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Environmental Law Project addresses unmet needs of environmental preservation and justice

March 14, 2013

The Environmental Law Project (ELP) engages Penn Law students through student-run pro bono research projects to actively address unmet needs of environmental preservation and justice locally, regionally, and nationally through support for legislative advocacy, community lawyering, and policy research. ELP compliments its member’s legal education by offering an opportunity for Penn Law students to develop research, writing, and client communication and management skills by exposing students to a diversity of strategic frameworks for addressing environmental problems. To accomplish this, ELP is divided into three branches: research projects, regulatory projects, and environmental justice projects.


Research Projects

Our research projects division has partnered with organizations such as Friends of Farmworkers, Food and Water Watch, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Clean Air Council, and the Natural Resource Defense Council. For these organizations, we have created “know your rights” packets, drafted memorandum analyzing a particular aspect of an environmental statute, assisted with research to support land use litigation, and petitioned the EPA.


Regulatory Projects

On the regulatory side, we are in the process of drafting a comment regarding the EPA’s renovation, repair, and painting (RRP) rules with respect to lead. EPA has rules in place for residential buildings but would like to extend the rules to commercial buildings. The legal issues involved are whether EPA has statutory authority to promulgate the rules it is proposing, what is included in the definition of a “commercial building” or “public building.” From a policy perspective, we are analyzing whether the new RRP rules would undermine other national priorities, particularly the push for energy efficient buildings, whether EPA would be able to identify commercial buildings, and whether EPA’s adoption of RRP rules would conflict with other regulatory strategies.


Environmental Justice Projects

ELP has been developing interdisciplinary relationships within the University of Pennsylvania among disciplines addressing environmental issues and use those relationships to strengthen technical and legal support to boost capacity of environmental organizations. For example, ELP’s environmental justice branch has been working with Green Acorn to provide the community with information on tax benefits for eco-conscious businesses.

Through our work, we are able to strengthen ties within Philadelphia’s environmental legal community to provide support for students seeking summer and post-graduate positions in environmental law and intersecting disciplines. We have hosted on-campus trainings and issue panels that establish relationships with environmental lawyers and professionals in the region. Through our work, students at Penn Law are exposed to different areas of environmental law to develop an understanding of what it means to be an environmental lawyer.