The Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic offers students an opportunity to do real-life and real-time legal and policy work. Clinic offerings include local, national, and international projects covering the spectrum of environmental issues. Depending on the project, students may undertake litigation and advocacy work by drafting briefs, preparing testimony, conducting research, developing strategy, and reviewing proposed legislation. Students present their work to clients, stakeholders, and decision-makers, including federal, state, and local officials.
Some students work off-campus with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, while others work on-campus on cutting-edge projects and case work under the supervision of Clinical Professor and Director Wendy Jacobs, Senior Clinical Instructor Shaun Goho, and Clinical Instructor Aladdine Joroff.
For the 2016-2017 academic year, the Clinic’s projects include:
Climate Migration: The Clinic is collaborating with the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program to hold an international conference on domestic and international climate change displacement and migration from October 19-21, 2016. Mary Robinson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change and former President of Ireland, is the featured keynote speaker. Clinic students have conducted background research for two of the four case studies that the conference will focus on: (1) urban coastal retreat on the East Coast of the United States; (2) the urgent need to relocate native villages in Alaska; (3) potential large-scale climate displacement in Central America; and (4) displacement connected with the severe 2011-2012 drought in the Horn of Africa. The conference aims to examine governance challenges by applying emerging norms and standards to specific contexts with the aim of deepening knowledge and developing practical solutions to actively address climate change displacement.
Analysis of the Markets for Renewable Energy Credits: The Clinic will explore controversial and critical issues surrounding the markets for and purchase of renewable energy by institutions looking to offset their own greenhouse gas emissions. Clinic students will identify and analyze the legal frameworks for mandatory and voluntary purchases of renewable energy and associated “credits” for reduced or avoided emissions, explore the extent to which such frameworks are binding on voluntary commitments, and develop criteria to evaluate the credibility and efficacy of a range of renewable energy transactions.
Lead in Drinking Water: The Clinic will develop strategies for replacing pipes that leach lead into drinking water and improving municipal and state sampling protocols. Three preliminary steps towards achieving the ultimate goal of lead service line replacement are to ensure that (a) utilities, governments, and the public have an accurate understanding of the scope of the problem, (b) residents understand their legal options in responding to lead contamination, and (c) both utilities and residents have a correct understanding of their rights and duties with respect to the ownership of lead service lines. Clinic students will identify best practices and review existing state water sampling protocols to identify shortcomings, develop legal strategies for residents and communities, and analyze the laws in selected states to determine whether utilities in those states should be responsible for complete service line replacements and to identify the best forum(s) in which to advance that argument.
Farm Bill Recommendations: The Clinic is collaborating with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and a consortium of clinics at other law schools to analyze the Farm Bill and develop policy recommendations for reforms in advance of the legislative debate over the next Farm Bill. Since the Farm Bill has significant implications for public health, the environment, and rural livelihoods, each participating clinic or research program is taking the lead to research one or more Farm Bill titles or policy areas. Our clinic students will be focusing on climate change issues and impacts—a very large topic that has implications for and is affected by many aspects of the Farm Bill. In future semesters, the Clinic will build on this work by issuing a joint policy report designed to help shape the debate around the next Farm Bill.
Rural Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts: The Clinic is building on its extensive prior climate change adaptation work for several Massachusetts cities by focusing on issues and opportunities of importance to inland rural communities. Students will identify legal strategies and opportunities that rural municipalities can pursue to enhance climate change preparedness and develop tools, such as model bylaw provisions and guidance documents, to implement such strategies.
Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Buildings: The Clinic is identifying and analyzing opportunities for municipalities to promote building operations with net zero emissions of greenhouse gases. Clinic students will develop strategies for pursuing a range of voluntary and mandatory mechanisms, such as incentive-based programs, guidance policies and regulations.
Municipal Ordinances: Every semester, the Clinic assists a variety of municipalities with the drafting of ordinances, by-laws, and guidance documents. This semester, the Clinic is drafting a noise ordinance for Boston.
Former student and clinical fellow Leah Cohen speaks about her experiences in the clinic:
The Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is committed to the full inclusion of students with disabilities. Students requesting accessibility resources or accommodations in any of HLS’s Clinical and Pro Bono Programs may work with Accessibility Services in the Dean of Students Office. If you are a student with a documented disability and you are requesting accommodations, please contact HLS Accessibility Services to discuss and register for accommodations.