Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
University of Oregon School of Law
Eugene, Oregon
2009 PIELC Speakers
Updated with links to audio recordings!
Due to technical difficulties, Thursday's keynote speakers were not recorded. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Click a name below to link to speaker's bio
Pablo Fajardo Mendoza
Anthu Hoang
Derrick Jensen
Fernando Ochoa Pineda
Riki Ott
Matthew Pawa
Claudia Polsky
Katharine Redford
Gail Small
Stephen Stec
Carla García Zendejas

Pablo Fajardo Mendoza
Attorney Pablo Fajardo Mendoza is a 2008 Goldman Prize recipient and received the CNN Heroes Award in 2007. He has led an unprecedented community-driven legal battle against a global oil giant and what has been called one of the most catastrophic environmental disasters in human history. Mr. Fajardo Mendoza, who resides in one of the affected communities, was born the very year that Chevron Texaco started extracting oil in Ecuador. He has remained dedicated to this cause in company with Ecuadorian indigenous and farming communities. Along with the affected people, he has demanded a complete cleanup of nearly 17 million gallons of crude oil and 20 billion gallons of drilling wastewater that have contaminated thousands of hectares of the Ecuadorian Amazon forest. Mr. Fajardo Mendoza’s effort has involved substantial personal risk and is potentially the largest environmental lawsuit ever filed in the world. Despite the fact that this battle has lasted more than fifteen years, indigenous and farming communities, along with Mr. Fajardo Mendoza, are willing to keep fighting until Chevron Corporation restores the ecosystem, allowing affected communities to live a decent life.

Anthu Hoang
Anhthu Hoang is the general counsel for WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the first environmental justice organization in New York City. WE ACT is dedicated to building community power to fight environmental racism and improve environmental health, protection, and policy in communities of color. Ms. Hoang uses public health and legal research to develop legislative and policy strategies aimed at achieving a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment for low-income communities of color, especially those in Northern Manhattan. Ms. Hoang has spoken at New York City law schools and to public health groups promoting environmental justice and sustainable environmental planning. She has also published articles regarding the environmental planning and review process. Before launching her legal career, Ms. Hoang was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley where she studied the biological impacts of agricultural pesticide contamination on wild populations of amphibians. Ms. Hoang holds a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology and a J.D.

Derrick Jensenaudio ] [ Q & A audio ]
Derrick Jensen is the acclaimed author of thirteen books, including A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, and Endgame. Author, teacher, activist, small farmer, and leading voice of uncompromising dissent, he has been hailed as the philosopher poet of the environmental movement. Writes Publishers Weekly, “Jensen paints on a huge canvas an emotionally compelling and devastating critique of the intellectual, psychological, emotional and social structure of Western culture.” His premise is as profound as it is persistent: industrial civilization is inherently unsustainable. Mr. Jensen weaves together history, philosophy, environmentalism, economics, literature, and psychology to produce a powerful argument and a passionate call for action. He guides us toward concrete solutions by focusing on our most primal human desire: to live on a healthy earth overflowing with uncut forests, clean rivers, and thriving oceans that are not under the constant threat of being destroyed. Mr. Jenson writes for The New York Times Magazine, Audubon, and The Sun Magazine, among many others. He holds a degree in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, a degree in mineral engineering physics from the Colorado School of Mines, and has taught at Eastern Washington University and Pelican Bay State Prison.

Fernando Ochoa Pinedaaudio ]
Fernando Ochoa Pineda is Legal Advisor for Pronatura Noroeste, a Mexican nonprofit organization and the Waterkeeper Program for the Baja California Peninsula. Mr. Ochoa Pineda has helped establish more than 60 conservation contracts to protect more than 150 thousand acres of land in Northwest Mexico. As the Executive Director of Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN), Mr. Ochoa Pineda has successfully opposed several development and industrial projects that threatened ecosystems in the Sea of Cortes and the Baja California Peninsula, having saved critical habitat for gray whales, whale sharks, and other endangered species. Mr. Ochoa Pineda’s work has set important legal precedents on environmental law in order for local communities to gain participation in decision making processes, transparency, and access to justice.

Riki Ottaudio ]
Riki Ott experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill -- and chose to do something about it. She retired from fishing, founded three nonprofit organizations to deal with lingering social and economic harm, and wrote two books about the spill. Sound Truth and Corporate Myths focuses on the hard science -- ecotoxicology, and the new understanding that oil is more toxic than previously thought. Not One Drop describes the soft science -- the sociology of disaster trauma, and the new understanding that our legal system does not work in cases involving wealthy corporations, complex science, and class-action. Ms. Ott draws on her academic training and experience to educate, empower, and motivate students and the general public to address the climate crisis and our energy future through local solutions. Ms. Ott lives in Cordova, Alaska, the fishing community most affected by the disaster.

