2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

Learn More & Apply

Headshot of Ella Helmuth

Ella Helmuth

  • Hosted by Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center
  • Sponsored by Baker McKenzie, Ecolab Inc.
  • Service location Whitesburg, Kentucky
  • Law school Georgetown University Law Center
  • Issue area Environmental Justice
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Ella’s (she/her/hers) project will focus on supporting low-income Central Appalachian communities in gaining access to clean, affordable water by working directly with community leaders, representing communities before state utility commissions, creating educational materials and workshops, and advocating for infrastructure funding.

Central Appalachia is one of the areas of the country most plagued by a lack of affordable, reliable, safe drinking water because the area’s natural water supplies were polluted and destroyed by a century of unchecked, under-regulated coal mining that externalized the true cost of coal onto the communities of the region. There is a need for a dedicated attorney to fight for affordable rates, advocate for clean water access, and educate Central Appalachian communities about water in the region.

Ella’s family is from Eastern Kentucky. Central Appalachia is a place with rich musical, craft, and culinary traditions and a place with a robust history of radical labor movements and progressive organizing. These are traditions and communities Ella grew up with and cherishes. Ella’s legal experience has focused on environmental justice in Central Appalachia. She has always planned to return to Kentucky and advocate for the people and land she loves.

Fellowship Plans

Ella will directly represent communities before the state utility commission and other decision-making bodies to advocate for affordable water rates and hold utility companies accountable. She will also work with communities to help them advocate for infrastructure funding at the state and federal levels. Ella will convene and facilitate a network of committed Kentucky organizations to strategize about water justice issues and explore local solutions. She will work in a variety of other ways to educate and support Central Appalachian communities about their water needs and insert the rural Appalachian experience into national conversations about water justice.

Growing up in a place like Kentucky makes unchecked environmental violence an intimate experience. I am excited to support overlooked communities in asserting their human right to clean, affordable, accessible water.

Ella Helmuth /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Meet Other Fellows Like Ella

View All

Photo of Erin Mette

Erin Mette

Host: Great Lakes Environmental Law Center

Sponsor: Anonymous, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

Jacklyn Bryan

Host: Midwest Environmental Advocates, Inc.

Sponsor: Anonymous, Brico Fund

Mekela Panditharatne

Host: Natural Resources Defense Council

Sponsor: Anonymous

Melissa Legge

Host: Earthjustice

Sponsor: Anonymous