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Developments in Environmental Law: What to Watch

June 1995

Citation: ELR 10308

Author: Hon. James L. Oakes

Has environmental law come of age? I think the answer, overall, may be yes. In many senses it has done so; we have made a transition from classic judicial review of administrative action in which environmental advocates such as David Sive, in cases such as the Scenic Hudson or Storm King Mountain case,1 more or less successfully sought to expand and deepen that review. The purpose was essentially to have the concept of what was in the "public interest" broadened to include environmental matters.

The litigation thus engendered — following upon similar developments in the civil rights movement — served to help raise the public consciousness, as did a whole lot of publicized events, such as the oil spill at Santa Barbara and the Cuyahoga River's bursting into flames, and, perhaps most important, some powerfully persuasive penmanship, commencing of course with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring — appearing first excerpted in the New Yorker magazine in 1962 and focusing on the poisoning of the Earth by chemical pesticides. Earth Day, April 22, 1970, was perhaps a watershed in terms of citizen response.

The author is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This Dialogue is based on a speech the author delivered at a meeting of the American Law Institute-American Bar Association in Washington, D.C., on February 15, 1995.

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