Friday Flashback: A regulator perspective on balancing environmental and economic interests

From the archives of Maven’s Notebook:

This post, taken from a presentation at this year’s California Water Policy Seminar Series, featured Richard Frank, Michael Lauffer, and Brian Gray discussing environmental laws, including the reasonable use and public trust doctrines.  It was originally published on May 20, 2014.


“The State Water Resources Control Board has been given the task of balancing the multiple uses of the state’s surface waters for economic purposes against environmental considerations, decisions that are complex and often controversial. Michael Lauffer, chief counsel for the State Water Resources Control Board, takes us inside the decision making process, discussing the legislative foundation of the State Water Board, and giving a glimpse into the decision making process and the factors that Board members must take into consideration when making their decisions. Professor Brian Gray from UC Hastings College of Law then followed with a discussion of the reasonable use doctrine and the public trust doctrine, and how they apply in California water law.

But first, Professor Richard Frank from UC Davis set the stage with a brief overview of some of the state and federal environmental laws.

A brief overview of key environmental laws

Richard Frank_Page_03Richard Frank began by giving a quick tour of federal environmental laws. “The first major environmental law of the modern era, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was created by Congress in 1969,” he said. “It just establishes a disclosure requirement for federal projects, meaning federally funded projects, federally permitted projects, or projects like building of highway systems that the federal government takes on itself, to examine the potential environmental impacts of those proposed federal projects. It’s purely a disclosure statute. It doesn’t have any real regulatory effect per se, but it does involve balancing.”

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