Valerie Baron L’12, a 2013 Penn Law Fellow, has a passion for the intersection of environmental law and public health. Along with the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Baron’s project, The Factory Farm Accountability Project, works to elevate the voices of overlooked communities endangered by factory farms by using public records laws to document ways that factory farms endanger communities. Baron enables citizens to engage with regulators with the resources and support of the EIP. She supports those from impacted communities to exercise their federal rights to seek more effective protection from factory farm pollution from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Barron sat down with Penn Law’s Office of Communications to talk more about her experience as a Penn Law Fellow and her Factory Farm Accountability Project.
I’m Valerie Baron. I graduated in December 2012 and I am a Penn Law Fellow at the Environmental Integrity Project in Washington, D.C. where I work with communities in rural areas that are impacted by factory farms.
I chose my partner organization because I worked there my very first summer after 1L and I loved working there. I really liked that they work at the intersection of regulatory law and litigation and that they do environmental work, but also focus on the impact that environmental problems have communities that are struggling because they are not getting the protection of laws that are already on the books.
Being a Toll Public Interest Scholar at Penn Law exposes you to all of the very best things about public interest at Penn and that is the perfect way to launch a public interest career. You have immediate access to the folks at the Toll Public Interest Center and the Clinic and all of the resources here on campus. But, more than that, you come into law school knowing that you are going to be a public interest lawyer and that you have the entire backing of the institution, the alumni, and everything else that goes with that to make that happen.
By having the opportunity to study not just the law, but Environmental Studies, I was able to build skills that will help me be more than just one dimensional support to communities in need of legal services but also to provide other types of analysis and services.
There has been so much focus on increasing the resources for public interest students at Penn Law and having been a dual degree student, i was here a little bit longer than others. And it was a real gift to be able to see how the community has grown and how the efforts of the institution to foster public interest have really paid off. After I had graduated from Law School, I was a teaching assistant for Environmental Law class. I was sitting in the Law School and I overheard a couple of professors talking about how they were concerned that their students didn’t know about all of the public interest oriented courses that were available. And to me it was a really nice moment to be able to reflect on how the institution was always there for those of us who chose to pursue this sort of work, but it really listened to what we needed and responded directly by adding fellowships, by beefing up the staff in the public interest center, and by also reaching out and hiring faculty who can directly support public interest careers. And, even though I had already graduated it was really nice to be part of that institution where I felt so supported.
Transcript has been edited for length.