Transnational Environmental Law Clinic
The classroom component of this clinic teaches students the skills and strategies needed to affect environmental policy in all three branches of state and federal government. During classroom sessions, students learn about current environmental policy challenges and opportunities and explore these issues from multiple perspectives. Guest speakers from government, public interest and regulated industries provide diverse views on environmental law and policy. In the clinical component, students participate in the lawmaking process by preparing policy papers and formal legislative testimony, commenting on rulemaking and permit decisions, and engaging in judicial review and enforcement litigation. In all clinical work, the students work with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and on some selected matters may be involved in formally representing other community organizations and public interest groups.
Students in this clinic have provided legal assistance to help fight proposed coal plants in Michigan, developed a new clean energy funding mechanism for local governments, assisted local environment organizations with preliminary research on the expected air pollution permit renewal for the Detroit incinerator, and have worked with Friends of Tienken Road in opposing a major expansion of a road that threatens historic protections and would cause air pollution in the metro area. Students have also worked on a number of cases and proposals in the areas of water conservation, water diversions and water quality, as well as wetlands, shorelines and natural resources.
Students must have completed or concurrently be taking LEX 7006 Administrative Law and LEX 7231 Environmental Law or obtain advance consent of the instructor prior to enrollment. Open only to students who have completed all required first-year courses. Advanced Environmental Law Clinic option available for those who complete Environmental Law Clinic. Interested students should contact Prof. Nick Schroeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clinic update by Professor Nick Schroeck
The Wayne Environmental Law Clinic had a fantastic 2010, and we're expecting more great things in 2011. We were successful last term as amici in the Michigan Supreme Court case Anglers of the Ausable v. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Merit Energy Company. The Court overturned a previous bad precedent for state liability under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (Preserve the Dunes) and restored the "any person" standing under MEPA. It was a great win for the environment, although likely short lived as Attorney General Schuette has filed a motion for reconsideration with the new Court. The Anglers decision was a divided 4-3 split, and the dissenters are now in the majority. We also represented several environmental groups as amici in the Benton Harbor Jean Klock Park case, Carol Drake and Clellen Bury v. City of Benton Harbor and Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Corporation (Drake). Drake involves the deed of lakefront parkland to the City of Benton Harbor, a portion of which the city now is developing into a luxury golf course. Last year we were also successful as amici in D.C. Circuit Federal Court. The Court ruled that the Bureau of Reclamation must properly consider the environmental consequences of the Northwest Area Water Supply Project in North Dakota. The project is widely regarded as a boondoggle, and it could have set a dangerous precedent for Great Lakes water management. Finally, we were retained by the Chairs of the state Senate and House environment committees to represent them as amici in the U.S. Supreme Court Asian carp litigation. The Court ultimately did not take the case and as a result our amicus brief was never filed. It is important to note that in each of these cases Environmental Law Clinic students researched, drafted and filed the briefs under faculty supervision.
We're currently involved in litigation over two coal plants in the Michigan Court of Appeals. Both cases on appeal involve permits to install for new coal fired power plants which the Michigan Public Service has determined are not necessary to meet current or projected electricity demand. We are also serving as local counsel for national environmental groups on a coal plant permit that is on remand to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment. We have other coal plant matters pending in federal court (ED Michigan) and in the state office of administrative hearings. All of these cases have served as an excellent learning opportunity for the clinic students. They have drafted motions and briefs and learned the rules and procedures of state circuit and appellate courts and administrative hearings. Some of these cases present issues of first impression in which our student's research has been instrumental in shaping law and policy.
The clinic has also filed a petition for rulemaking with the Food and Drug Administration over pharmaceuticals in the water (and environmental review of new drug applications). Our petition seeks the elimination of a categorical exclusion that permits new drugs of certain concentrations to enter the market without environmental review. The FDA recently sent a letter informing us that they are working on the petition, noting that its a complicated issue, etc. As you can imagine the FDA is being lobbied hard by pharmaceutical companies against our petition, and conversely we have received support from a wide range of public health and environmental organizations. Again, clinic students took the lead in researching and drafting the petition.
This semester we have eight students in the clinic, three in the advanced clinic, and two University of Windsor (Ontario) students working with the clinic. We're in the process of finalizing a new partnership with Windsor that will create the first Transnational Environmental Law Clinic. The clinic presents outstanding educational opportunities for students at both law schools and will assist our efforts to promote regionalism and sound environmental policies on both sides of the Detroit River. Currently the clinic students are working on the aforementioned coal plant cases; drafting National Environmental Policy Act scoping comments on the Corps of Engineers Asian carp/invasive species study; working on Detroit water shut offs for people without the ability to pay; drafting a model water withdrawal ordinance for Michigan Townships/municipalities; working on the pharmaceutical and chemicals of emerging concern in the water issue; working with the state legislature on offshore wind development; commenting on International Joint Commission Great Lakes levels studies; developing diesel engine retrofit and anti-idling programs to improve air quality in Southeast Michigan; etc. It is a busy semester, but as usual we have excellent students who are generating top quality work product.
Former Environmental Law Clinic students are increasingly being considered and hired for positions with regional and national environmental organizations. We've successfully placed clinic students with the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club. Organizations like the Great Lakes Commission and Alliance for the Great Lakes have sought out our students for jobs and fellowships. Former students now in private practice consistently report that their experience at the clinic helped prepare them for their careers. I've had the pleasure of serving as an adviser for the law school's Environmental Moot Court Team, which is also excellent training for future environmental law practitioners.
These accomplishments (and there are too many more to list) would not be possible without the support of the law school and the faculty. I'm grateful for the opportunity to help grow the Environmental Law Clinic.