On September 15, the first NYU Law Forum of the 2010-11 academic year took on a messy topic—BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As panelist Richard Stewart, John Edward Sexton Professor of Law, noted: “The oil spill and the response to it are really an elephant of a topic, and we’re each groping at different parts of it.” Stewart, who was assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division at the time of the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, discussed it from the perspective of a government enforcer. Amy Salzman '85, associate director for policy outreach from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, outlined the Obama administration’s approach to dealing with the current spill and trying to prevent them in the future. On a personal note she observed that, when she attended the Law School, the only options available to students interested in environmental issues were a course in administrative law and an environmental law clinic. Now, she said, “NYU Law has become really a leader in environmental law policy and practice.”

Albert Huang, an environmental-justice attorney at the National Resource Defense Council, who has visited Louisiana to talk to fishermen and others affected by the spill, offered an on-the-ground view of damages and clean-up efforts. Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law Richard Epstein began his presentation by stating, “My job here, as usual, is to sort of be the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” He hewed to his longstanding view that government regulation should be minimal, and presented arguments that BP might make to limit its damages. Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law Barry Friedman moderated the discussion.

The BP Forum was cosponsored by the Frank J. Guarini Center for Environmental and Land Use Law, of which Stewart is the director.

Watch the full video (1 hour 12 minutes):

Posted September 17, 2010