Sullivan Hall 455
(206) 398-4030


B.A., University of Notre Dame, 1987
J.D., University of Chicago Law School, 1990


Environmental Law

Catherine A. O'Neill

Professor of Law and Senior Fellow, Center for Indian Law and Policy

Curriculum VitaePDF


Professor O'Neill received her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, and her J.D. from the University of Chicago. After graduating, she was named a Ford Foundation Graduate Fellow at Harvard Law School. She then worked for the Washington State Department of Ecology in the Air Quality Program before teaching at the University of Washington, the University of Arizona, and, currently, Seattle University. At Seattle University, she is a Co-Faculty Director of the Center for Indian Law & Policy.

Professor O'Neill's work focuses on issues of justice in environmental law and policy; in particular, her work considers the effects of contamination and depletion of fish and other resources relied upon by tribes and their members, and by other groups. She has worked with the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council on its Fish Consumption Report; with various tribes in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes on issues of contaminated fish and waters; and with environmental justice groups in the Southwest on air and water pollution issues. She served on the external advisory board for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community's "Bioaccumulative Toxics in Native American Shellfish" study, and on the external advisory board for the Lummi Nation's fish consumption study. She was a pro bono consultant to the attorneys representing the National Congress of American Indians in New Jersey v. EPA, the case that successfully challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Clean Air Mercury Rule." She has twice testified before Congress on matters of mercury regulation. She is a former Board Member and current Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform, a group of university-affiliated professors that seeks to inform debate on environmental, health, and safety regulation.

Professor O'Neill has published numerous scholarly articles and book chapters, including Fishable Waters (AMERICAN INDIAN LAW JOURNAL, 2013); No Mud Pies: Risk Avoidance as Risk Regulation (VERMONT LAW REVIEW, 2007); Mercury, Risk, and Justice (ENVIRONMENTAL LAW REPORTER, 2004); and Variable Justice: Environmental Standards, Contaminated Fish, and "Acceptable" Risk to Native Peoples (STANFORD ENVIRONMENTAL LAW JOURNAL, 2000). She is a co-author, with Eileen Gauna and Clifford Rechtschaffen, of the textbook ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: LAW, POLICY & REGULATION (2d. ed. 2009).




Articles and Chapters

Fishable Waters, 1 AMERICAN INDIAN LAW JOURNAL 181 (2013)

[Co-author] Anna Harding, Barbara Harper, Dave Stone, Catherine O’Neill, Patricia Berger, Stuart Harris, Jamie Donatuto, Conducting Research with Tribal Communities: Sovereignty, Ethics and Data-Sharing Issues, 120 ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES 6 (January, 2012) [peer-reviewed]

[Co-author] Darren Ranco, Catherine O’Neill, Jamie Donatuto, and Barbara Harper, Environmental Justice, American Indians and the Cultural Dilemma: Developing Environmental Management for Tribal Health and Well-being, 4(4) ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE 221 (2011) [peer-reviewed]

[Co-author] Yee Huang, Catherine O’Neill, Robert L. Glicksman, William L. Andreen, Victor Flatt, William Funk, Robin Kundis Craig, Alice Kaswan and Robert R.M. Verchick, Climate change and the Puget Sound: Building the legal framework for adaptation, 2(3) CLIMATE LAW 1 (2011)


Environmental Justice in the Tribal Context: A Madness to EPA’s Method, 38 ENVTL. L. 495 (2008)

Protecting the Tribal Harvest: The Right to Catch and Consume Fish, 22 J. ENVTL. L. & LITIG. 131 (2007)

No Mud Pies: Risk Avoidance as Risk Regulation, 31 VT. L. REV. 273 (2007).

  • Selected through peer-review process as one of the ten best environmental and land use articles of the year and reprinted in 39 LAND USE & ENVTL L. REV. 259 (2008)

The Perils of Risk Avoidance, 20 NAT. RES. & ENV’T. 9 (Winter, 2006).

Mercury, Risk, and Justice, 34 ENVTL. L. REP. 11070 (2004).

