Clinic News Archive
Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic Petitions U.S. EPA for Cleaner Air and Water
posted December 2012
Students and faculty in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC) are working with clients on two important cases to address clean air and water issues in the bi-state area.
In the first, the IEC has successfully petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address inadequate provisions in an air permit governing operations at the U.S. Steel manufacturing plant in Granite City, Illinois. In the second, the IEC has asked for the federal agency’s help with enforcing Clean Water Act protections in Missouri.
“Our students have been working hard with various nonprofit groups and communities on these important environmental protections,” says Maxine Lipeles, IEC co-director and senior lecturer in law. “They are learning to handle complex legal cases while working to improve and protect our air and water in Missouri and Illinois.”
In the U.S. Steel case, the IEC filed a petition on behalf of the American Bottom Conservancy—a grassroots, nonprofit organization advocating for environmental justice in Metro East. The petition asked the EPA to object to weak provisions in the steel company’s air permit. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson agreed, and as a result, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency must now revise and strengthen the permit.
IEC alumnus Aaron Oakley, JD ’10—now an associate with White & Case LLP in New York—worked on the petition along with law students Louis Baer, Daniel Hinkle, and Miles Russell and undergraduate Arts & Sciences student Erica Jackey. Also supervising students were Lipeles; Robert Kuehn, associate dean for Clinical Education, professor of law, and IEC co-director; and Elizabeth Hubertz, clinic attorney and lecturer in law.
“The two key areas requiring revision are the lack of adequate monitoring to ensure that the plant is complying with its air pollution emission limits, and the weak provisions enabling the company to avoid liability for violations when equipment malfunctions,” Hubertz says, adding that the IEPA must revise the permit within 90 days of December 3, 2012, the date of USEPA’s decision.
This marks the second time that the IEC, on behalf of the American Bottom Conservancy, has successfully petitioned USEPA to object to inadequate provisions in this air permit for U.S. Steel. The first petition was filed in October 2009 and granted in January 2011.
In the other case, the IEC has petitioned the EPA to use its authority to set basic Clean Water Act protections for water bodies in Missouri. Authority to protect lakes and streams was delegated to Missouri, but the state has repeatedly failed to comply with the most basic protections under the Clean Water Act (CWA), the petition argues.
The CWA requires that all waters in the state are fishable and swimmable—a goal that was supposed to have been met in 1983. However, Missouri currently only protects 15 percent of its waters with this basic level of protection.
The IEC, on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, filed a lawsuit against the state, and in early 2012 a federal court agreed that Missouri was out of compliance with the CWA.
However, since that time Missouri has made little progress toward protecting its waters, so the petition was filed asking the EPA to step in and protect water quality in Missouri.
While awaiting a response from the EPA, the IEC and Missouri Coalition for the Environment will continue to participate in ongoing state-level discussions to improve water quality in Missouri.
Working on this case over the last couple years were law students Robert Bewkes, Greg Boyle, Stephen Coffey, Melissa Fernley, Kevin Flynn, Matthew Johnson, Jasper Kan, Stacey Lee, Caitlin McCoy, Benjamin Schreiber, Lauren Smith, Blake Trueblood, Jonathan Wolff, and Mark Yossef. Also working with alumnus Oakley and IEC faculty on the interdisciplinary teams were Arts & Sciences students Craig Aubuchon, Rebecca Bernard, Meredith Berwick, John Delurey, Alyse Festenstein, Rayna Gordon-Hellman, Benjamin Jones, Ashley Spence, Elina Tselepidakis, Zoe Unruh, and Allison Whaley; social work student Sara Edgar; and Public Health student Nina Parikh.
“As the list of students indicates, the IEC is truly an interdisciplinary clinic that draws on the skills of a diverse group of talented, dedicated students,” Lipeles says, adding that the IEC’s structure is unique among environmental law clinics.
“The interdisciplinary student teams enjoy front-line responsibility under faculty supervision for environmental law cases and projects of local, regional, and national importance that also require scientific expertise,” she says.
