Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Environmental Protection Agency - Seattle Office

Jennifer Lee headed west this summer to extern in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region X office in Seattle after clerking in the spring for EPA's Office of Administration and Policy in DC.

There are only two summer law clerks so we receive assignments from many attorneys in the office. Most of the assignments consist of legal research and writing. Some assignments include updating case law on environmental statutes, deciphering what constitutional issues may arise in new cases, and developing a record to support case referrals to the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division. My favorite assignments so far have considered protection of polar bears, the constitutional implications of recent Supreme Court decisions on protection of endangered species, and the development of Alaska's permitting program with its implications for drilling in Alaska.

Beyond the office, there is opportunity for field trips and chances to observe other aspects of the legal profession. With many environmental cases proceeding to settlement, I also have the chance to observe negotiations with opposing counsel. Last week I toured an oil refinery after a meeting with their attorneys to discuss a recent Notice of Violation. With the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals courtroom just upstairs from the Office of Regional Counsel, I will also be able to observe hearings in current Ninth Circuit cases as well.

EJF funding made it possible for me to leave DC and gain a perspective on how the regional branches of federal agencies operate. The experience has greatly helped me understand how the policies promulgated at Headquarters play out in the field through the individual cases brought by EPA and will help me formulate more effective environmental policies in the future.

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