Environmental Law Certificate

"Students on Tram"


Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee offers a terrific place to study environmental, energy and land use law. The Center for Environmental, Energy, and Land Use Law Certificate Program is designed to allow students to complete the requirements while simultaneously completing a well-rounded non-certificate curriculum as well. Upon graduation, students who successfully complete the program receive a certificate along with their J.D. degree, indicating to employers and others that they have achieved special competency in the fields of environmental, energy and land use law.

The College of Law's proximity to the center of Florida's government offers students advantages few environmental, energy and land use programs can match. Externship and pro bono opportunities with government agencies and public interest groups give students a chance to learn about the creation and implementation of environmental law from the inside. The opportunity to watch laws and policies being developed, legislated and litigated provides law students an experience that will make them both astute practitioners and better citizens. Legal educations at Florida State are further enriched by attorneys and public officials in the environmental, energy and land use areas who serve as adjunct faculty and lecturers at the law school.

Certificate Requirements:

Students must graduate with at least 91 credits and a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in their environmental courses. Of these, students must complete at least 21 credits of approved Environmental Law Certificate Program Courses, including the required courses and the environmental electives detailed on this page. These must include at least one course in which the student produces a paper that would satisfy the Upper Level Writing Requirement and one Practical Experience course or activity, described below. Students must also participate in at least six Environmental Law enrichment events. 

(1) Required Courses

The Certificate Program includes a required course and an elective course component. The three required courses are (1) Environmental Law, (2) Administrative Law, and either (3) Environmental Policy & Natural Resources Law or Land Use Regulation. These courses are regularly offered at the College of Law.

Administrative Law

A study of the legislative, executive, and judicial control of administrative action. The course includes discussion of formal and informal administrative processes, the opportunity to be heard, adequacy of notice, restrictions on the deciding body, and appellate review.

Environmental Law

This course introduces students to the core federal statutes, regulations, and common law principles that control humans’ impacts on environmental resources, including air, water, and soil. The course explores different types of approaches to controlling these impacts, such as market mechanisms, liability regimes, or regulations requiring specific pollution control technologies.  The course addresses in depth several federal statutes that regulate many aspects of industrial and individual behavior, including requiring specific pollutant reductions and permits prior to engaging in a polluting activity. Further, Environmental Law includes discussion of mechanisms for implementing and enforcing these federal statutes.

Environmental Policy & Natural Resources Law

This course provides an introduction to federal natural resources law, with an emphasis on living resources. In a mixed seminar format, we’ll survey the legal treatment of wildlife and biodiversity, fisheries and marine resources, water resources, forests and rangelands, protected public lands, multiple use public lands, and energy (as time allows). We’ll draw lessons from these fields to understand the themes and conflicts of environmental management generally, and the unique qualities of natural resources that render management efforts so difficult. Throughout the course, we will probe the interplay between environmental, economic, cultural, and political factors that complicate natural resource decision-making—especially in a resource rich state like Florida, where each of the surveyed resources plays a foundational role.

This course counts toward the Upper Level Writing Requirement and the Environmental Certificate, but non-certificate students and those new to environmental law are also very welcome in the class. 

Land Use Law

This course addresses legal and regulatory issues that arise during the process of developing land. It focuses on Florida but also addresses issues from other states. Students learn about the processes that landowners and developers follow to obtain local or state government approval for a project, such as applying for revisions to comprehensive plans, re-zonings, development orders, special use permits, variances, subdivision approvals, and development agreements. Students also learn how state and local governments—again, with a focus on Florida—regulate land use and review land use and development applications. The course also addresses resource-based issues associated with land development, including historic, cultural, and natural resources. Finally, students learn about private land use controls, such as covenants, conditions, and restrictions, used to further regulate projects and build and preserve property values.