- Click here for a related article about the Clean Water Act in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
IEC Works to Protect Missouri’s Water Bodies
posted December 2012
The Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic, on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE), filed a petition with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking it to use its authority to set basic Clean Water Act (CWA) protections for water bodies in Missouri. The authority for protecting lakes and streams has been delegated to Missouri but the state has repeatedly failed to comply with the most basic protections under the Clean Water Act. Under the Act, all waters are presumed to be fishable and swimmable. This goal was supposed to be met in 1983. However, Missouri currently only protects 15 percent of its waters with this basic level of protection. As a result of a lawsuit filed by the IEC on behalf of the MCE, a federal court in early 2012 agreed that Missouri was out of compliance with the CWA. Since the court’s ruling, Missouri has made little progress toward protecting its waters, so the petition was filed, requesting that the EPA step in and protect water quality in Missouri. The IEC and MCE continue to participate in ongoing state-level discussions to improve water quality in Missouri while awaiting a response from the EPA.
A number of IEC students have worked on this case over the years to protect Missouri’s water bodies, including: Craig Aubuchon (arts & sciences); Rebecca Bernard (arts & sciences); Meredith Berwick (arts & sciences); Robert Bewkes (law); Greg Boyle (law); Stephen Coffey (law); John Delurey (arts & sciences); Sara Edgar (social work); Melissa Fernley (law); Alyse Festenstein (arts & sciences); Kevin Flynn (law); Rayna Gordon-Hellman (arts & sciences); Matthew Johnson (law); Benjamin Jones (arts & sciences); Jasper Kan (law); Stacey Lee (law); Caitlin McCoy (law); Nina Parikh (public health); Benjamin Schreiber (law); Lauren Smith (law); Ashley Spence (arts & sciences); Blake Trueblood (law); Elina Tselepidakis (arts & sciences); Zoe Unruh (arts & sciences); Allison Whaley (arts & sciences); Jonathan Wolff (law); and Mark Yossef (law).
Click here for a related article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
IEC Advocates for Cleaner Air in the Metro East
posted December 2012
In a victory for cleaner air in Metro East, USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson objected to inadequate provisions in the air permit governing operations at the large U.S. Steel manufacturing plant in Granite City, Illinois. USEPA’s decision was in response to a petition filed by the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic on behalf of the American Bottom Conservancy, a grassroots non-profit organization advocating for environmental justice in Metro East.
The EPA decision will now require the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to revise and strengthen the permit. The two key areas requiring revision are the lack of adequate monitoring to ensure that the plant is complying with its air pollution emission limits, and the weak provisions enabling the company to avoid liability for violations when equipment malfunctions. IEPA must revise the permit within 90 days of December 3, 2012, the date of USEPA’s decision.
This marks the second time that the Clinic, on behalf of the American Bottom Conservancy, has successfully petitioned USEPA to object to inadequate provisions in this permit. The first petition was filed in October 2009 and granted in January 2011.
Professors Maxine Lipeles, Liz Hubertz, and Bob Kuehn, with the assistance of IEC alum Aaron Oakley (JD ’10), supervised Clinic students on this case during the past two years. The following students worked on this phase of the case: Louis Baer (law); Erika Belmont (arts & sciences); Robert Bewkes (law); Daniel Hinkle (law); Erica Jackey (arts & sciences); and Miles Russell (law).
Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic Files Amicus Brief in Supreme Court Stormwater Contamination Case
posted November 2012
Students and faculty in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC) have filed an amicus brief in an environmental case before the Supreme Court of the United States involving liability for stormwater run-off in Los Angeles County, California. (Click here to view the brief.)
The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case, L.A. County Flood Control District vs. NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
“The case is important because the Supreme Court will be deciding for the first time who is responsible for stormwater contamination, which is regulated under the Clean Water Act,” says IEC attorney Liz Hubertz who filed the brief. Third-year law student Caitlin Hartsell and fellow IEC clinic student Jillian Roffer, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, also worked on the brief under the supervision of Hubertz and IEC Engineering and Science Director Beth Martin.
