Thu Sep 6 2012

Vermont Law School has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. State Department to support a three-year project designed to improve environmental and public health in China.

“The result will be increased citizen participation and progress on a scale that will have meaningful impact on southwest China’s burgeoning environmental issues,” said Professor Jason Czarnezki, faculty director of the U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law at Vermont Law.

The U.S.-China Partnership will work with Southwest Forestry University in Kunming, Yunnan Province, to create a “legal ecosystem” that includes an environmental and biodiversity law clinic to serve nongovernmental organizations, communities and underserved citizens. The school will host workshops to educate environmental leaders, lawyers and citizens on legal avenues to address environmental and public health issues.

“In addition, the law clinic, through a deepened understanding of the communities’ needs and the experience of handling cases, will improve advocacy for changes in the law in consultation with local
environmental protection agencies,” Czarnezki said. “The program also will train government officials and judges to improve enforcement and implementation of environmental laws as it will be a collaborative effort seeking to build bridges between different sectors of the Chinese environmental law community.”

The project’s goal is help legal advocates, citizen groups, NGOs and government agencies to act individually and together within Yunnan Province and to create a model for advancing environmental governance for the entire region.

Vermont’s Congressional delegation – U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Bernie Sanders – supported Vermont Law’s grant proposal to the State Department. “This project will empower China’s citizens to participate in and use legal avenues to address local environmental issues and to strengthen their communities,” Welch said. “Vermont Law School continues to positively and practically influence the impact of the law on the environment in China.”

Vermont Law School is a leader among U.S. law schools working on environmental governance in China, whose pollution affects air quality and public health in the United States. Since 2006, the U.S.-China Partnership has trained thousands of Chinese lawyers, government officials and educators, giving them the skills and academic infrastructure needed to solve environmental and energy challenges in China through the rule of law.

Source: VLS. 9.6.2012. Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service, a Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree and two post-JD degrees, the Master of Laws in Environmental Law and the LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers). The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center and the South Royalton Legal Clinic. For more information, visit