The Urban Environmental Renaissance

Danielle Spiegel-Feld & Katrina Wyman

City governments were an important source of environmental protection in the United States from the 1800s until well into the 1900s. However, since Congress passed a series of landmark environmental statutes in the 1970s, scholars have primarily equated environmental law with federal law. To the extent that scholars consider subnational sources of environmental law, they typically focus on states, rather than cities. This article shines a light on the role of cities in contemporary environmental law. It argues that major U.S. cities are currently reviving cities’ historical role as leaders in environmental lawmaking and proposes mechanisms for expanding their scope to innovate within the framework that the 1970s federal environmental statutes established.

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