clinics: Environmental Law & Justice Clinic

The Environmental Law and Justice Clinic (ELJC) at GGU School of Law was established in 1994 and is one of the first law clinics in the U.S. to prioritize environmental justice in its work. Our mission is to train GGU law students to be effective and ethical lawyers and to improve environmental conditions for communities of color and low-income people. Our geographic focus is the San Francisco Bay Area and California.


GGU LAW CLINICS INFORMATIONAL LUNCH

Wednesday, April 16, noon to 1 pm, Room 2202

The Environmental Law and Justice Clinic and the Women's Employment Rights Clinic invite all interested students to a lunchtime presentation. Find out how you can get exciting, hands-on legal experience working in an on-campus law office.

OVERVIEW

ELJC is staffed by two faculty attorneys, two graduate fellows who are lawyers with degrees from GGU Law, and our student clinicians. ELJC clinicians are certified under State Bar of California rules to perform many of the tasks of an attorney. Under close faculty supervision, they interview and counsel clients, develop legal strategies, draft legal documents, appear at hearings, and negotiate with opposing parties.


The Clinic & Environmental Justice

The San Francisco Bay Area has numerous densely urbanized zones that are hot spots of industrial activity and traffic. People who live or work closer to these places are likely to be exposed to higher levels of air, water, and other forms of pollution and thus bear a higher burden of environmental health risk than the population in general. Environmental injustice exists because underprivileged people--people of color and those in lower economic categories--are more likely to live and work near urban pollution hot spots.

In recent years, the presence of environmental inequity has been confirmed by many studies. Evidence is also emerging that people living in highly impacted areas become more sensitive to environmental pollution: resistance to disease may be undermined by the cumulative effect of a series of adverse conditions, including pollution, noise, and socio-psychological stress. Global climate change is another source of environmental inequity. For example, global warming will exacerbate heat waves and raise air pollution levels in some of our large urban centers, where most underprivileged people live.

Over the last two decades, numerous Bay Area community and environmental organizations have focused on the problem of inequitable pollution exposure. The goals of these groups include eliminating environmental discrimination, reducing cumulative environmental health risks, establishing health-protective regulations and ensuring their strict enforcement, and having a voice in industrial permit proceedings.

ELJC offers services to environmental justice advocates so that they may work more effectively in a political environment that is frequently indifferent and sometimes inhospitable to these objectives. We help community advocates to engage with different government agencies, from the local and state, to the national levels. We are a free resource for groups who want to challenge polluting industries, so that they pay attention to public health and not just profits.

After several decades of organizing, environmental justice advocates have convinced government agencies--at both the state and federal level--to craft a variety of environmental justice plans and policies. Today, the movement for environmental justice is in a new and perhaps more difficult phase. It is now time for policy suggestions to be incorporated concretely into environmental regulation and decision making. This step will require significant political organizing and a more technically sophisticated environmental justice movement.


Support for Neighborhoods with Pollution Problems

A large part of our work consists of providing legal services to communities facing a variety of environmental pollution problems, such as toxic air emissions from power plants and manufacturing facilities. Matters that we normally handle include: enforcement of federal and state pollution laws, participation in permit proceedings, and challenges to environmental rule making or the siting of hazardous facilities. Our staff scientist provides technical assistance to our legal staff on these cases as well as other clinic projects. The Clinic also advises clients on options to solve problems without bringing a lawsuit. We do not represent clients who are having disputes with neighbors or seeking money damages.


Working for New Policies to Reduce Pollution

ELJC works in collaboration with environmental advocates to strengthen regional and national environmental policies to protect public health and the environment.


Honors

The Clinic's work on behalf of environmental justice communities and in the field of clinical legal education has been recognized locally and nationally:
  • In 2009, the US EPA Region 9 presented ELJC with an "Environmental Award for Outstanding Achievement."
  • In 2009, we received a $300,000 cy pres award from the law firm of Saveri & Saveri, Inc. as part of the California Smokeless Tobacco Antitrust Settlement.
  • In 2006, the Clinical Legal Education Association gave its "Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project" to the Clinic for our work on the Southeast San Francisco Energy Project. The award recognizes projects that "significantly redress a high-priority need of a low-income community."
  • In 2004, San Francisco County recognized the Clinic for its work in protecting the environment.
  • In 2000, Environment Now gave former Clinic Director Alan Ramo the "Wells Family Award" for his work on urban environmental issues.
  • On Earth Day 1999, the US Environmental Protection Agency honored the Clinic along with one other San Francisco public interest organization for our work in protecting the environment.
  • In 1998, the Clinic was one of three university presenters at a plenary meeting of the American Association of Law Schools' workshop on "New Strategies for Inner Cities: Academics, Professionals and Communities in Partnership."
  • In 1997, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors commended the Clinic's work with the Bayview-Hunters Point community.
  • In 1995, the American Bar Association's Section on Natural Resources, Environmental and Energy Law gave the Clinic an award for our work in Bayview-Hunters Point.
FAQS FOR STUDENTS
Watch former student Lauren Otto talk about her clinic experience:

 

Who can apply for the clinic?

