Reflections from the 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Fellows
By Jessi Fierro
The Environmental Law Section congratulates the law students selected for the Section’s 2021 summer Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship program. The Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship Program gives law students a chance to spend 8 to 10 weeks over the summer practicing environmental, energy, land use, and/or natural resources law at a participating government agency or public interest organization. Each of these students received a stipend, placement at a participating agency or organization, and mentorship. More information on the program is available at https://calawyers.org/section/environmental-law/fellowships/ The 2021 Fellows have generously agreed to share their experiences in the program, below. Congratulations to all! Student comments have been slightly edited.
Alicia Arrington, UC Berkeley Placed with Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC)
“I worked in the San Francisco office of NRDC's litigation team, researching a variety of topics related to the environmental impacts large companies are having on local communities and the federal/state standards that can be used to hold them accountable. The best part of the experience was learning more about NRDC, building relationships with the attorneys and intern class, and gaining insight into what goes into developing a case.”
Karen Chen, UC Berkeley Placed with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region IX
“My summer at the EPA Region IX Office of Regional Counsel was great! I got to work on a bunch of really interesting projects covering a wide range of subject matter areas in environmental law. For example, I helped research case law and legislative history on matters involving the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. I sat in on negotiations regarding cleanup of a hazardous waste site and helped prepare a justification memo for a related settlement agreement. I also created a template for emergency administrative orders under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The best part of the experience was the people! I really enjoyed getting to know and work with the very kind and talented attorneys at EPA and learning about all the twists and turns of their career paths.”
Shasta Fields, UCLA Placed with the California Attorney General’s Office Environment, Land, & Natural Resources Division
"I have really enjoyed my time at the AG's office this summer! I have been able to work on cases for a variety of agencies, including the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the State Water Resources Control Board. My favorite part was drafting petitions and declarations, which is valuable writing experience. I also conducted research for an opposition and reviewed deposition transcripts for document review."
Grecia Orozco, UC Davis Placed with the California Air Resources Board (CARB)
"I am kept busy focusing on the many different aspects of the Clean Air Act throughout my research at CARB. I am grateful for all the guidance I have received throughout this journey and appreciated the mentorship and camaraderie at CARB. I am looking forward to continuing my professional development and improving my research and writing skills along the way, and I hope to use these skills to help underserved communities tackle issues caused by unclean air in the future."
Tyler Szeto, UC Davis Placed with CalRecycle
“I investigated how reverse vending machines can be implemented in California to bring greater recycling opportunities to residents and their communities. I also researched what goes into calculating the state's recycling rate and what factors affect how low or high that rate is. Waste is such a huge and important topic, but I feel that it is rarely discussed. The average Californian throws away almost two pounds of trash more than the average American per day. For a state that is usually the leader in the fight against climate change, that statistic shocked me. People need to be more aware of their consumption habits and make a better effort to reduce waste at the source (i.e., generate less trash). The best part of the experience was learning more about the work CalRecycle does and being a part of projects that will hopefully lead to meaningful policy changes.”
Emma Yip, UC Davis Placed with Earthjustice
“This summer I got to work on several different assignments at Earthjustice. My favorite assignment was working on a boilerplate comment for the Bureau of Land Management. I analyzed air quality concerns that the agency should have been addressing in its permitting of oil wells in the San Joaquin Valley. I also got to help with some state-level environmental health work about a rulemaking to create a buffer zone between oil wells and sensitive receptors. I also presented my work to clients on two occasions, helped develop a land acknowledgment for the SF office, practiced my interviewing skills, and received detailed feedback on a memorandum from two attorneys. Overall, working at Earthjustice was a dream come true and I feel so grateful and excited to be in this field.”
Jessi Fierro serves as the Chair of the Environmental Law Section.