NEPA, ESA and Fundamentals of Environmental Law (ELI Summer School, 2021)

June 15, 2021 12:00 pm — 2:00 pm
Webinar only

Each summer, ELI convenes a complimentary seminar series that offers an introduction to the legal and policy foundations of environmental protection in the United States.

ELI's Summer School is a series of seminars taught by experts in their fields, introducing the audience to the major environmental statutes, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); land use law; and environmental justice. Faculty will also incorporate major regulatory and judicial updates to the laws.

Who will benefit: All are welcome. Students and emerging professionals will have unique opportunities to learn, hear updates, ask questions, and network. The series is intended for:

  • undergraduates,
  • law students and graduate students, and
  • working professionals new to or looking for a refresher course in environmental law (such as interns, summer clerks, and associates, or second-career professionals).

NEPA, ESA and Fundamentals of Environmental Law

The oldest major environmental statutes in the United States have existed for more than four decades. This session serves as an introduction to the framework of environmental law and also highlights two of its major statutes.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted to establish a national policy and means for carrying out protective environmental principles. NEPA also established the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to ensure federal agencies meet their obligations under NEPA. Under the previous administration, amendments and updates to NEPA focused on the environmental review process in order to streamline the process and reduce long wait times. However, the Biden administration’s newly appointed leadership on the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), has signaled a priority of reinstating NEPA’s former process, along with boosting requirements on issues such as climate change, and potentially considering incorporating health assessments into the NEPA process.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the principal law for the protection of endangered species. Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), ESA protects and recovers imperiled species deemed either “endangered” or “threatened” and the ecosystems that they depend on.

This session serves as an introduction to the fundamentals of environmental law and highlights these two major statutes:

  • the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), known as the "Magna Carta" of environmental law
  • the Endangered Species Act (ESA), known as the “pit bull” of environmental law

Marna McDermott
, Assistant General Counsel, Environmental Policy, Exelon Moderator
Jim McElfish
, Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program and Senior Attorney, Environmental Law Institute
Bryan C. Williamson, Associate, Akin Gump

Marna McDermott presentation
Jim McElfish presentation
Bryan C. Williamson presentation

Supplemental Materials:
A Citizen's Guide to NEPA (2021)

A Citizen's Guide to NEPA (2007) reflecting NEPA practice from 1978-Sept. 14, 2020
What did CEQ Do? description of Trump Administration changes to the CEQ regulations
Recordings of Summer School sessions are usually posted w/in 48 hours.

**See the entire Summer School 2021 schedule HERE.**