Workshop Roundtables

CLEANR’s Workshop Roundtables are the center’s core initiative. Bringing together leading policymakers, industry representatives, activists, scientists, and scholars, the roundtables play a critical role in CLEANR’s ongoing efforts to identify and address gaps in existing research, advance knowledge and engagement, build advocacy networks, and promote policy action on important and emerging environmental issues.

2022-22 Roundtables

Promoting Water Efficiency through Water Budget Tiered-Rate Structures in California
November 12, 2021

In partnership with the California Coastkeeper Alliance and former Irvine Ranch Water District Water Conservation Coordinator

This roundtable focuses on promoting water efficiency through water budget rate programs in California. In an effort to build resiliency as the state faces growing stressors due to changing climate and other pressures, water resource experts in California have begun to explore a variety of initiatives focused on long-term water conservation and efficiency planning. This 2020 roundtable explores one particular approach to water efficiency and conservation: water budget-based, tiered-rate structures. These rate structures involve calculating a water budget that represents an efficient volume of water based on individualized customers’ water needs, and are designed to provide a clear and visible incentive to avoid high levels of water use by having the water user pay different prices per unit of water delivered depending on the amount used. This roundtable will facilitate dialogue on the water efficiency and water quality improvements, as well as revenue stability achieved by water districts that have adopted budget-based rate structures, and will address the gaps in knowledge that policymakers have on this issue. This roundtable will bring together California legislators, water districts, NGOs, scholars, and economists in an effort to contribute to policy action aimed at the Legislature’s creation of a State Revolving Fund allocation that would provide technical and legal assistance to municipalities to develop water budget rate structures.

Incorporating Environmental Justice into California Agency Processes

Environmental Justice (EJ) has become increasingly legalized in California, as a spate of legislation in recent years has directed state and local agencies to incorporate EJ into their regulatory policies and activities. While agencies are at various stages of responding to these directives, discussions with agency representatives, as well as members of public interest groups and public observers, reveal several significant challenges to implementing the new laws. These include, but are not limited to: 1) vagueness in the language of relevant bills; 2) legislative mandates that insufficiently reflect the constraints on agencies; 3) the “silo-ing” of one agency from another; and 4) the development of policies that the public – and some bureaucrats – believe insufficiently reflect environmental concerns and values. This roundtable aims to explore these issues, providing a forum in which representatives of multiple agencies can initiate dialogue, discuss current and anticipated challenges and best practices, and ultimately suggest proposals for better implementation and potential improvements to existing legislation.

Past Workshops

Arctic Governance
June 18, 2021

The changing state of the Arctic Ocean is opening the region to additional interests and stressors, creating new challenges for resource management in the Arctic and elsewhere in the world. This roundtable builds upon three prior convenings focused on Arctic governance: 1) a January 2015 conference that presented an overview of law in the Arctic and explored ideas for new initiatives for the region; 2) an April 2016 roundtable that discussed existing and emerging issues in Arctic marine governance; and 3) an October 2017 roundtable that assessed legal strategies to address the challenges of climate change and its effects on local and indigenous Arctic communities. CLEANR’s spring 2021 roundtable will additionally draw from a survey of Arctic experts conducted by CLEANR's Faculty Advisor that identified and prioritized environmental governance strategies in the region. Based on the results of this survey, the roundtable will focus on: designating Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas in the Arctic to be protected by special actions; identifying additional Marine Protected Areas in the Arctic; and becoming an active United Nations Environment Program regional seas program.

A Conservation Vision for the Federal Endangered Species Act
October 15 & 16, 2020

In partnership with the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC)

With a Democratic majority in the House after the November 2018 midterm election, this roundtable focused on developing a progressive vision for effective adjustments to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) to enhance species conservation. This roundtable brought together scholars, advocates, and policymakers with expertise in species and habitat conservation efforts to facilitate meaningful dialogue around possible edits to the ESA that would build upon the successes the ESA has already achieved in protections for species and their habitat.

