I’m currently a Resident Attorney at Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a non-profit law firm committed to serving the legal needs of modest means clients. My practice is focused on empowering women and their families to exercise their legal rights as they pertain to their environmental and reproductive health. Below are links to my Fair Shake blog posts.
Fair Shake & Community Groups File Protest Letter to Protect Ohio’s Only National Forest from Oil and Gas Development
On November 14, 2016, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services filed a protest letter on behalf of FreshWater Accountability Project and 26 other organizations to oppose the opening of the Wayne National Forest to oil and gas development. The letter protests the federal Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) proposed December 13, 2016, oil and gas lease sale of 33 parcels of publicly owned lands.
Two recent studies by the U.S. Geological Survey, Duke University, and the University of Missouri have demonstrated that fracking wastewater injection disposal sites can lead to contamination of surface waters in nearby streams. Of particular concern, the studies found endocrine-disrupting activity in the streams at levels high enough to lead to adverse health effects in aquatic life. Where potential or actual public underground drinking water sources are affected, citizens suits under the Safe Drinking Water Act may provide a way for people to defend their environment from contamination by wastewater injection.
Looking at environmental concerns through a reproductive justice lens (and looking at reproductive concerns through an environmental justice lens) can help attorneys articulate needs that might otherwise go unaddressed and unnoticed in conversations about legal concerns and potentially available remedies. Recent statements from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics on environmental justice, concerns surrounding the spread of Zika virus, and the impact of black lung on Appalachian families all demonstrate the unique way our environment impacts our reproductive health and the impact that has on our ability to plan and provide for our families. These scenarios demonstrate the way an individual’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights and gain access to reproductive healthcare can contribute to how successfully that individual navigates the environmental concerns they may be facing. They also demonstrates the way economic and social factors impact an individual’s exposure to harm and access to justice.
A fellow attorney once told me that what I am saying boils down to “nothing happens in a vacuum.” However, I think working at the intersection of environmental and reproductive justice means much more than that. As an attorney committed to serving modest-means clients and an attorney committed to addressing the environmental legal concerns of women and families in particular, using these lenses to tackle a legal problem brings unique counseling and fact-gathering skills and provides an opportunity for novel approaches to legal action.
Over the weekend, the American Red Cross and other volunteers distributed water to the residents of Sebring, Ohio following concerns about elevated lead levels in the Sebring Public Water System. In response to the concern, Sebring’s schools cancelled classes on Friday and held a lead screening clinic for children under 6 and pregnant and breastfeeding women on Sunday. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children receiving water from the Sebring Public Water systemremain advised to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, and formula preparation, and the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency continues to distribute water through the Sebring Community Center.
Lately we have heard a great deal about the lead poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, which may have some wondering about lead in their own communities. According to Ohio’s Department of Health, lead poisoning is the greatest environmental threat to children in Ohio, and in the past 15 years 40,000 children have suffered lead poisoning in Cuyahoga County alone.