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 2022-2023 academic year!

Stanford Study Finds Promise in Expanding Renewables Based on Results in 3 Major Economies

Spring Newsletter

The Spring 2023 newsletter highlights the Climate and Energy Policy Program (CEPP), a partnership between Stanford Law School and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. CEPP engages in research and policy analysis with government, environmental justice, and Tribal Nation partners. Current areas of focus include:

  • Analyzing and addressing legal obstacles to equitable building decarbonization;
  • Furthering understanding of wildfire and wildfire smoke risk, and developing mitigation and resilience approaches responsive to the unique concerns of vulnerable populations and considerate of the cultural perspectives and practices of Tribal Nations in California; and
  • Policy approaches to ensure a clean and resilient grid and a just and fair energy transition in California.
Read more spring news here

Recent Work

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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.
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Removing Legal Barriers to Building Electrification

Achieving California’s ambitious climate goals requires electrifying existing buildings that currently rely on natural gas for services such as heating and cooking. Utilities will eventually need to reduce or terminate natural gas service in portions of their service territories – or reduce those service territories themselves –  and instead use electricity to heat buildings and power appliances like stoves and water heaters. An Environmental Law Clinic and Stanford Woods Institute white paper evaluates the legal, policy, and equitable issues that the transition from mixed-fuel (natural gas and electric) to all-electric service may raise.
Stanford Environmental Law Clinic's Critical Environmental Cases with Debbie Sivas, Chris Meyer, and Sidni Frederick

Stanford Legal on SiriusXM: Stanford Environmental Law Clinic’s Critical Environmental Cases with Debbie Sivas, Chris Meyer, and Sidni Frederick

Stanford’s Environmental Law Clinic issues come in all sizes and shapes, from arguing successfully before the Ninth Circuit on their Endangered Species Act/NEPA case against the Forest Service, which implicated forest management issues in the face of drought and wildfire, to going before the Eastern District of California in a wildlife trafficking case. Join co-hosts Joe Bankman and Rich Ford for a discussion with founding director of Stanford’s Environmental Law Clinic Debbie Sivas and 3L students Chris Meyer and Sidni Frederick about critical environmental cases—and why they matter.
Environmental Law Clinic Drafts Model Ordinance to Protect Local Communities from Offshore Oil Drilling

ELC fights to block offshore oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico

On behalf of a coalition of tribal and environmental groups, ELC filed an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit backing the lower court’s decision to strike the largest offshore oil and gas sale in U.S. history –  a roughly 80 million-acre drilling lease sale to Shell, Chevron, and other big oil companies. The Bureau of Ocean Management had approved the lease sale, in spite of failing to analyze its huge environmental impacts as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Bureau also claimed that the lease would lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions than if the oil and gas was left in the ground, a claim which both the lower court and ELC found illogical and inconsistent with the record. Hurricane Ian once again highlighted the risks of offshore oil drilling in the Gulf, an area that has borne the brunt of environmental and climate impacts after a century of being mistreated as a "sacrifice zone of fossil fuels available for extraction."
The Forest and the Fisher

The Forest and the Fisher

Stanford Law School Environmental Law Clinic students Sidni Frederick and Christopher Meyer, both JD ’22, have never seen a Southern Sierra Nevada Pacific fisher, a critically endangered, geographically isolated, and […]
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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

The Bright Idea Podcast

The Bright Idea is a Stanford Law School podcast that highlights some of the most promising and inspirational work around the world in sustainability and conservation.

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!