Much of Dernbach’s writing has been in collaboration with his students. Four articles have grown out of seminars. He has also coauthored two book chapters and two articles with students and former students.
The collaborative effort began in the spring of 1997, five years after the United Nations Conference on Development and Environment. The United Nations had scheduled a meeting in New York City in June 1997 to review progress that countries had made toward sustainability in this five-year period. He asked students in a seminar to write a paper on some aspect of U.S. efforts (such as hazardous waste, agriculture, or foreign aid). At the end of the semester, in May, he synthesized their papers into a comprehensive assessment of U.S. sustainability efforts, and posted it online. It was published later in 1997. This article, U.S. Adherence to its Agenda 21 Commitments: A Five-Year Review, was the only comprehensive assessment of U.S. sustainability efforts. The authorship for both the posted and published version is: John Dernbach and the Widener University School of Law Seminar on Law and Sustainability, with the names of the students stated in the first footnote.
The other three seminar collaborations are:
- Next Generation Recycling and Waste Reduction: Building on the Success of Pennsylvania’s 1988 Legislation (2012) (with Widener University School of Law Seminar on Climate Change). This Article is a collaboration with law students who learned to “reduce, reuse, recycle” in elementary school. They are part of the first generation who grew up with this legislation. The article evaluates the program’s success to date and makes recommendations for improving its implementation.
- Stabilizing and Then Reducing U.S. Energy Consumption: Legal and Policy Tools for Efficiency and Conservation (2007) (with Widener University Law School Seminar on Energy Efficiency). This article evaluates the energy saving potential of a handful of legal and policy tools: transit-oriented development; fuel taxation; real-time pricing for electricity use; public benefit funds; improved efficiency in existing residential and commercial buildings; and expanded use of real freight.
- Moving the Climate Debate from Models to Proposed Legislation: Lessons from State Experience (2000) (with Widener University Law School Seminar on Global Warming). This article describes and evaluates eleven different legal and policy tools being employed by states that have the effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including building codes requiring energy efficiency, tax credits, and renewable energy portfolio standards. These tools provide a variety of benefits in addition to mitigating climate change. They are intended to conserve energy, limit other air pollutants, foster local economic growth, lower energy costs on the poor, and serve other purposes. Indeed, these other benefits likely equal or even exceed their benefits in reducing greenhouse gases.
Dernbach has also coauthored an article and a book chapter with a former student, Marianne Tyrrell. The article, The ‘Cash for Clunkers’ Program: A Sustainability Evaluation, assessed the effectiveness from a sustainability perspective of a briefly famous law that was intended to stimulate purchases of automobiles by allowing buyers a cash rebate for trading in and junking their less energy efficient vehicles. The book chapter, Federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Laws, is a review of U.S. law and policy concerning energy efficiency and conservation. It was published as part of Law of Clean Energy: Efficiency and Renewables (American Bar Association, Michael B. Gerrard, ed., 2010).
A book chapter, Evolution of U.S. Climate Policy, was also coauthored with a former student, Robert Altenburg. This chapter, a comprehensive overview U.S. government law and policy concerning climate change, was published as part of Global Climate Change and U.S. Law (American Bar Association, Michael B. Gerrard and Jody Freeman eds., second edition, 2014).
A 2015 article, Recognition of Environmental Rights for Pennsylvania Citizens: A Tribute to Chief Justice Castille, was coauthored with Marc Prokopchak (Widener University Commonwealth Law School Class of 2016). This article explains why Chief Justice Castille’s plurality opinion in the 2013 Robinson Township case concerning the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state constitution is likely to have staying power even though it did not command a majority of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. Thanks to Mr. Prokopchak, this article also collects and summarizes 79 judicial and administrative tribunal decisions applying or considering a three-part balancing test used for decades as a substitute for the text of the Environmental Rights Amendment, and demonstrates that the challenging party has almost never prevailed under that test.