Natural Resources Law

This is a survey course of federal and state laws pertaining to the use and governance of natural resources, such as water, wetlands, forests, rangeland, wildlife, and energy resources. As opposed to Environmental Law (which is a complement to this course), Natural Resources Law deals with the exploitation of resources, rather than the pollution of them, and as such, contemplates a vastly different system of laws and regulations. This course briefly explores some simple ecological and economic concepts, and how some federal and state laws reflect these concepts. Prominent in this course is the concept of natural resource planning, the primary means by which federal and state governments make decisions about the exploitation of resources.

(2) Elective Courses

The following courses are approved for satisfying the program's additional elective requirement. Not all courses on the list are offered on a regular basis — you must consult the current course offering list and plan your schedule accordingly. Additionally, any of the Required Courses above that have not been used to satisfy the Required Courses requirement may be used as an elective course.

Admiralty Law

A study of the law of the sea, including admiralty jurisdiction, maritime liens, limitation of liability, collision, towage, charter parties, and the rights of injured maritime workers and passengers.

Advanced Legal Research in Administrative Law

This online, asynchronous course is designed to help students develop the sophisticated research skills necessary for the effective practice of administrative law. Students will be introduced to basic concepts, sources, and specialized tools used in federal, Florida, and other state administrative law research. Skills taught will include efficiently researching secondary sources, government entities, regulations, administrative and judicial decisions, agency documents, and problem analyses. Students will learn research strategies for specialized practice areas such as securities, environmental, tax and labor law. 

Animal Law

Throughout the semester, we will examine the historical and current status of animals in our legal system.  We will examine legal issues involving animals, including veterinary malpractice, recovery for injuries to animals, dog bites, animal cruelty, regulation of agricultural animals and animal legal standing. By necessity, these legal issues involve principles of tort law, criminal law, property law and even some constitutional law. This course is not an animal rights course, but rather a survey of a burgeoning and dynamic field of law, of which animal rights is but a part. Students will explore whether the law has a place for animals as something other than mere property, and if so, where lines ought to be drawn.  

This course will involve much class discussion. Accordingly, the course is graded on quality class participation, an in-class debate, and a final exam.

Animal Law Litigation, Legislation, & Policy

The animal law litigation, legislation, and policy course will illustrate how animal laws are drafted and become law, and ultimately litigated. The class will include a discussion of alternative dispute resolution, negotiated settlements, and oral and written advocacy, including appeals. “Real world” lawyering skills will be taught through writing assignments, advocacy role-playing, and mock oral arguments. Legal and political considerations will be included, as well as drafting of animal law legislation, ordinances, and legal documents. Also included will be mock trial practice, pre- and post-trial proceedings, and ethical considerations. Students will learn the policy and practical considerations associated with animal law advocacy.

Students will be evaluated based on class participation, writing assignments, and in-class role-playing. 

Climate Change Law Policy & Science

This class explores the interdisciplinary issues surrounding the problem of climate change, perhaps the most vexing and dangerous of environmental or social problems ever to confront humankind. The objective is to prepare students for areas of law – most of which are in early developmental stages – that affect climate change or adapt to climate change. In so doing, this seminar will require students to delve into not only the developing legal issues of climate change, but also the scientific, economic, technological, and psychological aspects of climate change.

Coastal and Ocean Law

This is a course that explores the state, federal and international laws governing the use and development of resources in coastal areas and the oceans. Such an exploration covers the federal and state common law, major federal statutes, international treaties, all from the perspective of the special needs of coastal areas and oceans. Prominent in this course are the ecological underpinnings of wildlife regulation, relationships between water, habitat, wildlife, and land use, and legal issues stemming from jurisdictional conflicts. For students planning to practice law in a coastal area, this course offers a useful survey of laws that may come up in a wide variety of practices, including but not limited to land use, development of energy resources, tourism and recreation, and commercial and recreational fishing.

