Environmental Advocacy Center

Critical environmental issues--clean air and water, cleanup of hazardous waste sites, safe drinking water, environmental justice, energy policy, and sustainability and climate change--drive the work of Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic's Environmental Advocacy Center (EAC). The EAC takes on cases and environmental projects that offer unparalleled opportunities for students to practice lawyering and advocacy, and contribute uniquely to environmental problem-solving. By partnering with key environmental organizations, including the Environmental Law and Policy Center, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and Elevate Energy, the EAC extends its impact as well as opportunities for students.

Students in this Center pursue environmental solutions through a broad range of strategies: litigation, administrative proceedings, legislative and rule-making proceedings, public advocacy, and media. "We are a multi-disciplinary Center," says director Nancy Loeb. "In environmental law, it is rare that one approach will solve a problem. Our students learn to think strategically, explore multiple ways to frame a problem, and pursue multiple forms of advocacy to accomplish our goals." Working with attorneys, scientists, economists, and legislative experts, and by participating directly on cases and in a weekly seminar, students learn to assess environmental issues and develop and implement solutions.

The opportunity to tap expertise across Northwestern University is a significant asset. "We enjoy the advantage of access to a wealth of knowledge and abilities," says Loeb. "We've engaged assistance from the Institute of Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, as well as several departments, including engineering, environmental engineering, and chemistry professors and students, all working toward solutions with us. We have some of the best minds on our team, and students really value and enjoy the cross-discipline interaction."

The Environmental Advocacy Center was founded in 2009, and as it continues to grow, new opportunities emerge to find solutions, to drive change, and to protect our region’s residents and the Midwest's natural resources. A significant focus of the Center’s work involves fighting for environmental justice in low-income, communities of color, which frequently bear an undue burden of environmental pollution and industrial activities. With benefit of the Center’s work with the World Wildlife Fund and other organizations, the Center also provides opportunities for students to engage in projects internationally to address some of the most pressing environmental issues related to climate change, including energy policies, drought and flooding, and adaptation strategies.

Environmental Advocacy Center Overview Video


EAST CHICAGO, INDIANA: EAC has formed a coalition of attorneys—experts across housing, health, and the environment--to advocate for residents exposed to lead and arsenic at extremely high levels. At this site, which was listed for cleanup under the National Priorities List in 2009 under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, residences were built on and next to soil contaminated by lead and arsenic. EAC is advocating on behalf of residents for a cleanup that provides maximize health and environmental protections. EAC’s partners include the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, the Loyola Law School Health Justice Project, and University of Chicago Abrams Environmental Law Clinic. 

The East Chicago case has gotten substantial publicity in recent weeks, including—

New York Times, Front Page, August 31, 2016:
Their Soil Toxic, 1100 Indiana Residents Scramble to Find New Homes

Washington Post, August 22, 2016:
East Chicago children have lead in their blood from contaminated dirt. Is this the next Flint

Northwest Indiana Times, August 14, 2016:
“Attorneys to E.C. residents: Know your legal rights”

EAC’s advocacy efforts include writing opinion pieces for publications with broad audiences. These OpEds bring wider attention to EAC’s cases, and the underlying issues, and influences government agencies, legislators, and individuals who have an interest in the subject.  

Some recent OpEds by Prof. Loeb include: 

 - “Why are companies allowed to delay cleanup of toxic superfund sites,” (http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/33784-why-are-companies-allowed-to-delay-cleanup-of-toxic-superfund-sites

 - “EPA lead standards leave children exposed to harm” (http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/261881-epa-lead-standards-leave-children-exposed-to-harm

 - “Toxic water isn’t just in Michigan” (http://time.com/4156867/toxic-water-michigan/

 - “Lead in paint is harming hundreds of thousands of children” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-c-loeb/lead-in-paint-is-harming-_b_9162834.html

 - “How to reduce premature deaths linked to environmental risks” (http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/35560-how-to-reduce-premature-deaths-linked-to-environmental-risks

 - “The sand mines that ruin farmland” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/23/opinion/the-sand-mines-that-ruin-farmland.html?_r=0)

  - “People are calling natural gas a bridge to a sustainable future - they’re wrong” (https://psmag.com/news/people-are-calling-natural-gas-a-bridge-to-a-sustainable-future-theyre-wrong

 - “Some so-called clean energy projects are contaminating millions of gallons of incredibly valuable water” (http://qz.com/721942/some-kinds-of-clean-energy-projects-actually-contaminate-millions-of-gallons-of-increasingly-scarce-water/") 

Prof. Chizewer recently published a law review article entitled, “Living with Water in a Climate-Changed World: Will Federal Policy Sink or Swim.” 46 Envtl. L. 491 (2016) (forthcoming) (with Dan Tarlock).