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  3. US Environmental Law and Policy

US Environmental Law and Policy (LAWS90116)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2018
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90116
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject focuses on legal and policy issues concerning the regulation of environmental quality. The first part of the subject considers the theoretical foundations of environmental regulation, including economic and non-economic perspectives on environmental degradation; the scientific predicate for environmental regulation; the objectives of environmental regulation; the valuation of environmental benefits; the distributional consequences of environmental policy; and the choice of regulatory tools, such as command-and-control regulation, taxes, marketable permit schemes, liability rules and informational requirements. The second part analyses the political dimensions of environmental law, including the role of the various institutional actors, the allocation of regulatory authority in a federal system, and public choice explanations for environmental regulation. The third and major part of the subject analyses, from legal and policy perspectives, the principal United States (US) environmental statutes, particularly the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the statutes regulating hazardous substances.

Principal topics include:

  • Economic and non-economic perspectives on environmental degradation
  • Scientific predicate for environmental regulation: Risk assessment
  • Objectives of environmental regulation: Risk management
  • Distributional consequences of environmental policy
  • Choice of regulatory tools: Command-and-control regulation, marketable permit schemes and effluent fees
  • Choice of regulatory tools: Deposit-refund systems, liability rules and informational approaches
  • Federalism and environmental regulation
  • Environmental law and public choice
  • US Clean Air Act
  • US Clean Water Act
  • US Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • US Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA): Introduction; potentially responsible parties.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will have the following skills:

  • Ability to critically analyse choices among environmental policies
  • Sophisticated understanding of the political and institutional backdrop to the design of environmental regulatory programs
  • Facility at interpreting complex environmental statutory schemes
  • Understanding and ability to evaluate and criticise the major strands of the academic literature.

Last updated: 29 March 2019