The clinic is open to second - and third - year students who have successfully completed all first-year courses and have completed Evidence or are concurrently enrolled in Evidence. LLM students are also eligible. Prior or concurrent enrollment in Environmental Law and Policy is helpful but is not required. Special scheduling arrangements are made on a case-by-case basis for night students whenever possible.

CLINIC APPLICATION FORM


Can Honors Lawyering Program students work at the clinic?

Yes. We accept HLP students for placement based on the clinic's case load and our ability to provide adequate supervision. HLP students must take the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic seminar for credit while working in the clinic. HLP students must indicate in the ELJC application their interest in applying to the ELJC as an HLP placement.


What do students do in the clinic?

Students work under the guidance of two professors and a graduate fellow to directly represent and advocate for clients in real-life public health, toxics, and environmental justice matters. Students support the clinic's docket by interviewing clients, researching and authoring memoranda, and drafting declarations and briefs. Students may also participate in settlement conferences, and attend community meetings and court hearings. Where circumstances allow, students may argue in court on behalf of clients.


Where do our clients come from?

We typically represent community groups in low-income and minority communities, as well as environmental organizations. Sometimes, our clients come to us through our telephone intake process. Clients also come to us through referrals from current and former clients and our community contacts.


What material does the seminar cover?

The seminar explores law and policy issues central to the environmental justice movement. Students will specifically explore matters that recur in the representation of clients disproportionately impacted by pollution. Topics covered include the ethical responsibilities of attorneys in environmental justice matters, the interplay of civil rights and environmental justice and the sources of environmental justice problems. The seminar also provides information and the skills training necessary for effective legal advocacy. Skills training is tailored to the needs of the clinic's caseload, but typically covers environmental legal research and writing, fact investigation, and brief writing.


What is the California State Bar certification program for Practical Training of Law Students (PTLS)?

The program allows a certified law student to perform permitted activities, such as representing clients at hearings under the supervision of a supervising attorney. ELJC clinicians are certified by the State Bar's PTLS program. For more information, see CalBar-PTLS.


What are the number of units and time commitment involved?

Clinic students enroll in the 3-unit Environmental Law & Justice Seminar plus an additional 1-3 clinic credits.

  • 1 clinic credit = 10.5 hours/week, with at least 5 in-clinic hours
  • 2 clinic credits = 13 hours/week, with at least 7 in-clinic hours
  • 3 clinic credits = 15.5 hours/week, with at least 8 in-clinic hours

 

Students may return for additional clinic units in subsequent semesters without re-enrolling in the seminar. (Priority is given to students taking 5 or 6 units.)


Can I enroll in the seminar without taking the clinic?

Yes. We accept students, such as LLM candidates, for the seminar without participation in the clinic. The seminar-only students must write an in-depth research paper. The Seminar examines the background of the environmental justice movement, legal theories to address environmental injustice, and general lawyer practice skills.


Should I take the clinic if I do not plan to practice environmental law?

Yes. You will learn a wide range of lawyering skills in the clinic that will be useful to you in other areas of law. In particular, students interested in going into fields that are governed by regulations, such as securities law, may find the clinic beneficial. You will gain confidence that you can practice law once you graduate, having worked with real clients in real cases involving a regulatory scheme.

HOW TO GET HELP

The clinic provides free legal assistance and environmental science consulting to non-profit community groups and individuals working on environmental pollution problems. Our focus is on communities that are disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area.


We can help you in the following ways:
  • Getting more information from government agencies and evaluating regulatory documents related to your pollution problem
  • Helping you participate in a regulatory public comment process
  • Identifying and explaining your legal options for eliminating a pollution problem
  • Helping you to formulate a plan of action around your pollution issue (which may include a legal strategy)
  • Representing you in a lawsuit to achieve your environmental and public health protection goals
  • Providing a scientific or public health analysis of environmental pollution in your neighborhood

 

Please note that there are some limitations on the types of legal assistance that we can provide to our clients. For example, we do not represent clients who seek damages in personal injury cases or are involved in private disputes with neighbors over chemical use issues.

 

To find out if we may be able to help you:

ELJC Contact Number for Prospective Clients: 415-442-6647

We will assign your matter to one of our certified law student clinicians for the intake process. After a short interview, we will analyze your case to determine whether it fits within ELJC's mission and goals and whether staffing resources allow the clinic to represent you.

