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 US 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. ELJC is nationally recognized, receiving the prestigious 2013 Dedication to Diversity and Justice Award from the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources and 2006 Clinical Legal Education Association’s Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project.


Sara Dudley
-- Sara Dudley, Class of 2015
1. Receive mentoring and support:

Clinic Professors and Fellows took a genuine interest in me, my career, and my Clinic experience. I continue to rely on their help and advice as I advance in my career.

2. Gain real-world experience:

In a functioning litigation Clinic, you will work on pending matters and practice before courts and government agencies. These are skills and experiences that I have highlighted to potential employers in my resume and cover letters.

3. Work on issues that matter:

Environmental justice means working on critical environmental issues and also representing disadvantaged communities who would not otherwise have access to justice. It's a unique opportunity to practice both civil rights and environmental law.


Cody Nesper


Deputy County Counsel, Tuolumne County

"In addition to learning valuable legal skills, my time working at the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic taught me the positive impact legal work can have on the community and fostered my commitment to serving the most vulnerable among us. In my current position representing Child Welfare Services in Tuolumne County, the compassion and thoughtfulness engendered within me during my time at the Clinic has informed my practice every day. I know that my work is not just about winning an argument in court; it is about positively impacting the lives of human beings who desperately need help."

Angelica Torres


Staff Attorney, Homeless Action Center

"I grew up in Richmond, California, a community that is home to several major polluters, which have adversely affected the residents' health and safety (including my own as a child). I wanted to join the clinic to help to provide a voice to the communities that are affected by such issues. The Clinic provides a very challenging yet supportive work environment for students to hone legal skills and get practical and hands-on experience before taking on an internship or job with an outside employer. I am forever grateful for the Clinic and the attentive staff for their huge part in giving me the skills I needed to be the attorney I am today."


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 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.


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.


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


The Clinic's work on behalf of environmental justice communities and in the field of clinical legal education has been recognized locally and nationally:
  • The Clinic received the 2013 Dedication to Diversity and Justice Award from the American Bar Association'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 underrepresented communities living amidst manufacturing and power plants.
  • 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.
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.

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 2-unit Environmental Law & Justice Seminar plus an additional 2-3 clinic credits.

  • 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.

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.


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

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.



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.


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.


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


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.)



Helen Kang
Helen Kang

Professor of Law



Steven Castleman
Steven Castleman

Visiting Assistant Professor and Staff Attorney

In the 1980s and 1990s, Steve pioneered county-based environmental prosecution, obtaining the very first conviction of California hazardous wastes laws resulting in criminal charges as a lawyer at the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. He then taught other DAs throughout California to go after environmental bad actors. In a widely-publicized case, he obtained a multi-count conviction against Triple A Machine Shop in Hunters Point for extensive contamination the company caused through illegal dumping while refurbishing and cleaning ships. A relentless champion for the public interest, he advocated for the city's own compliance with hazardous waste laws. He also served on the Board of Directors of San Francisco BayKeeper after his tenure at the DA's office. He went to law school while working as an investigator for the consumer fraud unit at the San Francisco DA's Office.

Tovah Trimming
Tovah Trimming

Graduate Fellow

Tovah Trimming graduated with honors in 2014 from Golden Gate University School of Law, achieving both a specialization certificate with distinction in environmental law and receiving the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence in Environmental Law. Throughout law school, Tovah immersed herself in environmental law practice, working with the Sierra Club, Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, the Natural Resources Section of the California Attorney General's Office, and Center for Biological Diversity. She also served as a writer and editor for the Environmental Law Journal and competed on the Environmental Moot Court team. Tovah earned a BA in environmental studies with a Spanish minor from California State University, Sacramento. In her free time, Tovah enjoys spending time with family and friends and exploring the Bay Area's beautiful open spaces.

Collin McCarthy
Collin McCarthy

Graduate Fellow

Collin McCarthy earned his law degree from Golden Gate University School of Law in 2015, graduating with academic distinction as a member of the Jesse Carter Society. While in law school, Collin participated in the GGU Honors Lawyering Program and completed internships with the Office of General Counsel at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C., and the Ecology Division of the Washington State Office of the Attorney General. Collin also served as a staff writer and associate editor for the Golden Gate University Law Review, was a research assistant in the GGU Center on Urban Environmental Law, and earned a Specialization Certificate in Environmental Law. Collin is particularly interested in protecting water quality, coastal areas, and the marine environment. Prior to law school, Collin earned a BA in Global Studies & Maritime Affairs from the California Maritime Academy. Collin is an avid sports fan and spends much of his free time running or golfing.

