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January 18, 2019

Using Real-World Cases to Examine Environmental Law

Students in Peg Perl’s Environmental Protection Law course don’t just talk about the legal system in the abstract. They dig into some of the biggest real-life cases from recent years, like the Standing Rock Sioux/Dakota Access Pipeline case, the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, and more.

Peg got her first hands-on experience with case law at the beginning of her career, when she worked as a policy attorney for the Federal Election Committee, in Washington, D.C. Then she deepened her policy experience working for the U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee, where she advised members of Congress on government ethics rules and created training programs.

Ultimately Peg’s career brought her Denver to work as an attorney for nonprofits, but the impact of the federal ethics and policy work she’d done stayed with her. That impact, as well as her mother’s career as a teacher, inspired Peg to become an instructor in the Environmental Policy and Management program at University College.

Each quarter Peg complements her course content with five to six case studies to give her students a chance to apply what they learn in class to real life. Her video lectures encourage students to dive deeper using the state and federal government resources where environmental policy researchers or compliance officers would go to find information, such as public notices. Students then go through the courses in detail in classroom discussions.

Most recently a case study about Amazon selling products with illegal chemicals and pesticides to U.S. customers sparked a lot of conversation in class. It made students think about how the global marketplace affects the environment—an issue that’s gained a great deal of attention in recent years.

Peg’s real-world approach provides her students with practical tools and resources they can apply in the field. Some of her students have even become part of the environmental policymaking process by submitted public comments on pending rulemaking proposals at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they found researching for the class.

Peg Perl has a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center and teaches in the Environmental Policy and Management program.

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