The Environmental Integrity Project protects public health and the environment by investigating polluters and holding them accountable under the law. Our legal work focuses on advancing our key program objectives, which primarily include: protecting water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams; cleaning up pollution from coal ash dumps and from new and existing oil, gas, and petrochemical facilities; protecting public health from air pollution in the greater Houston area and in Maryland and Pennsylvania; and ensuring that wood pellet and biomass plants limit their pollution and environmental impact.
We work with national, state, and community groups to achieve outcomes that reduce pollution and improve public safeguards, with a special focus on vulnerable populations located near industry hubs or other sources of air and water pollution. Often, we work hand-in-hand with local organizations to offer them legal representation and help them win David vs. Goliath battles against big polluters. For example, in July 2019, EIP, representing three other environmental groups, reached a historic agreement to reduce toxic pollutants leaking from Brunner Island Generating Station’s coal ash dumps into groundwater and the Susquehanna River, the largest Chesapeake Bay tributary.
“The Brunner Island coal ash spill is such a great example of the work of the Environmental Integrity Project. Working within the framework of existing law, and working in partnership with the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, the poisonous outflow of toxic coal ash was stopped from entering the Susquehanna River. The Environmental Integrity Project provided the legal expertise needed to hold Talen Energy, the owner and operator of the site, accountable for the cleanup.” — John Dawes, Executive Director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and Presidents of the EIP’s Board
Our attorneys have decades of experience taking on some of the country’s biggest industrial polluters and enablers, such as the Trump EPA. Our compact size and history of working with a variety of partners allows us to maintain a nimble composure, and adjust our strategy to best confront these often fast-moving and highly complex issues. EIP also has a hard-earned reputation for paying careful attention to both law and fact. We’ve built this reputation since our inception in 2002, when EIP was founded by Eric Schaeffer, who had resigned his position as director of the U.S. EPA’s office of civil enforcement in protest when the Bush White House interfered with Clean Air Act efforts to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Recent Litigation Successes and Ongoing Efforts
- In July 2019, EIP, representing three other environmental groups, reached a historic agreement to reduce toxic pollutants leaking from a power plant’s coal ash dumps into groundwater and the Susquehanna River, the largest Chesapeake Bay tributary. The consent decree requires Talen Energy, owner of the Brunner Island Generating Station in York Haven, to close and excavate one ash pond, monitor and address leakage of pollutants from other waste sites, pay a $1 million civil penalty, and contribute an additional $100,000 to fund supplemental projects to reduce local water pollution. Read the press release. View the consent decree.
“Thanks to the skillful work of the attorneys at the Environmental Integrity Project, our organization was able to achieve a landmark victory for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay’s biggest tributary. The Environmental Integrity Project’s knowledge of the federal Clean Water Act – and the fact that they have top level, former EPA enforcement attorneys on staff – provided the legal muscle to help our community organization achieve our goals in cleaning up coal ash from the Susquehanna River.” — Ted Evgeniadis, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
- In July 2020, EIP, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, and Appalachian Mountain Advocates sent a notice of intent to sue to the D. & L. Coal Company of Keyser, W.V. for violations of the Clean Water Act at the coal loading operation in Mineral County, W.V. The paper mill closed in June 2019 and is the subject of a federal lawsuit, initiated by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and the Environmental Integrity Project, for leaking a toxic black waste liquid called “black liquor” into the river. The state has also launched legal actions against the mill. Read the press release. View the notice of intent to sue.
“Potomac Riverkeeper Network is fortunate to have EIP’s ace environmental attorneys representing us on key legal actions in our fight to restore the Potomac River. Their expertise in Clean Water Act litigation enables us to punch above our weight and bring strong enforcement actions against polluters like D & L Coal, where the combination of aggressive investigation by the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper and careful legal planning by EIP led to holding this company accountable for their coal pile runoff into the Upper Potomac River.” — Phillip Musegaas, VP of Programs and Litigation, Potomac Riverkeeper Network
- In June 2020, EIP and nine other environmental organizations sent the EPA a notice of intent to sue the agency over its failure to reduce toxic air pollution from the flares on petrochemical plants, gas processing facilities, and other industrial sites. EPA has not updated the air pollution control standards for industrial flares in 34 years, even though the federal Clean Air Act requires that agency review them at least once every eight years to make sure they adequately protect the public and incorporate improvements in technology. Read the press release. View the notice of intent to sue.
