By Rebecca Kroll ’23
This summer I have had the pleasure of working as a Law Clerk at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Working for the EPA has always been a goal of mine and I want to thank Francis M. Letro ’79 and Cindy Abbott Letro for making this possible through their generous fellowship award through the University at Buffalo School of Law’s Summer Public Interest Funding & Fellowship Program.
While the work I have been doing this summer may not be what typically comes to mind when one thinks of public service, it is important, nonetheless. I intern with the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) and am responsible for reviewing documents pursuant to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, with the goal of increasing government transparency. In a time where there is wide distrust in the government, it is crucial for important information to be available to all citizens and as a FOIA reviewer, I put forth my best effort to disclose as much information as possible. Even when presented with a document that is hundreds of pages long, the public can be assured that it has been thoroughly reviewed and only the most privileged and confidential information has been redacted.
As a FOIA reviewer, I have learned about the nine exemptions to the statute that allow information to be withheld from the public. In the OCSPP, we mainly focus on the fifth and sixth exemptions: the fifth protects the policy-making process along with attorney work product and attorney-client privilege-related documents, and the sixth protects private personal information. By reviewing these documents, I have been exposed to the collaborative and technical nature that is inherent to lawsuits involving a government agency. There are many offices within the agency that must come together to create comprehensive policy and case arguments that put the health of citizens and the environment at the forefront. Biologists, scientists, epidemiologists, technology experts, attorneys and so many more work together every day to carry out the EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.
Working at the EPA has allowed me to see the work product of not only hard-working people but also incredibly passionate people. As was emphasized daily by the people I worked alongside, the people that work at the EPA are truly what make this government agency so unique. Everyone was passionate about their work and happy to show up to work every day no matter what was on the agenda. During my internship, the Supreme Court released its decision in West Virginia v. EPA, which as many of us know was a devastating blow to the EPA’s authority to regulate air emissions under the Clean Air Act. Despite this decision, Administrator Michael S. Regan took this as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the work each EPA employee was doing and motivated the agency to keep up the fight to protect human health. From my experience, no one grew discouraged but instead got back to work, knowing that what they were doing would make a difference no matter how small. That message from the Administrator and the reactions of employees truly showed me that working for a government agency was where institutional changes can be made to best serve the public.
Interning at the EPA this summer ignited within me a passion for environmental public interest work. Seeing firsthand how incredibly intelligent and passionate people can come together to make positive change in the world solidified my desire to work in a field where I can protect the wellbeing of others. I again want to thank Francis M. Letro and Cindy Abbott Letro for making this experience possible and for allowing me to find my passion through environmental work.
Name: Rebecca Kroll, 2023
Name of Fellowship: Francis M. Letro ’79 & Cindy Abbott Letro Fellowship
Placement: United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Location: Washington, DC
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “Seeing firsthand how incredibly intelligent and passionate people can come together to make positive change in the world solidified my desire to work in a field where I can protect the well-being of others.”