost of Institutional Controls (2005).

John Pendergrass, Robert A. Simons & Kimberly Winson-Geideman, Quantifying Long-Term Environmental Regulatory Risk for Brownfields: Are Reopeners Really an Issue?, 46 J. Envtl. Plan. & Mgmt. 257 (2003).

Around the States (column), Envtl. F. (1991 to 2010).