SUPPORT THE CLINIC

Donations

ELJC is a program of Golden Gate University, a 501(c)(3) charitable educational organization. All contributions are deductible to the maximum extent permitted by law. We welcome individual and foundation donations and grants, as well as donations of stocks and securities. Your donations will go directly to support ELJC's work, including supporting the positions of the Staff Attorney and Graduate Fellow. Please contact Clinic Director Helen Kang if you wish to make a donation or have questions. See below for donating options.


Cy Pres

Designating ELJC as a Class Action Cy Pres Recipient is another way to support our work. Not all class members in class actions may be found, or it may be infeasible to make full restitution to class members. In such cases, a court may approve a charitable donation out of the unclaimed residue of class action funds, or a direct grant in lieu of damages, to any entity that will vindicate class member rights in the future.

We thank the law firm of Saveri & Saveri, Inc. for naming us as a Cy Pres recipient to the California Smokeless Tobacco Antitrust Settlement in 2009. The Cy Pres award of $300,000 will allow the Clinic to continue assisting communities working for environmental justice.


Grants

We thank the following foundations for their current and past support of the Clinic's work:


Donations to ELJC may be made in two ways:

1. You may print out our donation form and mail in your contribution:

Download a Printable Donation Form (PDF)

2. You may make an online contribution by accessing:

Golden Gate University's Online Giving Site (be sure to designate the "Environmental Law and Justice Clinic" in the designation box.)

FACULTY & STAFF

ELJC Faculty

Director
Helen Kang

Staff Attorney
Deborah Behles


ELJC Staff

Ashley Pellouchoud, Graduate Fellow

Ashley Pellouchoud graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in 2012 with specializations in environmental and public interest law. Ashley was an Associate Editor for the school's Environmental Law Journal and a member of the Moot Court Board. She also dedicated herself to public interest work while pursuing her J.D., with internships at the Homeless Advocacy Project, the Transgender Law Center, the First District Appellate Project, and the clinic itself. Her passion and hard work for oral advocacy practice led her to qualify as a semifinalist in the National Williams Institute Moot Court Competition in 2012, where over forty teams competed. She is dedicated to pursuing a career in civil rights and environmental laws. Ashley enjoys backpacking with her partner, catching indie films at the Roxie, competing in local pickling contests, enjoying basketball, or hanging out with her family. She is a former NCAA basketball player, a self-proclaimed foodie, avid teller of bad jokes, and lover of small and fluffy dogs.


James J. Corbelli, Staff Attorney

Professor James Corbelli currently serves in the role of a faculty attorney, with his extensive background in complex litigation. He is a former partner in Nixon Peabody LLP, where he was a member of the Business Litigation Group, Professional and Fiduciary Litigation Team, Corporate Governance Team, and Appellate Practice Team. He has served as trial counsel in state and federal trial courts throughout the nation and as lead counsel in arbitrations and other ADR proceedings. He is a member of the United States Supreme Court bar. He received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he served as Managing Editor of the Hastings Law Review and still serves as an adjunct professor. When not teaching, he lives in picturesque Plumas County with his wife, three horses, two dogs, two cats, and the occasional bear. He is a lifetime San Francisco Giants fan, loves basketball, plays golf badly, and plays guitar in two enthusiastic, if not always polished, cover bands.


David Zizmor, Graduate Fellow

David Zizmor graduated in 2007 from Golden Gate University School of Law, where as an ELJC student he co-authored a petition to the EPA advocating for the removal of lead from aviation gasoline and contributed to a Clean Air Act consent decree with a pulp mill. He also co-authored a book chapter in The Great Dissents of the "Lone Dissenter." Following law school, David practiced environmental law at Lozeau Drury, focusing on clean water and CEQA. He received his B.A. from Cornell University and then worked in sports radio where he once interviewed Michael Jordan, ate dinner with Terrell Owens, and had a bucket of Gatorade dumped on his head that was meant for Jason Giambi. He enjoys spending time with his family and can be found with his daughter, usually covered in dirt, paint, and/or crayon.


Fe Gonzalez, Clinic Program Assistant

E-mail: fgonzalez@ggu.edu

Fe Gonzalez provides administrative support to both the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic and WERC. Fe joined the clinics in 2002, bringing many years of experience as a legal secretary and paralegal.

FACULTY & STAFF PAPERS

Helen Kang, Clinic Director

Recognizing the Link Among Climate Change, Food, and Poverty, Clearinghouse Review (Sept.-Oct. 2012).

Climate change directly affects food security by altering food production and price, which in turn influence how easily low-income families can acquire food. The link among climate change, food, and poverty is essential for policymakers to understand. Explicitly acknowledging this connection will improve government decisions on issues ranging from energy policy to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Environmental and antipoverty advocates also must work together to meet the challenges of climate change-induced food insecurity.

Pursuing Environmental Justice: Obstacles and Opportunities - Lessons from the Field, 31 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 121 (2009).

