June 01, 2012

Mackenzie Lawson

Southern Environmental Law Center, Chapel Hill, NC

This summer I had the tremendous opportunity to intern at the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Chapel Hill office.  After making many trips to pursue outdoor adventures in the region, I knew that I wanted to spend my summer exploring more of this part of the country, and more importantly, learning and understanding how to use the law to be a successful environmentalist in the South.

SELC’s attorneys work to promote clean air and water and to protect endangered species throughout their six-state region.  The organization plays a vital watchdog role in the South since environmental issues and problems have long been overlooked.  SELC uses litigation to enforce environmental laws and helps develop policy to establish more robust environmental protection programs.  All this work helps to keep southern rivers, mountains, and coast pristine for the future.

I had the pleasure of working with SELC’s Air and Energy team this summer.  I requested to work on coal issues and SELC accommodated my interests by placing me with an attorney who was on a campaign to stop the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Georgia.  For the project I helped write a public comment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding a rule potentially affecting the plant, researched issues for air emission permit challenges, and wrote memos on the intricacies of the Clean Air Act. 

SELC also ensured the interns participated in a wide range of projects, so I also was able to work with different attorneys on clean water and transportation lawsuits.  In addition, my internship included exposure to several aspects of advocacy work and the process of effectuating change.  I observed North Carolina Utility Commission hearings, lobbying efforts to stop fracking in the state, and strategy sessions which highlighted how the environmental nonprofits in the area worked together on important issues.

I am extremely grateful for PILP’s assistance.  The financial support allowed me to learn from exceptional attorneys who effectively protect one of the country’s regions most in need of strong environmental advocacy.