Legal.online, January 2001

Copyright 2001 Robert J. Ambrogi

The Internet Is Rich In Environmental Resources

By Robert J. Ambrogi

If you think you've had some bears for clients, consider British Columbia lawyer Ben van Drimmelen, whose domain name tells it all: "barristers4bears.com." Sure enough, at his former site no longer available there was his photo, arms around a particularly grizzly professional acquaintance.

Van Drimmelen was not trapped in the claws of an unfortunate walk-in. To the contrary, this former forester and biologist was putting his training to good use, concentrating his practice -- and his one-time Web site -- on laws concerning natural resources such as fish, wildlife, forests and water.

Although van Drimmelen's site is no longer on the Web, there are plenty of others devoted to environmental law. Here is a look at some.

Focus On The Law

From a practitioner's standpoint, lawyers who practice in the field have created some of the most useful sites. A good example is Envinfo.com, http://envinfo.com, a collection of environmental-law information resources created by the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Its most outstanding feature is the annual Environmental Deskbook, prepared by the firm as a reference for its clients. The most recent edition featured an article on trends in environmental tort litigation, as well as updated versions of annual sections such as a regulatory calendar, citations to environmental regulations, an overview of federal environmental statutes, and an in-depth look at California and Florida environmental programs.

Boston lawyer David S. Blackmar created the rich and wide-ranging site, Environmental Law Net, http://www.environmentallawnet.com, where a highlight is the legal information library. It is largely just a collection of links to material elsewhere on the Web, but it is thorough and well organized. It includes laws and regulations; court and agency decisions; agency documents and databases; resources for environmental compliance; materials relating to enforcement and litigation; and resources having to do with environmental aspects of real estate and corporate transactions.

Oakland, Calif., lawyer Roger Beers maintains the Environmental Litigation Pages, http://www.rbeerslaw.com, featuring his many articles on a range of environmental-law topics, including attorneys' fees, biological resources, discovery in environmental litigation, procedural obstacles, solid waste disposal, workplace exposure, and more. Some of the articles, Beers warns, are more than a decade old, so they may not reflect the current state of the law. But most articles include the date they were published or last updated.

Lawrence P. Schnapf, author of Environmental Liability: Managing Environmental Risk in Corporate and Real Estate Transactions and Brownfield Redevelopment, published by Lexis Law Publishing, hosts Schnapf Environmental Law Information Resource Center, http://www.environmental-law.net. Focused on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, it covers federal and other state issues as well. It includes links to selected state environmental laws and a compendium of state sites having to do with brownfields and voluntary clean-up.

Legal Advocacy

Legal advocacy has long been a central focus of groups devoted to protecting the environment, as they have taken their battles to the courtroom and the legislature. Several groups devoted to legal advocacy have established sites on the Internet.

Environmental Defense, http://www.environmentaldefense.org, is a non-profit organization that links science, economics and law to address environmental issues. Its site is deep with fact sheets, primers, reports and analyses of major environmental topics. No mere collection of links, this site provides a rich research library, with full text reports on an array of topics compiled by a staff that includes more than 75 full-time lawyers, scientists and economists.

The wide-ranging and comprehensive site of Greenpeace International, http://www.greenpeace.org, reflects its position as the epicenter of international environmental activism. The site serves as the umbrella for Greenpeace organizations worldwide, all of which have their own distinct sites. It houses an archive of resources and materials posted to the Web dating back to 1994. There is detailed information on its various campaigns relating to toxics, nuclear waste, marine life, genetic engineering, and other issues. All of this is frequently updated with news and other features.

The site of the Natural Resources Defense Council, http://www.nrdc.org, offers a rich array of informative and practical materials. There are sections for each major environmental topic: clean air and energy, global warming, clean water and oceans, wildlife and fish, parks and forests, toxic chemicals, nuclear weapons and waste, and cities and green living. Within each of these sections are even deeper layers with information on specific aspects of the topic.

