Professor William Buzbee Authors New Book

August 12, 2014 —

Professor William Buzbee Professor William Buzbee

In his new book Fighting Westway: Environmental Law, Citizen Activism and the Regulatory War that Transformed New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), Georgetown University Law Center Professor William W. Buzbee provides a history of one of environmental law’s most epic and renowned battles. 

Buzbee uses archival documents and interviews with stakeholders to dissect the legal, environmental and political battles over Westway, the most expensive federally financed highway of its day and a project that would have involved massive landfilling in the Hudson River. It was a struggle that lasted 14 years, involving direct citizen protests and activism, Congress, presidents, agencies and several court trials. It pitted senators, mayors and the editorial boards of the New York Times and Daily News against scientists, federal agency staff and citizen activists and their lawyers. Buzbee uses the Westway battles to illuminate the strategies and elements of high stakes regulatory wars. Although many books have been written about the law, few illuminate the strategies and choices at play in common but complex high stakes regulatory conflicts that often involve society’s most fundamental political choices.

The “Fight”ing Westway vspace=“Westway’s defeat remains shocking to its champions, especially considering the power of its supporters,” Buzbee writes. Although Westway’s defeat has often been described as an anti-democratic outcome over a mere procedural snafu, or lacking merit under the law, Buzbee reveals that Westway’s battles were over high stakes. The project’s defeat was not due to “some antidemocratic fluke,” he says, but to an effective combination of citizen activism, a highway versus mass transit choice, scientific input by expert regulators, environmentally protective choices in the law and judicial impartiality. While Buzbee surveys the entire history of the project, he focuses most of his attention on the legal and regulatory battles at its endgame, from 1982 to 1985.

“The dramatic story of the battle over Westway serves as a masterful case study of how today’s regulatory wars are waged across the United States,” says Richard Briffault, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia University Law School.

And John H. Adams, founding director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says: “Finally! The first thorough, truthful account of one of the great environmental battles of the twentieth century!” 

Buzbee recently joined the Georgetown Law faculty from Emory University School of Law, where he taught environmental law, administrative law, legislation and regulation and seminars on environmental, regulatory and constitutional law. He was the director of the Emory Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, as well as a director of Emory’s Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance. Buzbee has published widely on environmental law, regulatory federalism and other public law topics, and his articles have appeared in such publications as the Stanford Law Review, the New York University Law Review, the Michigan Law Review and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Buzbee earned a B.A. from Amherst College and a J.D. from Columbia. He will teach Environmental Law, Administrative Law, and the Art of Regulatory War Seminar: Federalism and Other Legal-Political Battlegrounds.

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