The brief articulates arguments of Derek B. Booth, an internationally recognized geologist in the field of urban watersheds and stormwater management. The clinic’s brief and Booth’s expertise support the position of the NRDC.
The original case, filed in 2008 by the NRDC and another environmental group, argued that Los Angeles County Metropolitan Sewer District is responsible for contamination caused by stormwater runoff to local rivers and bays.
In 2010, a federal judge rejected the environmentalists’ claims, ruling that they could not prove from where the runoff was coming. The NRDC appealed, and last year the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with the NRDC, saying that county was responsible. The Supreme Court will be considering the county’s appeal of the 9th Circuit’s ruling.
The IEC, which has worked with local organizations on stormwater issues, is following the case for potential national implications, including any that could affect St. Louis. In writing the brief, the IEC drew on its interdisciplinary strengths to explain from an engineering perspective how, as a “stormwater superhighway,” the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) operates.
To illustrate, the brief uses the example of a tiny piece of copper that drops from a motorist’s braking system onto the highway and then enters the storm sewer system. The brief follows that piece of copper through the storm sewer system. At several points, it may enter into settling areas where material like the piece of copper can settle out of the water, but it will inevitably find its way to the “outfall” where it enters a river, bay, or other body of water.
“Amicus wishes to supply the Court with an accurate understanding of the stormwater collection process and the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System,” the brief states. It then explains that “in most U.S. cities west of the Mississippi, including Los Angeles and its surrounding municipalities, stormwater runs through an entirely separate set of pipes and outfalls from those that are used to convey sewage”—the MS4.
Because the water passes through “mass emission stations where exceedances of water quality standards have been repeatedly detected” as well as the county’s MS4 and settling areas, the amicus brief concludes that the county should be responsible for the release of polluted water to the environment.
EPA Grants Clinic’s Petition to Object to Steel Mill’s Air Pollution Permit
posted February 2011
On behalf of the American Bottom Conservancy, a grassroots organization in Metro East, Illinois, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic filed a petition urging the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to object to an air pollution operating permit issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to the U.S. Steel Corporation’s Granite City Works facility in Granite City, Illinois. After the Clinic sued USEPA to force a decision on the petition, USEPA issued its decision on January 31, 2011, objecting to 50 different aspects of the air permit on the ground that they are insufficient under federal law. IEPA must now revise the permit to include additional pollution control requirements and monitoring requirements. The following students worked on this challenging case over the past two years: Kevin Moore (law), Jay Werber (engineering), Reagan Larkin (law), Brent Sensenich (engineering), Julian Beatty (arts & sciences), Melissa Katz (law), Benjamin Kitto (law), Melissa Legge (arts & sciences), Elena Kazarov (arts & sciences), Sam Shevick (arts & sciences), Ben Harbuck (law), Rebecca Thibault (law), and Neel Kotra (engineering).
Clinic Co-Director Maxine Lipeles Speaks in Opposition to Proposed Labadie Landfill, On Behalf of IEC Clients
posted July 2010
Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic Files Brief in Supreme Court Fishery, EPA Case
posted October 2008
The law school’s Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC) has filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of 10 commercial fishing organizations challenging EPA regulations for power plants under the Clean Water Act.
Third-year law student Drew Yaeger and undergraduate senior Aaron David worked on the brief, which focused on the harm to commercial fisheries caused by power plants’ cooling water-intake systems. The IEC collaborated with attorneys across the country working on other amicus briefs in support of the environmental organizations and states that had challenged the EPA regulation.
The clinic’s brief supports the environmental organizations and state respondents. The case is on appeal following a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision holding that the EPA’s use of cost-benefit analysis to set the power plants’ cooling water-intake standards violated the Clean Water Act requirement to use the best technology available. Richard Lazarus, a former Washington University Law professor, represented the environmental organizations and presented the Supreme Court argument on December 2 on behalf of all the respondents.
