Turner Clinic's Work
The Turner Environmental Law Clinic's unique mission – combining legal education with pro bono environmental protection efforts – provides increased manpower to address the Southeast's most important environmental issues. Through its work and partnerships with other environmental organizations, the clinic has demonstrably expanded the effectiveness of our legal community.
Since its inception, the clinic's docket has been filled with a wide expanse of environmental matters. Currently, the clinic is working on matters concerning sustainable energy and climate change, urban agriculture and farming, protection of water resources, and conservation and land use.
Sustainable Energy and Climate Change
Some political and industry leaders have referred to nuclear power as a "green energy" option. However, the construction and operation of nuclear power plants, and the associated waste generation, directly impact the environment and the health and safety of people across the country. The clinic has represented over fifty local, regional, and national organizations on a broad array of matters that address the impacts of nuclear power. Some of our work includes:
- Challenging new reactor licenses. On behalf of numerous non-profit organizations and individuals, the clinic has brought challenges to proposed nuclear power plants throughout the Southeast. For example, the clinic represented various environmental organizations in the challenge of two new reactors at the Plant Vogtle site on the Savannah River, near Augusta, Georgia. The challenge culminated in litigation against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a decision is expected sometime in the fall of 2013. Currently, the clinic is representing several environmental organizations and individuals in the challenge of two proposed reactors at the Turkey Point site, outside of Miami, Florida. The plant will directly impact the Everglades National Park, causing potentially alarming environmental harm.
- Investigating the financing of new reactors. Through a series of seven Freedom of Information Act requests to the Department of Energy, Department of Treasury, and Office of Management and Budget, the clinic – on behalf of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – has received and reviewed thousands of pages of documents regarding the Federal Loan Guarantee Program and the Department of Energy's $8.3 billion commitment to finance the Plant Vogtle project. Receiving the information wasn't always easy – some of the documents were released only after successful litigation against DOE in the D.C. District Court. Now that the documents have been released, the clinic is working with private and non-profit organizations, our clients, the press, and interested members of Congress to determine the best way to use the information we obtained.
- Participating in rulemakings and other activities impacting the regulation of nuclear power. The clinic has become a leading expert in the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, filing numerous comments, petitions, and contentions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The clinic, on behalf of over 45 organizations, is dedicated to ensuring that the NRC fully considers the lessons learned from the disaster. In addition, the clinic has begun work on issues involving the long-term storage and disposal of nuclear waste, including filing comments on behalf of 24 organizations in connection with the NRC's assessment of environmental impacts of nuclear waste.
Urban Agriculture and Farming
Urban agriculture, defined simply as the growing and harvesting of food in an urban setting, comes in many forms – small backyard gardens of herbs and tomato plants, neighborhood community gardens, and thriving urban farms. Each of these offers incredible benefits. Urban agriculture has proven to improve health by increasing access to fresh food, provide unique job development opportunities, and represent an innovative and productive way to create and protect greenspace. On behalf of Georgia Organics, and together with the City of Atlanta, the clinic has studied urban agriculture across the country. Based on this study, the clinic drafted a comprehensive amendment to the city's zoning code in order to protect and promote urban agriculture. More about the clinic's work and the status of the proposed zoning amendment can be found at gogrowatlanta.org.
Protection of Water Resources
Water is one of our most vital resources, and the clinic is dedicated to focusing on water quality and pollution in Georgia's waterways. Over the past decade, the clinic has monitored new reservoir proposals in Georgia. This work plays an important role in ensuring that the public is made aware of projects that may directly impact the water in their communities.
Conservation and Land Use
The clinic has partnered with several different organizations in connection with conservation and land use projects. Each of these offers unique benefits to the environment. For example, the clinic is working with the Harris Neck Land Trust to develop a conservation and habitat protection plan to cover over 3,000 acres of the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. The clinic has also recently worked with the Nature Conservancy to answer various questions related to conservation easements, and the Southern Environmental Law Center to research issues impacting cypress trees and migratory birds.