Fifty Years of Environmental and Energy Law

About the GW Law Environmental and Energy Program

In 1970, GW Law assumed a leadership role in modern environmental law teaching, in significant part due to a $250,000 grant from the Ford Foundation that brought Arnold Reitze to GW and allowed the school to significantly expand its environmental law offerings. Throughout the past 50 years, GW Law has been an innovator in environmental legal education by developing one of the first Environmental Law master’s degree (LLM programs), by developing a unique curriculum that has trained hundreds of military lawyers in environmental law through the LLM program, by developing one of the most extensive environmental law curricula in the country, and by creating the Sustainable Energy Initiative that focuses on the intersections between energy and environmental law. Today, GW Law counts thousands of environmental and energy law practitioners among its alumni and new law students, who come to GW from across the country and the world, contribute to the tradition by actively participating in environmental and energy law groups and extracurricular activities

Anniversary Events

The Environmental and Energy program is hosting several events to celebrate 50 years of environmental law at GW. Click the events tab below to read more about the upcoming events. A livestream will also be available during each event.

October 30, 2019

50th Anniversary official “kickoff” event featuring keynote lecture by former EPA Administrator, William K. Reilly, followed by a panel discussion with Jeffrey and Martha Kohn Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Glen Earl Weston Research Professor, Emily Hammond, and J. B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law, Robert L. Glicksman. A small reception will be held before the event for attending GW Law alumni.

Learn More

November 18-19, 2019

Co-sponsorship with the Environmental Law Institute of a larger Re-imagining Environmental and Natural Resources Law Conference at Airlie House.

March 12, 2020

Conference on the conservation of natural resources in conjunction with the Conservation Litigation Project at GW Law.

March 27, 2020

Shapiro Symposium on the theme of “future of environment and energy law” featuring GW Law alumni who now teach environmental or energy law in various law schools throughout the United States.

April 2, 2020

Guest speaker Professor Richard Lazarus will attend GW Law for a special Shapiro Presentation on the seminal environmental law case, Massachusetts v EPA. He will later be joined by two GW Law alumni, Joe Mendelson and Greg Garre, who were attorneys in the case, for a panel discussion.

Spring 2020

Release of a GW Law White Paper on Re-imagining Environmental and Natural Resources Law.

June 2020

Special 50th-anniversary program for the GW Law Reunion Weekend.

Fall 2020

Three-day symposium and alumni event as the culminating program for the 50th anniversary. The symposium will focus on changes needed in several areas of environmental, natural resource, and energy law to better respond to climate change.

Fall 2020

Release of Special 50th Anniversary JEEL edition with scholarly papers building out from the Shapiro Symposium.

Event Videos

Conference on Public Lands and Energy Transitions

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Call to Order and Welcome


[video: width:560 height:315 align:center lightbox:1 lightbox_title:Managing the Public Lands in the Public Interest]

Managing the Public Lands in the Public Interest


[video: width:560 height:315 align:center lightbox:1 lightbox_title:Managing Public Lands to Mitigate Climate Change]

Managing Public Lands to Mitigate Climate Change


[video: width:560 height:315 align:center lightbox:1 lightbox_title:Renewable Energy Projects on Public Lands]

Renewable Energy Projects on Public Lands


[video: width:560 height:315 align:center lightbox:1 lightbox_title:How Public Lands Can Help Us Adapt to Climate Impacts]

How Public Lands Can Help Us Adapt to Climate Impacts


More Events

[video: width:560 height:315 align:center lightbox:1 lightbox_title:Overlooking Human Dignity in Environmental Outcomes]


Overlooking Human Dignity in Environmental Outcomes


[video: width:560 height:315 align:center lightbox:1 lightbox_title:Airlie House Conference Debrief]


Reorganizing Government: A Functional and Dimensional Framework Book Talk


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Airlie House Conference Debrief



The GW Environment and Energy Law Program has long been one of the leading programs in the country.  Each year almost 100 new students come to the School with an express interest in environmental or energy law.  During our 50th anniversary year, we will feature programming focused on the future of environmental law beginning with a lecture by former EPA Administrator William Reilly on October 30. More exciting events are underway from now to October 2020 - stay tuned.

To maintain and build on our leadership role and to serve the many students interested in environmental and energy law at GW we need your support.  In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the GW Environmental and Energy Law Program we are launching a year-long, 50th anniversary fundraising effort to provide scholarship support to students interested in the public interest practice of environmental or energy law and to provide funding for innovative new programming that will allow GW to build on its leadership role in environmental and energy law education.  Please consider making a donation this year to the GW Environment and Energy Law Program by designating your gift to the Environmental and Energy Law Futures Fund. 



Leaves falling1970

  • Founded in 1970 as one of the first environmental law programs in the country thanks to a generous grant of $250,000 by the Ford Foundation
  • Created one of the first environmental law LLM programs in the United States


  • Almost 800 students are enrolled in the environmental law survey course and over 1,700 enrolled in environmental courses

Late 1970s

  • Offered 11 courses in environmental law


  • Program expanded to include energy law
  • Added LLM sub-specialties in international environmental law and environmental and procurement law


  • Published the first The Environmental Lawyer in collaboration with the American Bar Association, which ran until 2013


  • Added a new LLM sub-specialty in energy and environmental law
  • Held the first J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Environmental Law Symposium, which is held annually and has attracted more than 200 speakers to the law school


  • Launched the Journal of Energy and Environmental Law
  • Awarded the Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy by the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources


  • Created the Sustainable Energy Initiative in 2013 that focuses on the transition occurring in the electricity industry including work on microgrids, post-disaster rebuilding, and electric vehicles


  • Co-organizer with the Environmental Law Institute of a project on “Reimagining Environmental and Natural Resources Law: 2020 and Beyond” designed to examine changes that need to be made in environmental law to deal with critical environmental and natural resource issues as we enter the second half-century of the modern environmental era.



By the numbers


Awarded more than 900 LLM degrees in environmental law



Awarded more than 300 LLM degrees in environmental law to a member of the Armed Services



More than 4,700 GW Law students have taken an environmental law survey course



Placed close to 1,500 students in internships with non-governmental organizations and government agencies



Since 2010, faculty and staff have edited or authored 15 books and 90 book chapters or articles

Learn more about the Environmental and Energy Law Program