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Devon Douglas '03
Environmental Defense, Summer 2002
New York, NY
This summer I had the opportunity, through a generous grant from the Mellon
Foundation, to pursue my interests in both the law and the environment while
working for Environmental Defense (ED) at their headquarters in New York (on
the web at: www.environmentaldefense.org). Environmental Defense is a national,
environmental non-profit organization comprised of lawyers, economists, doctors,
engineers, MBA recipients and scientists. The mission of Environmental Defense
is to protect the environmental rights of all people, including future generations.
These rights include: access to clean air and water, healthy and nourishing
food, and a flourishing ecosystem. ED evaluates environmental problems with
the guidance of sound science and works to create solutions to environmental
problems that are politically, economically and socially feasible to ensure
their duration over time. I found this “finding the ways that work” approach
very refreshing and different from other environmental non-profits I had worked
with in the past.
My contribution to Environmental Defense was through their environmental health program, where I worked closely
with senior attorney Karen Florini and biochemist, Richard Dennison. The specific project I devoted my time to this
summer involved researching the status of a chemical right-to-know initiative called the HPV (High Production Volume
Chemicals) Challenge. This program was initiated by a report published by ED in 1997 called Toxic Ignorance, where
the organization pointed out the health data gaps that existed for the most prevalent chemicals found in our
environment. By 1999, the EPA was mandated, by Vice President Gore, to set up a data receptacle for industry to
publicize health toxicity data on chemicals they produced in over 1 million pounds per year. Industry has been
given until 2003 to adequately fill the necessary health data endpoints after which EPA will promulgate a mandatory
testing rule for this group of chemicals. Environmental Defense has been working closely with EPA and chemical
industry over the past four years to initiate the project, gather this data and set annual goals during the course
of the program. As the HPV Challenge draws to a close Environmental Defense wanted to look at the effectiveness of
My job was to pick apart the quality of the data industry had submitted, look at whether they had meet their self-imposed deadlines and analyze the overall effectiveness of the project to date. I found this program interesting because although no law was being imposed upon chemical industry to release data it was the “fear” of the law to come and the embarrassment of the 1997 report that often served as their initiative. Although the program was not as effective as EPA and ED hoped it has provided a great amount of data for public use and set a right-to-know precedent, which will hopefully clear the path for future programs.
This opportunity not only convinced me that environmental law was the field for me but it also solidified my affinity for non-profit work, which I will pursue after graduation. This experience was invaluable and would not have been possible without help from the Mellon Foundation, thankyou!
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