Environmental Law On The Internet

A review of Web sites related to environmental law.

By Erik J. Heels

First published 12/22/1997; LegalResearcher.com; publisher: New York Law Publishing Company

One thing is certain. There must be a lot of money wrapped up in the practice of environmental law, because there is a huge amount of resources on the Internet about the subject.

And is it any wonder? A recent article in Fortune magazine (http://www.pathfinder.com/fortune/1997/971208/gor.html) suggests that Vice President Gore’s chances in the 2000 elections will be hurt by what appears to be a waning support of the environmental movement.

Then again, maybe not. The recent conference in Kyoto, Japan, on global warming resulted in a significant agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A recent article from Salon Magazine (http://www.salonmagazine.com/news/1997/12/12news.html) suggests that Gore is stuck with the environmental label, like it or not.

Meta Sites

There are several meta sites that are good starting points for environmental research. As always, the best place to start is FindLaw (http://www.findlaw.com/01topics/13environmental/index.html). But just as FindLaw covers the law-related resources on the Web better than the general-purpose Yahoo directory, environmental directories can cover environmental law better than FindLaw’s directory.

One such meta site (or “directory” – we’ll use the terms interchangeably) is maintained by the chemical industry. The Chemical Industry Home Page (http://www.neis.com/) is a Yahoo-like resource for the industry. A dizzying amount of information appears at this site, including links to publications, regulations, and organizations. No wonder it was voted a Top 5% site by Point Communications!

Like most stories, there are two sides to this story.

Perhaps the mother of all (or would that be the mother earth of all?) environmental directories is the Amazing Environmental Organization Web Directory! (http://www.webdirectory.com/). (And Yes, like Yahoo!, there’s an exclamation point at the end.) Their “other places to search” page (http://www.webdirectory.com/info/other_places_to_search.shtml) includes links to traditional search engines as well as environmental organizations such as The Sierra Club.

What puzzles me about this site is that there is no clear statement of who maintains the site. Browser beware. What looks like a site maintained by environmentalists may in fact be the work of the industrial sector and PR agencies. Not sure if that’s what this site is, but I have my suspicions.

Another directory site that fails to disclose its mission is the Environmental Professional’s Desktop (http://enviroinfo.com/).

Contrast that to the content-rich Earthlaw site (http://www.earthlaw.org/), where with one click from the home page you can find out exactly who they are. The “About” page reads “Earthlaw is a public interest, environmental law group founded in 1993 by a group of environmental lawyers committed to the West and to using the unique skills of the legal profession to address the West’s environmental problems.” In addition to being strong on disclosure, the site employs the newer newspaper-like format, with lots of content about different topics right on the home page. For example one headline read “The Owls That Saved The Southwest’s Forests.” So not only are you intrigued, but you know what the issue is and where they stand.

The meta site that appears to be updated the most frequently is London-based GreenNet (http://www.gn.apc.org/gn/links/netenv.html).

Schools

A handful of law schools publish the full text of environmental law journals on the Internet (http://www.findlaw.com/03journals/environmental.html), including the Villanova Environmental Law Journal (http://vls.law.vill.edu/students/orgs/elj/). And the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a course of study in Technology, Business, and the Environment (TBE). Abstracts from TBE graduates are available online (http://web.mit.edu/org/c/ctpid/www/tbe/), and you can purchase the full text of a thesis for about $3.

Other Sites

A site dedicated to international environmental litigation is Globelaw (http://www.globelaw.com/). Here you can find the full text of many multilateral environmental law treaties.

The Right To Know Network, RTK NET (http://xp0.rtknet.org/) – not an industry-sponsored site – has a free huge database of environmental materials (http://www.rtk.net/www/rtknet/webpage/databas3.html). Best of all, they have categorized the databases by both name and type. For each database, they include detailed information about the database (kind of like they do on Lexis). For example, under the Hazardous Waste section, you find the following database:

Database Name: BRS (Biennial Reporting System) Purpose/Documentation: Hazardous Waste Quantities Years Available: 1989-1995 Web Access: Yes

E-mail Lists

Finally, there appear to be over 50 different discussion groups and mailing lists related to environmental law. You can find them at FindLaw (http://www.findlaw.com/01topics/13environmental/mail_usenet.html), the ABA (http://www.abanet.org/sonreel/discuss.html), and “Law Lists” by Lyonette Louis-Jacques (http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/law-lists?search=environment).

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