PUBLISHED:June 04, 2015

Ongoing Stanback support fuels impact of Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

Philanthropic support from Duke University alumni Fred and Alice Stanback continues to fuel the expansion of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic’s client services, educational mission, and public influence. By significantly adding to an earlier leadership gift, the Stanbacks have “exponentially increased” the clinic’s ability to inform environmental policy and legislation in North Carolina and beyond and to train a new generation of environmental leaders and advocates, said Clinical Professor Ryke Longest, who directs the clinic.

Longest and Supervising Attorney Michelle Nowlin JD/MA ’92 oversee the work of two postgraduate Stanback Clinic Fellows as well as a team of students from Duke Law and the Nicholas School of the Environment. Together they provide professional services relating to watershed and wetlands protection, land and energy conservation, air pollution, endangered species protection, climate change, and toxic chemical contamination.

Recent clinic activities made possible by the Stanbacks’ support include, among many others:

  • successfully advocating to reduce the use of toxic pesticides linked to critical declines in butterfly, beneficial insects, and marine life in and near the National Key Deer Refuge in Florida;
  • drafting ordinances to use local zoning restrictions to limit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking;
  • litigating to prevent clear-cutting trees to open sightlines for billboards on state highways on behalf of the nonprofit Scenic NC; and
  • representing the Yadkin Riverkeeper in addressing hazardous waste contamination in Badin, N.C., and acting as amicus in a suit between the state and Alcoa disputing ownership of the riverbed.

Many of the clinic’s projects combine economics, law, and environmental science in ways that engage the Law School and Nicholas School, as well as the Pratt School of Engineering, the Fuqua School of Business, the Duke Marine Lab, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and the campus-wide Energy Initiative.

Clinic students also have revised the Guide to Environmental Justice and Environmental Protection in North Carolina, which is disseminated free of charge to area nonprofits.

“The Stanbacks’ ongoing support allows the clinic to directly support the grassroots community in North Carolina and enables us to work with an ever-wider range of faculty and students across campus,” Longest said.

In addition to the clinic, a wide range of initiatives at the intersection of the environment, health, and innovation across Duke University receive support from the Stanbacks. For example, more than 1,200 students, including many Duke Law students, have gained professional experience working for an environmental organization through the Stanback Internship Program.

Emily Spiegel ’14, who has an undergraduate degree in science, technology, and international affairs from Georgetown, brought an interest in agricultural development to her work as a clinic student. In her third year, she worked on several food and agriculturally focused client matters, including issues pertaining to plant genetics and intellectual property, and policy relating to farm animal welfare. In January, she returned to the clinic as a Stanback Fellow following a four-month internship with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s development law office in Rome. One of two full-time fellows, she is working to expand opportunities for sustainable food production and exploring possible international projects for the clinic.

“There is very little exposure to agricultural development law in doctrinal classes, so for me as a student, the clinic was a really important way to build expertise in a niche field,” Spiegel said. “That experience was tremendously helpful in being able to get the job at FAO, and it informs the work I’m doing now, which has more of an academic focus. My fellowship continues to give me a good grounding in the different areas of law that relate to agriculture and development. I would not have this position without the Stanbacks’ support.”