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Vermont Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic Helps Ensure Clean Water in Vermont

August 4, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—July 19, 2013

CONTACT:
Laura Murphy, Associate Director, ENRLC
(802) 831-1123
lmurphy@vermontlaw.edu

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT—The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School today announced a milestone in an important case that marks a major step forward for clean water in Vermont.  Almost five years ago, the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) filed a Petition with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). The Petition called upon EPA to withdraw Vermont’s authority to administer the State’s Clean Water Act program, or to require the State to implement meaningful improvements. Now, the Petition has been conditionally resolved through successful collaboration among the ENRLC, CLF, EPA Region 1, and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The Petition explained how Vermont’s rivers, lakes, and streams suffer from excessive pollution—including toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain—and documented key deficiencies in Vermont’s discharge permitting program. After several years of extensive discussions, EPA Region 1 sent a corrective action plan to the State on July 18th that details the steps the State has taken, or will take, to protect Vermont’s water quality as required by the Clean Water Act.

The ENRLC began working on the Petition in 2007 and, as counsel for CLF, has seen the Petition through to this win-win conclusion. Under the direction of supervising attorney Laura Murphy, numerous Vermont Law School student clinicians have worked on the Petition over the years by filing multiple public records requests, analyzing voluminous agency records, synthesizing materials into compelling legal arguments, and participating in high-level agency discussions. In addition to the original 61-page Petition, the Clinic filed a substantial supplement in 2010, various formal follow-up submissions, and several informal comments throughout the process. “CLF is deeply grateful to the ENRLC for helping us achieve this important outcome for clean water in Vermont. Its work helped create a model that instructed and inspired many of the citizen groups that filed similar petitions in six other states,” said Anthony N.L. Iarrapino, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation.

EPA’s corrective action plan comprehensively addresses the deficiencies identified in the Petition filings. Among other things, EPA’s letter notes that Vermont has passed a law to ensure public participation opportunities in enforcement, has issued a general permit for better regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations, and has promised to require adequate controls for nutrient pollution flowing from facilities in Vermont.

“This has been an extremely valuable process for Vermont’s water quality,” said ENRLC Associate Director Laura Murphy. “We appreciate that EPA Region 1 recognized the merit of our concerns from the outset, and we applaud DEC for committing to an improved water program in Vermont. We believe that this will set positive precedent for petitions pending in other states, too.” Murphy concluded, “We were honored to perform this work on behalf of CLF, a clean water champion for New England.”

The student clinicians assigned to the Petition matter over the years were: Emily Stark, Rebecca Turner, Meghan Clark, Jane Kim, John Meyer, Ross Elwyn, Craig Sparks, Graham Zorn, Paul Ballenger, Tracy Wyeth, Evan Belser, Quincy Hansell, Siobhan McIntyre, Shahin Milani, Leslie Welts, Megan Dickie, Toby Dachman, Andrew Grosvenor, Nassy Avramidis, Molly Hann, Ellery Richardson, Patricia Robert, and Richard Sala. Selected filings and correspondence are available on the Clinic’s website.

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Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; two Master’s Degrees (Master of Environmental Law and Policy, and Master of Energy Regulation and Law), and three post-JD degrees—LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, and LLM in Environmental Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, the South Royalton Legal Clinic, and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. For more information, visit www.vermontlaw.edu.

The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic provides an experiential learning opportunity for students at Vermont Law School. Its mission is to provide a high-quality, skills-based educational experience for law students who learn how to become competent, ethical attorneys with expertise in the field of environmental and natural resources law; provide pro bono representation for individuals and organizations who could not otherwise afford legal services; ensure that laws protecting health and the environment are properly interpreted, implemented, and enforced to prevent and abate environmental problems; and to conserve and restore natural resources for the benefit of this and future generations. For more information, visit http://www.vermontlaw.edu/ENRLC.

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