Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic
The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic works on a range of state, regional, and national environmental issues concentrated in four program areas: Water, Coal & Climate, Biodiversity, and Healthy Communities. The following is an overview of our work in each program area, including examples of some cases from past and present.
The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic works on a range of cases and projects that seek to conserve surface waters and aquatic ecosystems and restore them to a clean and healthy state, including Lake Champlain, the Connecticut River, and other cherished surface waters. The Clinic also strives to protect groundwater for the benefit of human communities who use these precious resources for drinking water, as well as for natural systems that are dependent upon these subsurface reservoirs. The following are a few examples of the Clinic's work in the Water Program:
Preventing Groundwater Pollution in Vermont: Challenging Omya, Inc. to properly dispose of its solid waste in accordance with Vermont and federal solid waste law.
Protecting Vermont’s Water Quality: Urging the United States Environmental Protection Agency to either assume control of Vermont’s Clean Water Act program, or to require Vermont to properly administer the Act.
Vermont Yankee: Urging the State of Vermont to protect the Connecticut River by imposing adequate controls on Vermont Yankee's thermal discharge and cooling water intake structure.
Coal & Climate Program
The Clinic's Coal & Climate Program offers student clinicians the chance to work on cutting edge issues relating to global climate change, using a variety of legal tools and strategies. Much of the Clinic's climate work involves the coal industry because of its overwhelming contribution to the climate crisis, in addition to its harmful impacts on human health and the environment. The following are a few examples of the Clinic's work in the Coal & Climate Program:
Keeping Tar Sands out of New England: Partnering with local and national groups to keep shipments of tar sands oil from flowing through the Portland-Montreal pipeline.
Preventing New Coal-Fired Power Plant and Harmful Minefilling Activities in Pennsylvania: Working with the Environmental Integrity Project and Residents Against the Power Plant on coal issues in western Pennsylvania.
Protecting Montana Citizens and Ranchers from Harmful Effects of New Coal Mining Activities: Working with Northern Plains Resource Council to prevent harmful coal development in Montana's Powder River Basin.
Since its inception, the Clinic has been devoted to conserving endangered species, biodiversity, healthy ecosystems, and the natural beauty of wild places for their own sake and for benefit of current and future generations. The Clinic aims to protect these irreplaceable resources from a wide array of human-induced threats, including climate change, industrial activities, oil and gas production, dams, and government programs that encourage rapid development without adequate attention to the environmental consequences. The following are a few examples of the Clinic's work in the Biodiversity Program:
Protecting Puerto Rico's Rich Biodiversity from Proposed Via Verde Natural Gas Pipeline: Fighting to protect over 300 of acres of wetlands, numerous streams and surface waters, protected natural reserves, unique limestone karst formations, ancient archaeological sites, and more than 40 federally listed endangered species.
Protecting the Gray Wolf in the Northeast: Requiring the United States to maintain Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf.
Saving Passamaquoddy Bay: Challenging the federal government’s failure to properly consider the cultural, spiritual, and environmental impacts of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal on the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Pleasant Point Reservation.
Healthy Communities Program
A key component of the Healthy Communites Program is the Clinic's work to help local communities throughout northern New England address the harmful effects of contaminated sites and polluting facilities in their neighborhoods. Through this program, the Clinic helps local community groups navigate complex permitting processes and agency proceedings, gives them legal advice regarding the various options available to them, and helps lay the groundwork for broader action necessary to address the problems they are facing. Toxics Action Center, a New England-based advocacy group, often complements this work by assisting with community organizing and other strategies. This Program also includes broader advocacy work directed toward advancing healthy, sustainable communities. The following are a few examples of the Clinic's work in the Healthy Communities Program:
Requiring Labels for Genetically Engineered Foods: Providing legal support to Vermont Public Interest Research Group and working with other partners to advance and preserve GE labeling requirements.
Opposing an Asphalt Plant in Local Residential Community: Representing a group of residents in Graniteville, Vermont, to protect them from air pollution and other threats posed by a proposed asphalt plant.
Helping Vermont Community Address Lead Pollution Threats from Shooting Range: Pressuring Vermont's environmental agency to help protect neighbors from lead pollution threats.
Helping Neighbors of Factory Farms: Providing tools to help people who live near factory farms challenge their property tax assessments.