Meet Felix Mormann

Felix MormannProfessor Felix Mormann will join the Texas A&M Law faculty in Fall 2017 from the University of Miami Law School.

Before joining Miami as an Associate Professor, he was Lecturer in Law, Energy Policy and Finance Fellow, and Kauffman Legal Fellow at Stanford Law School, as well as a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley School of Law. Professor Mormann holds JD and JSD degrees from the University of Passau in Germany and an LLM from UC Berkeley (2008). His scholarship has appeared in the Yale Journal on Regulation, Stanford Environmental Law Journal, Ecology Law Quarterly, Florida Law Review, and The New York Times.

Interview

What courses will you teach in fall 2017?

I will be teaching two courses: in “Energy Law” we will discuss the evolving regulatory regime of the U.S. energy economy, from the common-law roots of public utility law to recent restructuring efforts in energy markets and related federalism challenges. In “Law and Policy of Clean Energy Innovation”, we will explore what lawyers, regulators and policymakers can do to help move innovative energy technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace.

What generated your interest in environmental law?

Growing up, I spent a lot of time outdoors, doing sports, hiking and camping. Along the way, I learnt to appreciate both the beauty and vulnerability of our natural environment. As a high-school student, I volunteered for an environmental non-profit organization in the North Sea. When an oil tanker had – illegally – flushed its tanks at sea, we had to clean hundreds of stranded birds covered in oil and put those who were beyond help out of their misery. I realized then just how important environmental laws and their enforcement are if we want to conserve the natural beauty around us.

That said, I did not go straight into environmental law after law school but, rather, started practicing in corporate and M&A. Luckily, I eventually found a way to apply these skills in an environmental context advising clients on the development of wind farms, biomass power plants and other renewable energy projects. It’s a fascinating area of practice that exemplifies how environmental and economic interests need not be at odds with one another but, instead, can align allowing stakeholders to do both well and good.

What is currently your primary area of research?

Broadly speaking, my research explores the legal, policy and financial challenges along the path to a sustainable energy economy. Unlike most other work in this area, my research approaches environmental challenges through a business-oriented lens that hones in on industry-specific challenges and opportunities to develop tailored, market-oriented policy and regulation that provide cost-effective incentives for more sustainable business practices.

What is the most pressing issue you see facing water and energy, or environmental law and policy?

At the risk of sounding cliché, anthropogenic climate change strikes me as the most daunting challenge facing environmental systems today. Greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming urge a fundamental rethinking of the way we generate and use energy. Sea level rise, meanwhile, threatens the livelihood of millions around the world through coastal flooding and saltwater intrusion into precious freshwater aquifers. And these are but two of the many challenges posed by global climate change.

What qualities and skills do you like to see in future energy and environmental lawyers?

In my experience, successful energy and environmental lawyers know much more than just how to read a case or the latest EPA regulations. They have a deep understanding of the regulatory and administrative processes that produce and shape these and other relevant outcomes. That’s why I always encourage students with an interest in energy and environmental law to take classes in administrative law and regulated industries. In addition, they should develop at least a working understanding of the science, technology and economics that drive decision-making in their desired area of practice. A lot of students come to law school in the hope of avoiding math and numbers but basic data literacy is important in the energy and environmental law context.

What can be done to bridge the gap between science and the law?

Historically, scientists and lawyers have lived in parallel universes. Even today, both do not always speak the same “language.” Yet, scientific advances can, and should, inform relevant policymaking and regulatory efforts. The National Science Foundation and other sources of funding for research now require that most grant applications include a “translational” component to ensure that potential policy implications of scientific discoveries are not lost. It’s up to us as law professors to help empower the next generation of lawyers so they learn to recognize and utilize scientific data and discoveries as powerful additions to their legal toolbox.

Please feel free to express anything else you think we ought to include.

So far, we’ve talked about my background and what I hope to teach students. But it turns out that I might also need some instructions – when it comes to the best eateries in Fort Worth or Aggie culture, for example. While I’m already trying to familiarize myself with the meaning of “Gig’em” and other staples, it seems as though my “research” has barely scratched the surface. So, I look forward to our students teaching me a thing or two about the Aggie way.

-- Article courtesy of the Spring 2017 NRS Program Newsletter.

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