Passion for Environmental Law Shapes National Policy


Jay Duffy ’10, Associate Attorney for the Clean Air Task Force in Boston, recently presented his first-ever oral argument before The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and won. Held over Zoom because of the pandemic and lasting nine hours, Duffy represented the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, Appalachian Mountain Club, Clean Air Council, Clean Wisconsin, Conservation Law Foundation and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy in a case against the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, an action put in place by the Trump Administration in 2019 to address carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The ACE rule repealed an earlier Obama-era rule known as the Clean Power Plan and replaced it with less stringent requirements. The DC Circuit’s unanimous decision held that President Trump’s attempt to end the Clean Power Plan was illegal. “This decision was a big win for the climate,” said Duffy.

Duffy’s work to defend the Clean Power Plan first began in 2013 when he joined the Clean Air Task Force and represented environmental nonprofits who at the time were challenging the coal industry’s opposition to the Plan. The shift in administrations from Obama to Trump in 2016 brought changes in policy and the ACE rule was created.

Originally from Massachusetts, Duffy earned his BA in Political Science from the University of Vermont. An internship with the Vermont Office of the Governor during his junior and senior years at UVM first sparked his interest in law. Following graduation, he worked as a paralegal at a Boston-based law firm before deciding to apply to law schools.

“I applied to a lot of law schools, but Villanova felt like the right fit,” said Duffy. “It checked all the boxes that I wanted—name recognition, close to a great city like Philadelphia, and a great overall education.”

Duffy first became interested in environmental law work while he was at Villanova Law. “I was Associate Editor of the Environmental Law Journal where I found myself reviewing and editing dozens of articles and found it so wildly fascinating,” said Duffy. “I caught the environmental law, climate change, Clean Air Act ‘bug.’”

Professor Todd Aagaard, an expert in environmental law, energy law and administrative law, helped mentor Duffy while he was a student at VIllnaova. Aagaard helped guide him in an independent study during which he researched and wrote a paper on the state of climate change law. The paper proved valuable for Duffy and helped him in his career search for climate change-related law jobs after graduation. “Villanova was great with helping me secure a number of internships/externships in the environmental law field,” he said.

During his 2L year, Duffy held an externship with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3 in Philadelphia, and the summer after his 2L year he held a law clerk position with the EPA. During his 3L year he interned with PennFuture performing research and preparing memoranda on a Clean Water Act case. Immediately following graduation, he worked for a law firm in New York City and then the Clean Air Council in Philadelphia before landing at the Clean Air Task Force in 2013.

Duffy, who was recently named an “Emerging Leader” by the Environmental Law Institute, formed close relationships with Villanova faculty members and could often be found exchanging ideas during office hours. One faculty member in particular, the late Professor Penelope Pether, became a mentor and friend to him. He worked as her Research Assistant during his 2L and 3L years and the two formed a close bond. “My Villanova Law experience was charmed and blessed because of her,” said Duffy.