Legal Strategies for Climate Adaptation in Coastal New England

Friday, November 16, 2018
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Roger Williams University School of Law 

This symposium will focus on how state and local governments in coastal New England can overcome legal barriers to climate adaptation.Speakers will discuss the opportunities for state and municipal governments to proactively include adaptation into their planning, such as by incorporating climate risks into local laws, ordinances, regulations, and policies.

Speakers will also address some of the potential legal conflicts related to climate adaptation, including constitutional conflicts, state and federal law conflicts, and potential liability for acting or failing to act on climate risks.

A portion of the day will include small workshops where attendees can share their concerns and questions related to barriers to climate change adaptation.The day will conclude with a discussion of adaptation planning opportunities for state and local governments.

The Rhode Island M.C.L.E. Commission has granted this program 6.5 Rhode Island C.L.E. credits including zero legal ethics credit.

The Association of State Floodplain Managers has pre-approved this program for 5.5 CECs for CFMs.

Part of the 2018-2019 Roger Williams University Theme, Ocean State/State of the Ocean: The challenge of sea level rise over the coming century


Speaker Biographies. 

Links to watch the symposium: 

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

PowerPoint Presentations:

Government Action in the Age of Climate Change: Climate Adaptation and Evolving Liability by Elena Mihaly and Deanna Moran

Adapting to the Deluge: Legal Issues from Recent Hurricane Seasons and Increasing Risks of Flooding by Dena Adler 

Infrastructure and Sea Level Rise: Legal Challenges for Local Government Maintenance of Infrastructure by Thomas Ruppert 

Opportunities for Enhancing Community Resilience by Jessica Grannis and Katie Spidalieri 


  • Dena Adler, J.D., M.E.M., Climate Law Fellow, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
  • Melissa Chalek, Esq., Policy Analyst, Marine Affairs Institute, Roger Williams University School of Law/ Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program 
  • Jessica Grannis, Esq., Adaptation Program Director, Georgetown Climate Center, Georgetown Law School
  • Elena Mihaly, Esq., Staff Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation 
  • Deanna Moran, MPP, MCRP, Director of Environmental Planning, Conservation Law Foundation 
  • Shaun O'Rourke, Director, Stormwater and Resiliency, Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank and Chief Resilience Officer, State of Rhode Island 
  • Read Porter, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney, Marine Affairs Institute, Roger Williams University School of Law/ Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program 
  • Thomas Ruppert, Esq., Coastal Planning Specialist, Florida Sea Grant 
  • Katie Spidalieri, Esq., Institute Associate, Georgetown Climate Center
  • Julia Wyman, Esq., Director, Marine Affairs Institute, Roger Williams University School of Law/ Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program 

This symposium is co-sponsored by the Marine Affairs Institute at Roger Williams University School of Law, Rhode Island Sea Grant, and the Georgetown Climate Center.

Please contact the Marine Affairs Institute at 401-254-5392 or with any questions you may have. 

Close Course Type Descriptions

Course Types

We have classified RWU Law classes under the following headers. One of the following course types will be attached to each course which will allow students to narrow down their search while looking for classes.

Core Course

Students in the first and second year are required to take classes covering the following aspects of the law—contracts, torts, property, criminal law, civil procedure, and constitutional law, evidence, and professional responsibility.  Along with these aspects, the core curriculum will develop legal reasoning skills.


After finishing the core curriculum the remaining coursework toward the degree is completed through upper level elective courses.  Students can choose courses that peak their interests or courses that go along with the track they are following.


Seminars are classes where teachers and small groups of students focus on a specific topic and the students complete a substantial research paper.


Inhouse Clinics and Clinical Externships legal education is law school training in which students participate in client representation under the supervision of a practicing attorney or law professor.  RWU Law's Clinical Programs offer unique and effective learning opportunities and the opportunity for practical experience while still in law school.