San Diego Chapter's Legal Eagles Watch Polluters Like a Hawk
By Richard Miller, Development and Membership Coordinator, and Pamela Epstein, Legal Eagles Environmental Law & Policy Clinic Program Manager, Carolyn Chase, 2011 Chapter Chair, San Diego Chapter.
The San Diego Chapter Environmental Law and Policy Clinic –- "Legal Eagles" employs strategic action and regulatory advocacy to ensure the protection of San Diego and Imperial Counties' natural resources, and challenge those who seek to pollute and/or violate our federal, state, and local environmental laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Quality Act. The Legal Eagles work toward honest governmental decision-making and respect for environmental laws.
The Legal Eagles oppose development projects that threaten clean water, wetlands, endangered species, environmental justice, "smart growth" and clean air in San Diego and Imperial counties. The Legal Eagles also build relationships by collaborating with others in the local, state, and national environmental and legal communities, including environmental organizations, community groups, and public officials. In assembling a network of groups who share our values and by engaging our existing grassroots supporters and recruiting new ones, we strive to maximize participation in program events, attend and participate in public hearings and other administrative advocacy.
The Chapter has increased the number of our comment letter responses by 500 percent and the Clinic has provided thousands of hours of technical support to Chapter Issues Chairs and our community partners. We filled a charter bus with concerned citizens to attend an administrative hearing and inspired more than 50 activists to send commentary letters. We have successfully obtained extensions to comment periods and were able to get a public release of previously undisclosed private property intended to be taken for the expansion of a freeway and have filed lawsuits where administrative advocacy was not enough.
This is an ongoing project and through monthly meetings of the legal committee, we are constantly reviewing, revising, and retooling the Clinic so that the Chapter can be most effective.