Environmental Law Writing Seminar: Fall 2009

Choosing a Topic

Conducting a Preemption Check

See Journal Preemption: Boalt Research Guide

Getting Context

Ok, so you have your topic, now you need to situate your discussion within the broader issues.  This is best done using a variety of secondary sources.

Treatises | Analytical Materials | Practice Guides

See Basic Environmental Law Resources: Boalt Research Guide for further information on Introductory texts, Reference texts, additional research guides and bibliographies.


The Law Library online catalog, LawCat, is a good place to start to locate:

  • Books
  • Journal titles, but not articles or authors of individual articles, for which see periodical indexes such as LegalTrac and Index to Legal Periodicals, Lexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline
  • Selective electronic resources (including e-books)


Example: Run a LawCat keyword search for rcra.

Note the relevant subject headings assigned to titles among the results and use them to link to similar materials:

United States. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976
Hazardous wastes -- Law and legislation -- United States
Hazardous waste treatment facilities -- Law and legislation -- United States

A global collection of library catalogs (includes law school, entire UC system, & Stanford)



  • Major Environmental Law Databases
    • Environmental Law Reporter
      "[A]n environmental, natural resources, toxic tort, energy, health/safety, and land use law research tool containing original source documents, editorial summaries, and expert analysis on state, federal, and international issues." Includes current news, articles, cases, administrative documents, environmental statutes, international treaties and federal and state regulations. (if link doesn't load, click 'back' on your browser, and then select the link again)
    • BNA Loose leafs
      The Law Library subscribes to a number of electronic versions of BNA loose leaf periodical services, including a couple specifically covering the area of environmental law:
      • Environment Reporter
        Coverage of legislative, regulatory, legal, and policy news concerning the environment. Includes proposed, new, and amended federal and state laws, rules, standards, and other significant documents.
      • International Environment Reporter
        Environment and safety news on laws, regulations, and policies in all major industrialized and developing nations, and in international governmental and nongovernmental organizations.
Environmental Law Reporter, BNA's Environment Reporter, and BNA's International Environment Reporter are available as standalone products, but also appear in Westlaw and Lexis.


  • Other Databases
    • ALR
      • Via Westlaw or Lexis
      • Concise discussions of specific legal topics
    • CQ Weekly & CQ Researcher
      • Political legislative tracking
      • Political historical legislative research
      • Turn to CQ Researcher, published by Congressional Quarterly, for clear discussions of newsworthy political and legal issues, current and historical. A search for environmental impact report, for example, produces hundreds of old and recent reports, such as this article about The New Environmentalism.
    • CEB's OnLAW
      The online version of the bulk of the California Continuing Education of the Bar catalog. Most titles do not pertain to environmental law, but California Land Use Practice can provide a straightforward overview of pollution laws.
    • InterAm
      A collection of laws, regulations, case law, and secondary source materials for countries in the Americas, from the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade. Environment is one of the subjects for which these materials can be obtained.


Cases | Briefs | Transcripts

Cases: Federal & State


  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Individual Courts of Appeals
    • Court of Appeals/District Courts
      • Maintain independent websites - highly variable content
      • PACER
        • access to U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records and documents nationwide
    • Lexis
      • Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > Environment > Find Cases > Federal
      • Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > Environment > Find Cases > By State
    • Westlaw
      • All Databases > Topical Materials by Area of Practice > Environmental Law > Federal Cases
      • All Databases > Topical Materials by Area of Practice > Environmental Law > State Cases

Court Records

  • Westlaw: Briefs and Other Related Documents
    See, e.g., Florida Key Deer v. Paulison, 522 F.3d 1133 (11th Cir. 2008).
  • Lexis: View Available Briefs and Other Documents Related to this Case
    See, e.g., Defenders of Wildlife v. Chertoff, 527 F. Supp. 2d 119 (D.D.C. 2007).
  • PACER:
    • access to U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records and documents nationwide

There are also searchable files on each service consisting of these court documents.

  • Westlaw: All Databases > Litigation > Briefs (Motions, Pleadings, etc.)
  • Lexis: Legal > Briefs, Motions, Pleadings & Verdicts > Federal & State Briefs, Motions & Pleadings (and so forth).

Statutes | Legislative History


  • Public Law
  • Statutes at Large
  • US Code

Legislative History

Implementing Regulations | Administrative Rules


  •  All Databases > Topical Materials by Area of Practice > Environmental Law > Federal Administrative Materials


  •  Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > Environment > Find Administrative Materials & Regulations


Regulations are widely available from print and electronic resources. Lexis and Westlaw have extensive coverage of regulations with specialized topical databases, as noted above in the discussion of those services.

Federal and state agency web pages are also increasingly important and cost effective ways of doing regulatory research. Good starting points for federal regulatory research are the Federal Executive and California Executive resource sections of the Library's web pages. For a different view of the Code of Federal Regulations, see the e-CFR, a current version of the regulations hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration, but not the official version of CFR.

  •  Environmental Law Reporter
    • Has outlines/summaries of implementing regulations for all major environmental laws
  • Regulations.gov
    Example: Search for 122.26, the case pertaining to Amendments to the NPDES Regulations for Storm Water Discharges Associated With Oil and Gas Exploration, Production, Processing, or Treatment Operations or Transmission Facilities (40 C.F.R. 122.26)
Agency Websites

Despite ready and sophisticated access to regulations via the commercial legal research services, it can be important to visit the web sites for agencies that deal with environmental issues. They post proposed and final regulations, guidance documents and statements, legislation, manuals, international treaties, and news releases. They also will have online directories of employees, offices, phone numbers, and email addresses. The currency and extent of the information will differ from agency to agency, but the Environmental Protection Agency's site is fortunately one of the most sophisticated among them.

General Directories of Agencies

Tools To Help Organize Your Work

Getting Published

Last edited by Leah C. Granger, 10 September 2009