Benjamin Falber ’12 won two national student writing competition awards for his research in environmental law. Both winning papers pose important questions about how the infrastructures of the world’s future cities are built, and how society relates to and uses the space it lives in.
The American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources awarded Falber the ABA Energy Law Student Writing Competition Award for his article Transmission Lines: Generating a New Approach for FERC’s Siting Authority, which will be published in the Environmental Law Reporter. In the article, Falber critiques the protocol of how energy across state lines should be accessed by major population centers, considering that much of the renewable energy sources are located in remote rural areas.
He noted that a lack of designated authority makes investments in dispersion of energy a challenge. “The issue of new transmission siting on non-federal lands has disappointingly gained little momentum,” Falber wrote. “Often wind farms and solar thermal fields are distant from large customer centers, and as new transmission lines need to be built, states frequently must exercise their power of eminent domain, leaving projects subject to approval under certain state imposed conditions.” Falber argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should be granted broader regulatory authority to address the lack-of-coordination.
Falber also won the Trandafir International Business Writing Competition for his note, A Unique Expropriation Framework for a Unique Category of Investment: The Rights of Foreign Investors in Public-Private Partnerships, which will be published in the University of Iowa’s Journal of Transnational and Contemporary Problems. The article addresses the question: “If private-public partnerships (PPPs) are used to finance major development projects, and the doctrine of expropriation is so inconsistent among different tribunals and bilateral investment treaties, how will foreign investors know their rights and mitigate risks?”
Falber proposes a unique policy to protect investors. “When the PPP financial model is analyzed through the lens of expropriation law,” Falber writes, “a legal framework for resolving disputes becomes apparent. Any perceived restrictions on sovereign powers could be made less significant if a host government limits its control over risk factors that could impact expected revenues of a PPP and limits itself to the procedures in the negotiated contract.”
Falber worked on the note as an independent study under Professor Claire Kelly’s guidance. “I am not at all surprised that Ben's paper won,” said Kelly. “He took a cutting edge topic and wrote a concise, in-depth analysis. It was one of the best student notes I have read.” Falber is the third BLS student to win the Trandafir prize, joining Lindsey A. Zahn ’12 and Sarah Westby ’11.