About

Our environmental laws give the public a right to review, comment on, and challenge environmental permitting decisions and other environmental policies. Unfortunately, this is not a level playing field. Industrial polluters have large budgets to retain expensive technical experts and make their case to state permitting agencies. Community groups, particularly in areas that suffer a disproportionate burden from air and water pollution, rarely have the resources to secure their own, comparable expert assistance.

The Center for Applied Environmental Science (CAES) was established to level the playing field by connecting environmental advocates with high-quality expert assistance. CAES is committed to funding that expert relationship to the extent possible, subject to the following priorities:

  • Environmental justice. Our goal is to support communities most affected by pollution and historically left out of environmental decision-making, including communities of color and working-class communities.
  • Petrochemical facilities. Given the large and growing impact of this industrial sector, CAES is committed to helping communities evaluate the impact of petrochemical plants and other oil and gas facilities on the quality of their air and water; challenge new projects that would significantly increase pollution; and demand equal protection under federal laws that are supposed to protect public health and natural resources.
  • Broad applicability. We seek to develop objective, high-quality scientific analyses that can be publicly shared, so all communities can benefit from the work.

Who We Are

ABEL RUSS, CAES DIRECTOR

Abel is a senior attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), where he works on litigation and research related to coal plants, the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, and risk assessment. Prior to joining EIP (and prior to law school), Abel worked in the field of human health risk assessment, as a toxicologist for his home state of Maine and as a research associate at the George Perkins Marsh Institute in Massachusetts.

Lauren Fleer, P.E., Environmental Engineer

Lauren works as a staff engineer for the Center for Applied Environmental Science (CAES) and with EIP’s Texas Oil & Gas Program. Prior to joining EIP, she managed soil and groundwater remediation projects for the US Army Corps of Engineers. Lauren holds a M.S. in Environmental Engineering and Science from Northwestern University and a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

CAES Advisory Group

The CAES advisory group serves to provide critical feedback on CAES activities, and to provide guidance that will help CAES stay true to its mission as it grows to meet community need. The advisory group does not participate in specific decisions regarding requests for CAES funding.
Kiana Courtney is a staff attorney at ELPC, working on clean energy and natural resources protection litigation, rulemaking, and policy. She worked at the University of Miami Environmental Justice Clinic as an intern and later as a fellow, using community lawyering to address Miami’s affordable housing issues and community pollution. Kiana was a law clerk at Earthjustice (Tallahassee) and at the U.S. Justice Department, Environment and Natural Resources Division in the Environmental Crimes Section. She was also a judicial intern for Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Before law school, she was a middle school science teacher in Atlanta Public Schools.
Jessica Culpepper is Director of Public Justice’s Food Project. Before joining Public Justice, Jessica was a Barker Fellow and Staff Attorney at the Humane Society of the United States in the Farm Animal Welfare Division. There she worked primarily on fighting pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and advocating for federal and state policy reform to advance sustainable food systems and the humane treatment of animals. Jessica also defended constitutional challenges to state laws protecting the treatment of dogs in puppy mills and preventing the practice of cockfighting. Jessica is a 2007 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where she won the Outstanding Clinic Achievement Award in the Domestic Violence Clinic and helped establish the Georgetown Journal of Law & Modern Critical Race Perspective. She received her B.A. in history and political science from Warren Wilson College in 2004, where she won the Alton P. Pfaff Award for Most Outstanding Member of the Graduating Class.
Bakeyah has been the Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston since 2017. Previously, she led a consulting firm focused on advancing health equity and worked in Harris County Public Health’s Office of Policy and Planning where she was responsible for leading community health initiatives to reduce environmental inequities. Bakeyah was recently honored as one of the Texas Organizing Project’s 2018 Community Champions. She is a Senior Fellow of Class XLVI of the American Leadership Forum and was selected as one of the Aspen Institute’s Health Scholars for the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival. She is also a contributing faculty member with Baylor University’s Department of Public Health. In 2012, Bakeyah was selected for the University of California, San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment Reach the Decision Makers Fellowship, which trains scientists, community members, clinicians, and public health professionals to effectively promote science and health-based policies. Later in 2012, she was a recipient of the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO) Model Practice Award for demonstrating exemplary leadership to advance environmental justice and public health. Bakeyah’s Doctorate in Public Policy, Master’s in Applied Sociology and Bachelor’s in Psychology all come from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Keri N. Powell is the Director of Powell Environmental Law and works with the Environmental Integrity Project on investigations and legal issues concerning air pollution from the rapidly growing wood pellet industry. Keri is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading Clean Air Act permitting experts, with 20 years of experience litigating state and federal cases with Earthjustice and New York Public Interest Research Group. From 2010 to 2016, Keri served as Senior Clean Air Act Attorney for U.S. EPA’s Region 4 office in Atlanta. In 2017, she started Powell Environmental Law and founded the Wood Bioenergy Project with Environmental Integrity Project. Keri holds a B.A. in Earth Science from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and a J.D. from New York University School of Law. She is a native of Macon, Georgia, and calls Decatur, Georgia, her home.
Cyndhia Ramatchandirane joined Earthjustice in 2020 and is a staff scientist based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her role involves providing technical science support for the Fossil Fuel program. Prior to Earthjustice, Cyndhia worked for over six years as a research scientist in Applied Geosciences at The Water Institute of the Gulf, an independent research nonprofit with a mission to help coastal and deltaic communities face environmental change.
Ruth Santiago is a resident of the municipality of Salinas in southeastern Puerto Rico where she has worked with community and environmental groups, fisher’s associations and other organizations for over thirty years on projects ranging from a community newspaper, children’s services, a community school, ecotourism projects to a rooftop solar energy pilot project. In addition to litigation in courts and administrative agencies, Ruth has organized and promoted environmental education projects, advised community groups and the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on watershed protection and land use issues. Most recently, Ruth has worked on cases related to energy projects and integrated resource plans. Ms. Santiago earned degrees from Lehigh University and Columbia Law School and has published articles on energy issues in Puerto Rico.
Larry Shapiro joined the Rockefeller Family Fund in 2000. Prior to this, he directed the New York Public Interest Research Group’s (NYPIRG) environmental programs from 1988 through 1999. Among his successes in that capacity were campaigns to prevent construction of the Brooklyn Navy Yard incinerator; force the shut-down of Fresh Kills, the largest landfill in the world; and urge New York Governor George Pataki to order promulgation of what at the time were the toughest power plant emission standards in the country. Larry currently serves as vice president of the board of the Environmental Integrity Project and president of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Kimberly Terrell joined the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic (New Orleans, LA) in 2018, where she works to provide community members with information and resources to achieve their environmental advocacy goals. Her broad scientific background, including in the environmental and biomedical fields, makes her well positioned to conduct “actionable research” to advance environmental advocacy, including research related to permitting, pollution, and health risks. Dr. Terrell earned a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology from the University of New Orleans in 2011 and dual bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Political Science from Tulane University in 2005. She is a 2011 recipient of the David H. Smith Postdoctoral Conservation Research Fellowship, a highly competitive program that enables emerging leaders in environmental fields to develop skills that increase the impact of their work. Dr. Terrell considers herself a native of the Mississippi River Basin, having lived most of her life in New Orleans, Chicago, and Memphis.