Each term, the Clinic Director assembles 20-30 project proposals from a variety of clients, including national, state and local environmental organizations, think tanks, government agencies, international organizations and local citizen groups. These may be discrete initiatives or part of a much larger undertaking by the client organization. Projects may focus on any environmental issue, and most include some element of both law and policy. The substantive work may involve legislative drafting, research and writing preparatory to litigation, multi-party negotiation, policy development or the design of public campaigns. Students are free to propose their own projects and client organizations subject to the Director's approval.
During the first week of class, students review the project proposals and, in groups of two to four, select one project on which to work for the entire term. Each project team then meets with its client to develop a detailed workplan which the students will execute over the course of the term, working 10 to 12 hours per week. Teams meet with the Director every other week to discuss progress and challenges and to identify available resources that may be of use to the team. By the end of term, each team will produce a major written work product (or a series of smaller products) for its client, as set forth in the initial workplan. Students who successfully complete the Clinic may continue to work for their clients (or take on new Clinic projects) in subsequent terms, earning one credit for every 5 hours per week of client work, up to 3 credits.
We are not able to post client work product on this site; however, the following project descriptions provide a sampling of the kind of work students can undertake through the Clinic. Many of our projects involve confidential work and therefore cannot be included here.
Environmental Clinic Project Descriptions, 2011-2012:
Ship Sinking off the California Coast (Fall 2011)
Natural Resources Defense Council
Clinic students worked on legal and scientific research and advocacy challenging the proposed sinking of a former naval vessel to create an artificial reef off the coast of southern California for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental advocacy organization. Students drafted an internal memo, as well as external letters to state and federal government agencies putting them on notice of NRDC’s opposition (and the basis for that opposition under a range of federal and state statutes) and seeking documents under federal and state sunshine laws.
Environmental Implications of Shale Gas Expansion in China (Fall 2011, Spring 2012)
Clinic students examined the environmental implications of shale gas development in China for an international environmental advocacy organization. Students outlined the regulatory framework governing natural gas production in China with attention to deficiencies in laws and regulations, outlined lessons learned from shale development in the United States, and identified areas for best practice exchange between the United States and China.
EU Action on Marine Pollution Liability from Recent Shipwrecks (Spring 2011, Fall 2011)
Policy Paper and Best Practices for a Community-Managed Fisheries Protected Area (FPA) in Greece (Fall 2011, Spring 2012)
Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation
A Clinic team prepared a legal strategy document for Archipelagos, Institute of Marine Conservation, and a formal complaint to the European Commission regarding Greece's legal obligations and liabilities arising from the 2007 sinking of the Sea Diamond cruise ship off the coast of Santorini Island in the Aegean Sea. The team researched and drafted policy papers regarding failures of the Greek government to implement certain EU and country environmental laws.
Students also researched laws and regulations supporting Fisheries Protected Areas (FPAs) and applied this research to the study of a proposed community-managed FPA area located in Greek waters off of Fourni Island in the Aegean region. Students prepared a comparative study, using FPAs around the world, researched the design of compensation schemes for fishermen who are negatively affected by the implementation of FPAs, and prepared for Archipelagos a draft agreement for the parties to establish the "Fourni FPA." The Clinic team continues to work on this project.
Climate Change Negotiations Research (Ongoing)
For an organization dedicated to assisting Pacific Island nation states with international global warming negotiations, Clinic students engage in research to support the Island nations in advocating for effective international global warming policies—both in the lead up to and on the ground at U.N. climate change negotiations. Clinic students have participated in the COP 15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, the COP 16 negotiations in Cancun, and most recently, the COP 17 negotiations in Durban. They also have participated in the technical follow-up sessions in Bonn in 2010 and 2011 and plan to participate again in 2012.
Strategy for a Sustainable Brooklyn Bridge Forest (Fall 2011)
Clinic students helped develop a sustainable procurement strategy for the tropical hardwood used on the wooden walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge for Pilot Projects, a New York City-based innovation and design organization. The goal of this project is to source the wood in as sustainable a manner as possible while raising awareness of tropical forest issues among New Yorkers. To this end, the students researched tropical forest conservation and timber sourcing models, alternative boardwalk materials, and the drivers of deforestation. They proposed a set of partnerships that Pilot Projects could use to take its plan to the New York City government. See: www.BROOKLYNBRIDGEFOREST.com
The 100 Fountains Project (Fall 2011, Spring 2012)
100 Fountains NYC, also by Pilot Projects, is an international public art exhibition that will install 100 unique drinking fountain sculptures across New York City to celebrate the city's clean and delicious tap water, reduce the use of bottled water, and beautify the city. Clinic students worked with Pilot Projects to research all facets of the project--the history of water infrastructure in NYC, the impact the fountains will have on bottled water use (both economically and in terms of life cycle analysis), the impacts of similar large-scale art installations (both economically and culturally), and the legal implications of such an undertaking. The project is currently under review by the city. The clients have been meeting with city officials and reporting back to Clinic students for updates on information needed to move forward. Fountains are slated to be installed during summer 2013 once project is approved. See: www.100Fountains.com
Climate Change and the International Court of Justice (Fall 2011)
Clinic students had the opportunity to gain practical UN experience working for a mission to the United Nations. Students engaged in research directly supporting an initiative to pass a General Assembly request of the International Court of Justice to deliver an advisory opinion on how, in the context of current international law, states should treat harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Students also had the opportunity to sit in on UN meetings on the issue in a functional advisory role to the mission.
