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UDC Law Environmental/Sustainability Program Brainstorming Sessions
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Individuals and organizational representatives from local, state and national government agencies and nonprofit groups will meet to consider what the UDC Clarke School of Law could and should do to protect people and promote sustainability.

When: Friday, November 13, 2015
2 to 5:30 PM
Where: Room 214
4340 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, District of Columbia  20008
United States
Contact: Joe Libertelli and Jon Cooper

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Brainstorming Session:

What Can UDC Clarke School of Law Do

to Help Protect the Environment

and to Promote Sustainabilty?

UDC Clarke School of Law

November 13, 2015

 Below please find our agenda and then, beneath, some background info on the School of Law and its various current experiential components that could be used for these purposes.


2:00 pm  - Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Joe Libertelli - will report on existing UDC Clarke School of Law programs that could be utilized, and on practical and organizational constraints that the School faces. 

Jon Cooper - will report on his research into other models within and outside of law schools.

2:20 pm - Introductions: Participants will introduce themselves, mentioning organizational afffiliations, if any, and why they are participating.

2:45  pm - Brainstorm Session I:  What could and should the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law do to help protect the environment and promote sustainability within the District of Columbia, the region and beyond?  

Participants will be asked to make short, positive suggestions, which will be recorded and posted around the room.  Suggestions that piggyback on other suggestions are welcome. Negative comments are not welcome! 

Participants will be given five "stickers" and will then be asked to "vote" for the best ideas by placing one (or more!) of their stickers on the note taken for a given idea.

3:45 pm - Break

4:00 pm - Brainstorm Session II: What resources - financial, intellectual, organizational, in-kind, etc. - exist that could support the efforts listed in the first session? 

Again..participants will be asked to make short, positive suggestions, which will be recorded and posted around the room.  Suggestions that piggyback on other suggestions are welcome. Negative comments are not welcome! 

Again...participants will be given five "stickers" and will then be asked to "vote" for the best ideas by placing one (or more!) of their stickers on the note taken for a given idea.

5:00 pm - Wrap Up Discussion:  Participants and organizers will make brief comments synthesizing ideas.

5:30 pm - End

6:00 pm - UDC Justice Cafe begins in Room 214!  There will be food, beer and wine, coffee and tea, live music and "literature" from various organizations.  Brainstorm participants are invited to the Cafe at no charge.  Others will be requested to donate $20 per person or $10 for students and those on low-incomes!  For more info on the Cafe click HERE. 

Background Information

Background Information on UDC Clarke School of Law - History and Programs

The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC-DCSL) began in 1972 as the Antioch School of Law, was transformed into the District’s public law school in 1986 through a grassroots campaign, and was merged into the University of the District of Columbia in 1996.  It received its full ABA accreditation in 2005. 

UDC-DCSL is devoted to the pursuit of justice and the public interest.  Among the nation’s most diverse law schools, it is the nation’s most experientially-oriented law school, with the largest amount of required clinical study, school-paid summer public interest fellowships, academic externships, service learning and practica attached to courses. 

As a result of its hands-on orientation, UDC-DCSL has several existing programs that could be employed on behalf environmental protection and/or urban sustainability (EP/US).  Below, in rough order of their availability to students, these are described with suggestions as to how they could be utilized to further EP/US educational and practical goals.

The Community Service Program

At UDC-DCSL, each first year student is required to perform a minimum of 40 hours of law-related community service, in the District of Columbia, as part of Law and Justice, taught by Prof. Edgar Cahn.  Students have broad latitude in deciding where to provide this service.  Those interested in EP/US work can start to develop their knowledge and contacts through this program. 

Proponents of EP/US work at UDC could develop a list of placements.

The Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program

All UDC Clarke students in the full-time program can obtain School-paid summer fellowships after their first year (and after the 2nd year as funds permit) anywhere in the world. They must be law-related, attorney-supervised, and they must take place under the auspices of a not-for-profit group, a government agency or a judicial chamber.  Students interested in EP/US work can find organizational or agency placements that further their knowledge, connections, and give them an opportunity to go good work. 