Fe Gonzalez
Fe Gonzalez

Clinic Program Assistant


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.




Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative (BAEHC)
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)

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)
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)
CBD uses science, law, and creative media to secure a future for all species hovering on the brink of extinction.
Chinese Progressive Association (CPA)
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)
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 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.
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice Greenaction is a multiracial grassroots organization that fights for health and environmental justice together with low-income and working class urban, rural, and indigenous communities.
Greenpeace, Inc.
Greenpeace is the largest independent direct-action environmental organization in the world. It does not take money from government or corporations. 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.
Monterey Coastkeeper Monterey Coastkeeper is dedicated to protecting and restoring waters so that they are drinkable, swimmable, and fishable.
No Coal in Oakland No Coal in Oakland is a volunteer organization with no staff. Working with allies, it successfully campaigned to stop the development of a coal terminal at the former Oakland Army Base.
Pacific Environment
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)
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
Baykeeper works to protect and restore San Francisco Bay waters through advocacy, policy campaigns and direct enforcement of California's water protection laws.



2014 - Current

See our Fall Reports for more recent cases and projects while we update this page.

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
Rulemaking litigation before the California Public Utilities Commission to advocate for California's transition to clean energy.
California Environmental Justice Alliance for Water
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
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
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.


Pacific Environment
Counsel in California Public Utilities Commission proceedings to encourage the development of renewable energy resources; ongoing since 2010. & 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


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. 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.


East Bay Environmental Justice Collaborative
Northern Contra Costa County
Environmental data analysis and GIS mapping of pollution sources in Pittsburg and Antioch, CA.
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.


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.


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.


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
Provided a day-long Clean Air Act training seminar for community advocates.
Environmental Justice Groups
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
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.
Professor Kang speaks at a conference on "Collapse."

In September 2015, Professor Kang was also selected to participate in a small interdisciplinary conference funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the University of Zurich, and Franklin University Switzerland, where she gave a talk, "How Marginalized Communities Contribute to Correcting the Myopia of Environmental Regulation."

Judge Orders Top State Water Agency to Better Control Agricultural Pollution

In August 2015, a Sacramento court issued a 44-page ruling, vindicating the rights of ELJC clients to cleaner water in the Central Coast. In Monterey Coastkeeper v. California State Water Resources Control Board, the court commanded the state to better regulate water pollution from irrigated farmland in the Central Coast of California. The decision affects a vast acreage -- 435,000 acres and about 3,000 farm operations. The clients were jointly represented by the Clinic, the Stanford Environmental Clinic and California Rural Legal Assistance. The state and an industry group recently appealed the decision.

Professor Kang serves as a consultant to the International Senior Lawyers Project

Professor Kang traveled to the Mindanao and Palawan Provinces of the Philippines, as a consultant with the International Senior Lawyers Project in summer of 2015. She advised developing clinical and environmental law programs based at two law schools in the southern parts of the archipelago. The region faces significant environmental and economic challenges.

Victory! Lennar Urban, the Second Largest Residential Developer in the Nation, Makes the Right Decision After Our Clients and ELJC Put the Law and Community Organizing to Work.

Our ELJC students worked tirelessly in the Fall 2014 semester to expose how Lennar Urban, LLC, and city agencies illegally approved a plan to demolish Candlestick Park Stadium using implosion. The illegal approval was made through a process that ensured that the Bayview Hunters-Point community would not find out about the health harms of the implosion. Implosions create enormous and harmful dust clouds that persist in the air and could disperse more than 10 miles. The Bayview Hunters-Point community already suffers from the highest rates in the city of asthma and other respiratory illnesses and ischemic heart disease -- diseases that are aggravated by dust. Both the State of California and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District have recognized the social and health vulnerability of this particular community. Once ELJC exposed the illegal approval, residents mobilized, distributed flyers, and attended every hearing to have their voices heard. Under threat of legal appeals and because of the community's organized responses to Lennar Urban's ill-conceived plan, the company announced that it would withdraw its plan to implode the stadium.