Clinic Projects from Previous Years:
Reforming Global Environmental Governance (Spring 2009)
The Global Environmental Governance Project and the Environmental Law Institute
A team of clinic students is performing research and conducting interviews with key members of the global environmental governance (GEG) field in order to identify and characterize the legal, administrative and political implications of GEG reform options currently being considered by the United Nations. The GEG Project is an initiative of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William and Mary.
Sewage Sludge Incineration and Environmental Justice in New Haven
New Haven Environmental Justice Network (NHEJN), New Haven, CT
In the Spring of 2008, a team of four clinic students worked with a local organization called the New Haven Environmental Justice Network (NHEJN), which is comprised of local residents concerned about environment and health in the New Haven area. The project focused on a sewage sludge incinerator in an underprivileged part of the city already affected by many polluting industries. This facility is owned by a private company and processes sludge from across the state, further burdening the neighborhood without providing a financial benefit to the residents. The clinic students evaluated legal and political options for stopping the importation of sludge and compelling the facility to use better pollution controls, made recommendations for local officials, evaluated a lengthy and technical cost/benefit analysis of alternatives to sludge incineration highlighting serious flaws in the report, clarified the complicated regulatory and governance structure of the quasi governmental agency and participated in a public educational campaign.
Coal-Fired Power Plant Litigation (Fall 2007)
The Sierra Club, Washington DC
This litigation project developed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. Lawsuits had been filed to force federal and state regulators to recognize their obligation under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to consider global warming pollution impacts and set carbon dioxide emissions limits when issuing CAA permits for new coal-fired power plants. The students on this project worked closely with Sierra Club litigators to research and draft legal briefs that have been presented to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board. The students also attended oral arguments in Washington, and will continue to prepare for further appellate litigation if such litigation becomes necessary. Among other cases, students assisted Sierra Club attorneys with the Deseret Power Plant case, which Time named one of the top ten green stories of 2008: http://www.time.com/time/specials/2008/top10
State Policies to Boost Clean Energy (Fall 2007)
Institute for Emerging Issues, Raleigh, NC
Working for the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI), a nonprofit "think-and-do tank" affiliated with North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, students helped to develop background materials for a statewide public policy conference on energy and the environment, known as the Emerging Issues Forum. In collaboration with staff at IEI, a student volunteer prepared a comprehensive report on the potential economic development benefits of state-level policies to promote the growth of local clean energy industries. The report was shared with a preliminary working group including members of the NC General Assembly, representatives of the governor's office, state business leaders and academic experts. The report will also be disseminated to participants at the Forum on Feb. 11-12, 2008, which will feature presentations by the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, as well as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Energy Efficiency in Public Schools (Fall 2007)
Plainedge Public Schools, Long Island, NY
Students worked with a Long Island school district to improve its energy efficiency in a way that would be acceptable to its school board, administration and taxpayers. The team determined steps that could be taken within the school district to reduce the amount of energy consumed as well as programs from external agencies that would provide funding to undertake more capital-intensive projects.
Texas-Mexico Tranboundary Groundwater Dispute (Spring 2007)
Texas Center for Policy Studies, Austin, TX
Four clinic students represented a team of stakeholders opposing a proposed Texas groundwater transfer. The transfer would have negatively affected environment, recreation and rural livelihoods on both sides of the US – Mexico border. The students investigated a number of legal and political options—including US and Mexican domestic law, international law and treaties, diplomatic notes, and participation in governing boards. After repeated consultations with the client, the students chose to prepare a submission to an international dispute resolution tribunal. The project has now been tabled.
Pesticide Contamination of Groundwater in Nicaragua (Spring 2007)
Nicaraguan Sugar Cane Workers Association, Goyena, Nicaragua
Four students traveled to rural Nicaragua to help address issues of chronic renal failure and drinking water pollution believed to be associated with the operations of sugarcane plantations. Students collected water samples, performed health surveys and met with local doctors, lawyers, governmental officials and NGO representatives. They then prepared a submission to the World Bank/International Finance Commission, which had provided partial funding for the sugar cane operations.
Sustainable Water Use in the United States (Fall 2006)
Environment America Research and Policy Center
In the Fall of 2006, two clinic students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies completed a project for Environment America on sustainable water use in the United States. Drawing on data from six Southwestern states, the students’ research and analysis showed that using water more efficiently could save up to 1.86 trillion gallons of water per year. Moreover, the students then worked with Environment America to craft policy recommendations that would help turn those potential water savings into reality. Their work formed the basis for a national policy report on the issue called Using Water Wisely, and the organization is using the report to convince policymakers that efficiency is a viable alternative to draning America's rivers to me water needs.