Newly endowed program fund provides crucial support for the Energy, Environment & Land Use Program

Nov 10, 2021

The Energy, Environment and Land Use Program has received a substantial new gift that establishes an endowment and provides current funding for new initiatives. The gift will support faculty, research, course development, lectureships, post-doctoral residencies, summer stipends for students to engage in internships with government agencies and legal nonprofits, and other projects.

The Sally Shallenberger Brown EELU Program Fund was endowed by Martin Shallenberger Brown ’92 in honor of his grandmother, a pioneering conservationist whose name is also honored by the Sally Brown Nature Preserve along the Palisades of the Kentucky River near Lexington, Kentucky. Sally Brown was an ardent environmentalist. She served on the boards of the Audubon Society, the American Farmland Trust, the Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Conservation Association. She was a persuasive advocate on environmental issues at national, state and local levels. She pushed for the historic expansion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and was present when President Jimmy Carter signed the bill making that expansion official in 1980. In her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, she was instrumental in the creation of the 85-acre downtown Waterfront Park, which attracts more than 2 million visitors per year. Sally Brown died in 2011 at age 100.

Sally Shallenberger Brown

Martin Brown practices at Adams and Reese in Nashville. He is an officer and director of the Land Trust for Tennessee and previously served as a trustee of the Tennessee chapter of the Nature Conservancy. “My grandmother, Sally Brown, was a strong proponent of environmental education. She was an early believer in climate change and said that we cannot hand the world to our children and grandchildren in worse shape than we received it,” he said.

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner will deliver the inaugural Distinguished Lecture on Climate Governance at the law school on Feb. 8. Browner, who also served as an assistant to President Barack Obama and as director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, is an environmental and energy policy lawyer at Covington in Washington, D.C.

Other new initiatives will include a dedicated program director who will work with program faculty to develop an expanded array of environmental and energy law elective courses and internship opportunities for students and mentor students seeking careers in environmental law.

“This gift will strengthen Vanderbilt’s leading role in the energy, environment and land use areas by providing students with experiential learning opportunities and increasing the contribution that the students and faculty are making on these issues in Nashville and around the world,” said Chris Guthrie, Dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law. “We are excited about the many ways the Sally Shallenberger Brown EELU Program fund will provide additional opportunities for our students and faculty, including the program’s local and national outreach and expanded course offerings to better prepare students for careers in environmental, energy and land use law.”

The EELU program is co-directed by J.B. Ruhl, who also directs the Program on Law and Innovation, and Michael Vandenbergh, who also directs Vanderbilt University’s Climate Change Research Network. Ruhl and Vandenbergh both hold  David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chairs in Law. Ruhl’s scholarship focuses on climate change adaptation, ecosystem services and adaptive governance. Vandenbergh’s work explores environmental governance, environmental behavior and climate change.

“Environmental lawyers are facing increasingly difficult policy and technical challenges on climate change and many other issues. This gift will enable us not only to provide students with state-of-the art in-class and experiential learning, but also to expand our innovative research and community outreach to address these challenges,” Vandenbergh said.

“I am excited about the new opportunities this fund will provide for students to engage with and practice environmental law,” Ruhl said.

The Energy, Environment and Land Use Program provides a core curriculum of courses focusing on energy, environmental, land use and administrative law, courses focusing on public, private and international environmental law and seminars on topics such as Renewable Power, the Food System and Climate Change Justice. The program also sponsors and supports a journal, the Environmental Law & Policy Annual Review, through which students work with the staff of the Environmental Law Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education center based in Washington, D.C., to produce an annual compendium of the most important scholarship focusing on environmental law topics published in the previous year.

In addition to Ruhl and Vandenbergh, the program’s core faculty includes energy law expert Jim Rossi, land use law expert Christopher Serkin and international environmental law expert Timothy Meyer. Faculty affiliated with the program also include nationally renowned law and economics scholar W. Kip Viscusi and administrative law scholars Lisa Bressman, Edward L. Rubin, Kevin Stack and Nicholas S. Zeppos.


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