Energy Law and Policy

This course introduces students to the statutes, regulations, and common law principles that apply to all aspects of the energy system, including extracting and transporting fuels by pipeline and rail and generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity. Specific topics that we will discuss in this course include the disputes and legal battles surrounding the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline; siting, preemption, and nuisance issues associated with renewable energy generation; legal disputes over the expansion of transmission lines to carry wind energy from remote areas in the Midwest to population centers; proceedings that establish rates for customers who purchase electricity and natural gas in their homes and apartments; the construction of liquefied natural gas export terminals (including one in Florida) and coal export terminals; the regulation of transporting crude oil by rail; and restructuring of the electricity industry in the United States and abroad, among other topics.

Environmental Justice

This course addresses environmental justice as a legal and social concern. Using case studies, academic literature, and other materials, we will engage with the history of environmental injustices inflicted upon traditionally disenfranchised communities and the rise of the environmental justice movement in response. In doing so, we examine the legal and social tools with which the environmental justice movement operates, and the barriers to achieving environmental justice. In looking to the future, the course will then focus on the unique environmental justice issues arising from anthropogenic climate change, also known as climate justice.

Florida Administrative Law

The course is about Florida state executive branch agencies, executive branch governmental power, and the processes and standards applicable to the exercise of executive branch agency power with respect to persons regulated by the executive branch. The course aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of various administrative processes established in Chapter 120, Florida Statutes (the Florida Administrative Procedure Act, or “APA”), and to provide students with an understanding of the role of the Florida APA in creating and determining the substantive and procedural legal rights of persons regulated by the executive branch agencies of Florida government.

Florida Environmental Law

The course will explore a range of technical issues, legal issues, and policy questions relating to environmental law and regulation in the State of Florida. Students are expected to learn how to apply legal reasoning and research methods to determine obligations under various Florida environmental statutes and rules; to gain familiarity with case law and case studies interpreting Florida Statutes Chapters 373 (Water Resources) and 403 (Environmental Control); to gain technical knowledge relating to the geology, meteorology, and ecosystems of Florida; and explore a range of specific topics including surface water and wetlands regulation, environmental resource permitting, mitigation assessment and banking, minimum flows and levels, total maximum daily loads, consumptive use permitting, groundwater protection, sovereign lands, and coastal construction permitting.


This course introduces the theory and practice of negotiation in a workshop setting. We will examine the basic stages of a negotiation; the major tensions at play in negotiation; distributive bargaining, value-creating, and problem-solving techniques; the management of communication and emotional elements in negotiation; power dynamics and ethics; lawyer-client relationships, and other topics as time allows. The course is designed to help students develop negotiating skills and a framework for ongoing self-learning through role-playing simulations, discussion, reading assignments, and regular journal and writing exercises.

Attendance and First Day Policy: The course attendance policy is unusually strict, because much of our learning takes place during in-class simulated negotiation role-plays. Attendance for each class meeting is mandatory, as absences frustrate not only your own learning but the learning opportunities of the students you are partnered with in that day's simulation. For that reason, you should only enroll in the course if you can commit to attend every class session (on time), and all students must be present at the beginning of the first class to maintain their seats. Waitlisted students are invited to attend the first class in case a space opens up at that time.

View the syllabus

View and complete the course application

Oil and Gas Law

This course will explore the law that applies to extracting and transporting oil and gas resources in the United States. The first several days of the course will describe the process of locating minerals underground and drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil, as these processes and technical terms for these processes will arise in many of the cases that we will explore. After students have a basic understanding of the oil and gas development process, we will address the many types of law that apply to oil and gas extraction and transportation, including public law regulations and statutes as well as common law property, contract, and tort, among other laws. Using recent cases, we will explore who owns minerals and in what form; how mineral owners commonly “lease” minerals to energy companies and obtain bonuses, royalties and other payments in return; disputes that arise between mineral lessors and lessees over royalty payments and other lease issues; disputes between those who own minerals and those who own the surface; and environmental and social issues that arise during the drilling process and the lease terms and regulations that address these issues. We will also address recent court decisions that address state preemption of local oil and gas regulation. Finally, we will spend several days exploring the regulation of natural gas and oil pipelines, including the construction, siting, and operation of pipelines, and we will briefly touch upon export policies.

