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Catherine O’Neill

CPR Member Scholar; Adjunct Faculty

Lewis and Clark Law School

Catherine A. O’Neill is an Adjunct Law Faculty Member and Environmental Scholar at Lewis and Clark Law School. She is a former Habitat Policy Analyst for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and former Professor of Law at Seattle University School of Law. She is a former member of the board of directors of the Center for Progressive Reform.

Professor O’Neill has taught, lectured, and written in the areas of environmental justice, environmental law, natural resources law, and property. Her work considers questions of risk and justice in environmental policy, focusing in particular on issues of environmental justice for Native peoples.

Professor O’Neill has worked on issues of environmental justice with various tribes, advisory committees, and grassroots environmental justice groups. Professor O’Neill was recently a member of the technical advisory board for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s four-year study, “Bioaccumulative Toxics in Native Shellfish.” Professor O’Neill served as consultant to the Forest County Potawatomi Community on environmental justice issues raised by a proposed mine in nearby Crandon, Wisconsin. In the fall of 2002, the tribe successfully concluded its decades-long efforts by purchasing, together with the Sokaogon/Mole Lake Band of Chippewa , the land including the proposed mine and withdrawing the permit application. Professor O’Neill worked extensively with the Fish Consumption Workgroup of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, first as a member of and then as consultant to the Workgroup. The Workgroup’s investigation and deliberation over the course of two years culminated in the publication of a major report, Fish Consumption and Environmental Justice, which was transmitted along with recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002. While on the faculty at the University of Arizona, Professor O’Neill worked with Tucson’s Environmental Justice Action Group, assisting the group on environmental justice issues raised by an air quality permit for beryllium and other emissions and a cleanup of TCE contamination.

Following her graduation from law school at the University of Chicago, Professor O’Neill was named a Ford Foundation Graduate Fellow in Public International Law at Harvard Law School. As a fellow, Professor O’Neill studied issues of international environment and development policy. She then worked for the Washington State Department of Ecology as an Air Quality Planner and Air Toxics Coordinator. Her work there included researching the applicability of market-based approaches to air toxics regulation. Prior to joining the faculty at Seattle University, Professor O’Neill taught at the University of Washington and the University of Arizona.

Professor O’Neill has published numerous articles in the areas of environmental justice and environmental policy. These articles have been excerpted in casebooks, anthologies, and other collections on a diverse array of topics including environmental risk, economics and equity, environmental justice, Indian Law, and International Law. Professor O’Neill’s work has twice been selected by her peers for recognition in the Land Use and Environmental Law Review’s ten best articles of the year: for an article on debt-for-nature swaps, co-authored with Cass R. Sunstein, and, most recently, for an article on risk avoidance, entitled No Mud Pies: Risk Avoidance as Risk Regulation.  She also co-authored a chapter entitled, “The Mathematics of Mercury,” in Reforming Regulatory Impact Analysis, Resources for the Future Press, 2009, and her experience with mercury-emitting chlor-alkili plants led to her testifying before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection in 2009.

Professor O’Neill has served on the board of the Washington Wilderness Coalition and has served as a peer reviewer for various journals, including Environmental Management, and Risk Analysis.