Energy and the Environment

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General Enrollment Course
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Course Description

Abundant, affordable energy is essential to a standard of living that many people in developed nations take for granted and to which many people in undeveloped nations aspire. But energy industry activities also produce a number of externalities, including impacts on the environment. For example, burning fossil fuels to generate electricity or to power planes, trains, and automobiles causes the emission of carbon dioxide and other substances. These can accumulate in the atmosphere and affect climate, or they can harm air quality in other ways. Spills of oil can contaminate groundwater, surface waters, or soil. The operation of wind turbines can kill birds and bats. Energy development of all types, including utility-scale solar has the potential to adversely affect endangered species by disturbing their habitats. These and other potential impacts implicate a vast array of common law, statutory, and regulatory controls at the federal, state, and local levels. This course examines the application of these laws in the context of energy industry operations and development. The course provides insight into some of the legal issues faced by the energy industry, as well as by persons who try to limit the potential adverse impacts of the industry, and the course illustrates how an array of different environmental laws apply in the context of particular activities.