Proponents of EP/US work at UDC could help identify placement opportunities or raise funds to help the School pay for these fellowships.

The Clinics:

At UDC-DCSL, each law student must take two 350 hour clinics. The School has 9 clinical offerings in:  Immigration and Human Rights; Housing and Consumer; General Practice; Legislation; Community Development; Juvenile Justice and Special Education; Low-Income Tax; Whistleblower Protection and Criminal Law.  The first seven listed are handled in-house; the second two are run by the Government Accountability Project and DC Law Students in Court, respectively. 

The Clinics: Starting a New In-House Clinic

Starting a new in-house clinic would be challenging in several ways.  For one thing, each clinic requires at least two supervisors, one of whom must be a faculty member (the other can be an LLM candidate.)  This is expensive – in the range of $250K per year.  Secondly, the law faculty must approve of the new clinic, and that can be a lengthy process.  Third, UDC-DCSL already has quite a few clinics serving a small student body – under 300.  Fourth, at present, there are probably not enough UDC-DCSL students interested in EP/US to fill out a clinic.

As a result, the most recent fully new in-house clinic added, in Immigration and Human Rights, took ten years to come to fruition, spending most of those years as an independent 501 (c) (3) organization with a part-time attorney who supervised Community Service students, Summer Fellows, and Externs.

The Clinics: Starting a New Clinic with an Outside Organization

Starting a new clinic run by an external organization can be quicker and easier – if the right organization can be found.   The Government Accountability Project (GAP) has hosted a UDC Law clinic in whistleblower protection law since 1980 (when we were still Antioch School of Law!)  When DC Law Students in Court needed a new location and relocated in the UDC-DCSL building, due to their long and outstanding track record of supervising law students, approval of a new clinical option in criminal law met with swift approval.  If there was a DC-based non-profit - or perhaps even a governmental agency – that had a stellar reputation and could provide the right balance of training and opportunity to do real work, and was seriously interested, that might be an option worth developing. 

Proponents of EP/US clinical work could help search for an identify an appropriate organization.

The Clinics: Integration of EJ/US into Existing Clinics

The Community Development Clinic currently handles a wide variety of transactional law issues for a              variety of non-profits and for-profits.  Some of these organizations are EP/US-oriented.  The Clinic Director, Louise Howells, has expressed an openness to consider adding EP/US cases, possibly with the addition of an LLM candidate with related experience, as a Clinic supervisor.

The Legislation Clinic places UDC-DCSL students with legislative committees and organizations engaged in legislative advocacy.  It is certainly conceivable that students could be placed at organizations and/or legislative committees engaged in EP/US work.

The Government Accountability Project has often furthered EP/US goals through the protection of whistleblowers who expose fraud, safety and mismanagement problems at agencies and other workplaces entrusted with protecting people and/or the environment.  GAP Legal Director Tom Devine has suggested an expansion of the GAP UDC-DCSL clinic to the protection of climate change scientists who are punished for telling the truth.

The Externship Program

After three semesters, UDC-DCSL students can earn 4-8 credits for 200-400 hours of work with judges, government agencies or non-profits.  Again, as with the Community Service Program and Summer Fellowships, students interested in EP/US work can find organizational or agency placements that further their knowledge, connections, and give them an opportunity to go good work.   The School of Law’s Faculty Clinical Affairs Committee has been talking about revamping the externship program to be add a more substantive component to the course.  Thus, we could envision, for example, placing a cadre of 10 students in EP/US placements while simultaneously taking an EP/US seminar.

Proponents of EP/US work at UDC could help identify additional placement opportunities.

Service Learning/Course Practicums 

Several UDC-DCSL courses have practicums that enable to put what they’ve learned into action in a way that puts the clients first.  It is conceivable that the School of Law’s two environmental law classes – Environmental Law and Environmental Justice – could add such practicums. 

Proponents of EP/US work at UDC could help identify additional service learning opportunities. 

