Jeremy Orr

Staff Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council

2016 | Detroit, MI


A passionate environmental justice advocate, Jeremy Orr, ’16, leads with the community in mind. He started his career as a community organizer, working with Michigan residents on various social justice issues. After joining an initiative to clean up a contaminated site in a low-to-moderate income community of color in Kalamazoo, where he and others addressed the Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, he realized that organizing for change is one way to have an impact, but directly going to the source as a lawyer is another. 

Orr recognized that no impacted community members were making decisions, and that perspective was missing from the process, prompting his decision to position himself in that space by getting a legal degree.

“Prioritizing people in environmental decision-making in Michigan is going to be critical for our success as a state,” said Orr.


At MSU Law, he jumped right into the curriculum. With years of work experience under his belt and a targeted set of interests to guide him, he knew what he wanted to do and what would help him to succeed in doing it. “I didn’t need to figure out what I was interested in because I knew. I knew coming into law school that once I had the opportunity to do electives that they would be environmental law, administrative law, and constitutional law classes – things that would prepare me for a career in environmental law,” he explained.


Today, Orr’s a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national and international advocate for environmental protection. “It’s always been a dream to work at a place like the NRDC, where you can see the impact that they’ve had on policy,” he said. “You can see the influence they had in bringing about the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act and so many other environmental regulations over the last 50 years.” 

The current political climate surrounding environmental advocacy is charged, which presents both a challenge and a great opportunity for public discussion and growth. 

“For me, when the opportunity (at the NRDC) came up it was a no-brainer. It’s a space that allows me to be an advocate as an attorney but still be involved in communities,” he said. “And more than that, still being early in my career, I’m able to grow and get the support, resources, and mentorships from folks who have been doing this for 30-40 years.”

His team at the NRDC is called the Safe Water Initiative, where the focus is ensuring safe drinking water for all, specifically securing access for frontline communities in Michigan.

Orr was appointed to the Environmental Rules Committee in 2019 by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The committee oversees all laws and rules that come through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He hopes to advance the process of replacing all lead service lines in the state with a focus on the most vulnerable communities who are hardest hit.