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Richard L. Revesz

Lawrence King Professor of Law
New York University
School of Law
New York, NY

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  • B.S.E., Princeton University, summa cum laude, 1979
  • M.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1980
  • J.D., Yale Law School, 1983


Dean Richard L. Revesz has made a mark in the fields of environmental and regulatory law and policy. His work focuses on five distinct areas: federalism and environmental regulation, design of liability regimes for environmental protection, positive political economy analysis of environmental regulation, analytical foundations of environmental law, and the use of cost-benefit analysis in administrative regulation.

His article, "Rehabilitating Interstate Competition: Rethinking the 'Race to the Bottom' Rationale for Federal Environmental Regulation," takes issue with the view that competition for industry induces states to engage in a destructive race to offer industry suboptimally lax environmental standards. That view had been explicitly cited by Congress as a central justification for the passage of important federal environmental statutes, and had been accepted almost as dogma in the legal academic literature. The importance of the article's insights led the American Bar Association's Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice to give Revesz its 1994 award for the most distinguished article or book on administrative law. In a later article, "Federalism and Interstate Environmental Externalities," Revesz extends his critique of centralized federal regulation. More recently, his article "Federalism and Environmental Regulation: A Public Choice Analysis,” challenges the influential claim that primary responsibility for environmental regulation should be assigned to the federal government because public choice pathologies cause systematic underrepresentation of environmental interests at the state level. All three articles were selected by the Land Use and Environment Law Review for being among the handful of best environmental law articles in their year of publication. Dean Revesz is now expanding his work into a book, Federalism and Environmental Regulation, which will be published by Yale University Press.

Dean Revesz has extensively studied the Superfund statute, which imposes liability for the disposal of hazardous waste. Some of his work in this area is contained in Analyzing Superfund: Economics, Science, and Law, which he edited with his colleague Richard Stewart. With his colleague Lewis Kornhauser, he has written more than a dozen articles on the consequences that joint and several liability have in deterring improper disposal of wastes, inducing settlements, and promoting fairness. Their analysis has important implications for the evaluation of tort rules in general. In April 1994, the Supreme Court referred to it extensively in an opinion dealing with the effects of partial settlements under rules of joint and several liability, and stated, in an unanimous opinion, that it contained an "excellent discussion of the effect of various rules of settlement." This work also is influencing the American Law Institute's Restatement (3rd) of Torts: Apportionment. Dean Revesz has testified before Congress and served as a consultant to the Administrative Conference of the United States on de minimis settlements (settlements with parties that are responsible only for a small share of the liability at a site) under Superfund.

Dean Revesz is devoting considerable attention to the study of the positive political economy of environmental regulation. His article "Environmental Regulation, Ideology, and the D.C. Circuit" seeks to understand the impact of judicial ideology on the disposition of challenges to environmental regulation. In "The Positive Political of Instrument Choice in Environmental Policy," written with Nathaniel Keohane and Robert Stavins of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, he analyzes how the strong divergence with respect to the choice of environmental policy instruments between positive political reality and the prescriptions of normative economic theory can be explained by reference to the interests of regulated firms to obtain economic rents and to protect those rents through barriers to entry.

Dean Revesz's work is also playing an important role in defining the analytical foundations of environmental law. In his recent book, Foundations of Environmental Law and Policy, Revesz organizes, analyzes, and critiques the major theoretical approaches in the field. He is also working on a casebook, which will be published by Foundation Press, designed to bring together three areas that are central to a sophisticated understanding of the subject matter: the major intellectual perspectives affecting the development of environmental policy, the institutional structures in which environmental regulation is carried out, and the provisions of the major environmental statutes and regulations.

Dean Revesz is currently focusing on the use of cost-benefit analysis in administrative regulation. In his article, "Environmental Regulation, Cost-Benefit Analysis, and the Discounting of Human Lives," Revesz exposes the analytical flaws in the heated debate that has developed in the academic literature and in regulatory practice on whether the benefits from saving lives from latent harms should be discounted to present value to account for the period of the latency, and whether similar discounting should take place for environmental benefits that accrue to future generations. He shows that both situations are analytically different, and that discounting has a limited role to play for latent harms but not for harms to future generations. The article has important implications for the regulation of carcinogens and greenhouse gases.

Among other professional activities, Dean Revesz has been an adviser to the American Law Institute's Restatement (3rd) of Torts: Apportionment, chair of the Committee on Judicial Review of the American Bar Association's Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Policy, and a member of the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board. He has also served as a consultant to the Administrative Conference of the United States; the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government; and the United Nations Department of Technical Cooperation for Development; and as a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Dean Revesz joined the New York University School of Law faculty in 1985, following clerkships with Chief Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States. He received his J.D. from Yale (1983), where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from M.I.T. (1980), and a B.S.E. summa cum laude (1979) from Princeton. He has been a visiting professor of law at the Yale Law School (Spring 2001), the Harvard University Law School (1995-96) and the Graduate Institute for International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland (1994-95), and is a fellow-designate of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, CA.

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