Matthew Pawaaudio ]
Attorney Matthew Pawa is a litigator who has represented governments, nonprofit groups, citizens, and small businesses in a wide range of environmental, constitutional, and antitrust cases, including class actions and individual cases. In 2001, he opened the Law Offices of Matthew F. Pawa, P.C., to provide representation in major environmental cases for government and nonprofit clients. He conceived of and developed the global warming case for eight states, the City of New York and two nonprofit groups that was filed in July, 2004, against five major power companies that emit large quantities of greenhouse gases. Mr. Pawa successfully defended Friends of the Earth, the Earth Island Institute, Rain Forest Action Network, and other national environmental groups in Western Fuels Association v. Turning Point Project, No. 00-CV-074 (D. Wyo. 2001), in which an association of coal-burning power companies alleged false statements regarding global warming. He also successfully defended citizens in Ohio and West Virginia in a case by the owners of a hazardous waste incineration facility that alleged defamation and interference with business relations.

Claudia Polskyaudio ]
Attorney Claudia Polsky is the Deputy Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Green Technology (P2 Office) in California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The P2 Office is central to the implementation of new (2008) legal authority that gives California expansive ability to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products. Instead of focusing on cleanup of past pollution -- the historic emphasis of DTSC -- the P2 Office looks to the future by preventing the use of toxic materials in consumer products and industrial operations. Ms. Polsky’s duties include implementing California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, overseeing hazardous waste source-reduction programs, and working with staff engineers to evaluate and deploy new environmental technologies that reduce the need for toxic chemicals. Before joining DTSC, Ms. Polsky worked for the California Department of Justice, Earthjustice, Public Citizen Litigation Group, and The Nature Conservancy. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, where she was Editor-in-Chief of Ecology Law Quarterly. She is also a former Fulbright Scholar, receiving a Master’s of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management.

Katharine Redfordaudio ]

Co-Founder and U.S. Office Director of Earth Rights International, Ms. Redford is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights and Public Service. She is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar and served as counsel to plaintiffs in ERI’s landmark case Doe v. Unocal. Ms. Redford received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1995 to establish ERI, and since that time has split her time between ERI’s Thailand and U.S. offices. In addition to working on ERI’s litigation and teaching at the EarthRights Schools, Ms. Redford currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at both UVA and the Washington College of Law at American University. She has published on various issues associated with human rights and corporate accountability, in addition to co-authoring ERI reports such as In Our Court, Shock and Law, and Total Denial Continues. In 2006, Ms. Redford was selected as an Ashoka Global Fellow.


Gail Smallaudio ]
Gail Small is the director of Native Action, an environmental justice organization in Lame Deer, Montana. Ms. Small’s political engagement in energy issues began in the early 1970s, when she and other high school students were sent by the tribal government to visit coal extraction sites on the Navajo Reservation and in Wyoming, after the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed leases opening the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to strip-mining. Ms. Small later served on a tribal committee that successfully fought for the cancellation of the BIA coal leases. She received her law degree from the University of Oregon and formed Native Action in 1984. Her work at Native Action includes litigation, drafting tribal statutes, and creating informational resources for tribal members.

Stephen Stecaudio ]
As well as the former head of the Environmental Law Program of the Regional Environmental Center (REC), Mr. Stec is one of the authors of The Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide and main editor for the Access to Justice Handbook under the Aarhus Convention. The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Aarhus Convention is not only an environmental agreement; it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice. Mr. Stec now works as Adjunct Professor at Central European University (HU) and Associate Scholar at Leiden University (NL).

Carla García Zendejasaudio ]
Carla García Zendejas is an attorney from Tijuana, Mexico, whose love of her native region has committed her to collaborating with communities and organizations from Mexico and the U.S. on cross-border issues. In the past twelve years she has achieved numerous successes in cases involving energy infrastructure, water pollution, environmental justice and development of government transparency legislation. Ms. García Zendejas has provided activists with critical knowledge to fight ill-advised liquefied natural gas terminals not only on the Baja California Peninsula but also on the U.S. Pacific Coast and in Spain. As a Fulbright Scholar she earned a Master’s in Law from the Washington College of Law at American University. Currently Ms. García Zendejas is developing strategies to protect the Baja California Peninsula and the Sea of Cortez from unsustainable development projects.

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