Fair Shake’s Program areas

outreach & community wealth-building

When a water well goes dry or the township allows the use of radioactive and salty oil & gas wastewater to control dust on rural roads or a new natural gas-fired power plant is proposed in a small town, most people choose to handle the impacts to their environment through self-help. They will take the time, energy and expense of correcting any problem themselves. The water well owner will begin hauling potable water for their home use or drill a new, deeper well if they can afford it. The rural landowner whose animals can’t stand the air when oil and gas wastewater is spread on the nearby road adjusts her schedule to move the animals when the roadspreading occurs. The community where the natural gas-fired power plant is proposed tries to figure out how to learn more about the project, but doesn’t know how to interpret all the planning documents submitted to local and state officials. Most people assume that their environmental future – the determination of what their environment looks like, feels like and smells like – is something that they can only control through bearing the burden of environmental decisionmakers around them.

Our community empowerment philosophy: a strong, well-equipped and well-led community is better suited to develop legally and scientifically supported positions that reflect their tolerance for environmental risk. We use a combination of traditional community meetings, teaching and trainings as well as innovative community wealth-building and visibility events to conduct our outreach program. In doing so, we will:

  • develop participation opportunities for community members to engage in a community problem-solving process;

  • build community competence in environmental decisionmaking and advocacy;

  • identify natural capital and develop environmental baselines in the area;

  • draft local legislation to protect local resources from the impacts of industrial development;

  • seek opportunities to meet with environmental decisionmakers in advance of potential impacts;

  • train community organizations to effectively engage the media as part of their advocacy efforts;

  • inform people of their rights and how to engage in environmental decisionmaking processes;

  • conduct workshops on small business models to stabilize local economies;

  • engage single-industry-dominated communities (such as communities dependent on resource extraction for their local economy) to diversify their revenue base; and

  • build a community base to tackle ongoing threats to their property, protected places and livelihoods.

Pro Bono

We provide free legal services to individuals whose income is within 300% of the federal poverty level. Our pro bono program accounts for 22% of our docket. Many of the cases in our pro bono program come from individuals living with the impacts of coal extraction.

sliding scale legal services

Sliding scale services, legal services priced according to the client’s household income or the organization’s average annual budget over the last three years, are provided to individual clients and some organizational clients depending on the scope of the matter. Our sliding scale legal services program accounts for 40% of our docket.

Public Interest Litigation

Public interest litigation is work for organizational clients that seeks to accomplish outcomes for the public and environmental greater good. Our public interest litigation program accounts for 38% of our docket.