Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
Since its inception in 1998, PennFuture has emphasized the importance of using the law to protect Pennsylvania’s environment and “create a just future where nature, communities, and the economy thrive.”
Over the past two decades, we have achieved significant legal and policy victories that reduce pollution and protect the environment and our communities. We have provided millions of dollars in pro bono legal services while setting critical precedents and enforcing environmental laws across the Commonwealth.
But as PennFuture looks forward to the next 20 years, we recognize that we need to be more involved with cultivating the people that will continue to support our mission. Our staff have a long history of mentoring interns, externs, and fellows, and we wanted to create a more formal program to inspire the next generation.
With the generous support of the George and Miriam Martin Foundation and the Otto Haas Charitable Trust, PennFuture created a paid legal internship program to inspire and mentor students interested in making a difference for our environment.
Ultimately, the goal of this program is to provide the organization a cadre of young legal and policy minds interested in taking on the myriad challenges impacting Pennsylvania as well as to further their potential environmental careers. We also hope that providing for a funded internship will help to bring more diversity and inclusivity into the non-profit environmental advocacy sphere.
This fall, we have two fantastic students for our internship, including a returning intern, representing a range of backgrounds and experiences. We’ve asked our interns to explain, in their own words, what environmental law and PennFuture’s mission means to them:
I completed an internship with PennFuture over the summer and felt the experience was so rewarding that I asked if I could stay through the fall semester. Luckily for me, Abby Jones, Vice President of Legal and Research at PennFuture, agreed.
I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Connecticut. Despite not having a science background, I knew when I started law school at Widener Commonwealth University that I wanted to work in environmental law after graduation. I am the current president of Widener’s Environmental Law and Policy Society. I have also taken several environmental law courses including international environmental law, land use planning, natural resources, environmental law, and animal law. While my time at Widener has provided foundational knowledge, interning at PennFuture has filled in the educational gaps by providing hands-on work experience on current environmental issues affecting Pennsylvania residents.
Working one-on-one with Rob Altenburg, PennFuture’s Director of Energy and Climate, I was able to write a first draft of comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon rule for power plants. I have also reviewed briefs PennFuture is working on in partnership with other environmental advocacy organizations and researched guidance documents and model ordinances for utility-scale solar projects. In addition, I wrote blogs on the Supreme Court’s recent Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency decision and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. I have gained insider knowledge on brief writing for Pennsylvania courts and attended meetings with PennFuture staff where creative solutions to combat environmental concerns such as climate change, pollution, and environmental injustice are brought to life.
PennFuture has encouraged me to continue my education during my internship by allowing me to take part in webinars and training programs. The legal team has been patient, encouraging, and has taken the time to ensure that I understand the projects they are working on and to explain different aspects of practicing environmental law. PennFuture staff are supportive of each other’s work and have gone out of their way to make me feel like a valued team member. I have gained so much knowledge during my summer internship and am very grateful for this opportunity. I’m excited to learn even more about environmental advocacy during my fall internship with PennFuture.
Growing up in Cambridge, England, I saw positive steps always taken in my city towards promoting important environmental issues, continually pushing towards building a community where both the current and future generations can be assured that their health and wellbeing is actively considered and focused on as a priority. After moving away and seeing that these sentiments did not permeate in other parts of the world, it became clear that work was needed to help integrate the ideas and policies that I had seen work so effectively in my own home into other places.
My interest in the law stems from my desire to effect real change into people's lives. The law affects every aspect of our lives, and for many, is often a source of much heartache and disillusion. To be able to use the law in an effective way that can support those who otherwise would be without a way to get justice in their lives is what is most important to me, and I hope to bring this ideal into practice.
At Dickinson Law, I am involved in the Student Bar Association, Dickinson Law Review, and the school's Diversity, Inclusion, and Educational Equity Committee. Diversity initiatives are very important to me, so to be able to play a meaningful role in my school's own initiatives is a real honor.
I am very excited to be at PennFuture this fall and learn more about environmental law and policy, as well as be involved in making a substantial contribution in the fight for the preservation of the environment in Pennsylvania.