Richard Lazarus: “Environmental law has fallen ‘in arrears’”

2 min read

Environmental lawlessness was the topic of discussion on April 10, as Richard Lazarus ’79, one of the nation’s foremost experts on environmental law, gave a lecture marking his appointment to the Howard J. and Katherine W. Aibel Professorship of Law.

Speaking before a crowd of family, students, colleagues, and friends—including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts—Lazarus described how environmental law has fallen “in arrears.” After a period of legal and policy innovation that resulted in landmark statutes like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, Congress has not passed a major new environmental statute or amendment since 1990, he said. The result of this stagnation is a growing mismatch between contemporary technology and environmental issues and outdated, inflexible statutes.

“Forty years after modern environmental law’s remarkable emergence here in the United States, there is a whole lot of environmental law, but, our nation’s environmental statutes nonetheless frequently fail to  address, in any systematic way, many of the most pressing environmental problems we face. The law and our governmental institutions are again increasingly in arrears. The legal landscape is simultaneously full and empty, dominated by gaps,” said Lazarus.

Read more and watch a video of the discussion on the Harvard Law School website.