Brainstorming on Urban Environmental Law and Social Justice



We have invited participants who might want to contribute their ideas and thinking to the future of environmental law as it relates to the urban setting, with special emphasis on social justice. The field of environmental law is vast and distributed in over a dozen main Federal laws. To our knowledge, NEPA regulations, as interpreted by the USEPA, are the only law that specifically addresses social justice through the environmental justice program and requirements. Other laws and regulations, such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, do specifically address issues in the urban environment with respect to their particular mandates. The issue with them is the lack of coordination between them to maximize their use in an urban setting. Other areas of importance to the urban environment, such as energy and transportation may be addressed through consideration of issues such as mass transportation, but again are ill defined or not coordinated.

So two major questions that would appear to need attention are:

            Are there better ways to coordinate laws related to the environment and social justice?

            Should one or can one make efforts that are now adopted voluntarily (by both government and industry) mandatory through laws and regulations?

            Two examples of mis-matches may illustrate this point. Recently a developer of a large apartment complex offered to build a solar array to provide renewable electric energy to the units. He offered that as an amenity for a project that was approved with respect to other considerations. He was turned down because he was told that the array would add too much impermeable surface to the complex and therefore would lead to violations of the Clean Water Act (with respect to the Total Maximum Daily Load, TMDL to the Chesapeake Bay). Thus energy efforts (for which few laws exist to support the distributed power issues in the urban setting) were not coordinated with the water management issues in DC.

A second example also relates to renewable energy. Several years ago, many homeowners in the D.C. neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant wanted to place solar arrays on their roofs. They could not get permits because they were told that the arrays would violate rules on the appearance of structures in the historic district. While this issue has since been addressed by changes in legislation, thus allowing the placement of the solar panels, this illustrates the evolving environmental regulations that need careful and on-going attention.

            A third example has been suggested by current work in San Francisco.  As discussed in the Golden Gate materials (attached in the website for the conference), there was a push for community gardens. We in DC have a similar push as exemplified by the work of CAUSES. But taking this issue further, San Francisco proposed a regulation that required that public land be set aside for gardens. Such an idea might be very useful in many parts of DC (and is being implemented already through the voluntary route in places such as East Capitol).

There are many more examples that fall under the heading of environmental justice – with impacts that have been reviewed as having positive impacts. Efforts at urban renewal through the brownfields programs have resulted in reuse and new construction that have indeed helped the low-income residents and benefited the greater geographic area. The recycling plant in the Bronx, New York City is one such example. Planning for urban development in Ivy City in DC has combined many concepts on energy, water and low income development. Recently efforts to improve energy efficiency in housing in Anacostia have made headlines.

One can point to positive coordination between environmental laws in the urban setting. Waste management through recycling programs and regulations on toxic materials has also improved the urban environment. Low Impact Development and laws related to TMDL’s have slowed the runoff of nutrients and toxic materials into the Chesapeake Bay. Energy laws that regulate utilities, while designed to address cost, efficiency and safety issues, have also resulted in better air quality and sharing of costs between different economic groups.

Thinking even more broadly, coordination of environmental efforts and social justice can help city residents with training on health, housing and life-style choices. Again many of these functions are handled by other efforts as individual programs, but they are often not coordinated. Would it be out of place to do some counseling on family planning at the same time as we advocate for healthy foods and cooking?


If the coordination of environmental efforts and social justice in the urban environment is such a good idea (or is it?), what other activities are occurring nationally related to other law schools? Through extensive research (but by no means an exhaustive one) it appears that many successful programs touch on pieces of this puzzle, but all miss some or much of the emphasis.

Current best example of Centers:

Golden State Law (Center for Urban Law, with concentration on land use)

            “The city is a natural starting point for considering the environment. Cities are not located outside the natural environment. Buildings, industry and urban infrastructure consume resources, change landscapes and discharge pollutants into air and waters. Forests, waterfronts and waterways within city limits serve as ecosystems and habitat corridors on which species depend. Where we site factories, freeways, and parkland impacts the health of urban residents and defines the character of urban neighborhoods. The Center on Urban Environmental Law (CUEL) at Golden Gate University School of Law takes the city as a natural starting point to assess how the law shapes environmental conditions.

