A Global Exchange of Environmental and Energy Law Expertise
As a 3L, N. Georgette Marling ’19 had the opportunity to combine her interests in environmental law and international law during a semester at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Her time as an exchange student allowed her to take a deep dive look at how regulations work in Sweden and across the entire European Union. Marling found it fascinating to learn about how EU environmental laws affect the national policies of its member states. She researched the EU’s new laws making single-use plastic production illegal, determining that the existing Swedish laws were broader and easier to enforce.
Professor Alexandra Klass also benefited from time spent at Uppsala as part of a longstanding faculty exchange program between the two law schools. Her experience teaching in Sweden in spring 2019 opened a door for her to learn even more about global environmental and energy policy and law while sharing her knowledge with others. She aims to impart this new knowledge to Minnesota environmental and energy law students through classes and programs.
The study abroad experience is one aspect of the robust offerings in the Environmental and Energy Law concentration at Minnesota Law. For more than 35 years, faculty and students from the Law School and Uppsala have engaged in the program. It’s a fruitful exchange that builds relationships between the law faculties while broadening their views about international law and international legal issues.
Klass, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, author, and faculty chair of the environmental and energy law concentration at Minnesota Law, gave lectures at universities across Scandinavia while based in Uppsala. Her presentations covered the United States’ transition to renewable energy and energy policy shifts under President Donald Trump, controversies over gas and oil pipelines, and developments in technology and law regarding renewable energy and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).
The experience was educational in both directions. “I have a much better sense now of how energy transition issues are taking place in Europe,” Klass says. “It’s interesting to see how that is working in different European countries with renewable electricity and renewable fuel.”
As part of the faculty exchange, Professor Klass taught a course entitled “Introduction to American Law” which focused extensively on U.S. Constitutional Law. It was a pertinent time to teach about constitutional law in the United States, when conflicts between the executive branch and Congress were frequently on display, Klass says. Her students were from Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore, China, and Australia, and the class engaged in many discussions comparing the American legal system to their home countries’ systems.
For her part, Klass engaged with other environmental and energy law faculty about their research and learned more about relationships between Sweden, other European Union countries, and the EU. “I’ll admit that it makes me think differently about our federalist system of government,” she adds.
Over the years, steady exchanges have built a wealth of goodwill between Uppsala and Minnesota faculty, who get to know each other during stints back and forth. “You actually get a much better feel for another country’s lawyers and legal system by physically being here and being immersed in it,” Klass says. “It broadens personal and academic opportunities and knowledge of international law in a variety of areas.”
A Good Environment For Environmental Law
For Marling, the opportunity to study in Uppsala was one of many chances that she had as a Minnesota Law student to immerse herself in environmental law issues, including taking courses covering energy, natural resources, and public lands, and a seminar on agricultural law. She also got involved in the Environment and Energy Law Society (EELS) and served as a liaison between EELS and the Minnesota State Bar Association’s environmental, natural resources, and energy law section.
“What stood out to me is the interaction you are constantly provided with attorneys working in the field—either through the professors bringing practicing attorneys to speak to our class or lunch events, which are themed discussions organized by EELS,” Marling says. Other positives included having the opportunity to interact regularly with environmental and energy law attorneys, going to networking events, and participating in CLEs hosted by the many environmental legal nonprofits in the area.
Marling is now pursuing a legal career that combines her interests at the intersection of environmental law, immigration, and human rights. She aims to help refugees and people seeking asylum, especially those who have been affected by climate change and environmental issues. She would like to contend with concerns like people’s rights to clean water and not being displaced from their land by agribusiness. “It’s all human rights related,” Marling adds.
—By Suzy Frisch, a Twin-Cities based freelance writer