The pursuit of environmental justice has not moved much beyond the rhetorical sphere, although some hopeful signs have emerged from government agencies as a result of advocacy from communities that are heavily impacted by pollution. Government at all levels must implement ideas such as ending the grandfathering of new major sources and eliminating emission credits in highly polluted areas. The federal government must also initiate rulemaking to address nuisances that plague highly polluted areas. In addition to government action, citizens must organize to demand government action to address cumulative pollution.

Fighting for Environmental Justice Takes Long-Lasting Coalitions, 45 Clearinghouse Review, Journal of Poverty Law and Policy 158 (2011).

Collaboration between grassroots groups, environmental groups, city politicians, law professors, and law students has resulted in closure of two dirty power plants in the City of San Francisco, while also preventing other energy generation projects using fossil fuel. The success is attributable to the community's ability to gather critical health information and educate the city politicians, long-term stability of the community's advocates, and coalition building that extended beyond the borders of the community.


Deborah Behles, Staff Attorney

An Integrated Green Urban Electrical Grid, 36 William & Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review 671 (2012).

The energy grid in most urban areas relies on large polluting power plants that distribute energy across long transmission lines. Urban areas can transition away from this dirty, decentralized energy system by integrating conservation measures with renewable energy resources and energy storage. Effective integration of these components can reduce pollution, create economic opportunities, and maintain energy reliability.

Why CEQA Exemption Decisions Need Additional Notice Requirements, 33 ENVIRONS 111 (2009).

Public agencies that exempt projects from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act may not be required to record or publish their decisions. As a result, agencies can exempt even large projects, such as construction of a new facility in a heavily polluted area, from the statute's environmental assessment requirements without the public's knowledge. This problem can and should be remedied. Agencies should notify the public about exemption decisions that could cause environmental impacts. Exemption decisions otherwise will remain unchecked, and communities will have no way to ensure that significant projects undergo environmental review.

Why California Failed to Meet Its RPS Target, 17 West-Northwest Journal of Environmental Law & Policy 163 (Summer 2011).

California's Renewable Portfolio Standard required 20% of the state's energy to be generated from renewable resources by 2010 and 33% by 2020. California failed to meet its 2010 goal despite having expended significant resources toward that end. Three prominent reasons for this are the decentralized administration of the program, the lack of strong enforcement provisions, and the state's extensive reliance on information provided by utility companies. California should enact clear and enforceable requirements administered by one centralized agency that independently assesses renewable policy and goals.

Examining the Air We Breathe: EPA Should Evaluate Cumulative Impacts When It Promulgates National Ambient Air Quality Standards, 28 Pace Environmental Law Review 200 (2010).

Inhaling air pollutants can lead to a variety of adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Despite the evidence of potential impacts of inhaling multiple pollutants at the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has continued to focus its analysis of health impacts on individual pollutants instead of the actual mixture we breathe. The agency should evaluate and consider cumulative health impacts when it sets national ambient air quality standards under the Clean Air Act. There is agency precedent for considering at least two pollutants together in an assessment, and the agency should do a similar type of evaluation for human health impacts of inhaling multiple pollutants.
OUR CLIENTS

Organization

Description

Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative (BAEHC)
www.baehc.org
BAEHC is a partnership of six environmental health coalitions, with more than 20 organizations, working to reduce air pollution in heavily impacted communities of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Collaborative's membership includes community-based organizations, environmental health and justice advocacy groups, and public health experts.
Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates BVHPCA works for environmental justice in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco and to promote environmentally and occupationally safe economic development.

California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA)
http://caleja.org