Tap Into Resilience: Removing Barriers to Local, Sustainable Water Resource Strategies
September 13, 2019

In partnership with Waternow Alliance

As water systems face ever-increasing stressors due to our changing climate, communities are looking for ways to build resilience and secure local water resources. Localized water resource strategies such as green infrastructure, efficiency programs, and on-site reuse initiatives can be affordable, effective, and environmentally friendly alternatives to centralized systems to help address these challenges. Yet legal and policy barriers, including limited funding options and institutional water management silos, have limited their scope. Building upon WaterNow Alliance’s Tap Into Resilience campaign, this roundtable engages participants in a focused discussion on the legal and policy reforms needed to identify and address the barriers to promoting decentralized and localized water strategies. The roundtable convenes scholars, technical experts, and representatives from cities and water utilities to share lessons learned from those already grappling with these issues and explore opportunities for diversifying water resilience strategies with on-site solutions.

Defense of Science: Safeguarding Against Distortions of Scientific Research in Federal Policymaking
May 22, 2019

In partnership with the Union of Concerned Scientists

This workshop brings together a small number of leading scientists, scholars, advocates, and policymakers to explore potential safeguards to protect scientific research and its use in policymaking from the types of abuses that have been documented under the Trump Administration. While documentation, oversight, litigation, and political responses are necessary and important in the near-term, the discussion should not be limited by the current political climate. A more robust framework of legislative, executive, and institutional safeguards are needed to prevent abuses over the long-term. This roundtable seeks to facilitate meaningful dialogue around the existing vulnerabilities to abuses of science and recommendations for the President, agency heads, and agency scientific integrity officers to strengthen scientific integrity across the government. The discussion focuses on the agencies tasked with protecting environmental and human health, including the Environmental Protection Agency, agencies of the Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration. The roundtable discussion contributes to a document reflecting recommendations for policy guidance and other legal safeguards to protect the role of science.

Advocating for Improvements in Species Conservation
April 12, 2019

In partnership with the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC)

With a Democratic majority in the House after the November 2018 midterm election, this roundtable focused on developing a progressive vision for effective adjustments to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) to enhance species conservation. This roundtable brought together scholars, advocates, and policymakers with expertise in species and habitat conservation efforts to facilitate meaningful dialogue around possible edits to the ESA that would build upon the successes the ESA has already achieved in protections for species and their habitat. 


Mitigating Climate Change through Transportation and Land Use Policy: Opportunities and Challenges
October 19, 2018

Allowing for greater population density has the potential to shorten commute times, make housing more affordable, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enable greater and more cost-effective investment in mass transit, and increase economic productivity. Nonetheless, local zoning boards and bodies that regulate land use give disproportionate influence to incumbent residents who oppose greater density at the expense of their potential future neighbors, economic growth, and climate change mitigation. This dynamic offers state and local governments the opportunity to reap large economic, environmental, and social gains if they could craft policies that ensure adequate housing and accessible transit in the places where people want to live. Although there exists no legal barrier to state governments exerting greater control over land use policy, it is traditionally an area of local responsibility, and imposition of strong prescriptive policies has proven politically challenging. This roundtable explores the experiences of California, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, and New York in addressing these challenges, and engages participants in a focused discussion on potential approaches and opportunities for improved policy.

Regulating Labor Abuses in the Food Supply Chain
March 9, 2018

This roundtable continued an ongoing discussion of how sustainability might support efforts to eradicate labor abuses in our food system. A core principle driving modern food policy is sustainability—the idea that food should be cultivated in a manner that preserves rather than depletes food sources for future generations. Increasingly, government officials, advocates, and corporate actors have sought to expand the concept of sustainability to account for social costs such as exploitation in the production of food. Yet, the legal tools available for supporting this broadened view of sustainability remain limited. This roundtable focused on a strategy that has garnered some success: pressuring entities up the food chain to enter into legally binding contracts with ethical production provisions. This roundtable will generate concrete recommendations for those interested in utilizing this model of norms enforcement.

Legal Strategies to Address Climate Change in the North American Arctic
October 27–28, 2017

This roundtable brought together a small number of leading attorneys, academics, and experts working on a range of issues concerning the U.S. and Canadian Arctic to assess potential legal strategies, including litigation as well as other advocacy techniques, to address the challenges of climate change in the region. The goals of the roundtable were to foster dialogue, advance knowledge, and develop practical policy solutions. Participants shared experiences and explored alternative strategies and recommendations, including indigenous perspectives, and examined opportunities for effective legal action.

Food Security and Sustainability
March 10, 2017

This roundtable brought together academics, practitioners, activists, and students to examine the relationship between food security and environmental sustainability as alternative legal frames. It considered the extent to which those frames complement and contradict one another, setting a relatively straightforward but ambitious agenda: to identify legal reforms that advance the goals of both food security and environmental sustainability.

