Environmental Law Distinguished Speaker Series Features Professor Robert Percival

On November 9th, Robert Percival, the Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law and Director of the Environmental Law Program at the University of Maryland School of Law, spoke on the Harrisburg campus as part of the Environmental Law Distinguished Speaker Series sponsored by Widener Law’s Environmental Law Center. The talk was also viewed via videoconference by faculty, staff, and students on the Delaware campus. Following an introduction from Distinguished Professor John C. Dernbach, the Director of the Environmental Law Center, Robert Percival delivered his talk, “Liability for Environmental Harm and Emerging Global Environmental Law,” complete with an engaging Keynote multimedia presentation.

“You all are blessed with some of the finest Environmental Law Professors – not only John Dernbach here, but also David Hodas and Jim May in Wilmington,” remarked Professor Percival after thanking Professor Dernbach for the welcome.

Percival’s presentation focused on how issues of liability for environmental damage were impacting the legal climate. “A new type of law is emerging that is breaking down the barriers between domestic and international law,” he said before breaking down some of the historical developments in the field of Environmental Law. While past legal disputes over matters of pollution and environmental damage had focused on conflicts between two state actors, he described how globalization has changed the climate such that multinational corporations are the cause of far more environmental damage rather than nation states.

Professor Percival sited, “the growth in transnational litigation against multinational corporations based in the United States” brought in courts in other countries as a significant shift. He also discussed the BP Oil Spill and the effect that it has had on thoughts about liability standards in the United States.

Following his remarks, Professor Percival took questions from the audience on a range of topics including the impact of BP’s announcement of large profits in the wake of the spill, the jurisdiction of courts in other countries, and suits brought by private citizens. Asked whether he would recommend that other countries should follow American Environmental Law practices, he responded, “I would tell them not to make the same mistakes that we have.”

A graduate of Macalester College, Robert Percival earned an M.A. and his J.D. from Stanford University. He served as a law clerk for Judge Shirley M. Hufstedler of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White. After serving as the senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, Percival joined the University of Maryland faculty in 1987. He teaches in the areas of Environmental Law, Comparative Environmental Law, Constitutional Law, and Administrative Law. An internationally recognized scholar in environmental law, he is the principal author of Environmental Regulation: Law, Science & Policy – a widely used casebook in environmental law now in its sixth edition.