CEJA is a statewide coalition of grassroots, environmental justice organizations. It seeks to achieve environmental justice by organizing in low-income communities and communities of color and by pushing for policies at the federal, state, regional and local levels that protect public health and the environment.
Citizens Against Pollution (CAP) CAP is a community group in Hayward, CA that educates citizens about the toxic exposure and other hazards of local fossil-fuel power plants, as well as the benefits of clean energy alternatives.
Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs)
www.alternatives2toxics.org
CATs is a Northern California center for information and action, helping the public to gain control over pesticides and other toxic chemicals within the environment.
Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)
www.biologicaldiversity.org
CBD uses science, law, and creative media to secure a future for all species hovering on the brink of extinction.
Chinese Progressive Association (CPA)
www.cpasf.org
CPA is a social justice organization working in the Chinese community of San Francisco to promote justice and equality for all people. CPA is one of the lead organizations in the Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative (BAEHC).
Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)
www.cbecal.org
CBE is a statewide organization working with local communities to achieve environmental justice. The Clinic frequently teams with CBE's lawyers and has represented CBE in many matters.
Environmental Justice Air Quality Coalition (EJAQC) EJAQC is an alliance of community organizations and advocates working for environmental justice in air quality regulation in the Bay Area. EJAQC is a leading coalition in the Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative.
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water The Coalition is building a community-based movement to advocate for clean, safe, and affordable water in California.
Friends of the Earth (FOE) FOE pushes for reforms that are needed, not merely the ones that are politically easy. It is a member of the Friends of Earth International, a global network representing more than two million activists in 76 different countries.
Greenpeace, Inc.
www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/
Greenpeace is the largest independent direct-action environmental organization in the world. It does not take money from government or corporations.
Helphinkley.org Helphinkley.org is a community group whose primary interest is in protecting the residents of Hinkley, CA from environmental health hazards.
Just Transitions Coalition Just Transitions Coalition is composed of the Indigenous Environmental Network, To' Nizhoni Ani, Grand Canyon Trust, and the Sierra Club. The coalition is working for renewable energy development to benefit California energy consumers and the Hopi and Navajo communities adversely affected by the closure of the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada.
Pacific Environment
www.pacificenvironment.org
Pacific Environment protects the living environment of the Pacific Rim by promoting grassroots activism, strengthening communities and reforming international policies.
People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights (PODER)
www.podersf.org
PODER works for social, economic, and environmental justice by organizing low income communities and communities of color in San Francisco. PODER is one of the lead organizations in the Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative (BAEHC).
San Francisco Baykeeper
www.sfbaykeeper.org
Baykeeper works to protect and restore San Francisco Bay waters through advocacy, policy campaigns and direct enforcement of California's water protection laws.
CASES & PROJECTS

Client / Affected Area

Assistance We Provided

2011-2013

Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative (BAEHC)
San Francisco Bay Area
Technical, policy, and administrative assistance to the Collaborative in its campaign to reduce the cumulative impacts of air pollution the the Bay Area; ongoing since 2005.
California Environmental Justice Alliance
California
Rulemaking litigation before the California Public Utilities Commission to advocate for California's transition to clean energy.
California Environmental Justice Alliance for Water
California
Legal counseling and representation concerning nitrate pollution of drinking water in the Salinas Valley and collaboration on low quality drinking water in other areas of California.
Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs)
Eureka, CA
Litigation to compel the North Coast Railway Authority to do proper environmental review of a rail line project.
Friends of the Earth
U.S.
Prepared case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether lead in aviation gasoline is a significant environmental hazard
Greenpeace and Port Townsend Airwatchers
U.S.
Compelled EPA to review the New Source Performance Standards for kraft pulp mills (with the Center for Biological Diversity).
West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs
Berkeley, CA
Legal counseling, regulatory analysis, and scientific assessment of air pollution from Pacific Steel Company; ongoing since 2005.

2011

Pacific Environment
California
Counsel in California Public Utilities Commission proceedings to encourage the development of renewable energy resources; ongoing since 2010.
Helphinkley.org & Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)
San Bernardino County
Successful litigation to overturn the County's approval of an open-air, human-waste and plant compost facility in Hinkley, CA. (Hinkley is a rural town with a sizeable Latino community.)
Youth United for Community Action
East Palo Alto, CA
Technical assistance to group regarding the cleanup of a hazardous waste site bordering the Bay.
Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs)
Eureka, CA
Litigation to compel the North Coast Railway Authority to do proper environmental review of a rail line project

2010

Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative (BAEHC)
San Francisco Bay Area
Technical, policy, and administrative assistance to the Collaborative in its campaign to reduce the cumulative impacts of air pollution the the Bay Area; ongoing since 2005.
Helphinkley.org and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)
San Bernardino County
Successful litigation to overturn the County's approval of an open-air, human-waste and plant compost facility in Hinkley, CA. (Hinkley is a rural town with a sizeable Latino community.)
Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)
Contra Costa County
Litigation in federal court to overturn Clean Air Act consent decree between US and PG&E affecting Pittsburg-Antioch communities, and to ensure air district accountability in permitting.
Citizens Against Pollution
Hayward, CA
Counsel in Environmental Appeals Board proceedings involving a proposed power plant in Hayward, California.
Pacific Environment
San Francisco Bay Area
Litigated in the California Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission to encourage development of renewable energy; blocked a fossil-fuel power plant in Pittsburg-Antioch area based on lack of need.

2009

East Bay Environmental Justice Collaborative
Northern Contra Costa County
Environmental data analysis and GIS mapping of pollution sources in Pittsburg and Antioch, CA.
ACORN
Antioch, CA
Filed complaint and provided other legal assistance related to a proposed power plant, resulting in a fine against PG&E.
Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates
San Francisco, CA
Compelled the City of San Francisco to subject a large biodiesel facility to CEQA environmental review.
Citizens Against Pollution
Hayward, CA
Review of power plant permit documents and assistance with public participation in the permit process.
West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs
West Berkeley, CA
Legal counseling, regulatory analysis, and scientific assessment of air pollution from Pacific Steel Company; project begun in 2005.
West Valley Citizen's Air Watch
Cupertino, CA
Helped group participate in permit process; analysed federal pollution rules governing the Lehigh Southwest Cement Company.
West Oakland Residents
Oakland, CA
Worked with local residents and a concerned city council member to evaluate and reduce air and noise pollution from a local aluminum recycling facility.

