Jeff Thaler

Professor of Practice, University of Maine School of Law
Associate University Counsel, University of Maine System
Associate Faculty, University of Maine Climate Change Institute

Jeff Thaler is a professor of practice at the University of Maine School of Law, and the associate university counsel for environmental, energy, and sustainability projects for the University of Maine System. He is also an associate faculty member of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute.

Professor Thaler currently teaches Administrative Law, the Environmental and Administrative Law Practicum, and Energy Law. In 2020, he created and taught a new course, Environmental and Climate Litigation, which compared trends in the U.S., China, and Europe. During  2020-21, Professor Thaler organized or presented at many conferences in Maine, the U.S., and globally. He serves on Maine Law’s Curriculum Clerkship Committees.

In addition to the courses above, Professor Thaler has developed and taught the following: Renewable Energy Law, Energy Economics and Law, Legislative and Administrative Law, Toxic Torts, and Climate Change Law and Policy. His Administrative Law Practicum received national attention in an article in the Maine Law Review and as the subject of a chapter in the book, Experiential Education in the Law School Curriculum. He recently worked with national administrative law faculty to co-author amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2020, he published several short articles on COVID-19 and earlier pandemic constitutional legal issues, and in 2021 he published a law review article on COVID-19 law and regulations in 42 Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy 165 (2021).

In August and September 2019, Professor Thaler was placed as a Fulbright Program Specialist at Duke Kunshan University’s Environmental Law and Policy Department in Kunshan, China. When he returned to Maine, he wrote a Faculty Research Blog about his visit, and gave several presentations comparing China with the U.S. from A to Z.

Before joining the University, Professor Thaler developed over several decades a wide-ranging legal practice focused on environmental and energy permitting, compliance, enforcement, and litigation; as well as litigation for clients with commercial, medical and legal disputes, and insurance coverage, personal injury and toxic tort problems.

For many years Professor Thaler has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America for his work in environmental and natural resources law, commercial litigation and appellate law, by Chambers USA for both his environmental and litigation practices, and by New England Super Lawyers for his environmental work. In 2010, he was elected the 3rd President of the American College of Environmental Lawyers, a prestigious organization for which he also is a founder and charter member. He is the 2007 recipient of the Justice Louis Scolnik Award for his many years of pro bono civil liberties litigation work. He also represented a family, pro bono, who had lost their father in the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Professor Thaler has been permitting counsel for on-and off-shore wind projects and hydro power and wood-to-biofuel facilities, as well as many other commercial development projects; he continues as the attorney for UMaine’s floating deepwater wind projects. He is the author of Fiddling as the World Burns: How Climate Change Urgently Requires a Paradigm Shift in the Permitting of Renewable Energy Projects, 42 ENVTL. L. 1101 (2012), and is also the lead author of The Maine Environmental Handbook and the recent LexisNexis Treatise, Treatment of Greenhouse Gases Under the National Environmental Policy Act. He also is a founder and has been co-chair of the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine, the state’s leading organization for that growing sector of Maine’s economy.

In his litigation practice, Professor Thaler was trial counsel in a federal accounting case in which the jury awarded his client over $6.6 million, one of the largest such verdicts in Maine. He also has been lead trial counsel in a number of other cases resulting in seven-figure settlements, and has successfully defended many attorneys, law firms and business in state and federal courts, and served for over a decade, including as Chair, of the Maine Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Code of Professional Responsibility.

In 2006-07 Professor Thaler created, and directed annually, a nationally-unique program for Williams College students entitled Resettling Refugees in Maine, where the students each live for over three weeks with a refugee or immigrant family and work with service providers. In 2015 he piloted the program at Colby College, and a shorter version in 2016 at Waynflete School in Portland. (View Professor Thaler’s TedXDirigo Talk about the program.)

Professor Thaler graduated magna cum laude from Williams College and received his law degree from Yale Law School. He clerked for Chief Justice Vincent McKusick and Senior Associate Justice Sidney Wernick of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. He is married to Karen Massey, a former lawyer and teacher, and has two sons, Greg and Kai, who are both professors.

Selected Publications

The Legal Case Against Japan’s Fukushima Wastewater Decision, The Diplomat, May 21, 2021 (with Xiuxiu Zhang and Danning Zhu). [The Diplomat]

What is Happening With NEPA Regulations?, Power Engineers’ Current, April 14, 2021. [Power Engineers]

Remember the Past: What Can Governors Do When the 2nd COVID-19 Surge Comes? 42 HAMLINE L. J. PUBL. L. & POLICY 165 (2021). [SSRN]

Kisor v Shulkin: Perspective on Deference to Agency Interpretation of Its Own Regulations, ABA’s Administrative and Regulatory Law News, Spring 2019

Experiential Educating in the Classroom: Designing an Administrative Law Practicum Meeting New ABA Requirements and Student Needs, 68 ME. L. REV. 161 (2016) [PDF] [SSRN] and Chapter in EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION IN THE LAW SCHOOL CURRICULUM (2017). [CAP]

Hubris Games: Analyzing Success and Failure of Large Scale Energy Projects, Energy Res. & Soc. Sci., March 2014. [Science Direct]

The Seas Are Changing: It’s Time to Use Ocean-Based Renewable Energy, the Public Trust Doctrine, And a Green Thumb to Protect Seas From our Changing Climate, 19 OCEAN & COASTAL L.J. 241 (2014) (with Patrick Lyons). [SSRN] [PDF]

In the Public Trust: Climate Changed Sea Levels and Ocean Wind Power, 31 DEL. LAWYER, No. 4 (Winter 2014)

Roadmap for Permitting and Leasing for Maine Offshore Wind Energy Projects and Roadmap for Permitting and Leasing Maine Marine Hydrokinetic (MHK) Power Projects, E2Tech and Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative (2013),

Fiddling as the World Burns: How Climate Change Urgently Requires a Paradigm Shift in the Permitting of Renewable Energy Projects, 42 ENVTL. L. 1101 (2012). [SSRN] [PDF]

Greenhouse Gas Litigation and NEPA: A Split in the Courts, 43 TRENDS, May/June 2012.


Maine’s Anti-SLAPP Law: Special Protection Against Improper Lawsuits Targeting Free Speech and Petitioning, 23 ME. B.J. 32 (2008) (co-authored with John G. Osborn).

An Attorney’s Professional Responsibility for Non-Lawyer Staff, 18 ME. B.J. 106 (2002).

THE MAINE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW HANDBOOK (ABS Consulting Gov’t Insts., 2d ed. 2002) (co-authored with Gregory M. Cunningham).

Pollution Coverage for Businesses, BUS. PROFILE, May 2000.

Are Schools Protecting Children from Harassment, 35 TRIAL 32 (1999).

The Rights of Women Subjected to Sexual Harassment, 9 TO 5 J. (1994).

To Protect a Child’s Health: A Call for Teamwork in Maine, ME. FAMILY PRACS. NEWSL. (1994).

A Salute to Chief Justice Vincent L. McKusick, 8 ME. B.J. 322 (1993).

Economics vs. The Environment: Finding the Balance, PROFILE MAG., Mar. 1993.

Assessing a Toxic Tort Case, 27 TRIAL 43 (1991).

Punishing the Innocent: The Need for Due Process and the Presumption of Innocence Prior to Trial, 1978 WIS. L. REV. 441 (1978). [HeinOnline]