Cooling water-intake systems currently kill 3.4 billion fish and other aquatic life each year. Under Clean Water Act regulations, the EPA must identify the best technology available to minimize the environmental impact. Both sides agree that cost is relevant; the dispute focuses on the EPA’s use of cost-benefit analysis, which tends to undervalue environmental benefits. The EPA has required environmentally-preferable, closed-cycle cooling for new power plants, but used cost-benefit analysis in setting less strict standards for the 554 older power plants located throughout the country.
The cases involved are Entergy Corp. v. EPA; PSEG v. Riverkeeper; and Utility Water Act Group v. Riverkeeper. [view Washington Post editorial]
Victory for Clinic and Public Health
posted October 2008
The Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC) has been instrumental in bringing about a new ambient air standard for lead. The EPA’s new national standard is a direct result of a lawsuit the IEC filed in federal court on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and former Herculaneum residents in 2004.
The new standard is one-tenth of the old standard, which was set in 1978. The previous standard long ago ceased to protect public health, as the Clean Air Act requires. Teams of law, medical, and environmental studies and engineering students, and scientists, over the years have worked on the case with clinic attorneys and environmental engineers. Law students prepared briefs and argued in federal district court. Medical and undergraduate environmental studies and engineering students prepared detailed written comments critiquing the highly technical documents prepared by EPA throughout the review. The clinic filed the lawsuit to force review of the standard and participated actively in each step of the review process. Residents in Herculaneum, Missouri, in particular, have been exposed to high levels of ambient air lead contamination as an industrial by-product.
“The new rule has its flaws, in our view, but it’s a dramatic improvement,” notes Maxine Lipeles, IEC director. “We are proud to have played a part in bringing about this new standard, which will positively affect the health and welfare of the public, and especially children who are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.”
[View] Related article in the New York Times
Clinic Wins Partial Victory in Public Records Case
posted September 2008
The Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC) has won a partial victory for its client in a case seeking public records under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) sought documents from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers related to a study of flooding in the Upper Mississippi River System, which includes portions of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers. When the Corps failed to produce any of the requested documents, the IEC brought suit on behalf of MCE.
The federal district court ruled in favor of the Corps, but the IEC appealed with law student Aryeh Kaplan, JD '08, presenting the oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
In a September 16, 2008 decision, the Eighth Circuit held that the district court improperly failed to determine whether the withheld documents contained unprivileged material that must be provided to MCE. The Eighth Circuit remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.
[view] Court's Decision
Precedent-setting settlement with SunCoke and US Steel regarding proposed new coke plant in Granite City, IL
posted May 2008
A settlement agreement has been reached among SunCoke (and its subsidiary Gateway Energy and Coke Co), US Steel, American Bottom Conservancy (the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic’s client), and the Sierra Club, settling would-be challenges to air pollution construction permits for a new coke plant that SunCoke and Gateway plan to build at US Steel’s massive steel mill in Granite City, IL. Key features of the settlement:
(a) The coke plant will employ pollution controls designed specifically to remove fine particulate matter (PM2.5), at greater than 99.99% removal efficiency, and will use a continuous emissions monitor to measure actual particulate matter emissions. These are major advances toward controlling PM2.5, tiny particles that are particularly harmful to human health and already present in unhealthy concentrations in the St. Louis region. Although the US Environmental Protection Agency created a separate health-based air standard for PM2.5 in 1997, pollution sources and air permitting agencies continue to permit new sources by relying solely on PM10 controls to address both PM10 and PM2.5. This may set a precedent by requiring a facility to use state-of-the-art equipment designed specifically for controlling microscopic PM2.5 emissions.
