Spring 2000

Fall 1999

A Message from the Dean

Cities at the Horizon
Communities at the Horizon
Eastward from Our Horizon: U.S., China & Russia
Beyond the Horizon: Innovation and Technology

ILE Lecture: Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. L'60
Profile: Richard E. Rosin L'68
Profile: Pamela Daley L'79
Profile: Professor Jason Johnston
Profile: Howard Chang
Profile: Robert A. Gorman
Oral Legal History Project

Snippets of History
Faculty Notes
Alumni Briefs
In Memoriam

Penn Law

“We have a great group of students,” Johnston asserts. “We already have more students here who are really interested in environmental law and policy than people realize – they’re very able, and really very committed.” Johnston also notes that with the recent addition to the faculty of environmental law professor Howard Chang (whom he describes as having produced the “best thing yet” on the relationship between international trade and the global environment) Penn now has the core faculty strength to build POLE. Johnston’s current research spans a number of areas in environmental and natural resources law. On a relatively abstract level, joint work with Rachel Croson of Wharton OPIM (forthcoming in the Journal of Law, Economics and Organization) involves a series of experiments on how people bargain under alternative property rights regimes. Johnston and Croson found dramatically different behavior under regimes that assign clear or definite property rights and those which (like contemporary nuisance and takings law) assign blurry or contingent rights.

A more general, law review - style article, “Decentralization and Development: The Political Economy of Natural Resource Federalism” argues that existing rationales for federal environmental regulation (such as the fear of race-to-the-bottom among States, and concern over interstate spillovers) do not account for the historical pattern of centralized ownership and/or regulation of natural resources in the United States and provide little guidance in determining when federal regulation of natural resource development is appropriate.  The paper agrees with the traditional historical story that the increasing scarcity of relatively undeveloped natural resources is a primary reason why the management of those resources has often been centralized in the federal government.  But it offers a new explanation of why this has occurred: not to preserve resources, but to develop them when local majorities would not favor such development.  The paper also explains how the concentration and geographic distribution of the gains from development affects the likely efficiency of decentralize development decisions. It identifies how the kind of transfer made by developers to obtain local consent to development (e.g. funding for a new school or recreational facility) can be used to make inferences regarding the efficiency of the development decision.

 A more directly applied paper, “The Law and Economics of Environmental Contracts” was presented by Johnston at a Fall 1999 Wharton Impact Conference that POLE co-sponsored. This paper, which will appear as a chapter in the forthcoming conference volume New Approaches to Environmental Regulation: European and American Approaches (Kluwer, 2000), sets out an economic framework for evaluating how the process by which environmental contracts (such as Habitat Conservation Plans under the Endangered Species Act, Brownfields redevelopment agreements and in-lieu-fee wetlands mitigation) are negotiated, affects the performance of those agreements.

Johnston is not alone in his enthusiasm for the out-of-doors. He and his wife Beth, a Vice President at Pennsylvania Hospital and a marathon runner, whom he met at the University of Michigan, have an eleven-year-old daughter, Addie. The family enjoys skiing, hiking and playing racquet sports together. Athletics runs in the family, as does an interest in music – while Johnston muses to Mahler, Beth listens to Sting, and Addie to Cristina Aguilera and the Dixie Chicks.

Perhaps disparate tastes, but in harmony, nonetheless. Like Nature itself, and the agents that strive to manage it.