ALR Student’s Corner: The Environmental Law Practice Guide — An Explosion of Environmental Exposition


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Prior to exploring the Environmental Law Practice Guide, I often wondered—why would I use a treatise to research a legal topic when I can use online research tools such as Westlaw or LexisNexis? What possible benefits could there be in physically picking up a print version of something I can find online? So, I picked up Volume 1 of the treatise and flipped through it and had an instantaneous moment of clarity – this treatise had it all, and I simply could not believe it.

Treatises generally provide a neutral, yet broad scope on a specific legal topic, while simultaneously providing historical analysis, statutory authority, and some narrow topical depth. Some treatises also feature forms or useful practice tools. I expected this when I chose the Environmental Law Practice Guide. I also expected general information about each type of environmental law. Instead, I found oceans of information that would ordinarily take weeks or months to compile without the help of this multi-volume series.

Why on earth was I so excited over this treatise? Perhaps because I spent seven years of my former professional life as an environmental consultant for industrial manufacturing companies working on so many different environmental and legal issues that took teams of people to keep all of them straight. Each client had his own specific set of environmental issues: permit requirements; reporting requirements; waste disposal, health and safety issues; treatment, storage and disposal concerns; and on-and-on. In these eleven volumes, I found, not only the holy grail of information, the relevant and current law for each type of environmental issue, but also forms, definitions, acronyms, history, and requirements. A wave of jealousy hit me as I realized how “past me” would have completely benefited from this resource as a consultant, and how much time “future me” as an attorney would save (insert maniacal laugh).

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To locate this resource, go to the “Treatise” section of the law library and find call number KF3375.Z95E58. This is an eleven-volume practice guide, which spans four Units covering both state and federal environmental law. The Units are: 1) Procedures, 2) Environmental Quality, 3) Regulated Substances and Waste Management, and 4) States. The Units are then broken down into forty-one Chapters, such as Hazardous Waste, Endangered Species, or Environmental Impact Statements. The Chapters are further broken down into Parts: Part A Legal Background; Part B Procedural Guide; Part C Forms; Part D Reference Guide. Each environmental topic or Chapter is laid out in the exact same manner, even though the contents of each Chapter are very different to one another. The entire organizational format is reflected in the General Table of Contents. The pocket part, or the “Publication Update,” which is updated several times per year, is located at the very front of the first volume and reflects the most current updates.

Additionally, there is a “How to Use This Publication” which is particularly helpful, because the resource has grown in size considerably as the area of law has grown to impact so many different types of transactions. The treatise also includes an Internet Directory after each topical chapter for free and useful internet sources narrowly tailored to the Chapter. Overall, this organization is ideal for each environmental topic because one client may have more than one issue and the legal background, procedural guide, forms, and references are all in the same location for easy and quick access.

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In the last volume, I found something incredibly useful—an acronym table that lists and defines over 1,400 of the pesky environmental acronyms that seem to plague this field of law. The only critique I have about this treatise is the lack of visual rhetoric, photos, color, or graphics. But honestly, environmental attorneys, consultants, or “science-types” do not need the fluff and prefer to get to the statistics, science, answers, and the law, which this resource provides in abundance.

To put this treatise to the test, I conducted a brief research experience on a specific environmental topic: the definition of hazardous waste. This may seem like an easy topic to search, but under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the definition of hazardous waste can be different depending on how the materials are used, re-used, recycled, or reclaimed. Locating this topic under Chapter 26, Hazardous Waste, was very simple. I used the search terms, “hazardous waste,” “RCRA,” and “solid waste,” which all lead directly to Chapter 26. The legal background defines the statutory authority and many cases that describe the various interpretations.

Overall, this treatise covers the entire field of environmental law and can be an invaluable tool for attorneys, regulators, corporate and facility managers, and environmental consultants—all who deal with these real environmental problems. Environmental Law Practice Guide may not be able to answer every environmental issue, but this treatise will certainly lead the researcher in the right direction, and not on a fishing expedition.

~ Kelly Johnson, Class of 2013 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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