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Scholars Kick Off 2023 Advocating for Clean Water, Climate Resilience, and More

Climate Justice Public Protections Responsive Government Climate Defending Safeguards Energy Environmental Justice Water Workers

Testifying before Congress, releasing new books, engaging with the news media — our Member Scholars packed virtually a year’s worth of advocacy on climate justice, clean air and water, and worker health and safety into the first three months of 2023.

In February, Dave Owen, a law professor at the University of California at San Francisco, testified before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about the need to protect our nation’s waters from pollution and degradation. As the Democrats’ only witness in a hearing called by Republicans, Owen challenged conservative attacks on clean water safeguards and defended them against broadsides from conservative lawmakers and witnesses, including a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official appointed by the Trump administration. Owen’s testimony drew news coverage in outlets ranging from Energy and Environment News to the Idaho Capital Sun to the Progressive Farmer.

In March, Emily Hammond, a law professor at the George Washington University, served as the minority witness at a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing on legislation that would dramatically constrain the federal government’s ability to protect the public from health, environmental, and other harms. In their testimony, Hammond exposed the dangers of the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would prevent major regulations issued by federal agencies from taking effect without congressional approval. Hammond said the act “eviscerates a core of government legitimacy — reasonableness — and … is likely unconstitutional.”

Also in March, new board member and Member Scholar Sharon Block, a professor of practice at Harvard Law School and former acting administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, testified on unfair labor practices and retaliation against workers at Starbucks. During the hearing, conducted by the Senate Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee, Block called Starbucks’ retaliation and labor law violations “a coordinated campaign to stifle union activity across the company” and called for stronger labor protections.

Books and Awards

Our Member Scholars have been busy outside of the nation’s capital, too.

Two scholars — Rob Verchick (our board president) and Rebecca Bratspies — published books on climate resilience and New York City history.

In The Octopus in The Parking Garage, Verchick, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, examines how to manage climate risks and build climate resilience, a necessary step toward justice. And in Naming Gotham: The Villains, Rogues, and Heroes behind New York’s Place Names, Bratspies, a law professor at City University of New York (CUNY), tells stories behind the city’s iconic roads, bridges, neighborhoods, and institutions. The book takes readers on an “intimate, historical journey” to places bearing such names as Jackie Robinson and Henry Hudson.

Two other scholars, Shelley Welton of the University of Pennsylvania and Hannah Wiseman of Pennsylvania State University, won the Arizona State University College of Law prestigious Morrison Prize for a 2022 article they co-authored with former Member Scholar Alex Klass (currently on leave from the Center to serve in the Biden administration) and colleague Joshua Macey of the University of Chicago. Originally published in the Stanford Law Review, the article argues for strengthening the nation’s electric grid to maintain reliability during the transition to renewable energy. Melissa Powers of Lewis & Clark Law School, meanwhile, was inducted into the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

Media Rockstars

Last but not least, several scholars are beating the advocacy drum in the news media. Karen Sokol, on leave from her role as law professor at Loyola University New Orleans to serve as a fellow in law, ethics, and public policy at Princeton University, countered narratives pushed by Big Oil in numerous outlets this quarter, ranging from National Public Radio to The American Prospect.

Block, meanwhile, advocated on behalf of worker protections in mainstream outlets including Fast Company, The Nation, Politico, CBS News, Yahoo! News, and more, while also appearing in outlets reaching legal and academic audiences, such as Bloomberg Law, SCOTUSBlog, The Harvard Crimson, and more.

And many other scholars reached audiences via interviews with reporters for major outlets in New York, Washington, D.C., Houston, Seattle, Cleveland, Baton Rouge, San Francisco, Winston-Salem, N.C., and other cities, appeared in wire stories published by the Associated Press and Reuters, and reached expert audiences via outlets like Greenwire, SCOTUSBlog, and Foreign Policy.

Kudos to all, and thanks for using your expertise to advocate for climate justice, a more responsive and inclusive government, and health and safety for all.

Climate Justice Public Protections Responsive Government Climate Defending Safeguards Energy Environmental Justice Water Workers

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