Enhancing Coordination and Integrating Water Quality Protection in California's Marine Protected Areas
January 13, 2017

In partnership with UCI OCEANS and working with state and local entities

Against the backdrop of California’s ongoing assessment of its MPA network, this roundtable built on a June 2016 scoping session and convened experts and practitioners to explore the goals of MPAs in dynamic conditions, opportunities to overcome regulatory fragmentation in water quality monitoring, and the lessons of MPA collaboratives in promoting coordination.

Tensions of Transparency: Open Government Laws in Land Use Regulation
December 9, 2016

Open government laws facilitating public access to government meetings and records can promote public participation in the democratic process. Yet, some participants in public-private land development deals contend that existing open government law can constrain productive negotiations without effectively increasing public engagement. This roundtable explored the tensions that arise in the land development process, where the goal of maintaining government transparency can conflict with the goal of effectively negotiating complex deals mingling private resources and public authority.

Native Nations Protecting Coastal Lands and Waters in California
November 19-20, 2016

In partnership Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, UCI American Indian Resource Program, UCI OCEANS, UCI Sustainability, UCI Program in Public Health, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, and Resources Legacy Fund

This two-day convening aimed to strengthen relationships among, and government-to-government consultation between, Native Nations and the California Coastal Commission, the California Coastal Conservancy, NOAA, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, by building the capacity of Native Nations and Indigenous leaders to advance Tribal coastal and marine protection goals. It focused on strategies to achieve community-identified goals relating to Tribal sovereignty and environmental justice and the development of effective, up-to-date state and federal coastal marine preservation and management policies.

Adaptive Management of Marine Protected Areas
June 9, 2016

In partnership with UCI OCEANS

Globally, a number of jurisdictions including California are developing, testing, and refining various approaches to marine management through the use of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). As California’s newly implemented MPA network approaches regional and statewide reviews, roundtable participants will compare the effectiveness of California’s regime to other jurisdictions, consider the goals of MPAs in light of shifting baselines, and assess the overall effectiveness of California’s overlapping, and often fragmented, regimes of marine governance. Against the backdrop of the South Coast MPA Region’s five-year assessment, legal scholars and scientists from academia, government, industry, and non-profit organizations will consider the implementation and long-term success of MPAs in an increasingly dynamic world.

Proposition 218
May 18, 2016

California’s Constitution mandates that state water resources be put to beneficial use and not be wasted or used unreasonably. Proposition 218 requires government agencies to show that the amount charged for a property- related service such as water delivery does not exceed the proportional cost of the service. As California faces growing water supply challenges, the recent Capistrano Taxpayers Association v City of San Juan Capistrano litigation involving tiered water rates and Proposition 218 struck down penalty rates for excessive water use, thus posing additional potential hurdles for conservation. This half-day workshop roundtable will convene various leading thinkers to address water conservation challenges facing local governments in California, exploring the application of Proposition 218 and its potential effects on California water policy. The participants will explore solutions to address: (1) stormwater funding, (2) conservation pricing, and (3) affordability, including the potential development of model local ordinances and recommendations for state water law and policy reform.

Environmental Governance and Management in the Arctic
April 21–22, 2016

The changing state of the Arctic Ocean is opening up the region to new interests and added stressors, creating new challenges for marine resource management in the Arctic. Building on a January 2015 conference on Arctic governance that was convened in collaboration with the UCI Newkirk Center; representatives from consulates of Norway, Sweden, and Finland; and U.S. government officials, this roundtable will bring together national and international Arctic experts to discuss existing and emerging issues in Arctic marine governance. Topics may include the implementation of the Arctic Council Initiatives, including the recently signed declaration to prevent unregulated fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean, and developing a framework within UNCLOS for promoting ecosystem-based management. Additional topics may include an assessment of future needs for a regional seas program or other mechanism, as appropriate, for increased cooperation in Arctic marine areas. Accompanied by an open public lecture on the Arctic and its environmental governance.

Redeveloping Democracy: Capturing the Public and Private Value(s) of Land Use
December 4, 2015

Government actions, such as land-use planning, zoning, and infrastructure spending can increase the economic value of land. Land value capture regulation attempts to retain some portion of this increased value for public use. This session will bring together researchers and practitioners in land use regulation and public finance to discuss challenges related to public participation and community engagement in the design and implementation of value capture regulation.

