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Public Interest Law Project

Perrin de Jong

June 01, 2007

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Cascade Resources Advocacy Group, Portland, OR

I worked for the Crag Law Center in downtown Portland for the Summer of 2007. Crag is a nonprofit environmental law firm with three attorneys, and I was the Clerk for one of the founding attorneys, Chris Winter.

Most of my time this summer was spent working on a case where we represented the North Slope Borough, a municipality the size of Minnesota on the North Slope of Alaska, which is home to numerous Inupiat Eskimo communities. Our clients are fighting a new offshore oil and gas drilling project by Shell Oil in the Beaufort Sea, which was blessed by the federal government’s Minerals Management Service. The North Slope Borough wants to block Shell’s activities in the Beaufort Sea because they would deny the Inupiats their traditional subsistence

fishing way of life by displacing the marine mammals that they hunt there. In essence, the industrial noise generated by Shell’s activities would deflect the migratory route of whales which the Inupiats hunt to so far off shore that it would be suicide for the Inupiat whale hunters to pursue them in their new locations(30 kilometers off shore) in their six-man seal skin canoes, which they traditionally hunt whales in. Shell would also introduce water and air pollution into the Inupiat’s arctic environment, which would have disproportionate impacts on the Inupiats due to unique atmospheric conditions in the area and because of the devastating effect that crude oil spills would have on the fisheries of this pristine coastal wilderness. While I was working on this case, we won an injunction from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which has enjoined all of Shell’s activities in the Beaufort Sea at least until next Summer, and probably permanently.

I also worked on another Environmental Justice case which is more local this Summer. We represent the Rosemere Neighborhood Association (RNA) in Vancouver, Washington in its Title VI civil rights complaint against the city of Vancouver, which has been languishing at the EPA Office of Civil Rights for years now. The complaint addresses retaliation by the City of Vancouver against RNA for raising a discrimination complaint against the city in how the city spends its federal clean air and clean water funds. We are currently pursuing a declaratory judgment from the Western District of Washington to force the EPA to discontinue its systematic practice of ignoring these complaints and begin meeting its statutory deadlines in processing Title VI complaints. I was able to work on a successful motion for discovery against the EPA, which was the first signal that the court, which has been hostile to our position for years now, is beginning to look more sympathetically at our point of view.

I also worked on a case aimed at stopping the Forest Service from logging critical habitat for the endangered Marbled murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl in the Olympic National Forest in Washington.

My experience at Crag has been a phenomenal opportunity to learn about a wide variety of areas of environmental law in a practical setting. It was exhausting at times, because I was always learning about something I had never dealt with before. But ultimately, it made me much more comfortable with learning about new areas of statutory authority, regulatory schemes, and the process of litigation. It was also exhilarating to be a part of such successful public interest efforts. This experience is not for the weak of heart, but if a potential applicant has the constitution to hold up under the kind of pressure I felt every day to perform well for the people whose lives were on the line in the litigation I was working on (even though I didn’t really know what I was doing), then I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is nowhere else that you will learn more about the practice of public interest environmental litigation.

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