Demmerle won for her article “Pain in the Ash: How Coal-Fired Power Plants are Polluting Our Nation’s Waters Without Consequences,” published in the December 2019 West Virginia Law Review (122 W. Va. L. Rev. 289). She is the second WVU Law student in three years to win a Burton award.
Just 15 law students from across the country are selected for the Burton Award. Demmerle and the other recipients will be honored at a black-tie dinner at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, in June.
In her article, known as a “Note,” Demmerle argues that the federal Clean Water Act is currently the best way to regulate water pollution caused by coal ash impoundments in the United States. She discusses options within the Clean Water Act, and each option’s likelihood of success, to hold coal ash impoundment operators liable and reduce water pollution.
“Coal ash ponds are a threat to public and ecosystem health because they leach and will continue to leach toxic material into our nation’s drinking water every single day,” said Demmerle.
Demmerle acknowledged law professor James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, and Melanie Stimeling, director of the WVU Law Writing Center, for their inspiration and support.
“This Note would not have been possible without either of them,” she said.
The Burton Distinguished Legal Writing Awards are given to recipients who write law articles that demonstrate “creativity, knowledge, and know-how.” Winners display exemplary writing skills and a mastery of the law and their chosen subject matter. The award is a program of the Burton Foundation, a nonprofit academic and educational organization focused on major legal accomplishments. It was established to reward effective legal writing and encourage excellence in the legal profession.