Our clients received great local coverage, and the Clinic's work was also recognized on the first page of The Chronicle in its 150th anniversary edition, featured on KTVU evening news, KGO radio, SF Curbed, and the Associated Press.

New Report by ELJC's Professor Deborah Behles Calling for Reform at One of the Most Powerful State Agencies

A report issued on January 20 by Associate Professor Deborah Behles and Steven Weissman, a lecturer at U.C. Berkeley, calls for reform at the California Public Utilities Commission, which has an unusual way of doing business. While most state and federal regulatory agencies prohibit private, closed-door discussions with interested parties about contested matters, our state's Public Utility Commission largely does not. In fact, most commissioners encourage private meetings in all but the most judicial, "adjudicatory" cases. Interested parties regularly communicate with decision-makers by phone and email, and socialize with those same decision-makers at conferences and retreats. These contacts "seriously compromise[] the integrity and the fairness of the process and the public's right to have a meaningful say in the makeup of their electrical grid." The report recommends prohibiting ex parte contacts in all contested proceedings.

The Clinic Successfully Speaks Up for the Integrity of Pollution Trading

Under California's cap and trade system for reducing greenhouse gases, the state sets a cap for the maximum amount of pollution that can be emitted from major industries, and each company receives an allowance to emit pollution. Those emitting less can sell the "credit" to other companies that find the credits cheaper than other means of reducing the pollution. The environmental justice community has been long concerned with the integrity of California's cap and trade plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently, the Clinic represented the Environmental Defense Fund in exposing problems with credits issued to long-shuttered cotton gins and sugar beet processing plants in the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Over a million tons-worth of greenhouse gas credits were issued to companies that closed in the region for economic reasons and were listed on a "Greenhouse Gas Reduction Exchange," a registry operated by the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association. The registry explains that it is "a trusted source of locally generated credits from projects within California" to facilitate trades, and that the credits are "designed specifically to benefit the state of California."

The Clinic's legal and factual research resulted in a letter to the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association advocating for "real" reductions. The letter was joined by NRDC, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club California, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Planning and Conservation League. In response to these efforts, the exchange instituted measures to ensure that credits are real and in fact result from efforts to reduce greenhouse gases rather than from economic closures.

A Petition Backed by 24,000 Citizens, Urging US EPA to Take Lead Out of AvGas

In April 2014, we submitted a petition for reconsideration to US EPA, along with signatures of over 24,000 concerned citizens urging EPA to find that lead emitted from aviation gasoline endangers human health. On January 27, 2015, EPA responded to our petition, stating that it was delaying making the initial endangerment determination until 2018. This delay is inexcusable. "EPA has known for decades that lead causes serious public health impacts," according to Professor Deborah Behles who is quoted in a Law 360 article. We represent Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Oregon Aviation Watch in this effort. This effort originated with the Clinic's research and petition in 2006, and Earthjustice has since joined as co-counsel.

A Win for Now for Green Energy in Replacing Energy Generation from a Shuttered Nuclear Facility

Following an evidentiary hearing in which the Clinic represented the California Environmental Justice Alliance, the California Public Utility Commission issued its decision in March 2014. The Commission found that all of the energy generation from the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station could be replaced with green measures such as energy conservation, efficiency, renewables, and storage. While some hailed the decision as unprecedented because it determined that all of the needs could be met with green alternatives, it unfortunately leaves open the potential for meeting the need through construction of new power plants fueled by natural gas. Since that decision, our client and its allies have been working to prevent such scenarios from becoming a reality.

We Compelled EPA to Revise an Outdated 1978 Pollution Reduction Rule Covering Pulp Mills

Following our settlement with US EPA in 2013, the agency revised rules intended to ensure that 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. EPA's rule revisions were disappointingly weak. Despite our clients' comments on the proposed revision, the final rule remains weak, failing to address greenhouse gas emissions. The rule, however, incorporates pollution reduction measures that apply during high-pollution events such as during a mill's startup, shutdown, and malfunction. 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 when we represented a community in Eureka, California.

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."

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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.

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.

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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.

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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


Helen Kang, Clinic Director


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.