Creating the Law of Environmentally Sustainable Economic Development

30 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2011 Last revised: 23 Jul 2015

See all articles by John C. Dernbach

John C. Dernbach

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Date Written: February 28, 2011


This article argues that a key to sustainability is redirecting the law of economic development. From a historical perspective, sustainable development is an effort to integrate environmental protection and restoration with development. As a result, it is not possible to fully understand sustainable development unless we understand what development means. While that term is reasonably well understood at the international level, our closest analogue in the United States is not development in general but rather economic development.

A great many recently enacted laws that move the United States toward sustainability can be understood as economic development laws. This article describes seven types of such laws. Each type is explained, and examples are provided. By better understanding these laws and their common characteristics, the article argues, we may better understand how to move more rapidly and effectively toward sustainability.

Keywords: sustainable development, sustainability, economic development, development, environmental law, renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable communities, Cash for Clunkers, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

JEL Classification: K32, Q01, Q20, Q25, Q28, Q30, Q38, Q48, Q54

Suggested Citation

Dernbach, John C., Creating the Law of Environmentally Sustainable Economic Development (February 28, 2011). Pace Environmental Law (PELR) Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, Spring 2011, Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-10, Available at SSRN:

John C. Dernbach (Contact Author)

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States

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