Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
University of Oregon School of Law
Eugene, Oregon
2013 PIELC Speakers

Nnimmo Bassey
Caleb Behn
John C. Cruden
Jim Gerritsen
Hilton Kelley
Thomas Linzey
Thuli Brilliance Makama
Our Children's Trust Youth Plaintiffs
Gerald Torres
Ed Whitelaw

Nnimmo Bassey is the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria. He served as Chair of Friends of the Earth International from 2008 to 2012. Bassey co-founded the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), a Nigerian advocacy NGO, in 1993 in response to widespread environmental degradation and human rights abuses in Nigeria. Bassey has stood up against unjust practices of multinational corporations in Nigeria and the environmental devastation they leave behind, convinced that the costs of oil production far outweigh its benefits. ERA has spearheaded lawsuits against oil companies on behalf of local communities for damage to the people and the environment.

Bassey has authored books on the environment, architecture/management and poetry. His poetry collections include We Thought It Was Oil But It Was Blood (2002) and I Will Not Dance to Your Beat (2011). His latest book is To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa (2012), published by Pambazuka Press.

He was listed as one of TIME magazine's Heroes of the Environment in 2009 and was a co-recipient of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award also known as the "Alternative Noble Prize." In 2012, Basset received the Rafto Human Rights Award.


Caleb Behn is Eh-Cho Dene and Dunne Za/Cree from the Treaty 8 Territory of Northeastern BC. He has recently completed his Juris Doctor degree and is among the first UVic Law students granted the Concentration in Environmental Law and Sustainability. Prior to law school, he was the Oil and Gas Officer for the West Moberly First Nations and a Lands Manager for the Saulteau First Nations. Mr. Behn is the subject of a documentary film focused on the impact of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional gas development in Canada and Aotearoa, New Zealand.


John C. Cruden is the President of Environmental Law Institute, a nationally recognized non-profit association that provides research, education, and publications in the area of environmental law and policy. Before coming to ELI, John was, for over two decades, the career Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice. He has personally litigated and led settlement negotiations in numerous environmental cases, many with reported decisions. Prior to becoming Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Cruden was Chief, Environmental Enforcement Section, DOJ. Before joining the Department of Justice, he was the Chief Legislative Counsel of the Army. After graduating from West Point, John served in airborne, ranger, and Special Forces units before attending law school. Mr. Cruden is a Past President of the District of Columbia Bar, the second largest bar in the nation, a Past Chair of the ABA Section on Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources, and a member of the American College of Environmental Lawyers. He has received the Presidential Rank Award from three different Presidents and awards from the DOJ, ABA, FBA, EPA, and the military. He is listed in Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America and Who's Who in American Law. In 2010, Mr. Cruden was listed by a national magazine as one of the top 500 lawyers in America. He has written and lectured extensively in the areas of environment, energy, and natural resources law.


Jim Gerritsen, along with his wife Megan, has owned and operated Wood Prairie Farm in northern Maine for over 35 years. Wood Prairie Farm has been a Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)-certified organic farm since 1982. The Gerritsens are focused on the production of organic early generation Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, seed crops, vegetables and grain. Their seed potatoes are sold retail through their mail order catalog and web business. Additionally, they sell wholesale to several national mail order seed houses. They are also active in the organic community.

Jim is currently the President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), the lead plaintiff in OSGATA et al. v. Monsanto, a lawsuit filed on behalf of sixty family farmers, seed businesses and agricultural organizations challenging Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed. Jim has also served as President of Organic Seed Alliance in WA and was on the Certification Committee of MOFGA for over twenty years. He is now on the MOFGA Ag Services Committee and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Direct Gardening Association. He has served for many years on the Steering Committee of the local St John Aroostook Resource Conservation & Development Council. He is co-founder of Slow Food Aroostook and co-founded an Organic Crop Improvement Association chapter. He has cooperated in several on-farm research trials with scientists from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Maine, and he is an advisor to the UMO Northern New England Organic Bread Wheat Project. The Gerritsens farm and reside in the Aroostook County town of Bridgewater with their four children.