2008

A Hayward Resident
Hayward, CA
Helped a concerned resident to change the way the air district notifies and involves the public regarding power plant permits; obtained a remand allowing significant public participation in permit proceedings.
Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates & Our Children's Earth
San Francisco, CA
Compelled Muni to comply with Proposition I, replacing old diesel buses with cleaner modes of transportation.
Midway Village Residents Relocation Committee
Daly City, CA
Provided scientific and legal counseling regarding residential soil contamination issues at a housing complex.
Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates & Communities for a Better Environment
San Francisco Bay Area and beyond
Provided comments to EPA regarding environmental justice impacts of greenhouse gas regulations.
Climate Scientists James Hansen, Mark Jacobson, Michael Kleeman, Benjamin Santer, and Stephen Schneider
California and beyond
Prepared amicus brief supporting California's effort to regulate greenhouse gases from motor vehicles.
Just Transitions
California, Arizona
Represented environmental and grassroots groups from the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe before the Public Utilities Commission to advocate for a just distribution of acid rain credit proceeds (case pending).
Friends of the Earth
California & Beyond
Petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether lead in aviation gasoline is a significant environmental hazard.
Karuk Tribe
Klamath region
Counseled the Karuk Tribe on regulatory issues relating to the Klamath Dams.

2007

Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) & Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)
Eureka, CA
Reduced air pollution from a large paper mill through a Clean Air Act complaint and settlement, improving pollution controls for particulate matter.
Communities for a Better Environment
West Berkeley, CA
Compelled Pacific Steel Company to reduce odoriferous and hazardous air pollutants at its foundry through a Clean Air Act lawsuit and settlement.

2006

Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates & Southeast Alliance for Environmental Justice
San Francisco Bay Area
Culmination of ELJC's 12-year power plant campaign, alongside our community partners: final shutdown of the Hunters Point Power Plant and California Energy Commission rejection of Mirant's expansion proposal.
Youth United for Community Action
East Palo Alto, CA
Prepared formal public comments and an expert opinion on a CEQA Environmental Impact Report for Romic Environmental Technologies, a hazardous waste processing facility located in the community.
Coalition of University Employees & Union of Professional and Technical Employees
Richmond, CA
Provided legal counseling and environmental science consulting to University of California employees working at a university location contaminated with hazardous wastes.