CUEL investigates open space and park holdings in cities and the extent to which low income and minority urban residents can readily access such lands. These investigations build on the Golden Gate University School of Law City Parks Project’s 2007 publication Access to Parkland: Environmental Justice in East Bay Parks. CUEL’s work includes research on the prospects for transforming portions of the former Alameda Naval Air Station (in the East Bay flatlands) into a landmark bayfront natural park. The progressive city program also advocates for use of public space for community gardens.”


City University of New York (Urban environmental reform)

The Center for Urban Environmental Reform (CUER) is a Social Justice Initiative of the City University of New York School of Law. CUER was founded on the belief that environmental justice is a critical aspect of social justice and that communities are entitled to participate fully and meaningfully in environmental decisions that affect them. CUER will be a clearinghouse and focal point for the data, experts, and training needed to ensure a level playing field. The goal is to expand participation in public decision-making and to increase transparency and overall access to information in order to enhance both the legitimacy of environmental decision-making processes and the fairness of decisions reached.

CUER provides resources for community groups wanting to obtain full and meaningful participation in environmental decision-making. The Center also produces scholarly research to influence an ongoing theoretical discourse about urban environmental justice and participatory democracy; and then converts that research into policy tools useful to planners, policymakers and advocates, including grassroots community-groups. The Center will publicize on-going environmental decision-making processes to ensure that communities know what is happening or is being considered, and will focus on developing training workshops, on-line tutorials, and sample documents to facilitate wider and more effective participation in those decision processes. The center is headed by CUNY Law Professor Rebecca Bratspies.



What are local universities doing with respect to environmental law in the urban setting:

Howard University School of Law (Climate, Air, Health and minority education)

            National Center for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS), cooperative agreement between Department of Commerce NOAA and four minority universities, Howard as lead with University of Puerto Rico, Jackson State, Univ. of Texas. Also University of Maryland and SUNY Albany {aims} to produce diverse … professionals, and perform research on climate, weather and air quality, with consideration of environmental health connections. One course on environmental law.

American University Washington College of Law (International Environmental Law)

            Extensive program on International and Comparative Environmental law; several courses on US environmental law.


Georgetown University Law (Energy, natural resource, land use and food law)

            The Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Program exposes students to environmental, natural resources, land use, energy and food law. It has an environmental law clinic.

Catholic University Law (public policy)

            Three courses in environmental law; students’ externships at environmental groups and government.

George Washington University (Health and environmental law)

            As might be expected from large medical program, law programs concentrates on health law.

University of Maryland Law (Smart Growth and the Law)

            Extensive partnership on Smart Growth.  HUD/USDOT/EPA partnership for Sustainable growth.

Johns Hopkins University (no law program)

            Extensive programs related to international studies, energy and climate issues.

George Mason University Law (public policy and finance law)

            GMU has extensive programs on environmental science (in a separate department). The law school emphasizes public policy and economics. It has no regular environmental courses


Other geographic areas:


Yale University Law (Environmental law clinic)

            Emerging program in conjunction with School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to advance environmental policy locally and globally; extensive program in food law.

Southwestern University School of Law (Urban Policy Law)

            1970’s program on Urban Policy law; participation in Smart Growth programs; program looked at planning, land development transportation and related environmental issues.

Pace University School of Law (Broad environmental law program with an Energy Center, and an environmental law clinic that mainly works on issues related to the Hudson River)

            Wide range of environmental courses on land use, Federal environmental laws, comparative international law; sponsor an environmental law moot court competition; one course on health law.

University of Chicago Law (Energy and the urban environment)

            Interest and array of clinics and papers related to urban environment; concentration on labor law and urban environment.

University of Vermont Law (Energy, Water, sustainable agriculture. taxation and land use)

Top environmental program in country; broad array of fields. No work on urban environment displayed, but course on environmental justice is given.

Lewis and Clark School of Law (Policy, science, international and trade, natural resources)

            Very Broad program, trying to unify science and environmental law, in local and international situations.

