The moment you all have been waiting for, Number One in this countdown of environmental achievements and mishaps of the past year . . .
No. 1 — Ohio Environmental Council’s Legal Division becomes the William W. Ellis Ohio Environmental Law Center
OK, it maybe a little self-serving, but it is a big deal for Ohio’s environmental community, and a huge step forward for public interest environmental and conservation law which will only grow in 2010.
For 40 years, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) has worked behind the scenes and on the front lines of Ohio’s most important environmental battles. The OEC’s Air & Energy Program and Agriculture & Water Program provide the eyes and ears for everyday citizens—keeping watch over the Ohio legislature and state agencies and the powerful special interest lobbyists that try to influence the law. In fact, the Ohio Environmental Council sometimes is the only voice representing the public at Statehouse committee meetings, public hearings, government advisory committees and other state regulatory proceedings.
OEC’s legal team for many years consisted of outside counsel assisting OEC in filing cases. This evolved, in 2003, to the OEC Environmental Law Clinic, where Law School interns worked mainly as the legal research and drafting wing of the OEC policy programs. In 2009, the legal arm of the OEC evolved into the William W. Ellis Ohio Environmental Law Center.
The OEC’s William W. Ellis Ohio Environmental Law Center is the only statewide public interest environmental law center in Ohio. The Law Center is unique, as its primary client is the Ohio Environmental Council and its thousands of group and individual members. This structure allows us to provide a topnotch combination of legal, policy, and legislative advocacy on Ohio’s most important environmental concerns. The Law Center focuses on three areas:
- Legal Advocacy
On its own and working with national and regional organizations, the Law Center was at the forefront of many clean energy and clean water struggles before administrative agencies, the general assembly and the courts. Our principled and pragmatic advocacy made great strides for Ohio in 2009:
- OELC engaged in fifty separate cases before the PUCO, including applications for utility residential and commercial efficiency programs, waivers from the energy efficiency benchmarks;
- Testified against regulatory reform initiatives that sought to sacrifice environmental protection for quicker permits, while providing support for initiatives that helped small business and individuals efficiently maneuver the labyrinth of state bureaucracy;
- Testified in opposition to drilling in Ohio’s State Parks, while working to update Ohio’s urban oil and gas drilling laws;
- Joined with national environmental groups to oppose dirty coal plants before ERAC and in Federal Court;
- Issued a veto request to Governor Strickland following the budget amendment that put unreasonable deadlines on ERAC that could hamper environmental protection, and joined attorneys from the regulated community to appeal ERAC’s implementation of the deadline mandate in state court.
- Legal Analysis
This year OELC drafted and published a series of articles ranging from scholarly law review articles to bar association magazines, to move the debate over important environmental and constitutional issues and show the depth and breadth of public interest environmental law in Ohio. This year, OELC:
- Took on barriers to citizen enforcement of environmental laws in “Environmental Enforcement and the Limits of Cooperative Federalism,” to be published in the next issue of the Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum;
- Tackled legal obstacles to carbon capture and storage in OELC’s article, “Reconciling King Coal and Climate Change: A Regulatory Framework for Carbon Capture and Storage” to be published Vermont Environmental Law Journal;
- Defended the constitutionality of the Clean Water Restoration Act and a nationally recognized Debated Private Property Advocate in American Bar Association Newsletter; and
- Questioned the validity and sincerity of SCR 13 and Ohio Senate’s movement to reaffirm the Tenth Amendment in the forthcoming Ohio Lawyer magazine published by the Ohio Bar Association.
- Legal Education
Yet, a major component of the Law Center is also to provide legal education and public interest experience to tomorrow’s environmental attorneys. It has always been and will continue to be a goal of the internship program to provide our interns with a well rounded understanding of not only environmental law, but the entire non-profit environmental advocacy organization experience. In 2009, six law students gained such invaluable experience at OELC, and will go on to be great members of Ohio’s Environmental Bar. Just read the reflections of OELC intern, James Madieros after his experience here.
In 2010, OELC will continue with our initiative started in 2009 of drafting legal research, analysis, and advocacy papers for both external scholarly and legal industry publications.
The OELC internship program will continue to grow so that we can fulfill our goal to provide tomorrow’s environmental lawyers with the experience and educational opportunities needed to be effective advocates for environmental and human health.
The Law Center will continue to pursue legal and administrative actions that further the overall goals, objectives, and mission of OEC. The Law Center will consider the following factors in determining whether to accept a case and become a full party:
- Significance of the environmental impact
- Likelihood of a “favorable outcome”
- Possibility of establishing a legal precedent of statewide significance
- Support of OEC members or member groups
- Availability of funding
- Degree to which the case fits the strategic plan of OEC
OELC will also increase its capacity to support and represent individuals, organizations, and communities around the state fighting to protect the air, land and water resources and human and environmental health of the state or their hometown.
Although OELC will be at the ready to protect Ohio’s air, land, and water resources and defend communities, groups and individuals quality of life as those issues arise — OELC will focus its 2010 advocacy on three areas:
- Clean Energy and Carbon Management
- The OEC will continue our efforts to enforce and fully Implement Ohio’s Energy Efficiency Standard. The number and complexity of these cases will only increase, as utilities seek to establish and justify energy efficiency programs and provide monitoring and verification of their success in securing energy savings
- We also will continue our involvement in each of the four utilities’ energy efficiency collaborative groups, to assist the utilities with developing and monitoring energy efficiency programs.
- Work to make CCS a reality in Ohio, and to make Ohio the CCS model for the Midwest, and fully implement the recommendations in our CCS law review article.
- Through state and federal law, policy maker education, and legal advocacy, work to stop water quality devastation by the use of coal slurry impoundments that destroy eastern Ohio rivers and streams and utilize more environmentally sound alternatives; reform Ohio’s reclamation bonding requirements which currently violate federal minimum requirements and leave a vast backlog of unreclaimed former mine land for the state to pay to reclaim (instead of the industry); and work to change Ohio’s water replacement laws to force coal companies to perpetually replace drinking water supplies for landowners ravaged by longwall mining.
2. Clean Water Protection
- Strategically File Citizen Enforcement Suits under the Clean Water Act.
- Draft an “Ohio Clean Water Enforcement Report” to Highlight Inadequacies in Ohio’s Enforcement
- Utilize Citizen Suits and an “Ohio Enforcement Report” as a Basis for Press and Public Attention Drawn to the Issue of Ohio’s Abysmal Record of Enforcement.
- Use Lawsuits, Report, and Press Coverage to Urge Change with Both the Attorney General and OEPA vis-à-vis Enforcement
- Empower Other Citizens and Citizen Groups to File Citizen Enforcement Suits;
3. Public Participation and Governmental Transparency
- Work to make the legislative and regulatory process more accessible for the public;
- Fight for change in procedures to allow the impacted communities and individuals effectively provide input and appeal or enforce environmental violations;
- Make government accountable to its citizens;
- Stop the contemptible practice of big industry using federal lawsuits to silence opposition and stomp on individual, constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and petition.
Don’t forget to make your 2009, tax deductible donation to OELC, NOW! It is support from people like YOU that makes our public interest work happen.
Thanks for following the Top Ten, and have a safe and Happy New Year.