(b) The companies will create a $5 million fund to undertake projects during the next 5 years in the Granite City area to reduce emissions of PM2.5 and greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
USEPA issues proposal to reduce dramatically the national air standard for lead
posted May 2008
Acting pursuing to a lawsuit filed by the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Jack and Leslie Warden (former Herculaneum residents), the US Environmental Protection Agency today proposed to reduce dramatically the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead. This standard is required to protect public health, and to reflect the latest science. The actual standard, however, was set in 1978 and is woefully out of date. After a 3+year process, the EPA today issued its proposed rule, which is to reduce the standard from its current level of 1.5 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air to somewhere in the range of 0.1 – 0.3 ug/m3. There are other aspects to the standard, which are summarized in the attached fact sheet. The EPA’s scientific staff and outside Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommend that the revised standard be no higher than 0.2 ug/m3. The EPA will hold public hearings on its proposal in St. Louis and Baltimore on June 12, and will receive written comments for a 60-day period. The court order requires USEPA to issue a final rule by September 15, 2008.
[view] Fact Sheet
Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic Student Consultant Receives Two Prestigious Scholarships and is Featured on NPR
posted April 2008
At the age of 20 and a Washington University junior, Kelley Greenman is poised and remarkably accomplished. Her passion: saving the world from global warming. She even traveled halfway around the world just to attend last December’s United Nations climate negotiations in Bali, Indonesia. Before going to Bali, Kelley was a student consultant in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic during the fall 2007 semester. As a student consultant, Kelley worked on a global warming case involving a proposed coal-fired power plant. The construction of the plant has now been postponed indefinitely.
When Kelley talks to people about attending the UN Conference Climate Change she says, “The first thing that comes to mind is sitting in the front row, star struck, as Al Gore addressed the assembly from behind the podium. But I was more than just a spectator of the proceedings at Bali. As a member of a twenty-two-person youth delegation, I began preparing for the conference in June: researching and writing policy proposals, and familiarizing myself with the issues that would appear in the negotiations.
"During the proceedings, I followed the issue of adaptation, which deals with the impacts of climate change that are already, or soon to be, occurring. Essentially, it discussed how to providing the funding and technology for developing countries to be able to face impending threats like intensifying weather events, rising sea levels, and shifting agricultural patterns. I was shocked to learn that there are already small Pacific islands that are relocating entire populations due to rising sea levels. Although talk in the U.S. can distance this problem with illogical economic assumptions or by denying the existence of the changes, this is not a problem that is far from the minds of millions of people around the world who are already facing the impacts that we only read about in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. For this reason, the UN Conference in Bali was a chance for me to put faces to the names and nationalities of affected populations, and a chance to re-inspire my purpose for a career in climate change policy."
Kelly is a rising star in the world of environmental issues. She recently received word that she was one of 65 scholars selected from among 595 candidates nominated by 283 colleges and universities to receive a 2008 Harry S. Truman Scholarship. She has also received a Morris K. Udall Scholarship. These scholarships are awarded to students who have demonstrated commitment to careers related to the environment.
Most recently, Kelley was featured on National Public Radio. To read her interview, go to: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89567328
Proposed coal-fired power plant put on ice
posted March 2008
Associated Electric Cooperative (AECI), one of the nation’s largest and most respected rural electric cooperatives announced they are “postponing indefinitely” their plans to build a new coal-fired power plant near Norborne in northwest Missouri. The decision not to proceed with the plant was made by the utility’s board even though AECI had received a permit from the Missouri Department of Natural Resource that signaled the construction could begin. Instead of constructing the coal-fired power plant, AECI will pursue wind, energy efficiency and clean-burning natural gas instead.
According to Bruce Niles, director of Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign, “Four years ago the country had plans to build at least 160 coals plants, and now 63 of those proposed plants will not be built.”
The proposed plant would have been the third new coal-fire power plant permitted by the DNR since 2005. AECI predicted that the plant would have emitted 6.8 million tons per year of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. Even without these new plants, Missouri led eight Midwestern states in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2003.
The Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic represents the Sierra Club in challenging the proposed air pollution permit for the AECI plant. Clinic students spoke at a public hearing in November 2007 regarding the draft air permit, and submitted a 140-page comment letter critiquing the draft permit.
Melissa Hope, Development Associate with the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club, said “With the announcement they are abandoning their coal plans in favor of clean energy, AECI is taking a giant step forward in our collective fight to stop global warming.”
