As a parent and person committed to working in the public interest, what keeps me up at night (along with a teething toddler) is thinking about how environmental burdens associated with our lifestyle here in the U.S. are piling up. By and large, the burdens are swept into industrial corridors or left to quietly accumulate until being unleashed on future generations. Our laws, which are supposed to prevent such injustices, have thus far failed to adequately protect us from ourselves. California’s most recent report to the U.S. EPA shows that nearly 95 percent of California’s lakes, bays, wetlands, and estuaries are too polluted to drink, swim, or fish. As to widespread groundwater depletion and contamination, the state will be playing catchup for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.
I am immensely proud to join CCKA and Waterkeepers across the state, who for decades have been on the cutting edge identifying and solving water quality problems.
I come to this position with a background in public interest work, and a strong connection to the Central Coast, having grown up frequenting its beaches, and having spent my off-days as an adult exploring its nooks and crannies looking for surf. In addition, I come in with a keen appreciation for how Waterkeepers and the law play a crucial role in preserving the Central Coast’s at-risk resources.
Prior to law school I worked in community health and youth development: during the day as a recreational therapist and coach, moonlighting as support staff at a county hospital. While working with kids with severe behavioral challenges, I met my wife-to-be who was training to be a therapist. In 2013, we decided to start a family, and in a slightly masochistic turn, agreed I should go to law school. In the part-time program at Golden Gate University School of Law, a program designed for “adult learners,” I found myself in good company with a group of parents balancing work and school.
At GGU I was drawn immediately to the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, working at the intersection of public interest, justice, and my love for the ocean. As a student and eventually as a graduate fellow, I worked on statewide efforts to begin controlling agricultural pollution, representing a coalition of water quality advocates, including Monterey Coastkeeper and CCKA. Advocating for meaningful regulation of unsustainable agriculture practices is a daunting and frustrating task. Lobbyists and lawyers funded by businesses that profit by externalizing environmental harm, are relentless and remarkably effective as they seek to continue shirking these burdens and profiting therefrom. The industry-at-large is unsustainable in the starkest terms, as it poisons its own workforce, our water, and insects that it depends on to grow crops.
I am excited to continue my work as a CCKA staff attorney focused on the Monterey Region, and hopeful that progress is on the horizon on the Central Coast in the form of enforceable water quality permits for agriculture. Widescale adoption of sustainable farming practices won’t happen without local advocates like Monterey Coastkeeper continuing to demand meaningful regulation (see CCKA’s recommendations here), and who are willing to then use courts to enforce the law when necessary.
I’m looking forward to working with folks on the wide range of challenges related to water quality and coastal resiliency the Central Coast will face in coming years. CCKA’s recently introduced Sea Level Rise Preparedness Act is one example of how Waterkeepers are working to solve the most pressing issues on our coast. Please reach me at .
Staff Attorney Tyler Sullivan supports CCKA’s legal advocacy with a focus on the Monterey Region.