Dr. Adam D. Orford joined the University of Georgia School of Law in the fall of 2021. His interdisciplinary research investigates legal and policy approaches to environmental protection, human health and wellbeing, and deep decarbonization of the United States economy. He also participates in collaborative research initiatives across UGA, including as the lead of the Georgia element of the National Zoning Atlas, and as a participant in ongoing investigations into the legal, political, environmental, and social dimensions of new energy manufacturing and emerging carbon removal technologies. His recent scholarship has appeared in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, the Georgetown Environmental Law Review, the Hastings Environmental Law Journal, and the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. As an educator and mentor, Professor Orford passionately supports law student success and career development.
Professor Orford earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School, his Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley’s Energy & Resources Group, and his Masters of Public Policy from U.C. Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Prior to returning to the academy, he was an environmental litigator in private practice, representing public and private clients in complex environmental civil litigation and regulatory matters. In law school, he served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law.
Ph.D., Energy & Resources, 2021
U.C. Berkeley Energy & Resources Group
M.P.P. / M.A., 2018
U.C. Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy and U.C. Berkeley Energy & Resources Group
Columbia Law School
B.A. (Italian), 2002
Arizona State University
Climate policy increasingly focuses on pathways to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, providing a clear standard against which to evaluate energy system planning. Examining the current and projected fuel mix of the electric power sector in the southeastern United States shows that an ongoing transition to natural gas for electricity risks locking in decades of greenhouse gas emissions at levels fundamentally incompatible with net zero goals. Furthermore, southeastern regulatory proceedings are not well designed to engage with this reality, although useful regulatory models are emerging. Natural gas will remain an important part of the southeastern fuel mix for years to come, but plans need to be laid today for its timely phaseout. Going forward, southeastern regulators should incorporate net zero targets into their resource planning processes and require their regulated utilities to begin developing planning scenarios that achieve net zero.
To fight climate change and support the transition to a zeroemissions transportation sector, the United States is setting out to build a huge fleet of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. But EV charging infrastructure—often called EV supply equipment (EVSE)—is expensive, and how to pay for it is not straightforward. This Article explores the emerging law and policy of using the bill payments of millions of electric utility customers to solve the problem. State utility regulators, in obscure technical proceedings, have begun directing billions of ratepayer dollars toward EVSE. Is this an unfair and risky social spending experiment, as its opponents argue? Or is it a sensible economic investment that will save ratepayers money, even while responding strategically to shifting market conditions, supporting domestic manufacturing, and achieving environmental goals, as its proponents contend? State regulators, one by one, have been reaching the same conclusion: The environmental, energy, and economic policy considerations are aligned, and the ratepayer funding approach makes sense, provided appropriate ratepayer protections are in place. To shine a light on these developments, this Article presents the findings of a fifty-state (plus D.C. and Puerto Rico) review of regulatory proceedings, revealing the full extent of authorized utility spending, the wide variety of EVSE investment program elements, the broad range of reasoning that regulators have found persuasive, and the protections that regulators have put in place to ensure ratepayer benefit. The Article demonstrates that support for utility EV infrasructure spending is not the sole province of states with progressive climate politics; that new federal funding is augmenting, but not displacing, utility investment; and that public utilities commissions have concluded that utility EV infrastructure investment can provide benefits that may not be provided by the private or public sectors.
Does EPA’s receipt of the Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) trigger the agency’s duties under Clean Air Act § 115? The law requires EPA to take action to prevent or eliminate air pollution endangering the public health or welfare of foreign nationals under certain circumstances. If triggered, the argument goes, the law could justify, or compel, EPA’s imposition of nationwide greenhouse gas regulation to combat climate change. One way to justify this, or compel it, is to trigger EPA’s duties “upon receipt of reports, surveys or studies from any duly constituted international agency.” This article considers whether EPA could reasonably interpret the IPCC to qualify as such an entity, and concludes not, but that a better candidate might exist.
This Dissertation examines the history of the conservative relationship with environmentalism in the United States between 1945 and 1981. In response to recent calls to bring the histories of U.S. political conservatism and environmentalism into conversation with each other, it investigates postwar environmental political history through the lens of partisan and ideological polarization and generates a research agenda for the field. It then contributes three new studies in conservative environmental politics: an analysis of the environmental rhetoric of a national business magazine; the legislative history of the first law to extend the power of the federal government to fight air pollution; and a history of the conservative response to Earth Day. It concludes that conservative opposition to environmentalism in the United States has been both ideological and situational.
Nation’s Business was a monthly business magazine published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with a subscription list larger than Business Week, Forbes, or Fortune. This study explores how the magazine responded and adapted to the rise of environmentalism, and environmental regulation of business, by exploring its treatment of four topics: DDT, environmentalists, government regulation, and renewable energy. It is built on a full-text review of all issues of Nation’s Business published between 1945 and 1981. It reveals the development of a variety of anti-environmental logics and discourses, including the delegitimization of environmentalism as emotional and irrational, the undermining of scientific conclusions as uncertain, the monetization of decisionmaking using cost-benefit analysis, and the problematization of government overregulation. The study thus traces the origins of the anti-environmental policies of the Reagan Administration to the business community of the preceding decade.
This Article explores the development of the Clean Air Act of 1963, the first law to allow the federal government to fight air pollution rather than study it. The Article focuses on the postwar years (1945-1963) and explores the rise of public health medical research, cooperative federalism, and the desire to harness the powers of the federal government for domestic social improvement, as key precursors to environmental law. It examines the origins of the idea that the federal government should “do something” about air pollution, and how that idea was translated, through drafting, lobbying, politicking, hearings, debate, influence, and votes, into a new commitment to a national program to end air pollution in the United States. In addition to presenting new perspectives on this understudied period in the development of environmental law, it is hoped that this work will shed some light on the nature of political opposition to environmental regulation, which today is one of the greatest challenges to effective pollution control.
With climate change a present reality, governments are confronting the need to adapt their regulatory planning processes to withstand new and uncertain climate risks. This Article provides three new resources to support this essential work. First, it develops a new standard for assessing the quality of climate adaptation decisionmaking, focusing on defining the problem, quantifying adaptation benefits, and evaluating equitable distribution of risk. Second, it reviews California’s climate adaptation policy development efforts between 1988 and 2018 - from the state’s early efforts to study the problem, to later attempts at statewide strategic planning, until more recent work to integrate adaptation into existing regulatory processes - and applies the new assessment standard to illuminate many of the challenges that California has confronted. Third, the Article presents four case studies from California’s electric power regulatory sector - electric grid reliability planning processes, wildfire risk mapping, coastal generator siting, and rate case risk costing - to demonstrate the difficulties inherent in incorporating climate-relevant data into complex technical proceedings in a transparent and consistent fashion.
Maturing national data collection initiatives have created new possibilities for chemical risk analysis. This study demonstrates the potential for public datasets in this field, combining a population-level live birth dataset (~29 million records) and national pesticide use volume estimates (~3000 counties) over seven years (2006-2012) to examine whether mothers living in areas with high atrazine use experience higher than average birth defect rates.
Interview on energy law topics upon arrival at UGA.
Dissertation exit talk on historical development of conservative environmental polarization.