Risk Avoidance, Cultural Discrimination, and Environmental Justice for Indigenous Peoples, 30 Ecology L.Q. 1 (2003).

Co-author with Denis Binder, Colin Crawford, Eileen Gauna, M. Casey Jarman, Alice Kaswan, Bradford C. Mank, Clifford Rechtschaffen, and Robert R.M. Verchick, A Survey of Federal Agency Response to President Clinton’s Executive Order No. 12898 on Environmental Justice, 31 ENVTL. L. REP. 11133 (2001) . Excerpted in CLIFFORD RECHTSCHAFFEN AND EILEEN GAUNA, ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: LAW, POLICY & REGULATION (2002).

Restoration Affecting Native Resources: The Place of Native Ecological Science, 42 Ariz. L. Rev. 343 (2000). Excerpted in SIDNEY A. SHAPIRO, THOMAS MCGARITY, AND DAVID BOLLIER, SOPHISTICATED SABOTAGE: THE INTELLECTUAL GAMES USED TO SUBVERT RESPONSIBLE REGULATION (2004).

Variable Justice: Environmental Standards, Contaminated Fish, and ‘Acceptable’ Risk to Native Peoples, 19 Stan. Envtl L.J. 3 (2000), excerpted in Environmental Justice: Law, Policy & Regulation (Carolina Academic Press 2002).

Single-sex Education After United States v. Virginia, 23 J.C. & U.L. 489 (1997).

Co-author with Cass R. Sunstein, Economics and the Environment: Trading Debt and Technology for Nature, 17 COL. J. ENVTL. L. 93 (1992). Selected through peer-review process as one of the twelve best environmental and land use articles of the year and reprinted in 24 LAND USE & ENVTL L. REV. (1993). Excerpted in ANTHONY D’AMATO & KIRSTEN ENGEL, INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ANTHOLOGY (1996). Excerpted in STEPHEN M. JOHNSON, ECONOMICS, EQUITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT (2003).

Comment, Sexual Harassment Cases and the Law of Evidence: A Proposed Rule, 1989 U. CHI. LEGAL F. 21

Other Recent Publications

Co-author with Lisa Heinzerling and Rena I. Steinzor, Mercury (2006) (monograph), available at www.progressivereform.org/perspectives/mercury.cfm.

Co-author with Member Scholars of the Center for Progressive Reform, Hurricane Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster (2005) (white paper), available at www.progressivereform.org/Unnatural_Disaster_512.pdf.

Co-author with Eileen Gauna and Cliff Rechtschaffen, Environmental Justice (2005) (white paper), available at www.progressivereform.org/articles/ej_505.pdf. Excerpted in JOHN NAGLE, ET AL., THE PRACTICE AND POLICY OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW (forthcoming 2007).

Op-Ed, Clear facts about Clear Skies, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, March 9, 2005, at B9.

Op-Ed, Try Not to Breathe, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS, July 7, 2004, available at www.americanprogress.org.

Consultant, Fish Consumption Workgroup, Air & Water Subcommittee of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC), Fish Consumption and Environmental Justice (2002), available at www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/publications/ej/fish_consump_report_1102.pdf.

Recent Activity

US Supreme Court chief justice sounds warning on EPA rule justifications

April 01, 2015
Environmental law expert Professor Catherine O'Neill comments on the cost-benefit analysis of new regulations for Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Environmental law seminar sees river restoration work up close

October 31, 2014
On a rainy Saturday in October, a group of students left their laptops at Sullivan Hall, donned boots and wool caps, and made their way out to the Olympic Peninsula to witness the historic restoration efforts underway on the Elwha River. The students are learning about the restoration in a seminar called Advanced Environmental Law and Advanced Indian Law.

Symposium imagines different future for Indian lands in trust

September 29, 2014
The care and keeping of 18 million acres of forest land, held in trust for Native Americans by the federal government for more than a century, will be the focus of an important symposium this week at Seattle University School of Law.