Environmental Law Clinic Participates in Massachusetts Emissions Case

Clinic Students Matthew Pei '15, Nina Hart '15, and Supervising Attorney Susan Kraham '92 Argue State Must Set Limits on Greenhouse Gasses

New York, March 26, 2015—Two students in Columbia Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic appeared in a Boston court with supervising attorney Susan J. Kraham ’92 on March 12 seeking to force the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to promulgate regulations setting emissions limits for greenhouse gasses.

Matthew A. Pei ’15 and Nina M. Hart ’15 appeared in Suffolk County Court along with the clinic’s co-counsel, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and pro bono counsel, Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen. The legal team has asked the court to order the (DEP) to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), which became law in Massachusetts in 2008. 
The GWSA is an ambitious climate change law that requires Massachusetts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below a 1990 baseline by 2020, and 80 percent below that baseline by 2050.  To help achieve these goals, the GWSA requires the DEP to adopt regulations establishing “declining annual aggregate emissions limits” for sources of greenhouse gas emissions. So far the DEP has issued no such regulations.
The Environmental Law Clinic and its co-counsel represent four Boston-area high school students who are concerned that they will have to live with the consequences of inaction on climate change.
“[T]hose melting ice caps affect a whole lot more than polar bears,” wrote one of the plaintiffs, Laurie O’Reilly, in a recent blog post. “When they melt, sea levels rise – not just at the North Pole, but globally…It means my favorite restaurants and museums – even my neighborhood – here in Boston will be underwater in my lifetime.”
The high school students are joined as plaintiffs by Mass Energy Consumers Alliance and CLF.
Columbia Law School students have been involved in every aspect of the case, helping draft the complaint and briefs and participating in several moot courts to prepare for the hearing.
“It was great to be so closely involved in such an important matter,” said Pei, who added that he was “really impressed by the thoughtfulness of the judge’s questions, as well as the very high quality of advocacy by everyone on the team.” 
Kraham said the case fit well with the mission of the Environmental Law Clinic to both educate students and serve the public interest.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for our students to get exposure to high impact environmental litigation,” she said.   
Kraham said she and her students are hopeful the court will grant the requested relief.