School Hires Science Fellow for Clinic
posted July 2007
The School of Law has hired Katherine Pawasarat as a lecturer in law and science fellow for the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic. Pawasarat has experience working on numerous environmental projects for both a community health center and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Her work included research support for EPA Superfund projects and outreach for lead abatement and lead educational programs. She also has done extensive volunteer work. A former student consultant for the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic, she majored in environmental studies and minored in biology and anthropology.
Student environmental initiatives helped by Luce
posted June 2007
A $450,000 grant from The Henry Luce Foundation will boost the experiential learning opportunities provided by the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic, through which students provide pro bono legal and technical services to environmental and community organizations.
Housed in the School of Law, the IEC has about 36 students throughout the academic year and as many as eight students during the summary actively engaged in legal and technical cases on behalf of non-profit organizations.
Some of the clinic’s most recent cases include the Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s initiative to address lead contamination in Herculaneum, No.; a Sierra Club challenge against the construction and expansion of coal-fired power plants in Kansas City, Mo., which resulted in a precedent-setting settlement addressing global warming; and a victory for the American Bottom Conservancy in an important Clean Water Act case in East St. Louis, Ill.
The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by the late Henry R. Luce, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc. Its assets of approximately $800 million support the foundation’s interests in the interdisciplinary exploration of higher education, increased understanding between Asia and the United States, religion and theology, American art, opportunities for women in science and engineering, and environmental and public policy programs.
To view the complete article, click on: http://record.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/9616.html [posted 6/15/07]
Environmental Clearinghouse Web Site – a legal resource for communities
posted May 2007
With support from the Rockefeller Family Fund, the IEC has developed the Environmental Clearinghouse Web site at http://ec.wustl.edu. The Environmental Clearinghouse (EC) Web site is designed for use primarily by environmental and community organizations, and environmental law clinics.
To help community groups overcome the challenges of locating experts when they face complex issues such as permit reviews or critiquing technical reports, the site features the Environmental Experts Directory. This confidential database lists technical experts willing to work for public interest groups on environmental cases. Users can access profiles of experts in a range of fields. Users can also visit the experts’ web sites, or view resumes or curriculum vitae or other lengthy documents.
The experts listed in the directory represent a broad spectrum of fields including energy, environmental health, water quality, air pollution, economics, endangered and threatened species, factory farm waste, and medical waste. Access to the Environmental Experts Directory is restricted to environmental advocates because these groups are often involved in adversarial proceedings with private industry and public agencies.
The EC site also includes links to environmental data and agencies, legal research sources, citizen groups and advocacy organizations, environmental attorneys, and other resources.
Clinic Student Speaks on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment
posted March 2007
Since 2001, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic has been working on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment to address lead contamination in Herculaneum, Missouri. The nation’s largest primary lead smelter has been operating in Herculaneum, amidst a community of some 2,800 residents and alongside the Mississippi River, since the 1890’s. Over the years, the Clinic has worked on issues involving relocation of families living nearby the smelter, as well as cleanup of contaminated homes, yards, and streets.
Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to revise the state’s plan for bringing the Herculaneum community into compliance with the EPA’s health-based air standard for lead. DNR published its plan for public comment, and held a hearing on March 20, 2007 in Herculaneum. On behalf of the Coalition, the Clinic’s Awanatu Koroma, a second-year law student certified under the Missouri Student Practice Rule, spoke at the public hearing and urged the DNR to strengthen the plan.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered the hearing. [view article]
Precedent-Setting Global Warming Settlement Reached in Environmental Clinic Case
posted March 2007
2007 March - One of the biggest cases in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic over the past two years has involved our representation of the Sierra Club in challenging the construction of a new, coal-fired power plant, and the expansion of an existing plant already on the site, in metropolitan Kansas City. After extensive advocacy and litigation, the case settled yesterday with the utility, Kansas City Power and Light, making the most significant carbon reduction commitments of any utility in the Midwest.
