How the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic Survived the Shintech Controversy and Rule XX Revisions: Some Questions and Answers
In late 1996, the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic (the Clinic) took on representation of a community group called St. James Citizens for Jobs and the Environment in a controversial challenge to Shintech Inc.'s proposed construction of a polyvinyl chloride plant in Convent, Louisiana. After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted a petition to veto the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality's issuance of an air permit to Shintech, Shintech changed its plans and located a downsized facility elsewhere in Louisiana.
The Shintech dispute sparked a national controversy, featured on national television news shows and, ultimately, in a cable-television movie called "Taking Back Our Town." A common postscript to retellings of the Shintech story is a statement that the Clinic essentially paid for its contribution to St. James Citizens' success with its life—suffering retaliatory restrictions that supposedly would prevent it from ever representing a group like St. James Citizens again. In fact, the Clinic has continued to represent St. James Citizens and similar clients and continues to enjoy its fair share of successes and to weather its share of defeats. The following questions and answers are intended to explain the Clinic's survival as a viable member of Louisiana's legal community and as a place where law students continue to represent clients on the cutting-edge of environmental law.