Hilton Kelley was born and raised on the West Side of Port Arthur, Texas. Through a series of lucky breaks, he began working as a stunt man and actor in California. During a visit home in 2000, twenty-one years after he left Port Arthur, Kelley saw the community sickened by industrial pollution, plagued with crime, and teetering on the brink of total economic collapse. Located among eight major petrochemical and hazardous waste facilities on the Texas Gulf Coast, the largely African-American West Side neighborhood of Port Arthur has long suffered as a result of the near constant emissions spewing from smokestacks ringing the community.

Kelley became the leader of the local movement to clean up Port Arthur. He established Community In-power and Development Association and training local residents to monitor air quality. Kelley negotiated a now-famous "good neighbor" agreement whereby Motiva installed state-of-the-art equipment to reduce harmful emissions, provided health coverage for the residents of the West Side for three years, and established a $3.5 million fund to help entrepreneurs launch new local businesses. Kelley continues to advocate for stricter environmental regulations on the Texas Gulf Coast and serves on the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. In 2010, Kelley and his wife opened Kelley's Kitchen, a soul food restaurant that employs West Side residents.

Photo and content courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize.


Thomas Linzey is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit law firm that has provided free legal services to over five hundred local governments and nonprofit organizations since 1995. He is a cum laude graduate of Widener Law School and a three-time recipient of the law school's public interest law award. He has been a finalist for the Ford Foundation's Leadership for a Changing World Award, and is a recipient of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union's Golden Triangle Legislative Award. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Third, Fourth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is a co-founder of the Daniel Pennock Democracy School - now taught in twenty-four states across the country which has graduated over 5,000 lawyers, activists, and municipal officials - which assists groups to create new community campaigns which elevate the rights of those communities over rights claimed by corporations. Linzey is the recent author of Be The Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community (Gibbs-Smith 2009), has served as a co-host of Democracy Matters, a public affairs radio show broadcast from KYRS in Spokane, Washington, and is a frequent lecturer at conferences across the country. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, and the Nation.


Ms. Thuli Brilliance Makama, Executive Director of Yonge Nawe - Friends of the Earth Swaziland, a graduate of the University of Swaziland and the London School of Economics, is Advocate (Senior Counsel) of the High Court of Swaziland and Member of the Law Society of Swaziland. Combining law and advocacy, Makama has engaged in public interest environmental law challenges against powerful multinational corporations and her Government in defense of environmental and human rights of local communities.

In 2010, Makama was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of her successful litigation defending the right to public participation in environmental decision making against the then Minister of Environment. Makama is dedicated to an ongoing gruesome campaign against extra judicial executions of local communities in the name of wildlife conservation by one private family-owned wildlife safari company in Swaziland. The public interest environmental actions of Makama and her organisation have attracted brutal responses and backlash from violators that have in some instances led to break ins at her office and her home, and privately sponsored negative press releases in the media. Makama's activism and belief in access to justice and law led her to found the Legal Assistance Center, a non-profit that seeks to promote public interest law in a national context where violations of basic human rights and social injustice are perverse.

Makama is the immediate past deputy Chair of the Open Society Initiative Southern Africa, has served as Ombudsman of Friends of the Earth International, Chair of the Coordinating Assembly of Non Governmental Organisations in Swaziland, advisor to the Resident Coordinator of UN in Swaziland through the select Civil Society Advisory Committee, and the Law Society of Swaziland Judicial Crisis Committee. She is also the mother of two beautiful loving daughters, Simphiwe and Nobunye.


Our Children's Trust Youth Plaintiffs
Three Atmospheric Trust Litigation plaintiffs will be presenting together and sharing their stories through a showing of their TRUST Films featured in the documentary series, Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery.

