Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program

Uniquely situated in the heart of Silicon Valley and part of one of the world’s preeminent research universities, Stanford’s award-winning Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program (ENRLP) has earned its reputation as a leading program for education and research in this dynamic field. Indeed, with a nationally renowned faculty praised for its cutting-edge research and practice, the program has revolutionized environmental education.

Our students develop their skills in analyzing and solving problems through situational case studies, learn effective teamwork through Stanford’s Environmental Law Clinic, and master mediation and multiparty negotiation techniques through in-class simulations. Our clinical programs and courses foster collaborative solutions to real-world problems. Many of our courses involve other Stanford departments, and all integrate multidisciplinary materials. The program also provides access to a broad spectrum of practitioners, regulators, and academics in Silicon Valley and beyond, and to hands-on involvement in research, environmental advocacy, and collaborative dialogues. Beyond the classroom, our students pursue a wide array of extracurricular activities, such as membership in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal and the Environmental Law Society.

Stanford Law School graduates pursue a variety of distinguished careers in environmental and natural resources law. Our alumni currently hold positions—covering the spectrum from staff attorney to executive leadership—at national environmental organizations, federal and state agencies, the White House, major corporations, law firms with strong environmental practices, and academia.

Check out our exciting courses in the 2023-2024 academic year!

Photo of a landscape of farmland with windmills.

Spring Newsletter

Stanford Law’s environmental program is taking aim at unsustainable agricultural practices, from litigation in the Environmental Law Clinic to enforce clean water regulation in the Central Valley, to using AI to map and reveal pollution from industrial scale farming, to developing recommendations to improve climate-smart agriculture and food system practices in our policy labs. Read more about our efforts in this area here!

Read more spring news here

Law Course Is a Win-Win-Win for Students, Startups, and the Planet

A unique hands-on class teaches Stanford Law School students how to counsel early-stage companies that are tackling pressing environmental issues. Startup Law: Sustainability, conceived and co-taught by lecturers Molly Melius, JD ’10, and Sam McClure, JD ’17, takes a win-win-win approach to teaching SLS students about what it means to be a lawyer for a sustainability-focused startup. After ramp-up time in the classroom, six students work in teams to support five to eight Stanford-affiliated startups. Overseen by McClure and Melius, the students get real-world experience as they help counsel the founders on a broad range of issues most startups face, from incorporation to intellectual property assignment to equity allocations.

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Photo of Stanford lecturers Molly Melius, JD '10, and Sam McClure, JD '17.

Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and Program Blogs

Stanford's 2023 Bright Award Honors Valérie Courtois

On October 2, 2023, Stanford University held a ceremony to present Valérie Courtois with the 2023 Bright Award, the University’s highest environmental prize. Courtois is the founding executive director of Canada’s Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI), an initiative that supports Indigenous Nations, or First Nations, in protecting and stewarding their lands and waters.

Read more about Valérie’s work and the event here and here.

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Stanford's Buzz Thompson Publishes New Book on Business-Government Partnerships and the Water Crisis

Photo of the cover of the book, Liquid Asset, by Stanford's Barton "Buzz" H. Thompson, Jr.

Stanford’s Buzz Thompson has published a new book, Liquid Asset: How Business and Government Can Partner to Solve the Freshwater Crisis. The book centers on how water managers and the private sector can collaborate to address water shortages and water sustainability.

On April 26, 2024, leading water-law scholars held a lively discussion of the major freshwater challenges facing the United States and the world and what role, if any, the private sector can play in solving those challenges. The workshop expanded on Professor Thompson’s provocative new book, Liquid Asset, which argues for a greater private role.

Presenters included Prof. Vanessa Casado Perez (Texas A&M School of Law), Prof. Rhett Larson (ASU College of Law), Prof. Dave Owen (UC Law San Francisco), Prof. Jim Salzman (UCLA School of Law), Prof. Mark Squillace (Colorado Law School), Prof. Buzz Thompson (Stanford Law School) and Welcome by Dean Paul Brest. Their work will be published in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal.

