In the invitation to this Symposium on Reconceptualizing the Future of Environmental Law, the organizers explained that the Symposium “focuses on the continued expansion of environmental law into distinct areas of the law, requiring an increasingly multidisciplinary approach beyond that of traditional federal regulation.” In short, the question posed is about the future proliferation of environmental measures outside the previous domains of federal environmental statutes.

At the risk of being guilty of local parochialism, I would like to discuss how the future described by the organizers has already arrived in California--both in the sense that a great deal is happening outside the purview of “federal statutes,” and that much of it involves “distinct areas of law” other than traditional environmental regulation. My focus will be on the issue of climate change, where California has been particularly active.

Not all of California's efforts have been met with approval, even from observers who are highly sympathetic to the goals. Some influential environmental scholars have debated whether California might have done better to simply set a price on carbon and avoid further regulatory apparatus, either by traditional regulators or elsewhere. I will use this debate to discuss some of the costs and benefits of mainstreaming environmental law into areas outside of the traditional environmental statutes.

Part I will address California's broad portfolio of climate measures. These measures certainly fit the organizer's description: none of them are federal, but many are implemented by parts of the state government other than environmental agencies, and some reach forms of conduct well outside traditional environmental regulation. Part II will ask whether the breadth of this regulatory portfolio is really desirable: would we be better off to stick to a simple direct attack on carbon emissions? Using so many different tools may simply be an unnecessary complication, if not counterproductive. But a broad portfolio might also be more effective in some ways.