2005 & Prior

Our Children's Earth
Martinez & Benicia, CA
Improved air pollution permits for two oil refineries by providing detailed comments to the local air district and to U.S. EPA and filing petitions with EPA.
Grand Canyon Trust
Colorado Plateau
Helped make Ninth Circuit law that facilitates enforcement of continuing, difficult-to-discover violations; the case resulted in thousands of tons of pollution reductions.
Southeast Alliance for Environmental Justice
Southeast San Francisco
Obtained cleanup funds for a power plant with contaminated soils before the California Public Utilities Commission.
Grassroots & Environmental Groups
California
Provided a day-long Clean Air Act training seminar for community advocates.
Environmental Justice Groups
Nation
Held a roundtable discussion between activists and government agencies on the Clean Air Act and environmental justice to identify next steps.
Chester Street Block Club Association
West Oakland
Reduced odor and toxic air pollution from yeast factory through the Clean Air Act.
Our Children's Earth
Nationwide
Made an important air pollution regulation (the State Implementation Plan) publicly available on the web through a Clean Air Act lawsuit against U.S. EPA.
Clean Water Alliance & San Francisco BayKeeper
San Francisco
Made environmental documents for a proposed airport expansion publicly available, through enforcement of the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance.
Our Children's Earth
Central California
Stopped a plan to exempt major agricultural air pollution sources from federal regulation through a Clean Air Act lawsuit.
Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates
Southeast San Francisco
Prevented power plant expansion and accompanying air pollution through participation in California Energy Commission proceedings.
Environmental Justice Air Quality Coalition & Our Children's Earth
San Francisco Bay Area
Improved the air pollution permits and the permitting process for large industrial facilities through informal negotiations and a writ proceeding.
Coalition for Healthy Communities & Environmental Justice
East Oakland
Helped the coalition shut down a medical waste incinerator through legal counseling about Title V operating permit procedures.
Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates
Southeast San Francisco
Stopped pollution from the Potrero Power Plant and negotiated a $105,000 settlement for community environmental projects by enforcing the Clean Air Act.
Our Children's Earth
San Francisco Bay Area
Publicized information on thousands of unresolved air pollution citations given to Bay Area companies, spurring enforcement by the local regulatory agency.
Southeast Alliance for Environmental Justice & Our Children's Earth
San Francisco Bay Area
Exposed and fixed a gap in regional emissions banking program through, among other things, a CEQA complaint against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Communities for a Better Environment
San Francisco Bay Area
Compelled EPA to require more stringent ozone pollution planning in the Bay Area through a Clean Air Act complaint.
Tri-Valley CARES, Western States Legal Foundation & Physicians for Social Responsibility
Livermore, CA
Reduced the risks of a hazardous waste storage facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory through a CEQA complaint and settlement.
Southeast Alliance for Environmental Justice
San Francisco
Monitored remedial action plans for a California State Superfund site; Public comment under California Hazardous Waste Law.
San Francisco Bay Keeper
Southeast San Francisco
Prohibited toxic pollution from a Navy shipyard through a negotiated Clean Water Act consent decree.
Chester Street Block Club Association
West Oakland
Protected communities from contamination during a hazardous site cleanup through a federal Civil Rights Act petition.
Midway Village residents
Brisbane, CA
Obtained additional environmental testing and protections during toxic waste site operations through a federal Civil Rights Act petition.
Southeast Alliance for Environmental Justice
Southeast San Francisco
Obtained plan to shut down a Hunters Point power plant through a California PUC administrative proceeding
West Oakland Neighbors
West Oakland
Reduced air pollution from Port operations by enforcing CEQA/Civil Rights Act.
Oceanview Neighborhood Association
West Berkeley
Reduced air emissions from an asphalt plant through a CEQA administrative proceeding.
Communities for a Better Environment
Southern California
Lowered emissions from petroleum refinery marine loading terminals through the Clean Air Act.
Southeast Alliance for Environmental Justice
Southeast San Francisco
Reduced pollution from a concrete crushing plant using CEQA.
Alviso Community in Action
San Jose, CA
Obtained additional pollution controls for a waste-site expansion project using CEQA and federal Civil Rights Act administrative proceedings.
Friends of the Earth
Southern California
Assisted groups with wetlands restoration and monitored consent decree obligations of Southern California Edison.
SF Bay Keeper
San Francisco
Prevented water pollution from former Navy Base on Treasure Island using the Clean Water Act.
Various community activists
Southeast San Francisco
Held a lead-hazard training session for tenants and landlords.
San Francisco BayKeeper & District 7 Democratic Club
Southeast San Francisco
Prevented water pollution from Hunters Point Shipyard by enforcing the Clean Water Act.
Morgan Heights Homeowners Association
Southeast San Francisco
Stopped a new power plant in the community through a California PUC administrative proceeding.
Various community groups
Northern and Southern California
Training and education on lead-based paint hazards in residential housing.
Citizens for a Healthy Ukiah
Mendocino County, CA
Required review of an air pollution permit and the adequacy of pollution controls used by a forest products company through an appeal to EPA Environmental Appeals Board.
Communities for a Better Environment & Residents
West Contra Costa County
Counseled low-income West Contra Costa County community who successfully negotiated a multi-million dollar "Good Neighbor Agreement" with two local petroleum refineries.
NEWS
The Clinic is a Recipient of an ABA Award

The Clinic received the Dedication to Diversity and Justice Award from the ABA's Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. The award recognizes and honors the accomplishments of leading organizations in the areas of environmental justice and those who embrace a commitment to gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in the areas of environment, energy, and natural resources. The Clinic received the award for its achievements in significantly reducing pollution in numerous under-represented communities living amidst manufacturing and power plants.

"This is a tremendous honor," said Rachel Van Cleave, Dean of GGU Law. "We're so proud of our Environmental Law and Justice Clinic whose achievements on behalf of underserved communities and individuals have produced such positive results. I cannot think of a better way to commemorate our 20th Anniversary this fall of the Clinic than with this wonderful award."

Read the Press Release


Why Our Work on Lead in Aviation Gasoline Continues

EPA monitoring has revealed the violation of air quality lead standards at two California airports. These findings reinforce the need for immediate EPA action to phase out lead in aviation fuel, the largest source of airborne lead emissions in the United States.

Click Here for the Monitoring Information


We received a new grant in June 2013

The Clinic is delighted to announce that Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation has made a grant of $40,000 to support the Clinic's work. The mission of the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation is to protect and improve the quality of life through support of programs in the environment, human health, education and the arts. The Clinic thanks the Foundation and its Board.


Thank You, Jeff Nussbaum

The Clinic thanks Jeff Nussbaum of Nussbaum & Zigler LLP, whom the Clinic helped recruit as counsel of record for Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition when the group received a subpoena for records from a law firm representing tort defendants. The subpoena sought documents "relating to the mailing addresses in California to which SVTC sent any materials meant for public distribution" and documents "related to efforts by SVTC to contact residents of California purporting to inform such residents of any kind of hazard, danger, or risk from any substance." With the Clinic's assistance, Jeff defeated a defense motion to compel and successfully obtained monetary sanctions against the defendants and their counsel.