- EIP and the Sierra Club negotiated the settlement of a Clean Air Act lawsuit against the James Lake Gas Plant in December 2019 that requires the West Texas natural gas plant to meet new limits that will substantially reduce flaring emissions. Located about 10 miles northwest of Odessa in the heart of the Permian Basin, the plant processes gas by stripping out the acid gas hydrogen sulfide. For years, the plant has routinely reported major sulfur dioxide releases due to excessive acid gas flaring. Sulfur dioxide pollution has an especially harmful impact on people with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Read the press release. View the complaint.
- In December 2019, EIP and Earthjustice sued EPA for its refusal to tighten restrictions on water pollution from slaughterhouses. EPA’s decision turns a blind eye to the outdated an ineffective pollution-controls that too many large meat processing plants still use, which dump nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfates and other contaminants that have fouled waterways across the country. More than a third of these slaughterhouses are still operating under guidelines that date back to 1974 or 1975, so EIP is trying to force both EPA and the meat-processing industry to modernize and clean up their acts. Read the press release. View the lawsuit.
- The world’s largest manufacturer of wood pellet fuel for power plants, Enviva, agreed to install air pollution-reducing equipment at a biomass plant under construction in Richmond County, North Carolina, in a June 2019 settlement that EIP negotiated with the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Clean Air Carolina. Enviva will reduce harmful volatile organic compound pollution from its smokestacks by at least 95 percent, according to the agreement, which the company entered into in order to avoid further litigation over construction permits. Read the press release. View the settlement agreement.
“When we joined with local residents challenging Enviva’s air permit for their Hamlet, North Carolina, facility, we found EIP’s considerable insights into the wood pellet industry in the Southeast truly invaluable. Thanks to their extensive research and persuasive legal advocacy, toxic air emissions will be reduced by 95% at this facility and emissions at a second Enviva facility in North Carolina will also be reduced. We cannot thank EIP enough for tirelessly advocating for clean, healthy air in our state’s rural communities.” — June Blotnick, Executive Director, Clean Air Carolina
- EIP, along with Communities for a Better Environment and Environmental Advocates, filed a federal lawsuit in December 2019 against a chemical plant northeast of San Francisco for serious violations of federal hazardous waste laws meant to control air pollution and protect workers and nearby residents from dangerous chemicals. The 1,000-acre Corteva Inc. plant (formerly owned by Dow Chemical Company), located in Pittsburgh, CA, manufactures fertilizers, insecticides, and personal care products. The chemical plant is in the middle of a community of 70,000, most of whom are people of color or lower income. Read the press release. View the lawsuit.
“Communities for a Better Environment’s members live in low-income communities of color near the Dow/Corteva facility. For years, we have been concerned about operations there. EIP investigated key information and developed legal theories to make it actionable to protect our members. The legal knowledge and expertise that EIP brought to the table really enabled us to take on this case against Dow/Corteva. With EIP’s incredible dedicated support in these challenging times, we are hoping to achieve changes at this facility that will better protect the health of the Pittsburg, CA community.“ — Shana Lazerow, Legal Director, Communities for a Better Environment
- Residents of southwest Pennsylvania’s Beaver County had been fearful of the air pollution that would rise from a massive petrochemical plant that Shell Chemical Appalachia, LLC, is building nearby. On behalf of members of the local community, EIP and a local organization, the Clean Air Council, challenged the plant’s permit, and on August 28, 2017, we reached a groundbreaking settlement with Shell. The settlement requires the company to install and operate a fence-line monitoring system to help detect and repair any leaks or other emission sources that cause pollution levels to spike to unhealthy levels. Read the press release. View the settlement agreement.
“The smart and capable attorneys and engineers at EIP were excellent partners in our appeal of the air quality permits for the Shell ethane cracker plant outside of Pittsburgh.” — Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director, CLean Air Council
Eric has served as Executive Director since he co-founded the organization in 2002. Previously, Eric served as director of EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement from 1997 to 2002, where he received a Presidential Rank Award, as well as the John Marshall award from the Justice Department for his leadership in negotiating an industry-wide cleanup of petroleum refineries. Eric’s career at EPA began in 1990, and included an appointment as special assistant to the Deputy Administrator. Prior to his service at EPA, Eric worked as an environmental attorney for two and a half years at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and spent six years on Capitol Hill working for various members of Congress. Eric received his law degree from Georgetown University, and his B.A. from Vanderbilt University.
Ilan joined EIP in 2004, after practicing environmental law with a firm where he litigated water issues on behalf of landowners and conservation groups. He previously played a key role in developing and drafting Texas anti-pollution laws. Ilan received his law degree from University of Texas, and his B.A. from University of Texas at Austin.
Mary has been with EIP since 2013 after many years of teaching and practicing environmental law. She has previously worked for the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. EPA where she specialized in complex CWA, RCRA, and CERCLA cases. Mary holds both a law degree and B.S.B.A. from University of Florida.
