The Environmental Law Clinic


Established in 1987, the Environmental Law Clinic at Maryland Carey Law provides legal support, advice, and representation to a variety of non-profit organizations and community groups on environmental matters.  Environmental law is a complex, interdisciplinary area of legal practice that examines the way humans interact with the natural world.  It is a combination of law, policy, and science and often involves competing human and societal interests. In the Clinic Environmental Law ELC (ELC), student attorneys work on cases and projects that teach how to think about environmental problems and critically analyze potential solutions. The thought process and skills student attorneys learn in the ELC are transferable to a wide variety of legal practice areas connected to environmental law, including, for example, administrative law, litigation and civil procedure, negotiations and alternative dispute resolution, international law, and legislative policy and process.  Student attorneys obtain direct experience working with clients, outside scientific experts, and partner public interest lawyers while taking the year-long clinic.  Past matters and projects in the Clinic have allowed student attorneys the opportunity to draft and argue briefs in administrative and judicial forums, prepare regulatory submissions, draft comments on proposed permits, conduct complex legal research and analysis, and provide legal counseling to clients on a host of complex environmental issues. The Clinic typically works on matters and projects at local, state, national, and international levels. The Clinic also often collaborates with faculty across the law school, departments within the University of Maryland system in areas such as public health and science, and environmental law clinics at other law schools.  The Clinic is under the direction of Assistant Professor, Seema Kakade


Academic Year 2017-2018 Highlights:

  • The Clinic submitted comments on behalf of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Defenders of Wildlife, Patuxent Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, and Sierra Club on a draft plan to clean up pollution from a coal ash landfill in Montgomery County, Maryland. The draft plan grew out of a Clinic citizen enforcement suit filed on behalf of these clients that spurred a Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) enforcement action, eventually leading toy a 2013 settlement agreement between MDE and the landfill owner. The Clinic and its clients, along with co-counsel Environmental Integrity Project, have remained engaged throughout the settlement process, ensuring that the clean up plans adequately protect Maryland water quality.
  • The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) requested that the Clinic to assist in drafting model climate change adaptation laws for Kazakhstan. In October, ELI acknowledged four Clinic students in a white paper prepared for the Ministry of Energy of Kazakhstan for their research on international climate adaptation laws.
  • The Clinic submitted comments to MDE on behalf of Blue Water Baltimore calling for changes to a draft wastewater discharge permit for a major treatment plant to ensure that the permit will be consistent with federal and state law.
  • The Clinic presented findings to the Maryland Environmental Health Network (MDEHN) Community of Communities program regarding types of legal proceedings that have incorporated citizen science information and data, particularly related to natural gas facilities.
  • The Clinic represented the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council (CMEC) in its legislative effort to amend the Maryland Constitution to include a right to a clean and healthy environment.  The CMEC representatives at the legislative hearing on the amendment orally acknowledged the tremendous work done by the Clinic students in research, drafting, and client counseling. 
  • Clinic students presented international comparative law research and analysis to the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative in Washington DC on implementation of laws regulating the transboundary movement of waste.  
  • Throughout the year, the Clinic represented the Patuxent Riverkeeper in a zoning proceeding regarding a special exception allowing a polluting coal ash landfill to exist in an area zoned for low-impact residential use. 

*Please note all client names above are used with client consent or are available in public documents