While Caitlin attended the VLS symposium on Friday, I was at the University of Michigan Law School’s Environmental Law and Policy Program’s fall conference. Co-sponsored by the school’s Environmental Law Society and the Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law, the theme of this year’s conference was environmental law and public health.
The conference had kicked off the night before, with an animated keynote by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. She said plainly that for her, public health and environmental protection “are one and the same.” Administrator McCarthy pointed to specific ways her agency protects public health, pointing to the new draft carbon rules, the mercury and air toxics and light duty vehicle rules, and several environmental justice initiatives near refineries. Notably, she discussed the potential for integrating health data into state improvement plans. In the end, though, McCarthy struck a very common sense tone by acknowledging that EPA regulation could go only so far in shaping U.S. capitalism’s broader engine for change: “Figuring out how to turn environmental challenges into economic opportunities, that is what we must do with carbon.”
Friday’s panels on environmental protection and public health values, pollution and children’s health, industrial siting, urban agriculture, pesticides, and sustainable communities drew from a broad swath of scientists, planners, and lawyers and fostered amazing interdisciplinary discussions. Presenters came from a variety of law schools (VLS, U Minn, U Florida, BC, Tulane, CUNY, U Richmond); U Mich schools of public health, architecture and urban planning, and natural resources; government agencies (City of Detroit Planning, MN Department of Health); and NGOs (Sierra Club, Environmental Law Institute, National Center for Healthy Housing, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pesticide Research Institute).
And luckily for me, the conference panels also drew in three VLS-ers to Michigan Law’s old-looking-but-newly-constructed South Hall: Ben Muth ’12, who is in private practice doing civil litigation in Ann Arbor; Steve Campbell ’12, who works at the Wayne County corporate council office; and Khuziama Khairulla ’14, a 3L student doing his Semester in Practice at Steve’s office. Go Swans!