Attorneys and Staff
Griffin joined EIP in 2019. Prior to his work with EIP, Griffin interned with the media team at the Sierra Club and worked as a policy intern with the BlueGreen Alliance. He holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Environmental Policy from The College of William & Mary.
Natalia joined EIP in 2019 and works on permitting and enforcement matters to protect the Chesapeake Bay. Prior to joining EIP, Natalia worked for the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, out of its Cleveland, Ohio office, where she handled various litigation matters and assisted with environmental compliance and transactions. Natalia graduated cum laude from Boston College Law School in 2015. During law school, Natalia served as an executive editor of the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review and interned with U.S. EPA Region III, Office of Regional Counsel. Natalia graduated magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve University in 2012, with a B.A. in Economics and Environmental Studies.
Gabriel Clark-Leach joined EIP as a Fellowship Attorney in 2010 after completing two post-graduate public interest clerkships with EIP. Prior to joining EIP, he was a law clerk at the Caddo Lake Institute, and Lowerre, Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell. Gabriel graduated from the University of Texas School of Law with honors where he was a member of the Texas Environmental Law Journal. He also graduated with a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities from SUNY, Buffalo.
Colin joined EIP in June of 2020. Prior to joining EIP, he spent three years on Lone Star Legal Aid’s Environmental Justice Team, focusing on air quality and civil rights issues along the Gulf Coast. He received his J.D. from University of Texas School of Law. While in law school, Colin worked for the Environmental Law Clinic, clerked for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, and served on the editorial board of the Texas Environmental Law Journal. He also holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Rice University.
Patton focuses on enforcement of environmental statutes and other environmental litigation. Before joining EIP, he was a litigator at two large law firms in Atlanta, where he worked on lawsuits at the trial-court and appellate level in state and federal courts across the country. Patton graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia School of Law, where he served on the Georgia Law Review. He holds a B.A. from Rhodes College.
Leah Kelly joined EIP in 2011. Prior to joining EIP, she spent three years working at a small public interest oriented law firm in upstate New York, focusing on land use and environmental matters. Leah graduated from Boston College Law School in 2007 with a Certificate in Land Use and Environmental Law. During law school, Leah worked as an intern with Alternatives For Community and Environment, as a summer law clerk with the Southern Environmental Law Center, and as a student attorney with the Boston College Legal Assistance Bureau. She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2002 with a B.A. in English.
Sylvia joined EIP in 2015 and works primarily on litigation relating to Clean Water Act statutory and enforcement matters as well as the Freedom of Information Act. She holds a J.D. from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. During law school, Sylvia interned for EIP, the Environmental Law Institute, U.S. EPA Region III’s Office of Regional Counsel, and the Land Law Section of the California Office of the Attorney General. Prior to law school, she worked for an environmental consulting firm, where she analyzed the implications of climate change on U.S. military operations. Sylvia also holds a B.A. in Political Science and East Asian Area Studies, with honors, from the University of Pennsylvania.
Sunny joined EIP in 2018 after receiving his J.D. and LL.M in Environmental Law from Georgetown University Law Center. During law school, he clerked at EIP, the GULC Institute for Public Representation, the North Carolina DOJ’s Environmental Division, and the Texas Civil Rights Project. He graduated from Davidson College in 2011 with a B.S. in Psychology.
Ryan works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas industry and landfills, with a focus on Maryland and West Virginia. He signed on with EIP in 2019 and operates out of the D.C. office. Ryan migrated south from Vermont, where he clerked for the Environmental Division of the Vermont Superior Court. Before clerking, he earned his J.D. at the University of Chicago Law School. He holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Vermont.
Abel works on litigation and research related to coal ash, agricultural sources of water pollution, and risk assessment. He joined EIP in 2010 after graduating from Vermont Law School, where he served as an editor of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law and as a clinician with the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. Prior to law school, Abel worked in the field of human health risk assessment as a research associate and as a toxicologist. He graduated from Clark University and received his M.A. in Environmental Science & Policy from Clark in 2000.
Lisa Widawsky Hallowell
Lisa has worked to reduce pollution from coal ash disposal sites in Pennsylvania and nationally since she joined EIP in January 2009. She graduated cum laude with a Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law from Lewis & Clark Law School, where she was a student clinician with the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center, served on the editorial board of the Environmental Law Journal, participated in the Environmental Moot Court Program, and was inducted into the Cornelius Honor Society. Lisa graduated magna cum laude from Colgate University with a B.A. in Environmental Geography and a focus on Environmental Policy Analysis.