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Energy, Environment and Land Use

The Vanderbilt Energy, Environment and Land Use Program provides an extensive and rigorous curriculum and extracurricular opportunities for students with an interest in practicing in these intersecting areas of the law. Environmental issues do not respect academic displinary boundaries, and the EELU program and its faculty are leaders in developing interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and researching energy, environmental and land use topics. Read the FAST FACTS.

Our faculty work across disciplines to teach about, research, and address the most challenging energy, environment, and land use issues of the day. Their scholarly work is widely cited and appears not only in legal journals, but also Science and Nature Climate Change. EELU faculty also collaborate with the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment and the Vanderbilt Center for Environmental Management Studies on the Climate Change Research Network, which conducts theoretical and applied research on one of the most important and most widely overlooked sources of greenhouse gases: individual and household behavior. The EELU program's white paper series offers students a unique opportunity to research emerging climate change challenges with faculty supervision.

The EELU program seeks to give its students the tools to succeed in energy, environmental and land-use focused careers. Students can explore their interest through externships and internships. With financial support from summer stipends, Vanderbilt students can use their summers working for non-profit organizations dedicated to land conservation, environmental regulation, and other focus areas. In recent years, students have worked for organizations such as the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Land Trust for Tennessee, and Wildearth Guardians in Denver, Colorado. Students also have the opportunity to join the editorial staff of  The Environmental Law and Policy Annual Reviewa joint publication with the Environmental Law Institute that publishes scholarly articles presenting the best legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems.

In 2021, the EELU program received a substantial new gift to establish an endowment and support faculty, research, course development, lectureships, and the program's general growth. The Sally Shallenberger Brown EELU Program Fund was endowed in honor of Sally Shallenberger Brown, a pioneering conservationist and ardent environmentalist. With that gift, the EELU program is continuing to grow and innovate. 


Career Opportunities

Vanderbilt Law graduates serve in a wide range of environmental law and policy positions in private law firms, corporations, government agencies, public interest groups and other organizations. The Career Services Office provides special assistance to students interested in government and other public interest careers in environmental law in addition to coordinating on-campus interviews with hundreds of private employers.

Vanderbilt also offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program to provide partial repayment of law school loans to students who work in public interest positions in a wide range of fields, including environmental law. Vanderbilt graduates have received LRAP assistance while working for government agencies, legal aid organizations and other non-profit organizations.


Students and recent alumni win writing awards!

Photo of Ramon Ryan '21Ramon Ryan '21 has won the 2020 K. William Kolbe Law Student Writing Competition for his JETLaw Note, "The Fault In Our Stars: Challenging the FCC’s Treatment of Commercial Satellites as Categorically Excluded From Review Under the National Environmental Policy Act.” The award is sponsored by the ABA Infrastructure and Regulated Industries Section.


Photo of Matthew LaRue '20Matthew LaRue '20 won first place in the 2019 Student Writing Competition sponsored by the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources. LaRue's article, "The Stream of Commerce," was published in Natural Resources & Environment, the section's quarterly magazine. Read more...


Ben Raker '17 Benjamin Raker '17 has won both the Environmental Law Institute’s 2016–2017 Henry L. Diamond Constitutional Environmental Law Writing Competition and the Tennessee Bar Association’s Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award, sponsored by TBA's Environmental Law Section, which recognizes scholarship in environmental law by students of Tennessee law schools. Both awards include cash prizes. Read more...

Megan McLean '16

Megan McLean '16 won the Environmental Law Institute’s 2015–2016 Beveridge & Diamond Constitutional Environmental Law Writing Competition. McLean’s winning entry, “Throwing Shade: The Case Against Judicial Interference With Solar Net Metering Policies,” argues that programs to encourage distributed electricity generation do not trigger the Takings Clause, which sometimes requires governments to pay compensation for their decisions.

Jake Byl JD/PhD ’15 and Neil Issar JD ’16 win first prizes in ABA’s 2015 Energy Law and Endangered Species student writing competitions

Jake Byl JD/PhD '15 and Neil Issar JD ’16 win first prizes in ABA’s 2015 Energy Law and Endangered Species student writing competitions. Both won first place in student writing competitions sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER).


Kyle Robisch '14Kyle Robisch ’14 won a 2015 Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing for his Note, Getting to the (Non)Point: Private Governance as a Solution to Nonpoint Source Pollution,” published in the Vanderbilt Law Review in 2014.


Marcy Nicks Moody '13Marcy Nicks Moody '13 was one of 15 winners of the 2013 Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing for her 2012 Vanderbilt Law Review Note, “WARNING: MAY CAUSE WARMING Potential Trade Challenges to Private Environmental Labels.”



Will Airhart '12Will Airhart '12 wins TBA's Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award for writing on environmental law for his research paper “After AEP: The Climate Change Tort and the Social Cost of Carbon.”