A non-profit, environmental law firm in Washington, D.C., the Center for International Environmental Law, http://www.ciel.org, focuses on international and comparative environmental law and policy. Its work encompasses policy research and publication, advice and advocacy, education and training, and support for institutions. Among the topics its site covers are biodiversity, climate change, human rights and the environment, trade and the environment and organic pollutants. Of particular interest is its Law and Communities Program, which focuses on how environmental laws often overlook rural constituencies in developing countries.

Earth Day 1998 was the launch date for the site of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, http://www.earthjustice.org, from the law firm formerly known as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. The site, strikingly illustrated with the work of nature photographer Galen Rowell, provides details about the ELDF's key program areas as well as a docket of current cases. Action Alerts assist visitors in sending e-mail to lawmakers on various environmental issues.

The Environmental Law Institute, http://www.eli.org, is home to the Environmental Law Reporter, a subscription periodical, available both in print and online, that provides current and in-depth reports on environmental law, including court decisions, legislative news and regulatory updates. A free trial is offered to non-subscribers. ELI's site also includes general information about the organization, which describes itself as seeking to advance environmental protection by improving law, policy and management.

Government

From acid rain and agriculture to waste water and wetlands, the one indispensable government resource for the environmental lawyer is the Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov. This well-designed and easy-to-navigate site is home to the full text of laws and regulations, press releases, newsletters, and other EPA documents. It has complete information on agency programs, offices and publications. Use the site's "browse" feature to bring up a list of every covered topic and its related resources.

Among the several ancillary sites created by the EPA, two bear mention.

  • Enviromapper, http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/em/index.html, is sort of a road map for the environment. Use it to map environmental information on drinking water, toxic and air releases, hazardous waste, water discharge permits, and Superfund sites.
  • Enviro$en$e, http://es.epa.gov, is an attempt to provide a single repository for information and databases relating to pollution prevention, compliance assurance, and enforcement.
The U.S. Dept. of the Interior, http://www.doi.gov, is responsible for management of nearly half a million acres, including the entire National Park System and vast tracts of federal lands, mostly in the west. DOI also enforces laws that protect threatened and endangered species and that govern the management of national wildlife refuges. Its divisions include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service, the National Park Service, the Office of Surface Mining and the Office of Insular Affairs.

Smokey Bear works for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, http://www.usda.gov. Its Forest Service is responsible for protecting the nation's 192 million acres of national forests and rangelands, and its Natural Resources Conservation Service oversees some 3,000 conservation districts across the U.S. The USDA site has extensive information on these programs and more, along with agency reports, news releases, speeches and the comprehensive Agriculture Fact Book.

Another key environmental agency is the U.S. Department of Energy, http://www.energy.gov. Here you can find scientific and technical information relating to sources of energy and their impact on the environment. The site includes extensive information on nuclear waste and environmental safety and health, as well as on the DOE's own environmental clean-up activities.

With more than 700 employees, the U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental and Natural Resources Division, http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd, describes itself as "the nation's environmental lawyer." Its site describes the division's organization and presents an annual summary of litigation accomplishments. Also here are division press releases, model consent decrees for certain CERCLA actions, and selected guidance and standards documents.

Laws And Treaties

For the full text of laws, treaties or other original sources of environmental law, the place to start is the Pace Virtual Environmental Law Library, http://joshua.law.pace.edu/env/vell6.html. It offers a far-reaching collection of links to U.S. and international materials, and supplements each link with a synopsis and other information such as citation, date signed and effective dates. The site also provides access to the Pace Environmental Law Review and the Journal of the Pace Center for Environmental Legal Studies.

Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators, http://sedac.ciesin.org/pidb/pidb-home.html, allows you to query various databases in order to determine specific information about environmental treaties. For example, you can determine which treaties are in force for a particular state, or which treaties govern a particular subject. The Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network operates the site.

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