Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy

Don Hornstein, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Environmental law may be the one institution standing between us and planetary exhaustion. It is also an institution that needs to be reconciled with human liberty and economic aspirations. This course considers these issues and provides a tour though existing legal regimes governing pollution, water law, endangered species, toxic substances, environmental impact analyses, and environmental risk.

This course will expose students to legal reasoning, especially from the reading of cases involving real-life environmental disputes.


Topics for each of our six weeks are as follows:

  • Week 1: Common-law Approaches to Environmental Problems
  • Week 2: Property and the Environment
  • Week 3: Two Famous Statutory Programs: Environmental Impact Analysis and Endangered-species Protection
  • Week 4: Risk Analysis and Toxic Substances: Pesticides, Trade Disputes over Synthetic Hormones, and the Cleanup of Contaminated Sites
  • Week 5: Environmental Justice, Water Pollution, Claims to a Human Right to Drinking Water, Fracking, and Insights from an Economic Model of Regulatory Cost-Effectiveness
  • Week 6: Regulatory Design in Pollution Control

Recommended Background

No prior training or coursework in law is required. Not intended as a course for law students in professional school or as a substitute for any full undergraduate course on the subject. Audience will be English speakers with an interest in law, environmental issues, and at least high-school-level educational backgrounds.

Course Format

The heart of the course is four weekly videos, each between 10 and 20 minutes in length. Ideally, students will also have read beforehand the very short readings associated with each video and/or have watched the One Minute Lawyer summarizing the readings. 


What can I earn for completing this course?

You can earn a Verified Certificate by verifying your work with a risk-free, no obligation Signature Track trial. Payment for Signature Track can be made anytime until the week before the course ends — so you’ll be more certain that you’ll earn your Verified Certificate.

If you choose not to verify your work, you can still participate in the complete course.  While your final score will be noted on your course records page, this course will not offer a Statement of Accomplishment. 

  • 12 January 2015, 6 weeks
  • 8 September 2014, 6 weeks
  • 13 January 2014, 6 weeks
  • 16 September 2013, 6 weeks
  • Date to be announced, 6 weeks
  • Date to be announced, 6 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


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