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Public Interest Law Project

Tessa Berman

June 01, 2013

US Department of Justice DC

This summer my PILP stipend allowed me to work for the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Environmental Enforcement Section is responsible for enforcing the nation’s pollution control laws so that individuals and organizations are held responsible for violations of clean air, clean water, and hazardous waste statutes. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work with a variety of environmental statutes and on cases in all phases of litigation. I drafted motions, memos, and consent decrees relating to the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and researched topical issues such as fracking and Supplemental Environmental Projects. 

One of the most interesting projects I worked on was a consent decree involving storm water discharge and permitting for a Puerto Rican municipality. As the project evolved over the summer, I had the opportunity to work with state and municipal authorities, as well as different offices within EPA to try to design an appropriate solution to illicit and unsanitary discharges that were impacting the environment and low-income neighborhoods within the municipality. It was particularly interesting to observe how the proposed solution was tailored to be achievable given the municipality’s financial and personnel resources, and the information gathering process that went into making that determination. Ultimately, I drafted a proposed consent decree to memorialize the commitments agreed upon over several months of negotiation. As a result of my experience at DOJ, I have redoubled my commitment to work in public interest environmental law, and I am truly grateful to PILP and all of its supporters for making this opportunity possible.