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Recent Work

Stanford's Buzz Thompson on California's Wildfires, Water, Drought, and Climate Change

Developing and Supporting the Federal Wildland Fire Workforce

At the request of Senator Ron Wyden, students in this spring's Smoke: Wildfire Science and Policy practicum -- together with Wildfire Legal Fellows Cassandra Jurenci and Eric Macomber, environmental law expert Deborah Sivas, and Climate and Energy Policy Program researchers Michael Wara, Michael Mastrandrea, and Jessica Yu -- recently published a report that describes how Congress might better support the federal wildland fire workforce and also help to develop a workforce that implements necessary wildfire resilience treatments.
Virgin America

ELC's Stephanie Safdi on Potential Congressional Mandate to Continue Sales of Leaded Aviation Gasoline

In an op-ed in the Hill, Environmental Law Clinical Supervising Attorney Stephanie Safdi highlights the risk that bills pending in the House and Senate would lock in continued use of leaded aviation gas, despite the serious health risks and environmental justice concerns this use raises.
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Stanford's Deborah Sivas on SCOTUS Decision that Limits EPA Powers

The May 25 U.S. Supreme Court decision Sackett v. EPA overturned a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 9th Circuit, which sided with the EPA in 2021, and upended existing practices by limiting the Clean Water Act, with a majority holding that only wetlands that have a continuous surface connection to a river, lake, or other major waterway are covered by the law. Environmental law expert Professor Deborah Sivas discussed the decision and possible impacts.
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Stanford's Buzz Thompson on Conserving Water on the Colorado River

The Colorado River has a major problem: Water rights on the Colorado River have exceeded available water flow by about by about 30% (6 million acre-feet per year) over the past two decades. This month, the Biden administration announced a tentative three-year deal to reduce the amount of total water used in the lower Colorado Basin. Professor Buzz Thompson, a global expert on water and natural resources who directs Stanford's Water in the West Program and who has served as Special Master for the United States Supreme Court in Montana v. Wyoming, discusses the importance of the Colorado River, how the deal allocates reductions to address the water imbalance, and what is needed for a long-term solution.
wildfire burns near transmission line

CEPP Research News

Wildfire: Assessing and quantifying risk exposure and mitigation across western utilities

California Burning 1

California Burning

Stanford Research Looks at Drought, Wildfires, and Smoke and the Growing Risks of Climate Change in the Golden State

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Stanford’s Buzz Thompson on California’s Wildfires, Water, Drought, and Climate Change

California Burning: Fire, Drought, and Climate Change with Buzz Thompson

In this episode, a leading national water law expert Buzz Thompson joins us to discuss fires, water, and climate change.

Listen to Episode
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Q&A: Reasons for hope amid California’s drought

Stanford water experts discuss lessons learned from previous droughts, imperatives for infrastructure investment and pathways for the state to achieve dramatically better conservation and reuse of its most precious resource.

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Forest fire


Current law not only fails to regulate particulate matter derived from wildfire smoke, it also imposes burdensome permitting requirements on one of the most effective risk-mitigation strategies: prescribed fire. In a practicum on Smoke, students are exploring regulatory obstacles to expanding prescribed burning in California, developing a simplified air quality health benefits model, and investigating potential new policy approaches to streamlining the approval process for prescribed burning projects.

Living with Fires: Stanford’s Deborah Sivas on Mitigating Risks with Law and Environmental Policy 1

Policy Changes to Mitigate Wildfire Risk

Professor Deborah Sivas discusses the effects of climate on fires in the state and policy changes that might lessen their danger to residents and resources. Sivas details strategies to reduce wildfire impacts, including: forest management techniques to reduce understory and even-aged stands, local building code requirements to “harden” new structures against fire, and property tax changes to incentive residents at the wildland-urban interface to relocate.

Thinking Harder and Smarter About Wildland Fire

Recent Press by the ENRLP Team

Stanford Environmental News

Looking for more stories about the environment, energy and sustainability? Check out the latest news from some of Stanford's many environmental institutes and centers!