Professor of Law, Duke Law
On behalf of the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources (EENR) Center at the University of Houston Law Center, we are delighted to announce the forthcoming events we’ll host in the frame of our virtual lecture series on Energy Transition and Climate Governance, sponsored by the EU’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, and spearheaded by Dr. Aubin Nzaou.
Topic: Forgotten Waters
Speaker's name: Michele Okoh
Professor of Law, Duke Law
Abstract:Over 43 million Americans, approximately 15% of the population, rely on private wells for drinking water. These Americans do not have access to public water systems and are not protected by the Safe Drinking Water Act. These individuals are instead left with a set of widely differing state laws regulating their drinking water wells. Most of these states do not have any standards related to drinking water quality. Well owners are instead responsible for monitoring and maintaining the safety of their water.
This problem is often characterized as a rural issue, hard to solve because of the large distance to treated water infrastructure. This assumption is wrong. Many homes are located in peri-urban communities, close to public water systems. These systems often have been excluded from public water systems due to racial/ethnic discrimination and poverty. Using the example of communities surrounding Mebane, North Carolina, this essay argues that approaches to addressing access to safe drinking water must account for this legacy of discrimination and discusses why the Rural Electrification Act provides a promising model to provide safe drinking water to well dependent populations
Michele Okoh has over 10 years of practice experience, five of which were dedicated to the practice of criminal law. She will be joining the Lewis & Clark Law faculty as an assistant professor in Fall 2022.She is currently a senior lecturing fellow in the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. In the clinic, Okoh supervises students on environmental law cases and teaches sessions on environmental justice and administrative law. She also teaches a readings course on environmental justice that is open to all law students. The American Public Health Association has awarded Okoh the Rebecca A. Head Award in recognition of her work to further environmental justice and environmental health.
Her research interests lie at the intersection of environmental justice, criminal law, and public health. She strongly believes that good theory makes good practice and good practice makes good theory. She aims for her work to be community driven and to fill the needs of impacted communities. For her, scholarship is part of advocacy, and she remains committed to service. She currently serves as the section councilor, co-chair of the Environmental Justice Committee, and on the Action Board for the Environment Section of the American Public Health Association. She is also on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Section Council for the North Carolina Bar Association.
Prior to joining the clinic in 2019, Okoh’s extensive professional legal experience included representing the state of North Carolina as both a prosecutor and attorney with the N.C. Department of Justice. As managing attorney in her own law firm, Okoh Law Firm, she practiced disability law as well as served as a defense attorney, defending defendants against criminal prosecution in state and federal courts. She has also served as a fellow with the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship
Okoh has expertise in environmental law, criminal law, disability law, and health care law. In furtherance of her interests, she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health at George Washington University.
She also has passion for theatre. Okoh has acted in and directed several plays, including the southeast regional premiere of Eclipsed for the Women’s Theatre Festival. She is also a fan of hiking and all things science fiction.
We have a remarkable series planned for the rest of the year featuring domestic and international speakers.
Apr. 2022, 10-11 am ET, Smita Narula (Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law).
May 12, 2022, 10-11 am ET, Katrina Wyman (New York University School of Law).
May 19, 2022, 10-11 am ET, Deepa Badrinarayana (Chapman University School of Law).
May 2022, 10-11 am ET, Don Elliot (Yale Law School).
Jun. 2022, 10-11 am ET Cary Coglianese (University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School).
4170 Martin Luther King Blvd
Houston, TX 77204-6060
713-743-2094 Legal Clinics