Columbia Journal of Environmental Law


Trophy Hunting Contracts: Unenforceable for Reasons of Public Policy

29th July 2016 By: Myanna Dellinger

Contracts that are considered “unsavory,” “undesirable,” “at war with the interests of society,” or “in conflict with the morals of the time” may be declared unenforceable for reasons of public policy regardless of whether or not any underlying legislation provides that the contractual conduct is illegal.  Allowing wealthy individuals to kill some of the very last few specimens of rare species has become so distasteful to so many members of the general public that the time has come for courts to declare such contracts unenforceable for reasons of public policy.  This Article demonstrates how this may be accomplished.  The Article also examines the wildlife-protective capabilities of the public trust doctrine and the closely related state ownership of wildlife doctrine.  These doctrines add further weight to the contractual argument, but also operate as stand-alone protective doctrines in lawsuits against government entities.  To be able to present any of these arguments to a court of law, standing is a hurdle, but one that can be overcome.  This Article highlights how this might be done.

You Say You Want a REV Solution: Considering New York’s Marquee Energy Initiative as Climate Change Policy

29th July 2016 By: Andrew Ratzkin

This past fall, in a pair of remarkable speeches at New York University and Columbia University, Governor Cuomo issued forceful, groundbreaking statements and demonstrated real leadership on climate change. He bluntly articulated the problem, and asserted its reality in direct, unequivocal terms.

At the Columbia event, and elsewhere, New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (“REV”) has been highlighted as the key pillar of the State’s climate change policy, the vehicle via which the State’s ambitious greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions reduction goals—forty percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030, eighty percent reduction by 2050—would be achieved. This Article considers the REV from the standpoint of whether this initiative is likely to deliver on this promise.

Public Interest Standing and Judicial Review of Environmental Matters: A Comparative Approach

29th July 2016 By: Jeffrey T. Hammons

Judicial review is vital to clarifying and enforcing environmental laws in the United States.  The public can use judicial review to protect the environment and hold the government accountable for environmental harms.  Redressing environmental harm is often led by non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) specializing in environmental issues.  However, the modern standing doctrine can be a barrier to redressing environmental harms because it is not flexible enough to address the unique factual situations that arise in environmental litigation.

Deep Space Thinking: What Elon Musk’s Idea to Nuke Mars Teaches Us About Regulating the “Visionaries and Daredevils” of Outer Space

29th July 2016 By: Thomas J. Herron

Elon Musk, founder of California-based aerospace company SpaceX, was recently called a “supervillain” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert after revealing his idea to detonate thermonuclear devices over the poles of Mars.

Musk’s proposal raises fascinating legal questions about non-government activity in outer space.  This Note will explore the legal implications of his idea to terraform Mars using fusion nuclear technology.  It is not an endorsement of using nuclear devices to alter the Martian atmosphere.  Far too many ethical, environmental, technological, and political questions must be addressed before the issue can be decided.  Rather, this Note is intended to show that international and national space laws dance around the questions surrounding Musk’s proposal without providing a clear-cut legal answer.  But incorporating his idea, however farfetched, into any discussion about the future legal rights of non-government entities in outer space will steer lawmakers toward preferred, consensus outcomes as the law evolves.  Musk’s unusual idea is relevant to that discussion because it will help lawmakers demarcate the appropriate legal boundaries of non-government activity in outer space.

Current ISSUE

Vol. 41  No. 3
The Columbia Journal of Environmental Law was founded in 1972 with a grant from the Ford Foundation. The Journal is one of the oldest environmental law journals in the nation and is widely regarded as one of the preeminent environmental journals in the country. Our subscribers include law libraries, law firms, and federal, local, and state courts, as well as a significant international readership.


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