TU Law student lands fellowship focused on water pollution and environmental justice
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TU Law student lands fellowship focused on water pollution and environmental justice

This is a big year for University of Tulsa College of Law 3L student Jorge Roman-Romero. In May, he will graduate with a juris doctor and a master of laws in energy and natural resources. Then, in August, Roman-Romero will take up an Equal Justice Works fellowship with Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) in Wisconsin.

“I cannot envision a better way to start my environmental law career,” Roman-Romero commented. “I am confident that this fellowship will further develop my environmental law expertise, hone my advocacy skills and, most importantly, make me grow as a person. I’m looking forward to serving communities and learning from them.”

Born and raised in Ecuador, Roman-Romero holds two bachelor’s degrees – in political philosophy and history – from McNeese State University. During his time at TU Law, he has served as a staff editor of the Energy Law Journal and co-president of the Immigration Law Society, one of the college’s vibrant student organizations.

Environmental justice for people of color and low-income populations

young man in a blue blazer seated on a park benchRoman-Romero’s Equal Justice Works fellowship fits snugly with his longstanding interest in the effects of law and policy on society. “I find energy, natural resources and environmental law fascinating because of their dynamic and complex nature,” Roman-Romero said. “The field intersects with science, economics, policy and ethics. The latter, in particular, pushes me toward focusing on environmental justice as a way to confront the fact that people of color and low-income individuals disproportionately – and unjustly – bear the environmental and health impacts of pollution. My Equal Justice Works fellowship will give me an excellent opportunity to tackle this legal problem.”

MEA and Roman-Romero co-designed his fellowship, which will focus on water pollution and environmental justice. Through regulatory advocacy, direct representation and public awareness campaigns, Roman-Romero will advocate for disadvantaged communities in Wisconsin that face disproportionate exposure to toxic pollutants from contaminated water. In particular, his project will address contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which is a relatively recent but significant public health problem.

“We are excited to welcome Jorge to MEA and to Wisconsin as an Equal Justice Works Fellow,” said Tony Wilkin Gibart, the MEA’s executive director. “We know Jorge will be an outstanding and successful attorney working to promote healthy water and environmental justice. In addition to his tenacity and keen intelligence, Jorge possesses a deep commitment to advocate for communities facing environmental health threats. These qualities will make him a valuable member of our team.”

Support and development on his journey

When he reflects on the path that has led him to the MEA, Roman-Romero cites two major influences during his time at TU Law. First, he credits the college’s Sustainable Energy & Resources Law (SERL) program, led by Professor Robert Butkin. According to Roman-Romero, SERL prepared him “to navigate complex and nuanced legal frameworks that have significant impacts on the economic use of natural resources, energy development and resilience, and public health.”

Roman-Romero also acknowledges Assistant Professor Melissa Luttrell’s scholarship on the regulatory use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA). This work allowed him to examine and understand risk management as well as the risk-assessment principles and tools behind environmental and public health risk policy-making. In Oct. 2020, Roman-Romero and Luttrell co-authored a piece for the Yale Journal on Regulation, arguing that reliance by government agencies on fully quantitative CBA to set regulatory limits on risk tends to generate racially biased outcomes ion many areas of risk regulation.

“On behalf of the TU College of Law, I congratulate Jorge on obtaining an Equal Justice Works fellowship,” said Dean Lyn Entzeroth. “I look forward to hearing about his experience with MEA, helping to further its environmental justice work. In addition, it is always so gratifying to see how much our faculty assist students in establishing meaningful, rewarding career paths. Professors Butkin and Luttrell are gifted professors who make a positive impact on the lives of our students on a daily basis.”

Giving back to your community

Roman-Romero draws on his experience at TU Law to counsel others who want to make a difference in the world: “Follow your interest and passion. Regardless of the path you take, always find ways to contribute to people and communities in need.”

For those who see law school as a fundamental step on their journey towards public interest legal work, he advises to “plan ahead to identify the area of law in which you would like to use your legal skills to serve a community or tackle a major issue. There are many ways to use a legal education to become an effective public interest advocate. Just find one that motivates you to be as impactful and efficient as you can be.”

Inspired by Jorge Roman-Romero’s passion for public advocacy law? At TU Law, you will receive the preparation you need to ensure your legal practice matters – to you, to others. Apply today.