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Great Rivers Environmental Law Center Opens in St. Louis

For Release on October 17, 2002
For More Information Contact:
Melody Monroe
Director of Development
(314) 231-4181
(314) 231-4184 fax
melody@greatriverslaw.org

Public interest environmental law center provides pro bono legal services to the public.

WHO WE ARE

St. Louis, Mo - On the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, St. Louis welcomes its first public interest environment center.  Great Rivers Environmental Law Center will provide legal services to organizations, citizens, groups, and individuals who seek to protect and preserve clean air, clean water, wetlands, floodplains, open space and endangered species.

WHAT WE DO AND WHY

Lewis Green, President of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, and his law firm have, for more than 30 years, represented environmentalists, often without compensation, because St. Louis has never had a nonprofit environmental law center to represent the public interest in clean air, clean water, and preservation of floodplains, wetlands, and endangered species. "The national environmental organizations, such as Sierra Club or Audubon Society, do not maintain a staff of lawyers to represent the public interest in local and regional disputes," said Green. "Publicly funded environmental law centers all over the country are providing free legal work to grass roots advocacy organizations that need legal expertise to advance their missions to protect the environment."

"Because Green Hennings & Henry can no longer carry on this responsibility, we must have a publicly supported environmental law center here.  Great Rivers will meet that need."

HOW WE DO WHAT WE DO

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center works through the courts and administrative agencies to safeguard the environment by enforcing environmental laws, especially air and water pollution laws, and laws intended to protect wetlands, floodplains, open space, and endangered species.  The "issues" which Great Rivers Environmental Law Center will raise will often have national significance, although Great Rivers Law Center will initially emphasize Missouri and Illinois.

  • Cases will be accepted where there is a broad public interest involved and the client's financial interest in the outcome is too small to justify retention of a private law firm.  Factors considered in determining whether to accept a case include:
    • significance of the environmental impact
    • likelihood of obtaining a favorable result
    • possibility of establishing a legal precedent of broad significance
    • support of environmental groups
    • availability of funding

HISTORY OF ENVIRONMENTAL LITIGATION

Great Rivers is already replacing Green Hennings & Henry LLP in representing the Sierra Club, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and other citizens organizations and individuals in litigation pending in various courts and administrative agencies.  Great Rivers will continue to work closely with these and other environmentalists in the future.

Since retiring as Chairman of the Missouri Air Conservation Commission in 1969, and co-founding the Missouri Coalition for the Environment in the same year, Green has led the effort to protect the environment in the St. Louis region.

A number of the lawsuits brought by Green Hennings & Henry have achieved significant results.  For example, a suit filed in 1970 preserves Queeny Park as the region's most beautiful park, against government plans to convert it into a golf course.  A suit filed in 1971 brought a judgment compelling the Corps of Engineers in the future (contrary to past practice) to acknowledge its jurisdiction to control any construction below the high water mark of a navigable river, as that mark creeps up tributary creeks and ditches, and to subject any such proposal to scrutiny under the National Environmental Policy Act.

A suit filed a little later prevented the opening of a quarry and rock-crushing plant in the midst of a beautiful residential area in Franklin County.  The firm has successfully prevented the construction of waste disposal facilities, such as medical waste incinerators and landfills, in inappropriate locations, in both St. Louis and St. Charles Counties.

The huge domed stadium is located in downtown St. Louis, rather than the wetlands of the Missouri Bottoms, because of a lawsuit filed in the 80's.  In the 90's the firm protected the public land riverward of Earth City from use as an access to a proposed gambling boat to be stationed there.

In 2001 Green won a judgment from the District Court for the District of Columbia ruling that the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency had violated the Clean Air Act in refusing, since May 15, 1997, to reclassify the St. Louis ozone nonattainment area from "moderate" to "serious," and that ordered her to publish that reclassification promptly.  Among the cases taken over by Great Rivers from the law firm is an outgrowth of that 2001 judgment, a challenge to the lawfulness of the Administrator's withdrawal of the notice, which she had been ordered to publish by the District of Columbia courts.

Another of the pending cases taken over by Great Rivers is a challenge to the lawfulness of a permit issued by the Corps of Engineers to fill wetlands in Hazelwood in order to build a shopping center there.

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