Gabby Kolencik wins writing competition, presents at symposium

Gabby KolencikGabby Kolencik L'22 recently won the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics (ASLME) health law and anti-racism graduate writing competition. She traveled to Philadelphia at the end of March to present on her paper at the "Health Law and Anti-Racism: Reckoning and Response" symposium hosted by ASLME and the University of Pennsylvania.

Her paper, "HARMONY BETWEEN MAN AND HIS ENVIRONMENT: REVIEWING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION'S CHANGES TO THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT IN THE CONTEXT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM" was first published in Joule: Duquesne Energy and Environmental Law Journal. It was republished with the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics; her subsequent presentation on the paper was at the University of Pennsylvania.

"It was so humbling to sit next to lawyers, doctors, and professors; I sat next to someone from the Mayo Clinic," Kolencik said. "It made me feel like I was applying what I learned and was ready for the world. It was a confidence booster; I usually sit and write stuff, but to have them reach out to me to talk about it was a wonderful experience."

Her paper discussed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was passed by the federal government with bipartisan agreement. NEPA aims to protect citizens and our environment. Kolencik's paper details the amendments made by the Trump administration and argues that these changes, like limiting the scope of work for projects, are an act of environmental racism, as those changes will disproportionately affect communities of color.

Kolencik argued that "40-50 years later [NEPA] was given page limits, but before it was unlimited. Now it must be kept to under so many pages and the same thing is applied to the time limit. Imagine writing a big paper for school; it takes time and good, thoughtful research and analysis. This change effectively takes out the impact of NEPA. And the administration did not consider the cumulative impact of this. We may not see it immediately, but over time. Black and Brown communities are disproportionately affected by pollution . . . This amendment further impacts them and the harm to our planet. The changes completely gutted what [NEPA] is supposed to do, further impacting communities," Kolencik said.

Additionally, she said the amendment was completed under the "guise of modernization," and made NEPA ineffective. "It opened my eyes to everything that happens, even if we think it's connected or not, it is connected. So many things may have unintended consequences," said Kolencik.

In addition to this paper, Kolencik was the recipient of other awards during this past academic year. In the spring semester, her Trial Advocacy team was part of the National Competition . There, she was recognized as the Best Advocate and for giving the Best Opening Statement. Additionally, in the fall semester she was recognized as the #1 Best Advocate among 112 law student competitors at the Buffalo-Niagara National Trial Competition. At the 2022 Commencement ceremony, Kolencik was one of two students chosen as the Distinguished Student Award.

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