Protecting the world's greatest freshwater resource
and the communities that depend on it.



The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center is a Detroit-based nonprofit that offers community education, policy support, and various legal services to address environmental, resource, & energy issues affecting communities in and around Detroit, all over Michigan, and throughout the Great Lakes region. 

Be it air, water, or land, every day decisions are made and actions are taken that impact the environment, energy, and resources on which Great Lakes communities rely. At the heart of the Center's mission is engaging with those communities. Through that engagement, community members educate us on how pollution, insufficient access to justice, and poor resource management affect their lives; and they advise us on what solutions should look like where they live, work, and play. We absorb those perspectives and work to implement educational, policy, and legal strategies that contribute to addressing the community's needs and desires. We do all this through working with law students because part of our mission is that they can and do play a major role in shaping the future of environmental law.

We fulfill our mission locally, statewide, and regionally in what we consider to be our three homes. We are based in Detroit and so naturally much of our work is focused on the city, Wayne County, and nearby counties. We also work on statewide issues that affect Michigan as a whole and issues that arise elsewhere in the state. Finally, just as our Great Lakes are all connected, we address regional issues that connect communities from the eight Great Lakes states and our Canadian neighbor provinces.

News & Announcements

GLELC to team up with city of Detroit, ClearCorps Detroit, We the People of Detroit, Lakeshore Legal Aid and Detroit Justice Center for Know Your Rights Workshop regarding lead in homes and water shutoffs

The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center has teamed up with several other great organizations to host a Know Your Rights training for Detroit residents confronting home-based environmental health hazards, such as lead paint, lead in drinking water, and water shutoffs. The event will educate residents about their legal rights, and connect people to organizations that can provide free assistance.

When: Wed. July 24th from 6-7:30pm
Where: 8601 Woodward Ave., Detroit

This event is free and open to the public. Food will be provided.

American Rivers and Great Lakes Environmental Law Center release updated report, titled Protecting Drinking Water in the Great Lakes

The report surveys how the 8 Great Lakes states are using state laws, regulations, and policies to address 10 key drinking water issues impact the region.

Access the full report here.

MDEQ to hold additional public hearing and provide translation services for Bengali and Arabic speakers regarding proposal to expand U.S. Ecology’s hazardous waste facility

Bengali and Yemeni residents in Detroit/Hamtramck, in partnership with GLELC and the Coalition to Oppose the Expansion of U.S. Ecology, have successfully advocated for the MDEQ to hold an additional public hearing regarding the proposed expansion of U.S. Ecology’s facility:

Where: Bridge Academy East (9600 Buffalo St., Hamtramck)

When: March 28th, 6:00pm-9:30pm

Come out and make your voice heard on this important issue!

Read more about it here.

UPDATE: Detroit Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) Further Extends Public Comment Period Regarding Marathon’s Request for a Variance from the Detroit Dust Ordinance, But Has Not Committed to Holding Another Public Hearing

BSEED has extended the deadline for the public to submit written comments regarding Marathon’s request for an exemption from the requirement in the Detroit Dust Ordinance that it store and handle all petroleum coke in a fully enclosed structure until March 18, 2019. Comments can either be submitted by mail or online via the city’s website.

BSEED has not committed to holding another public hearing, despite giving insufficient notice regarding its earlier hearing. Contact BSEED at 313-224-2733.

Read more about Marathon’s request for a variance, and the Center’s analysis here.

Center releases report detailing how vegetative buffers can be used to improve local air quality and public health

The Center has published a report, titled “Vegetative Buffers and Tree Canopy: Promoting the Use of Trees to Improve Local Air Quality with Local Policy.” The report provides details as to how vegetative buffers can reduce human exposure to air pollution, and how local cities can effectively promote them with local policy. Read more about the report and access it here.

Announcing the 5th Annual Blue Water Bash!

It’s fall, and that can only mean it’s time for the Center’s 5th annual Blue Water Bash! Come celebrate all of the great work done this year by the Center and all of our invaluable partners and allies with our staff and board of directors! Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased in advance on our website, or at the door. This year, we’ll be honoring Detroit City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López as the “Legislator of the Year” for her leadership in improving air quality in Southwest Detroit. We hope to see you there!

Where: Tony V’s, Midtown (5756 Cass Avenue, Detroit)

When: Thursday, November 15th, 6:30-10:00pm

Center releases report detailing how supplemental environmental projects can further environmental justice in air quality enforcement

The Center has published a report, titled "Furthering Environmental Justice in Air Quality Enforcement With Supplemental Environmental Projects." The report provides key environmental justice recommendations regarding the MDEQ's supplemental environmental project policy. Read more about the report and access it here. 

Michigan Supreme Court rules in favor of community residents and environmental groups in South Dearborn air permitting case

This week, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of community residents and environmental groups in a key case involving an air quality permit issued by the MDEQ to AK Steel. The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center and Olson, Bzdok & Howard P.C. represented the plaintiffs in the case. Read more about it here. 


Announcing the addition Erin Mette as a 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Center is excited to announce that Erin Mette will join the organization this September as an Equal Justice Works Fellow! Erin’s fellowship project will focus on protecting children in Detroit and Flint from home-based environmental health hazards by providing legal counseling and representation to affected families and advocating for policy that addresses the root causes of this unique environmental justice issue. Her fellowship is sponsored by Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP and an anonymous donor. You can read more about her exciting project here.