Boston College (Land-use masters plus J. D.)

Training environmental oriented students in local land use issues.

University of Missouri Kansas City (Urban, Land Use And Environmental Law)

The Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law emphasis is committed to training lawyers and policymakers in issues of state and local government law and is built on a long tradition of excellence including more than four decades of editorship of The Urban Lawyer, the national journal of the American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government Law.

In addition to coursework, students intern to gain practical experience. Representative internships include: the Office of the Mayor of Kansas City, City Attorney’s office, the Environmental Protection Agency and redevelopment authorities. In addition to the Law School’s wide range of courses, students are encouraged to take advantage of offerings in other UMKC departments including public administration, urban planning, architecture, geosciences and economics. Graduates will enter the job market with specialized knowledge of the issues of law and policy relevant to state, regional and local government including government functions and operations, public finance, the environment, and land use, development and redevelopment.

Tulane University Law (Environmental law)
The Tulane environmental law curriculum ranges from theoretical and statutory courses to live client practice in the environmental law clinic, where students take legal action on behalf of their clients to protect public health and natural resources. Tulane offers a Certificate of Specialization in Energy & Environmental Law for JD students and the LLM in Energy & Environment for graduate students. In addition, students find at Tulane a strong international environmental law curriculum; the high-quality student-publishedTulane Environmental Law Journal; an active, student-run Environmental Law Society; the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic and an environmental think-tank, the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy.

Tulane's Public Interest Law Foundation funds summer grants for students working in public interest positions, many in environmental law. And Tulane's alumni network of graduates working in environmental positions is impressive. Four full-time faculty members teach in Tulane's environmental program. As a leader in environmental legal education since 1979, Tulane is one of a relatively small number of national law schools offering an environmental law concentration at the JD level and a master's program combining environmental and energy law. Tulane also offers the largest faculty-supervised environmental law clinical program in the country, teaching students not just the theory but also the practice and advocacy skills necessary to address environmental issues.”


            Other programs not reviewed:

University of California, Irvine, Center for Land, Environment and Natural Resources

University of California, LA, Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Western State College of Law, Institute for Global Law and Policy

Barry University Law School, Environmental and Earth Law Clinic

University of North Carolina School of Law, Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation and Resources (CLEAR)

Duke University School of Law, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

West Virginia University College of Law, Center for Energy and Sustainable Development

University of Oregon, School of Law, Environmental and Natural Resources Law

What Topics should a Center address?


Suggestion 1:  Development, transportation, housing, and urban design.

Suggestion 2: Energy, Transportation, pollution and social justice

Suggestion 3: Food law

Suggestion 4: Water: Pollution, Conservation, Protection of waterways, Protection of the Bay, toxic torts, pesticide and herbicide restrictions, riparian protection, water utility issues

Air: Clean air/Pollution, toxic torts

Energy: energy production and distribution, renewable energy, energy conservation,

Buildings: zoning, codes

Land use: Urban Greenspace preservation and conservation, parks, community gardens, residential gardens-native plants and veggies, land trusts, zoning, codes, urban infill, smart growth,

Transportation and food deserts


Natural Resources: forest conservation, wildlife preservation

Solid waste: Hazardous waste, composting, incinerators

Climate Change: climate adaptation

Conservation/Animal law: endangered species, animal protection

Governance and Administration: Judicial review, rulemaking and legislation, enforcement, monitoring, compliance

Finances: Carbon tax, carbon trading, green bank, green bonds

Suggestion 5:  Legal defense of environmental advocates served with SLAP suits and other procedures

Suggestion 6:  Your choice (s)?

                        Other Issues

If a environmental law clinic, who would be the clients?

There are approximately 12 other environmental clinics/institutes at law schools, is there need for another one?



Letter by environmental law professors to University of North Carolina Board of Governors in defense of the UNC Law Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity:  HERE

Description of Golden Gate Law's Center on Urban Environmental Law: HERE

Article on European-style Energy Conservation in SE DC: HERE

How Law Schools Serve the Public from Center for Progressive Reform: HERE

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