When Gov. John Bel Edwards arrived at Tulane Law last spring to commemorate the launch of the Center for Environmental Law, one of the major goals he spoke of was training the next generation of lawyers who could efficiently and effectively help the state – and others around the globe – to establish environmental protections for dwindling coastlines.
In the profession of law, there is no better training than doing. This summer, like they do every summer, dozens of law students headed out to corners of the world for internships in environmental law. Tulane is fortunate that our contacts across the world are extensive and organizations seeking our talent continue to grow each year.
Do you have internship opportunities for students in environmental law? Tell us about it!
The environmental law program has placed for ‘green summers’ students as far away as the Arctic, and as near as Louisiana coastal restoration projects. The goal is for them to learn the practices of law, policy, and advocacy in a wide range of settings. This year, our students worked for environmental law firms, think tanks in Washington, a Houston nonprofit, the NOAA, an air quality nonprofit in North Carolina, and the legal community in Ojai, California helping with disaster-related sustainable systems, among others.
Here’s a look at their work this summer:
I interned with Bayou City Waterkeeper, a nonprofit organization based in Houston, Texas. BCWK is dedicated to the protection and conservation of Houston's waterways and Galveston Bay. As an intern, I conducted legal research and wrote memoranda, worked on campaigns designed to protect Houston's water bodies and public water systems, spoke at the Harris County Commissioner's Court to advocate for equity and more nature-based solutions in flood planning, and published a blog post on mitigation failures occurring across several Texas counties. My statement to the commissioner's court was later picked up and circulated by the Global Waterkeeper Alliance. I enjoyed the variety of work I was able to do at BCWK, from collecting water samples to drafting legal documents.
I externed with Healthy Gulf in Louisiana performing legal research for ballot initiatives in the Gulf Coast region related to wetland and forest conservation. I completed a paper of my findings, which was published on Healthy Gulf's website. I also did research related to the proposed Formosa petrochemical plant in St. James Parish. I attended organizing meetings held by RISE St. James, as well as the Clean Air Act permit hearing in the parish at the end of the summer. It was an amazing office culture with talented attorneys doing incredible work.
I interned for the Office of Oceans and Coasts General Council at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Springs, Maryland. The General Council at NOAA works on a variety of topics, relating to National Marine Sanctuaries, the Endangered Species Act, and Federal Consistency Appeals under the Coastal Zone Management Act. While at NOAA, my work mainly consisted of legal research and the writing of memoranda. Occasionally I was asked to work on document review. I truly enjoyed my experience at NOAA and would highly recommend that students interested in the more marine aspect of environmental law apply.
I was a Law and Policy Intern with the U.S. Green Building Council's Advocacy team in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Green Building Council, best known for its green certification program, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), focuses on creating a healthier and more sustainable environment. The Advocacy Team works with lawmakers and other organizations to drive development of green building standards. In addition to researching and drafting memoranda and policy briefs on many topics of sustainability, I connected with state legislators to prepare for success next term, drafted federal policy language for a key committee, and drafted interpretative guidance for state policy.
I worked with an attorney from the Sustainable Law Group in Ojai, Calif. The attorney I worked with is primarily involved in community assistance and empowerment within the Ojai Valley. We worked with local institutions that are planning to implement a community solar micro-grid to support critical infrastructure and promote disaster resiliency. I was personally focused on the issues of funding and maintaining the project. Through my internship, I worked independently and regularly met with the supervising attorney. My involvement culminated with a report on my findings that may be useful in implementing the solar project. It was a great experience and I enjoyed applying knowledge that I recently acquired in classes like Natural Resources and Energy Regulation.
I was a summer legal intern in the Health, Safety, and Environment department of Valero Energy Corporation in San Antonio, Texas. I wrote a memorandum about the CARB LCFS of corn fiber versus corn starch ethanol in comparisson to the EPA standard. I also worked on an assignment involving a state air quality management district agency concerning a chemical that is commonly used in the refinery process. The legal departments of Valero work on issues collaboratively, so I was also given projects involving international business affairs and discovery for documents from multiple refineries. All the attorneys are very talented, and the mentoring program was very beneficial.
I worked at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic. I mostly did legal research for the supervising attorneys and also did some non-legal research on companies' backgrounds, the technology used at various plants, the health impacts of hazardous waste, etc. I wrote several memoranda and put together a presentation to use at the St. James Parish Council meeting. My work primarily centered around a lawsuit against the City of New Orleans for its role in the Gordon Plaza housing crisis and various other lawsuits involving petrochemical permitting in St. James Parish. I really enjoyed my experience, and I learned a lot about local environmental issues. I am excited to be returning to the clinic in the spring to continue learning from and working with all the talented attorneys.
I worked at two firms: Waltzer Wiygul & Garside and Martzell Bickford & Centola. Waltzer Wiygul has two offices in New Orleans and one on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The firm mostly handles environmental law cases for public interest organizations and private parties that include Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and NEPA litigation. Although I have worked for them for two summers, this past summer I mostly wrote memorandum on areas of NEPA and gathered factual information for case development. My experience there has been wonderful – the attorneys are incredibly bright and zealously advocate for the state’s coastline and citizens. At Martzell Bickford, I traveled for depositions in a whistleblower case and worked in areas of nuisance law and inverse condemnation. Although I composed several memorandum, I also drafted an appeal writ to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal and an opposition to a motion for summary judgment. The firm handles complex litigation, class actions, oil spill claims, as well as admiralty claims.
I worked as a research assistant at the Tulane Institute on Water Law & Policy. There, I focused on upstream water pollution issues of the Mississippi River, particularly those linked to the creation of the hypoxic zone (or Dead Zone) off the Louisiana Coast. The goal of the research was to explore possible legal avenues to compel upstream states to limit nonpoint source water pollution. I also worked on identifying Louisiana statutes that regulate riparian rights and duties, which I compared with other regulated riparian models throughout the country.
I worked for Clean Air Carolina this summer as a policy intern in Durham, North Carolina. This is a statewide nonprofit that focuses on improving the air quality in the state with a focus on the adverse health effects it has on the residents of the state. I drafted a clean jobs initiative policy recommendation that will be introduced to a North Carolina legislator later this year, and I researched and compiled a large environmental justice report for each of the 100 counties in the state. I traveled to a few public hearings where I submitted oral comments to the state Department of Environmental Quality regarding the health effects of air pollution. I had a good experience seeing the law-making side of things, an interesting change from the litigation and contracts side of legal work that so much of law school focuses on.
I was a research assistant for the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic in New Orleans. While at the clinic, I worked on a large number of cases over the summer, but one of my primary responsibilities was a permit variance application for an individual in St. James Parish. My work involved daily check-ups on the permitting process, research into applicable legal standards and requirements, and drafting memoranda on the research. I was also involved in several other cases in St. James Parish that required travel for community meetings, hearings before the parish council, and client meetings. My experience at the Clinic was invaluable to my professional and personal growth. The opportunity to work in the Clinic will continue to serve me for years to come, and I would highly suggest the experience to anyone interested in environmental law.