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Developments in Environmental Law

April 1973

Citation: ELR 50001

Author: James L. Oakes

I will try to give you in a few moments one federal judge's view of certain recent developments in environmental law. It will necessarily be rapid-fire and broadly reportorial. I will follow with some thoughts on the role of litigation in safeguarding the environment. Despite the title of this talk, I come to you today with no gospel, no Word, very little sermon, but merely with a built-in set of biases and prejudices probably equivalent to those of the person sitting next to you, but not to your own.

The first problem for an introductory speaker is to attempt to answer the question, what is environmental law? I underestand there are now five casebooks on it and 80 professors teaching it; there are two law reporter services (Environmental Law Reporter, Environment Reporter) and a number of law reviews. The field, however, is diffuse. It comes, among other things, from international law, constitutional law, administrative law, public health law, nuisance law, natural resources and property law, conservation law, and a myriad of statutes, federal and state. So, to narrow the field somewhat, I will consider developments in the courts—that is, in litigation only—and will discuss briefly four areas that are largely procedural in nature: (1) standing, (2) financing the costs of litigation, (3) NEPA, and (4) nuisance as a form of environmental action.

Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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