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Past Conferences and Events

The Choice: Energy & Environment Issues in the 2016 Election

The video below is a recorded webcast of the Oct. 25, 2016 debate between Trevor Houser and Congressman Kevin Cramer, the energy policy adviser for Hillary Clinton's and Donald's Trump's campaigns. 

Please note that the program starts at the 16-minute mark. 

Environmental Law Careers in Washington, DC

On February 20, 2015, members of the Richmond Environmental Law Society, joined by faculty members Noah Sachs and Joel Eisen, traveled to Washington, DC to meet with UR Law alums working in the environmental field. Barry Steinberg ’66 hosted the group in Washington, and in the afternoon, the students met with Brenda Mallory, General Counsel of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Adapting to Climate Change: A Legal Strategy

Victor Flatt, Professor at UNC School of Law and Director of the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources, spoke to a packed house at the law school on February 3, 2015 on the challenge of climate change adaptation. He focused on necessary changes in federal and state law that will be needed in a warmer world. Program video

Lobbying: The Art of Persuasion

David Goldston, Director of Government Affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council joined us on April 3, 2013, for a discussion with students on his career in lobbying, how to get a job in the field, and the strategies and tactics of a Capitol Hill lobbyist.

Greening Richmond: Politics and Land Use in the Capital

On March 6, 2013, the Merhige Center hosted a discussion with Dan Slone (Partner, McGuireWoods LLP), Thad Williamson (Associate Professor of Leadership Studies), and Alicia Zatcoff L'94 (Sustainability Manager for the City of Richmond). These three leaders in land use, development, and public policy discussed the environmental future of the City of Richmond. The City is undergoing rapid change, including redevelopment of the river front, downtown revitalization, and continued suburban expansion. The speakers outlined what these changes mean for Richmond and the region. Program Video

Improving Cooperative Relationships to Advance Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference

On October 17-18, 2012, the Merhige Center presented an Environmental Enforcement Conference co-sponsored with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Enforcement Division; and the Southern Environmental Enforcement Network. The conference drew a crowd of over 100 to the Robert R. Merhige, Jr. moot courtroom, and the discussion focused on improving enforcement and compliance in the Commonwealth.  View the CLE materials

Election 2012: Facing Off on Energy and the Environment

On October 10, 2012, the Merhige Center for Environmental Studies and the Richmond Environmental Law Society co-sponsored an event featuring a discussion with representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns regarding environmental and energy issues in the upcoming election. Kenneth Berlin (Obama-Biden 2012) and Jeff Holmstead (Romney-Ryan 2012) discussed their respective campaigns' positions.

Merhige Center Symposium - "Clearing the Air: Mercury and the Environment"

On March 28, 2012, the University of Richmond School of Law and the Merhige Center for Environmental Studies hosted the "Clearing the Air: Mercury and the Environment" symposium. The symposium discussed the impacts of the EPA's new Mercury and Air Toxic Standard on the environment, public health, and industry.  Panelists discussed challenges of cost and implementation, the long history of legislation and rulemaking regarding mercury, and the environmental benefits of limiting mercury emissions. View the CLE materials

"Race, Class, and Power in Environmental Justice" (Lecture by University of Richmond Professor Andrea Simpson, January 25, 2012)

On January 25, 2012, Dr. Andrea Simpson, associate professor of political science and chair of the Department of Policital Science at the University of Richmond was the speaker for an event entitled "Race, Class, and Power in Environmental Justice." The event was hosted by the Merhige Center for Environmental Studies and the Black Law Students Association of the University of Richmond School of Law. With over 40 University of Richmond professors, undergraduate students, and law students in attendance, Simpson led a lively discussion about the effects that race, class, and power in the modern world have on the environmental justice movement, and how those aspects will affect it in the future.

Merhige Center Rock Climbing Trip to Belle Isle in Richmond, VA

On Sept. 15, 2011, students from the University of Richmond Law School spent an afternoon rock climbing and adventure at Richmond's Belle Isle. Students had the opportunity to explore the island, sunbathe, check out the rapids on the James, and get acquainted with one of Richmond's greatest outdoor spaces. The event was a great way for law school students to get to know one another and enjoy some fun outdoor activities!

"Creative Cooperation: The Roadmap to our Energy Future" (Lecture by Duke Energy Corp. CEO Jim Rogers, April 18, 2011) Background Report Prepared By Law Students

The Richmond School of Law, Robins School of Business and Jepson School of Leadership Studies jointly sponsored a lecture on "Creative Cooperation: The Roadmap to our Energy Future," by James E. Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy Corporation, on Monday, April 18, at 5:30 p.m., in the Robins School of Business, Ukrop Auditorium. In preparation for this lecture, students in Professor Joel Eisen’s spring 2011 Energy Law and Law of Climate Change courses (Aminah Qureshi, Brianne Mullen, Jim Tartaglia, Stephen Rancourt, Carl Tate, Clayton Worthington, Julia Curtis, Oliver Taylor, Clayton LaForge, Matthew Curtis, and Tricia Dunlap) studied Duke Energy’s climate change strategy, and prepared background on twelve projects that the company is undertaking to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets.

Here is a copy of the student-prepared background report.

We hope that you will find this information enlightening and a useful background companion to Mr. Rogers’ lecture. We invite you to examine the company’s 2009/2010 Sustainability Report for further information.

