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Michael F. Vaccaro Honors Attorney Fellowship Program in our Philadelphia (Region 3) Office

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The Office of Regional Counsel

The mission of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is as big as the outdoors.  EPA protects public health and the environment by enforcing federal environmental laws throughout the United States.

EPA works closely with state and local governments, citizens, environmental groups, and regulated industries to ensure compliance with the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Superfund statute, and laws regulating hazardous waste, toxic chemicals, and pesticides. EPA is involved both in public health emergencies (e.g., Hurricane Katrina response, BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, lead in Flint, MI drinking water), and in day-to-day environmental issues such as cleanups of Superfund hazardous waste sites; reducing pollution of stormwater runoff; and enforcing air and water quality standards throughout the U.S.

EPA’s Region III includes the mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.  Our jurisdiction includes environments as diverse as urban waterways such as D.C.’s Anacostia and Potomac rivers; the forested Allegheny Mountains; West Virginia’s coal country; the Chesapeake Bay; and current and former industrial sites throughout the region.

EPA Attorneys are involved in nearly all aspects of the Agency’s mission, including administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement of environmental laws; drafting and interpreting EPA regulations, policy and guidance; oversight of state environmental agencies;  and counseling on government contracts and grants, bankruptcy, employment, corporations, property.   For example, attorneys at EPA Region III have recently worked on a wide variety of matters, including:

  • Federal court actions against several coal companies for chronic Clean Water Act violations, resulting in multi-million dollar settlements with extensive injunctive relief;
  • Superfund cleanups of contaminated industrial areas, including cleanups of unused urban “brownfields,” returning this property to productive use for the benefit of the community;
  • Working with Baltimore, D.C., Pittsburgh, and other cities to develop multi-year, multi-million dollar programs to end the discharge of untreated sewage overflows into waterways;
  •  Criminal prosecution of demolition contractors who flout Clean Air Act asbestos regulations, endangering the public and their own employees;
  • Administrative litigation against landlords for failing to notify tenants with small children about lead paint hazards. 

Fellowship Description

The Michael F. Vaccaro Honors Attorney Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to practice law in a major governmental environmental organization, and to receive extensive training in and exposure to environmental law and policy work in the public sector. The Fellowship recipient will work in the Office of Regional Counsel on particular matters arising under:

  • the major federal environmental statutes, such as
    • the Clean Water Act,
    • the Clean Air Act,
    • Superfund, and
    • the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  • other federal statutes relevant to EPA Region 3 operations, such as
    • the Ethics in Government Act,
    • the Civil Rights Act, and
    • the Freedom of Information Act 

These matters typically require the application of emerging law and policy to significant environmental issues in Region 3. The Fellowship will also include an opportunity to manage environmental enforcement cases.

Fellow is expected to commit to a two year term. The salary will be at the GS-11 level or, in unusual circumstances where appropriate qualifications exist, at the GS-12 level.  Find out more about federal government general schedule (GS) pay scales.

Applicant Qualifications

The Michael F. Vaccaro Fellowship is open to U.S. citizens with excellent academic credentials and a strong interest in an environmental career or the public sector, and who are:

  • graduates within the past two years from an accredited law school, or
  • current judicial clerks (one or two years out of law school), or
  • current third year law students at an accredited law school, or
  • JAG attorneys completing their initial tour of duty following completion of law school.

A law school graduate who has been employed as an attorney, other than judicial clerks and JAG service, will not be considered.

Application Process

Currently, we are not accepting applications.  However, if you are interested please check this page periodically for updates

Interested applicants should apply early and submit the following:

  • A resume listing bar admission status, including, for those not yet admitted, whether the candidate sat for the July bar exam, and day and evening telephone numbers;
  • An unofficial transcript of law school grades. (An official transcript will be requested at the time of interview);
  • A letter explaining the applicant's interest in the Fellowship; and
  • The name, address, and telephone number of three references. Included should be a current or former employer and a law school professor or advisor.

Questions regarding the Vaccaro Fellowship should be directed to Donzetta Thomas via telephone only at (215) 814-2474.


Application packages that are submitted via email should be submitted in PDF format and to this email address only. Email submissions should include "Vaccaro Fellowship Application" in the subject line.

Selected applicants will be invited for interviews in Philadelphia (at the candidate's expense) . Interviews will be scheduled over a 2-3 week period, beginning in late November. Upon request, interviews may also be conducted via video-conference.


View a listing of other EPA offices around the nation with an Honors Attorney Programs.