Environmental law research is complex. In addition to legal authorities that apply to situations, there is often scientific, technical and other information to consider. The challenge is to locate and use relevant information in a timely and effective manner.
This Guide focuses not only on environmental law resources but also on non-law environmental materials that are useful in the study and practice of environmental law, to lead you to environmental case law, statutes and legislative history, administrative law, international and foreign environmental law, scientific and statistics sources, news and updating services, and specialized web sites. It includes legal research resources such as books, articles, Westlaw and Lexis, as well as databases we subscribe to and the ever-expanding number of free websites.
For locating relevant free web sites, even better than Google (according to some!) is the use of a resource that focuses on carefully selected web sites organized by topic.
One such source, listed by topic in the Web Sites / ELRS section of this Guide, is the Vermont Law School Library’s Environmental Law Research Sources. This is a collection of more than 500 websites, with descriptions, selected in consultation with Vermont Law School faculty, students and alumni. Topics include: Environmental Justice, Agriculture Law, Food Law, Health Law, Climate Change, Energy, Land Use, Endangered Species/Wildlife Biodiversity, Environmental Dispute Resolution, Water Law and Policy, Oceans/Marine Law, International Environmental Law, etc.
There are numerous ways to begin research, depending on the issue at hand, the purpose of the research, and the knowledge and skills of the researcher.
Take the time to develop an effective research strategy by brainstorming search terms, making a preliminary list potentially useful primary and secondary sources, and keeping track of your research.
A recommended approach is to begin with secondary sources for background information to put your issue into context, and to discover cites to primary sources.
In addition to books and the resources on Westlaw and Lexis, other secondary sources are helpful. Among the databases most frequently used for environmental law research are: Environmental Law Institute’s Environmental Law Reporter, Environment Complete, JSTOR, EBook Central, and the Energy & Environment news sources which include E & E Daily, ClimateWire, EnergyWire, and GreenWire. These and additional resources are listed in the Databases section of this Guide.