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David Driesen

University Professor



Syracuse University College of Law

David M. Driesen is a University Professor at Syracuse University College of Law, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is a member of the editorial board of the Carbon and Climate Law Review, published in Berlin and Environmental Law, published in Oxford.

Professor Driesen has taught and written in the areas of environmental law, international environmental law, and constitutional law for many years.

While in academia, Professor Driesen has devoted significant time to defending the constitutionality of environmental law. He represented the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund in the American Trucking case before the Supreme Court, public health groups in defending California’s Clean Fuel Fleet Programs against a preemption challenge, and constitutional law professors in defending the Endangered Species Act’s constitutionality. He also represented several United States Senators, including Hilary Clinton, in a challenge to EPA’s new source review rules in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has acted as a consultant for American Rivers and other environmental groups on Clean Water Act issues stemming from the Supreme Court’s federalism decisions. And he has testified before Congress on lessons from the implementation of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

Professor Driesen worked as a project attorney and then senior project attorney in the air and energy program for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He also served on EPA National Pollution Control Techniques Advisory Committee. Prior to that time, he was an Assistant Attorney General in the Special Litigation Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and a law clerk to Justice Robert Utter of the Washington State Supreme Court.

Professor Driesen has published widely in the areas of environmental law and policy.  He edited and contributed two chapters in Economic Thought and U.S. Climate Change Policy, MIT Press 2009, and edited and contributed one chapter in Beyond Environmental Law: Policy Proposals for a Better Environmental Future, edited with fellow CPR Member Scholar Alyson Flournoy. His book, The Economic Dynamics of Environmental Law (MIT Press 2003), reframes the debate over regulatory reform to take change over time into account. The book argues that static efficiency-based approaches fail to adequately address the tendency of rising population and consumption to increase environmental destruction over time. The book critiques cost-benefit analysis, emissions trading, and free trade-based restrictions on international environmental protection and recommends reforms rooted in an economic dynamic analysis. Professor Driesen received the Lynton Keith Caldwell Award for the book. His most recent book, The Economic Dynamics of Law (Cambridge University Press 2012) further develops the economic dynamic theory and applies it to climate disruption and to subjects outside the environmental realm. He, along with Robert Adler and Kirsten Engel, has also written the textbook, Environmental Law: A Conceptual and Pragmatic Approach (Aspen 3rd ed. 2016).

Professor Driesen has published articles on emissions trading in  Environmental Law, Harvard Environmental Law Review, and leading environmental journals, on cost-benefit analysis in Ecology Law Quarterly, Colorado Law Review and Environmental Law, and on free trade and the environment in the Virginia Journal of International Law. His articles on constitutional law have appeared in the Cornell Law Review and elsewhere. His writing critiquing the dichotomy between “command and control” regulation and economic incentives has been especially widely cited and has helped spawn a more sophisticated third generation literature on economic incentives.

Professor Driesen is known primarily as a critic of efficiency-based law and economics and as a proponent of an alternative approach based on institutional economics and emphasizing stimulation of innovation. He plays trumpet with the Excelsior Cornet Band and the Syracuse University Brass Ensemble. Before going to law school he taught and performed in symphony orchestras in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Austria, learning German, Portuguese, and Spanish in the process.