Press coverage of the settlement can be found at:
- [view article] - New York Times
- [view article] - Washington Post
- [view article] - Kansas City Star
- [view article] - Parties’ joint press release
- [view article] - Grist.org
The following students worked on this case:
- Current law students: Veronica Boyer, Daniel Kuehnert, Maureen Mahon, Selena Nelson, Michael Russell, Brian Schnall, Sarah Tupper, Benedict Warr.
- Former law students: Jamie Basham Carr. Matthew Johnson, Bradley Levine
- Student consultants (non-law students from Arts & Sciences and Engineering Schools): Brian Maurizi (PhD candidate in Math), Lonia Friedlander, Jessica Mohatt.
- Former undergraduates: Hilary Blaker, Maya Buchanan, Alison Drain, Matthew Klasen
Clinic Garners Clean Water Act Victory
posted February 2007
The School of Law’s Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic recently won a significant victory for its client, the American Bottom Conservancy, in an important Clean Water Act case in Illinois. The Conservancy, a small grassroots group based in East St. Louis, sought a public hearing on a permit issued to a major source of pollution into Horseshoe Lake. The Lake is located in a state park about 10 miles east of St. Louis and is heavily used by area residents, many of whom eat fish caught there.
The clinic filed the case on behalf of the Conservancy in May 2006 to challenge the Illinois EPA’s issuance of the permit without first holding a public hearing. The case was filed with the Illinois Pollution Control Board in Springfield, Illinois, which is an oversight body that hears appeals of the Illinois EPA’s decisions. The permit was issued to U.S. Steel, which reportedly discharges 15-20 million gallons of wastewater each day that contains, among other things, ammonia, cyanide, oil, grease, heavy metals, and oxygen depleting chemicals.
Third-year law student Beth Mushill and environmental studies undergraduate student Morgan Raskin prepared the case for trial, which included witness interviews, written discovery, and depositions. Beth then took first chair at the November trial, including giving an opening statement, examining several witnesses, responding to objections from opposing counsel, and answering questions from the administrative law judge. In late January, the Illinois Pollution Control Board issued an order voiding the facility’s permit because a public hearing had not been held.
“I grew up in Granite City, where Horseshoe Lake is located, so this was a double victory for me,” Mushill said. “Not only was I able to win the case for American Bottom Conservancy, but I also had the pleasure of knowing that this decision should lead to a cleaner, more protected Horseshoe Lake.”
Lawsuit Gains Victory for Communities Battling Lead
posted September 2005
Communities exposed to toxic lead emissions won an important victory in federal court Wednesday, September 14. In a case filed by the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic on behalf of Leslie and Jack Warden, long-time residents of Herculaneum, Missouri, and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Judge Richard Webber ruled:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "blatantly disregarded Congress' mandate that the lead NAAQS [National Ambient Air Quality Standard] be reviewed at five year intervals."
- The EPA's proposed timeline for completing its long-overdue review of the lead NAAQS is too long, and "wholly defeats the mandate of Congress."
- The EPA must complete the lead NAAQS review, with a series of interim deadlines beginning December 1, 2005, by no later than Sept 1, 2008. "The Court will not be inclined to grant extensions."
- "Plaintiffs are entitled to reasonable attorney fees."
The EPA initially set the governing lead NAAQS in 1978, and has never revised it despite a requirement under the Clean Air Act that the agency review the federal standards every five years. During the intervening years, the federal threshold for lead poisoning has dropped dramatically, and the World Health Organization published a substantially more protective standard for Europe. The EPA commenced the lead NAAQS review last November, after the Clinic filed the lawsuit. The agency will now have to expedite its schedule to meet the Court's tighter deadlines.
The Court's ruling holds particular significance for the community of Herculaneum, Missouri, where the nation's largest lead smelter has been operating since the 1890's. A substantial percentage of Herculaneum's children have been lead poisoned, and lead has contaminated many yards and streets. Although the air in Herculaneum finally came into compliance with the outdated lead air standard in late 2002 (except for a violation during the first quarter of 2005), officials predict that yards and streets that were previously cleaned will be recontaminated within the next 3-4 years.
