Melissa Legge

  • Hosted by Earthjustice
  • Sponsored by Anonymous
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Yale Law School
  • Issue area Environmental Justice
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

This project aimed to protect prisoners from environmental threats by compelling public agencies to consider prisoners’ health and safety in environmental decision-making and remedy existing sources of toxic exposure.

Federal agencies are required to identify and avoid disproportionately adverse human health or environmental effects on low-income populations and people of color. Yet two such communities are consistently ignored: prisoners and immigration detainees. As a result of this neglect, prisons and detention centers often have severe environmental problems. This project aimed to bring the environmental movement’s specialized legal expertise to address these serious environmental threats and, partnering with prisoners’ and immigrants’ rights groups, develop strategy and action to fill this tremendous gap.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Melissa has:

  • Joined a team of lawyers at Earthjustice working to prevent the construction of immigration detention facilities on contaminated land
  • Represented local environmental groups in the Finger Lakes region of New York to fight a polluting incinerator, which would be built next to a prison and jail
  • Joined the coalition of organizers in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign and provided legal support where helpful

Next Steps

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Melissa plans to join the Earthjustice Coal Program as an Associate Attorney, where she will join a team of litigators working to end our nation’s reliance on dirty, expensive, and outdated coal-fired power plants, and to achieve a just transition to a clean energy economy.

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