The Environmental Law Clinic completed another successful and productive year working with a variety of community partners. For the first time, the clinic partnered with the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office, which afforded students an unusual and innovative clinical opportunity to work in collaboration with attorneys in the Salt Lake County D.A.’s office on regulatory and enforcement aspects of environmental law at the county level. Students also had the opportunity to view environmental law through an untraditional lens by participating in an all-day Environmental Crimes Training offered to law enforcement and first responders that was put on by the Salt Lake County Environmental Task Force. Throughout the course of the training, students’ pre-conceived ideas about the practice of environmental law were challenged as they were exposed to the wide variety of ways in which environmental law is implicated in every-day problems addressed by county health departments, ranging from mitigating the contamination from spills after a semi-truck crashes on the freeway to response and disposal practices for illegal dumping. Professor Jamie Pleune, who directs the Environmental Law Clinic, gave the key note address to the large and diverse crowd, and the students were warmly welcomed by County Attorney Sim Gill, Deputy District Attorney Mitch Park, and Department of Health personnel who were enthusiastic about the possibilities offered by this partnership.
In addition to working with the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, students also collaborated with other community partners on diverse complex environmental law projects. For example, Taylor Smurthwaite, who won the college’s Clinical Legal Education Award this year, interned with the Environmental Protection Agency. Meg Oswald worked with Michele Straube, Director of the Environmental Dispute Resolution Center, on projects involving the Escalante River Watershed Partnership and the La Sal Sustainability Collaboration. Jason Chandler worked with Save Our Canyons to submit extensive, well-researched, and thoughtful comments focused on environmental concerns raised during the Mountain Accord Process. Kate Tipple and Jason Chandler assisted Breathe Utah in preparation for and during the legislative session to research and analyze air quality proposals that were being considered during the session. Finally, Mark Capone, who was also a Wallace Stegner Center Fellow, worked on a coordinated project with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the implementation of a new program under the Endangered Species Act.
Looking toward the future, the environmental law clinic is shifting leadership. Professor Jamie Pleune is returning to full-time private practice at Richards Brandt Miller Nelson. Steve Jones (Holland and Hart) and Megan Houdeshel (Parr Brown) will be taking the helm.