Lead is a toxic metal that can damage the health of people and animals when particles containing lead are ingested or inhaled. Lead poisoning causes devastating and permanent health effects, particularly in infants and young children whose brains and bodies are developing. Lead poisoning is associated with neurological damage, anemia, chronic kidney disease, and, in extreme cases, coma or death. Exposure to lead, even at low levels, can decrease IQ, increase learning disabilities, and increase hyperactivity and related behavioral problems in children.
The Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic's work on this case (dating back to the Spring 2004 semester) reflected the combined efforts of students in the Schools of Law, Arts & Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering.
Coalition Lawsuit Spurs Action by EPA: Agency to Begin Review of Outdated Standard for Airborne Lead
posted November 2004
News Release from The Coalition for the Environment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on November 9, 2004 , that it has decided to undertake a review of its 26 year old standard for airborne lead. The review was prompted by a lawsuit recently filed by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and two of its members.
The Coalition filed suit in May of this year to compel the EPA to review new scientific studies that show lead is even more harmful than previously understood. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is legally required to review such evidence at least every five years and decide whether to amend its air pollution regulations. It has been nearly 15 years since EPA last reviewed its standard for airborne lead.
“The evidence is overwhelming that the current standard is too lax,” said Ted Heisel, Executive Director of the Coalition. “We hope EPA takes a hard look at this outdated standard and revises it accordingly.”
Coalition members Leslie and Jack Warden, who for years lived a few blocks from the largest lead smelter in the country in Herculaneum , Missouri, joined the suit to help protect the health of those living in such communities.
Lead is one of the most toxic substances to humans and serves no biological purpose in the human body. Even at low levels, its presence in children can lead to reduced IQs, behavioral problems, nervous system damage and anemia.
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment is represented in this matter by the Washington University Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic. posted 11.18.04
Conservation Organizations Announce Settlement with Holcim $3 million marked for land preservation & regional air quality projects
posted October 2004
Four local conservation organizations announced October 5th that they have reached a settlement with Holcim (U.S.) Inc. for $3 million, ending a four-year challenge to Holcim's efforts to construct a cement plant and limestone quarry in Ste. Genevieve County on the Mississippi River. The four organizations are the American Bottom Conservancy of Illinois, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Webster Groves Nature Study Society. The Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic of Washington University Law School has provided legal representation to the four organizations.
- [Click here to see the full release.] (posted 10.06.04)
Big Rivers Water Quality Standards Petition
posted February 2003
On behalf of the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic submitted a detailed petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require upgraded and consistent water quality standards for the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in an eight-state region in the Midwest. Although the paucity of water quality monitoring data posed a significant obstacle, the Clinic gathered substantial evidence of the inadequacies and inconsistencies of the existing approach to setting and addressing water quality standards on interstate rivers. The petition documents the insufficiently-protective and inconsistent manner in which states bordering these Big Rivers establish, monitor compliance with, and implement their water quality standards. The petition also highlights the EPA’s authority and obligation to require the states to coordinate and upgrade their efforts.
Herculaneum, Missouri: Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic assisting residents in lead-contaminated city
Armed with legal strategies and scientific data, students in the School of Law's Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic are actively involved in persuading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to relocate families away from the lead-contaminated city of Herculaneum, Mo. The EPA recently decided to offer temporary relocation to some families in Herculaneum, a community plagued by contamination from the nation's largest lead smelter, operated by the Doe Run Co.
Working on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and the St. Louis Lead Prevention Coalition, including both organizations' Herculaneum-based members, clinic students have been analyzing data demonstrating that the city is unsafe, indoors and outdoors, with extensive lead contamination of the homes, schools, yards, streets, and air, and with excessive lead poisoning among children. Law students along with students from Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have been working in interdisciplinary teams to marshal the legal arguments in support of first a temporary and then a permanent relocation of the Herculaneum residents.
Founded in January 2000, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic is the only source of free legal and technical assistance to environmental and community organizations and low-income residents in the greater St. Louis area.