Legal Planet Features UNM Law Professor Cliff Villa as Guest Blogger

May 18, 2018 - Hannah Farrington

Puerto Rico - Torn Roof
Torn roof over basketball court. Photo courtesy of Professor Cliff Villa

According to Environmental and Natural Resources law professor, Cliff Villa, seven months after landfall, talk of Hurricane Maria on the island of Puerto Rico continues to stir strong emotions. But one of those emotions is gratitude. Echoing comments heard from across the island throughout his recent visit, some residents spoke of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria last September as a “blessing in disguise” for Puerto Rico. Some describing it as a best chance for rebuilding both the economy and infrastructure of the island. According to Villa, anyone with means is buying their own generator now, and no one seems fixed on assigning blame for Hurricane Maria. With June already at hand next month, there is simply too much left to do to prepare for the next hurricane season.

Professor Cliff Villa
Professor Cliff Villa

In his Legal Planet blog post, “Es FEMA El Problema? Hurricane Maria and the Slow Road to Recovery in Puerto Rico,” ( Villa offers an insider’s view on the state of the island and its residents, and their disposition toward FEMA and its efforts in the months since disaster struck. His blog goes on to explore the nature of responsibility, legal implications and blame in post-Maria Puerto Rico, asking, “So who gets the credit now for the longest blackout in U.S. history, for the unfathomable pain and suffering experienced by 3.4 million U.S. citizens for weeks and months on end, for the families left with a daily challenge of finding safe drinking water, for the uncountable loss of life, and hope?”

Puerto Rico - Torn Sign
Torn street sign. Photo courtesy of Professor Cliff Villa

Pursuing a number of still burning and lingering questions, including why FEMA had not seen Maria coming and “pre-positioned” resources on the island before it made landfall, Villa’s blog post is filled with vivid details of a Puerto Rico left, as he puts it, “…waiting for the next hurricane – even a Category 1, even a bit of extra wind and rain – to sigh and plunge the island back into darkness,” and is well worth the read. Read the full blog post here. (

Legal Planet is a collaboration between faculty at UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law that provides insight and analysis on energy and environmental law and policy. Villa is the author of numerous publications and articles including, A Practical Introduction to Environmental Law (Carolina Academic Press 2017), with Joel Mintz, Nova Southeastern Law School; Steve Gold, Rutgers-Newark Law School; and Kalyani Robbins, Florida International University College of Law, Law and Lawyers in the Incident Command System, 36 Seattle U. L. Rev. 1855 (2013), Rising from the Ravages, The Lawyer (Sept. 2014), The Practice of Disaster Law, ABA Law Practice Today (March 2012), The Road Taken: A Reflection on Michael C. Blumm & William Warnock’s Roads Not Taken: EPA vs. Clean Water, 34 Envt’L L. 809 (2004), and more.

For more information on Professor Cliff Villa, please see his online profile. For more information on Legal Planet, please visit their website.