State & Local Government

The powers, limitations, and special legal rules concerning state and local governments are studied.

Water Resources Law and Policy

This course provides an introduction to Water Law and Policy, a subject of great import to practitioners of environmental law, property law, international law, and other fields that contend with the allocation of scarce water resources among competing human, economic, and environmental needs.  Water management is especially important in Florida, which lies over the largest freshwater aquifer in the world, and Florida has become a leader in modern regulatory approaches.  The course explores the mechanics of water governance and how it has confronted the tensions between public and private rights in common pool resources and between the rule of law and legal instrumentalism.  Water Law continues to grapple with unforeseeable changes in technology, societal needs, and scientific understanding, each forcing questions about the degree to which law should, must, and/or can adapt to new circumstances.

The first half of the course will cover the major doctrines of private water allocation in the eastern and western United States—riparian rights, prior appropriations, and hybrid permit systems.  The second half of the course will explore special topics that intersect with Water Law, including groundwater, constitutional takings, the public trust doctrine, federal reserved rights, interstate and international disputes, water institutions, and Florida water governance.  To experience these issues in living color, the class will take a mid-semester field trip to a regional site of Water Law interest.  This course will be useful for students interested in careers in environmental law, land use law, urban planning, real estate development, agricultural and food law, and municipal and state government.  The course may be used to count toward the Upper-Level Writing Requirement and Environmental Certificate, but other students are also very welcome in the class.

(3) A Practical Experience 

This requirement is designed to expose students to practical aspects of environmental, land use, natural resources and/or energy law before they graduate. As described below, students have four different options for fulfilling this requirement: (a) completing an externship or internship, (b) providing pro bono legal work, (c) participating in moot court, or (d) taking an approved practical skills course.  A student must satisfy only one of the listed experiential/practical skills requirements listed below to qualify for the Certificate. Please note that you may NOT use paid employment experience to satisfy the Practical Skills requirement.

  • Advanced Legal Research in Administrative Law
  • Negotiation 

(4) The Upper Level Writing Requirement (ULWR):

Certificate students must take at least one approved program Seminar or Elective in which the student produces a paper discussing an environmental, land use, natural resources or energy law topic that would qualify for Upper Level Writing Requirement credit. These include:

  • Water Resources Law & Policy
  • Environmental Policy & Natural Resources Law
  • Environmental Justice

Other Administrative Matters:

Summary of Program Requirements

This document summarizes the requirements graduating students must meet in order to be awarded the Environmental Law Certificate.

Application Requirement

To enroll in the Environmental Law Certificate Program, you must submit an Environmental Law Certificate Application Form prior to the completion of the second course that you plan to use to satisfy the certificate requirements. Application approval is required to pursue the Environmental Law Certificate track.

Tracking Form

To be eligible for the Environmental Law Certificate, you are required to turn in a completed Environmental Law Certificate Tracking Form to the Academic Programs Office no later than the end of the add/drop period in the semester you expect to graduate.

Grade Requirements

In order to be awarded the Environmental Law Certificate, you must attain an average GPA of no lower than 3.0 on the group of courses you are using to meet the certificate requirements.

All courses that you plan to use to meet the requirements of the Environmental Law Certificate:
• Must be taken at the College of Law.
• Must be taken for graded credit (except courses that are S/U only).


Candidates achieving an average grade of 3.3 or above will be awarded the Environmental Law Certificate with honors.

• Honors: 3.3 (3.300 - 3.699)
• High Honors: 3.7 (3.700 - 3.899)
• Highest Honors:  3.9 (3.900 – 4.250)

LL.M. in Environmental Law and Policy

Students who have transferred into the J.D. program after the completion of an LL.M. program at the FSU College of Law may apply for the Environmental Law Certificate Program. Environmental Law coursework taken during an LL.M. program may be counted towards the Required Courses, Elective Components or Practical Experience, but will not be counted towards the 21 credit hour requirement or used in the calculation of the Environmental Law coursework GPA.

Class in session