John C. Dernbach is Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability at Widener University, Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He has divided his career between teaching and government service.

John Dernbach in Bali, 2007, participating as a panelist at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

John Dernbach in Bali,
2007, participating as a
panelist at the United
Nations Climate Change

In his teaching role, Dernbach has focused on sustainable development in the United States and on climate change.  He has written and lectured widely on sustainable development, climate change, and environmental law.

With four dozen other experts in various fields, he leads a project, Sustaining America, that has produced the only comprehensive nongovernmental assessments of U.S. sustainable development efforts.  Three books have come out of that project.  These are Acting as if Tomorrow Matters: Accelerating the Transition to Sustainability (2012), Agenda for a Sustainable America (2009) and Stumbling Toward Sustainability (2002).

He was part of a Natural Research Council committee that, in Sustainability and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2011), made recommendations on how to institutionalize sustainability at EPA. In June 2013, he was appointed to the ABA Task Force on Sustainable Development, which is charged with making recommendations “regarding the involvement of the ABA in implementing sustainable development matters worldwide.”

In two stints totaling near 15 years, he worked at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (now the Department of Environmental Protection). During this time, he had a major role in drafting  comprehensive and nationally recognized reforms to Pennsylvania’s mining and waste programs.  He was the primary drafter of Pennsylvania’s recycling legislation, signed into law in 1988, under which more than two million tons of recyclable material are diverted from landfills each year.  He was also a primary drafter of comprehensive regulations for municipal waste and residual waste (industrial waste that is not legally hazardous).

More recently, he directed the Department’s policy office.  There, he was responsible for developing and coordinating policy and regulatory initiatives for the Department; and for advising the secretary on land use, energy, watershed protection, performance-based decision making, and other issues.

In 2006 Dernbach was one of four lawyers to co-author an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 18 prominent climate scientists in Massachusetts v. EPA, a landmark case in U.S. climate change law.

Dernbach is the author of a classic legal writing text and other works on legal writing.

He is also a proud shareholder in the Green Bay Packers.

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