"Everything I see through my lens, I know I can change to make better," says Ashley Funk, an 18-year-old climate activist from Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, a small community nestled within the Appalachian Mountains. Ashley's love for photography is rooted in her deep appreciation for the environments and her desire to instill positive change to the environments and communities that surround her. In her own backyard Ashley can capture with her camera huge, black mounds of coal waste known as gob piles and slate dumps. Growing up in a poor community dependent on the coal industry, Ashely began turning her attention to environmental justice. After kick-starting the first recycling program and anti-litter campaign in her town, she began to educate her community about the health hazards of practices like hydro-fracking and mountain top removal coal mining. Ashley has further elevated her voice by suing the State of Pennsylvania for not living up to its Constitutional duty to protect the atmosphere as a public trust resource.

Eshe Sherley is an 18-year-old systems thinker from Boston, Massachusetts. Since the age of 13, Eshe has been a leader, given numerous talks and started petitions in her schools, all in the name of justice. She sees climate change as the biggest social justice issue of our time and is determined to combat it. Eshe is asking the State of Massachusetts to take action on climate change by listening to a diversity of voices and ideas, including the youth voice, and by implementing a Climate Recovery Plan based on science. If adults listen with the intention of acting to seek a comprehensive solution, Eshe believes there's hope in repairing our climate system.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez lives amongst the Rocky Mountains. He and his family know the forests surrounding Boulder, Colorado like the back of their hands. They're familiar with the wildlife inhabiting them, the rivers running through them, and the extreme damage they face due to climate change. At the age of 12, Xiuhtezcatl has already been involved in combating climate change for the past six years. He was compelled to take action after watching the forests and ecosystems surrounding his home die before his eyes. With the support of his family, Xiuhtezcatl leads Earth Guardians, an environmental non-profit group focused on educating and assisting youth in being active caretakers of the earth, as well as to empower them in becoming outspoken environmental leaders, both locally and globally. He has mobilized a following of youth and adults, and organized rallies, actions, events, and City Council presentations. Xiuhtezcatl's work led him to become a plaintiff in the Colorado Atmospheric Trust Litigation (ATL) lawsuit and a member of Kids vs. Global Warming, a non-profit organization and plaintiff in the Federal ATL lawsuit.


Professor Gerald Torres holds the Bryant Smith Chair at the University of Texas. He is an expert in environmental law, agricultural law, and in critical race theory. Torres came to the University of Texas Law School in 1994 after teaching at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he also served as associate dean. Before coming to Texas, Torres has served as deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and as counsel to then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

His book, The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2002) with Harvard Law Professor Lani Guinier, was described by Publisher's Weekly as "one of the most provocative and challenging books on race produced in years." Torres' articles include "Translation and Stories" (Harvard Law Review, 2002), "Who Owns the Sky?" (Pace Law Review, 2001), "Taking and Giving: Police Power, Public Value, and Private Right" (Environmental Law, 1996), and "Translating Yonnondio by Precedent and Evidence: The Mashpee Indian Case" (Duke Law Journal, 1990). He has recently published articles on ground water in the Yale Law Journal (online) and on the Fisher case in the Vanderbilt Law Review (online).

Professor Torres is a past president of the Association of American Law Schools. He has served on the board of the Environmental Law Institute, the National Petroleum Council, and EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute. Torres was honored with the 2004 Legal Service Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for his work to advance the legal rights of Latinos. He currently is Board Chair of the Advancement Project, the nation's leading social and racial justice organization. He is also on the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council and is Vice-Chairman of the Board of Earth Day Network. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale law schools.


Ed Whitelaw is the Founder of ECONorthwest. He specializes in urban and regional economics, natural resource and environmental economics, and the economic consequences of policy decisions. As an expert witness, he has testified for litigation cases before state and federal trials.

Since 1974, Ed has completed economic consulting projects for a wide range of clients including law firms; businesses; tribes; and state, local and federal governments. He has testified before administrative, legislative, congressional, and judicial bodies on a variety of economic issues. He has held positions on state, regional, and national advisory boards, including the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology and the Oregon Progress Board. Ed is a Professor of Economics at the University of Oregon, where he has taught since 1967.




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