“Vision 2020: A View of Our Energy Future,” April 1, 2010
On April 1, 2010, scholars, energy experts and policy makers gathered to address some of the most pressing questions faced by the United States:  What is the future of energy in the United States and Virginia? How will climate change impact economic stability and national security?  What role will alternative energy sources play in meeting our future needs?

Vision 2020: A View of Our Energy Future provided a vigorous conversation among speakers and panelists who debated a broad range of timely and controversial issues including the legal framework of environmental regulations, the future of coal and nuclear power, the role of emerging technologies, and the interplay of energy with our nation’s security.  The Merhige Center for Environmental Studies, along with the University of Richmond Law Review, Allen Chair Issue and the Virginia State Bar’s Environmental Law Section hosted attorneys, academics, and the general public who benefited from discussion with, among others:  former Governor George Allen; Eric Finkbeiner, Senior Advisor for Policy to Governor Bob McDonnell; Cale Jaffe, Senior Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center; and, Christopher Paine, Director of the Nuclear Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Law students conduct Copenhagen Climate Change Simulation exercise by videoconference with students in Hong Kong and mainland China, December 2009

Professor Joel B. Eisen led a Copenhagen Climate Change Simulation exercise in October and November with nine universities in Hong Kong and mainland China. Using the Business School’s videoconferencing system, Eisen and students in the Law of Global Warming course conducted two half-day sessions in which teams representing nations from around the world negotiated a draft international treaty on global warming. The sessions were timed to coincide with the run-up to international talks about a climate treaty, which took place in Copenhagen  in December. Students in the law school’s Law of Global Warming course represented the U.S. in the exercise, crafting a unified American position and negotiating with other teams on a draft treaty prepared by Eisen.

In the first session, Eisen gave a keynote lecture, “From Kyoto to Copenhagen: The U.N. Treaty Process on Climate Change.” Students met their Asian counterparts over the Internet and heard several perspectives from Hong Kong on climate change. Over the next three weeks, students created amendments to the draft treaty, caucused by e-mail and through a Web site devoted to the exercise, and formed alliances. At the final session, negotiators hammered out and approved a final treaty.

Undergraduate students in Eisen’s Environmental Law and Policy course observed the Nov. 13 negotiations and completed papers on nations’ positions in climate negotiations.

Environmental Law, Policy, and Governance in China

On Sept. 11, 2009 environmentalist Scott Moore spoke to a gathering in the law school’s Moot Court Room on Environmental Law, Policy, and Governance in China. While a Fulbright Scholar in China, Moore closely observed the ways in which the Chinese government dealt with the formidable environmental problems facing their nation.
Program video (requires Real Player software)

Virginia's Year of Energy and Environment
On February 24, 2009, Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant, Jr. spoke to University of Richmond students and alumnae during an event co-sponsored by the Environmental Law section of the Richmond Bar Association. His talk, "Virginia's Year of Energy and the Environment," outlined Governor Kaine's Energy Plan and Climate Commission and discussed the challenges of moving energy and climate legislation through the General Assembly. The event was held at the University’s new facility on Broad Street, University of Richmond Downtown.
(L) Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant, Jr. (R) Secretary Bryant with Merhige Center Director Noah Sachs
Energy and the Environment: Obama and McCain Campaign Advisers Meet at School of Law
Environmental policy advisers to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain discussed their candidate's proposals on October 1, 2008 at the University of Richmond School of Law. Details
Program video (requires Real Player software)

Climate Change and the Courts: Litigation, Liability, and the Law

A panel discussion was held on Nov. 23, 2007 between Jim Salzman, professor of law at Duke University School of Law, and David Hunter, assistant professor at Washington College of Law, American University. The panel was moderated by Noah Sachs, assistant professor of law at the University of Richmond School of Law. Climate change is being litigated in U.S. courts under a variety of negligence and nuisance theories, and, in the wake of Massachusetts v. EPA, the nation will see similar suits in the future. For conference video, click here. (requires Real Player software)

Dogfighting and the Law of Animal Protection

On October 29, 2007, Michelle Welch, assistant Attorney General of Virginia, discussed animal protection laws. In the wake of Michael Vick's plea deal, dogfighting and animal cruelty laws are now front page news. Animal law is one of the newest and fastest growing fields of law. Michelle Welsh discussed the laws surrounding animal protection, specifically the Virginia laws governing dogfighting.
For video, click here. (requires Real Player software)

Preserving the Chesapeake: Law, Ecology & the Bay
On October 20, 2006, the Merhige Center sponsored a full-day conference, “Preserving the Chesapeake: Law, Ecology, and the Bay.” The conference brochure is available here. Conference video: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 (requires Real Player software)

Jan Schlichtmann
On November 15, 2006, noted environmental attorney Jan Schlichtmann,  spoke to torts and civil procedure classes at the University and gave a public talk entitled "Civil Actions and Environmental Justice," which was sponsored by the Merhige Center. Schlichtmann led the fight to compensate victims of drinking water contamination in Woburn Massachusetts. The Woburn case was profiled in the 1996 book, A Civil Action, and the 1998 movie of the same name starring John Travolta. A radio interview with Schlichtmann is available here.

Dominion Power
On March 26, 2007, the Merhige Center sponsored a site-visit to Dominion's Chesterfield Power Station to learn how federal and state environmental laws apply to one of the largest power-generating facilities in the region. Students from environmental law and energy law classes got a first-hand look at the pollution control equipment that Dominion is now installing under a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Contact Us

Professor Noah Sachs is the director of the center. Contact him at or (804) 289-8555.