Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources

Public Service

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The ABA Fund for Justice and Education, on behalf of the Section, is accepting donations towards ongoing public service projects. Your contribution will help maintain the Section’s stewardship and educational programs.

2018-2019 Co-Chairs:
John Dernbach and Cleo Deschamps 

Learn About Current Volunteer Opportunities

This page of SEER’s website is dedicated to an integral part of SEER’s mission – public service.  Please check it frequently for new pro bono opportunities and events!  And if you wish to propose new ways to engage the SEER community in public service, share them by contacting the Co-Chairs of the Special Committee on Public Service, John Dernbach and Cleo Deschamps.

The EPA’s Urban Waters Program helps local residents and community-based organizations, particularly those in underserved areas, restore local water bodies, and in so doing, advance community and economic revitalization.  The Urban Waters community partners and grantees identified below are seeking legal assistance.  There are opportunities in many regions of the U.S.  Please look these over and consider offering your services to help improve the environment and support community redevelopment in your region or elsewhere!  Thank you!!


Puget Sound, Washington
Watershed Resource Inventory Area 9

Across Puget Sound, Chinook salmon, bull trout, and steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In the Green-Duwamish Watershed (also known as Watershed Resource Inventory Area 9) citizens, scientists, businesses, conservation groups, and governments are working together to respond to the decline of salmon and the lands and waters on which the fish depend. In 2005, the partners completed a science-based Salmon Habitat Plan. Funding for coordination of salmon habitat recovery is provided by 17 local governments in the watershed that have entered into an inter-local agreement. As the partnership renews that agreement after 10 years, the WRIA 9 staff need legal support that focuses on the governance structure and existing funding mechanisms to help address new EPA funding requirements.

Doug Osterman
Salmon Recovery Manager
Green/Duwamish & Central Puget Sound Watershed (WRIA 9)
Seattle, WA 98104-3855
206-477-4793 [and for ABA SEER,]

Los Angeles Metro Area – I
Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay offers volunteer activities for thousands of Angelenos annually in a variety of programs such as: school field trips to the Aquarium, surfing lessons, high school youth summits, river water monitoring and beach cleanups. Because a majority of the cleanups take place in partnership with the California State Coastal Commission (SCC), Heal the Bay utilizes a waiver form based on one created by the SCC. A printed waiver is currently required, generating enormous waste. Heal the Bay needs help evaluating existing waiver protocol and options for streamlining or digitizing the waiver gathering procedure.

Meredith McCarthy
310-451-1500 x 116
[and for ABA SEER,]

Los Angeles Metro Area - II
Friends of the Los Angeles River

Friends of the Los Angeles River is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization founded in 1986 with the mission of creating a publicly accessible, recreational and ecologically sustainable Los Angeles River through education, outreach, advocacy and thought leadership.

Among our endeavors in ensuring a consistently and equitably accessible LA River, we will be developing public access guidelines for River-adjacent lands. The outcome will likely be a model ordinance for jurisdictions to adopt or incorporate in their planning efforts.

Stephen Mejia
O: 323-223-0585
[and for ABA SEER,]

Los Angeles Metro Area - III
Conservation Corps of Long Beach

The Conservation Corps of Long Beach (CCLB) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a staff of fewer than 50, including full- and part-time employees. Its paid program participants, known as corpsmembers are not employees, but are on payroll and are protected by legal requirements imposed by the EEOC, Department of Labor, OSHA and other state and federal agencies. The corpsmember population continues to grow in number as CCLB’s projects become more diversified. Currently, this number served is close to 80.

The wide range of employee and trainee circumstances exposes CCLB to potential legal risks, including termination disputes, worker’s compensation claims and employee leave issues.

Due to resource constraints, CCLB manages its day-to-day activities with very few structural departments and lacks an H.R. Department. Staff members have performed H.R. functions in order to remain compliant with changing laws. The CCLB has utilizes legal advice from licensed experts when issues arise, but this advice is costly. It would be extremely helpful to the organization to have access to reliable legal advice on a pro bono basis.

Megan Clark
Executive Assistant
(562) 986-1249 ext. 116 [and for ABA SEER,]

New York City Metro Area
Bronx River Alliance

Current legal support needs of the Bronx River Alliance include:

  • Board policies, procedures and bylaws: occasional assistance updating conflict of interest and whistleblower policies, amending bylaws to meet changed circumstances and board decisions, and advising on procedures to satisfy nonprofit governance law and best practices.
  • Updating volunteer and photo consent waivers.
  • Periodically drafting and reviewing the license agreements between NYC Parks and the Bronx River Alliance.
  • Human resources: as need arises, advising the Alliance on termination of employees, severance agreements, and harassment issues. Periodically, assistance to review and update the employee handbook.
  • Fiscal agent agreements. An example was developed by a pro bono legal firm via the Lawyers Alliance. This can serve as a template, but each case has unique features which ideally should be reviewed by an attorney.
  • Environmental issues: researching and advising on compliance with environmental requirements (such as coal ash, manufactured gas plants, “hot spots” in Soundview landfill). Researching consent orders.
  • Intergovernmental and interagency issues: research and advice on resolving disputes with entities (e.g., Amtrak) regarding capital projects. Guidance on lobbying requirements.

New York /New Jersey: Lower Passaic River & Raritan Bay
NY/NJ Baykeeper

NY/NJ Baykeeper has been advocating for cleanup of the Lower Passaic River 8 mile Superfund site and are also involved with the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site. In view of the freeze on contracts instituted by the new federal administration, the NY/NJ Baykeeper would like a better understanding of case law and legal issues around the closing and reopening of Superfund cleanup decisions.

Sandra Meola
Communications and Outreach Associate
NY/NJ Baykeeper
52 W. Front St. Keyport, NJ 07735
732-888-9870 ext 7 (office)
201-336-4647 (mobile)
Email: [and for ABA SEER,]

Yonkers, New York
Sarah Lawrence College (SLC) Center for the Urban River

The SLC Center for the Urban River works with a wide variety of partners on watershed protection initiatives, some of which are unincorporated volunteer groups. SLC Center for the Urban River would like to learn more about the legality of various organizational structures and partnership agreements. As a specific example, it would like to understand the ramifications of serving as the sponsor and/or fiscal sponsor of these groups relative to SLC’s general liability and applicable lobbying laws. SLC Center for the Urban River is also interested in how attorneys might be able to help expand the organization’s connections in the communities it serves.

Ryan Palmer
Director, Center for the Urban River at Beczak
Sarah Lawrence College
35 Alexander St., Yonkers, NY 10701
Office: (914) 377 - 1900 x15
Cell: (845) 849 - 4486
[and for ABA SEER]