Investing for Environmental Justice in Indian Country: Exploring Social Justice Impact Investing in Tribal Projects
October 23, 2015

In partnership with Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, Native Americans in Philanthropy, and the UC Irvine Sustainability Initiative

This workshop roundtable provided a forum for Tribal officials and community organizations to discuss energy development and its impacts in Indian Country. The roundtable brought together Tribal officials, community representatives, federal and state officials, and experts on energy development and provided a foundation for future policymaking, dialogue, and advocacy.

Pilots in Species and Water Permit Coordination
July 30, 2015

Hosted by the Environmental Law Institute

This roundtable focused on the benefits, costs, and challenges of coordination of species conservation permitting under the Endangered Species Act with permitting under the Clean Water Act and other regulatory schemes. The regulatory processes for these overlapping regimes are fragmented, and there have been a number of recent attempts to coordinate agency assessments of projects under these parallel regimes.  Based on this dialogue session and independent research, CLEANR published an article in the Environmental Law Reporter on the lessons of recent experiments in permit process coordination efforts for endangered species and aquatic resources in California. Future sessions on permit coordination, possibly including recent Congressional changes on permit coordination through the FAST Act, are being contemplated with the Environmental Law Institute.

Innovation in Habitat Conservation Planning
July 30, 2015

Hosted by the President's Council on Environmental Quality, and in partnership with the Center for Collaboration in Governance

Building on a series of roundtables held in February 2014, December 2014 and July 2015 on habitat conservation planning, this dialogue session will bring together experts from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Department of Interior, Department of Transportation, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, state agencies, environmental organizations, industry, and academia. They will discuss innovation in the development and implementation of Habitat Conservation Plans. Two ancillary sessions will focus on 1) the coordination of wildlife conservation under the Endangered Species Act with the Clean Water Act and other regulatory schemes and 2) the funding of transportation, infrastructure, and wildlife conservation.

Lessons from the Natural Community Conservation Planning Experience in Southern California
July 15, 2015

This roundtable built on the sessions in February and December of 2014 on habitat conservation planning and brought together a range of experts on Southern California’s Natural Community Conservation Plans (NCCPs). With the first NCCP implemented in Orange County, Southern California NCCPs provide over two decades of experience, and this dialogue asked participants to reflect on the program’s evolution and assess the extent to which these plans are achieving their goals. The dialogue focused on the lessons that can be learned for improving NCCP design and implementation moving forward and how the NCCP program compares to the federal Habitat Conservation Plan program.
This session was intended to inform the next dialogue in Washington, D.C. on July 30, 2015.

The Financing and Mitigation of Habitat Conservation through Infrastructure Planning
December 11, 2014

In partnership with the Center for Collaboration in Governance

As emphasized in recent federal initiatives, there is a growing recognition of the need to plan for, fund, and implement habitat conservation through more effective, efficient, and adaptive landscape-level infrastructure planning. Building on a February 2014 session on the lessons of area-wide multi-agency federal Habitat Conservation Plans, this dialogue brings together a range of experts to focus on applying this experience to the future planning and financing of habitat mitigation for infrastructure.

The Future of Habitat Conservation Planning
February 6–7, 2014

In partnership with the Center for Collaboration in Governance (CCG)

This dialogue session brings together a wide range of experts from government agencies, industry groups, and non-governmental organizations who have been on the cutting edge in the development of habitat conservation planning. The dialogue will ask participants to assess the evolution of the federal Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) program and consider approaches for addressing past and future challenges to the effectiveness of HCPs. Dialogue sessions will focus on four key topics: (1) funding, (2) landscape-level planning, (3) climate change and (4) collaboration.

Southern California Tribal Water Forum
November 16, 2013

In partnership with Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, UCI Sustainability Initiative, California Indian Environmental Alliance, and Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Inc.

This roundtable sought to build tribal capacity regarding water issues in California. Tribal leaders had the opportunity to learn about regional, national and international tribal water campaigns; discuss the importance of water in Indigenous communities; strategize ways to address tribal water interests throughout the state; and hear about watershed management initiatives and tribal-eligible funding opportunities in California. The workshop concluded with an opportunity to learn about the Clinical Program at the School of Law.