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Environmental Protection Clinic

Environmental Protection Clinic

The Clinic is an interdisciplinary program that addresses environmental law and policy problems on behalf of a variety of clients including non-profit organizations, government agencies and international bodies. Students work on a specific environmental law or policy project throughout the semester, which may include litigation, drafting legislation, organizing community action, developing media campaigns, participating in stakeholder working groups or writing policy proposals. They cover a range of issues such as air, water, energy, climate change, endangered species and environmental governance. The Clinic complements students' hands-on work with seminars on environmental law and advocacy and guest speakers. Many of the projects involve confidential work and cannot be included, but the the information below offers a sampling of some of the students' current projects.

The following is a selection of past clinic projects:

Ship Sinking off the California Coast

Clinic students worked on legal and scientific research and advocacy challenging the proposed sinking of a former naval vessel to create an artificial reef off the coast of southern California for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental advocacy organization. Students drafted an internal memo, as well as external letters to state and federal government agencies putting them on notice of NRDC’s opposition (and the basis for that opposition under a range of federal and state statutes) and seeking documents under federal and state sunshine laws.

Environmental Implications of Shale Gas Expansion in China

Clinic students examined the environmental implications of shale gas development in China for an international environmental advocacy organization. Students outlined the regulatory framework governing natural gas production in China with attention to deficiencies in laws and regulations, outlined lessons learned from shale development in the United States, and identified areas for best practice exchange between the United States and China.

Policy Paper and Best Practices for a Community-Managed Fisheries Protected Area (FPA) in Greece

A Clinic team prepared a legal strategy document for Archipelagos, Institute of Marine Conservation, and a formal complaint to the European Commission regarding Greece's legal obligations and liabilities arising from the 2007 sinking of the Sea Diamond cruise ship off the coast of Santorini Island in the Aegean Sea. The team researched and drafted policy papers regarding failures of the Greek government to implement certain EU and country environmental laws.

Students also researched laws and regulations supporting Fisheries Protected Areas (FPAs) and applied this research to the study of a proposed community-managed FPA area located in Greek waters off of Fourni Island in the Aegean region. Students prepared a comparative study, using FPAs around the world, researched the design of compensation schemes for fishermen who are negatively affected by the implementation of FPAs, and prepared for Archipelagos a draft agreement for the parties to establish the "Fourni FPA." The Clinic team continues to work on this project.

Climate Change Negotiations Research

For an organization dedicated to assisting Pacific Island nation states with international global warming negotiations, Clinic students engage in research to support the Island nations in advocating for effective international global warming policies—both in the lead up to and on the ground at U.N. climate change negotiations. Clinic students have participated in the COP 15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, the COP 16 negotiations in Cancun, and most recently, the COP 17 negotiations in Durban. They also have participated in the technical follow-up sessions in Bonn in 2010 and 2011 and plan to participate again in 2012.

Strategy for a Sustainable Brooklyn Bridge Forest

Clinic students helped develop a sustainable procurement strategy for the tropical hardwood used on the wooden walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge for Pilot Projects, a New York City-based innovation and design organization. The goal of this project is to source the wood in as sustainable a manner as possible while raising awareness of tropical forest issues among New Yorkers. To this end, the students researched tropical forest conservation and timber sourcing models, alternative boardwalk materials, and the drivers of deforestation. They proposed a set of partnerships that Pilot Projects could use to take its plan to the New York City government. See: www.BROOKLYNBRIDGEFOREST.com

The 100 Fountains Project

100 Fountains NYC, also by Pilot Projects, is an international public art exhibition that will install 100 unique drinking fountain sculptures across New York City to celebrate the city's clean and delicious tap water, reduce the use of bottled water, and beautify the city. Clinic students worked with Pilot Projects to research all facets of the project--the history of water infrastructure in NYC, the impact the fountains will have on bottled water use (both economically and in terms of life cycle analysis), the impacts of similar large-scale art installations (both economically and culturally), and the legal implications of such an undertaking. The project is currently under review by the city. The clients have been meeting with city officials and reporting back to Clinic students for updates on information needed to move forward. Fountains are slated to be installed during summer 2013 once project is approved. See: www.100Fountains.com

Climate Change and the International Court of Justice

Clinic students had the opportunity to gain practical UN experience working for a mission to the United Nations. Students engaged in research directly supporting an initiative to pass a General Assembly request of the International Court of Justice to deliver an advisory opinion on how, in the context of current international law, states should treat harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Students also had the opportunity to sit in on UN meetings on the issue in a functional advisory role to the mission.

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