While this case does not translate to tons of pollution reduction as many of the Clinic's cases do, it is the kind of case that underscores why the Clinic must continue its work. Advocacy groups like SVTC cannot truly organize and inform communities unless legal advocates like the Clinic can help protect them. Until the Clinic stepped up, the Coalition could not find legal assistance.


Our On-Site Environmental Law and Justice Clinic Helps San Diego Communities Protect Their Right to Clean Air

The California Public Utilities Commission last week rejected a proposal for two new natural gas-fired plants in the San Diego area that would have added more air pollution, including soot and greenhouse gases. The decision resulted from our Environmental Law and Justice Clinic's advocacy on behalf of the California Environmental Justice Alliance before the California Public Utilities Commission. Environmental Health Coalition in San Diego effectively mobilized citizens to voice their opposition to these plants before the Commission vote. Students who worked on this case include Catherine Dickstein, Michael DiGrande, Drew Graf, Daniel Plotnick, and Tovah Trimming.


Pollution Credit No Longer Necessary for a Shuttered Coal-Fired Power Plant to be a Source of Security Money for Renewable Energy Development to Benefit the Hopi and Navajo Communities

In a landmark decision, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted to require revenues from the sale of sulfur dioxide allowances from the now shuttered Mohave Generating Station to be used for renewable energy projects that benefit the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation. The revenues from these allowances that continue to accrue even after closure will be used to make early deposits that are required for developing projects meeting California's renewables portfolio standards, with the deposits later being returned for use by additional renewable projects.

GGU Law's Environmental Law and Justice Clinic is lead counsel for the Just Transition Coalition, which sought redress when the California utility that owned the coal-fired power plant applied to the PUC to distribute the revenues to ratepayers. The Clinic's Deborah Behles and the former director Alan Ramo before her led this six-year effort, with our students writing numerous briefs and drafting written testimony, and participating in a year-long alternative dispute resolution process in working with grassroots Native American organizations, Sierra Club, and Grand Canyon Trust. The students had to master PUC procedures, California energy law, and the acid rain provisions of the Clean Air Act.

The Mohave power plant in Nevada was shuttered in 2005 after burning coal obtained from mines located on the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe lands, which had been transported using one billion gallons of water yearly from the lands. Mohave's operation and closure resulted in devastating environmental and economic impacts to these communities.

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U.S. EPA Agrees to Examine Outdated Emissions Rules for Ways to Tighten Them

The clinic scored another victory for communities breathing polluted air. A federal court on January 3, 2013, approved a settlement that the clinic negotiated with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of Greenpeace and Port Townsend Airwatchers. The settlement covers pollution rules that govern over 100 pulp mills nationally. The settlement requires the agency to review these rules, which are decades out of date, to ensure that they require kraft pulp mills to use up-to-date pollution control technology. Kraft pulp mills use chemicals to "cook" wood chips into pulp, from which paper is made. Our nation is the largest producer of paper products. The clinic worked closely with Center for Biological Diversity, a co-plaintiff in the case. Notably, this case had its genesis in our GGU students' research. Many students participated in this significant case, including current students, Kate Baldridge, Megan Johnson, Nico Smith, and Cody Nesper.

View the Final Consent Decree


California PUC Orders Utilities to Prioritize Clean Energy Over Fossil Fuels

On behalf of Pacific Environment, the Clinic obtained a favorable decision from the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that strengthens clean energy policy in California. The decision clarifies that the utility companies should always consider conservation and renewables before fossil-fuel facilities in supplying electricity to consumers. Student clinicians participated in every aspect of this proceeding, including drafting the briefs and appearing at hearings. "This decision prevents the utilities from undermining California's development of renewable energy. Now California can more effectively move toward reducing its reliance on fossil fuels," said Patrick Sullivan, one of the law students who worked on the case. "This common sense approach should go a long way in helping California meet its clean energy goals," said Aaron Gaspard, another student on the team.

Access the Decision

CONTACT US

Mailing Address

Environmental Law and Justice Clinic
Golden Gate University School of Law
536 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-2968

Phone: 415-442-6647
Fax: 415-896-2450


Clinic Contacts

Helen Kang, Clinic Director
E-mail: hkang@ggu.edu

Deborah Behles, Staff Attorney
E-mail: dbehles@ggu.edu


Important Note

Please do not e-mail us concerning potential representation. Because we receive a significant volume of e-mail, your important e-mail may not be read. Your e-mail may also be inadvertently categorized as spam. For these reasons, you should call the Clinic first with any inquiries about representation. Before you call, please review the information on this web page to see whether your matter is similar to the kinds of cases taken by the Clinic.