Betsy Lawton is a senior staff attorney at the Network’s Northern Region Office, where she provides legal technical assistance, delivers presentations and lectures, and builds connections in many areas of public health law. Before joining the Network, Betsy spent over a decade working to improve water quality as an attorney with Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), where she focused on Clean Water Act implementation and enforcement, reducing agricultural pollution, and preventing drinking water contamination, and represented a broad range of individuals and communities facing water pollution problems. Betsy received her JD, and a Certificate of Environmental Law, from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.

Articles & Resources

Protect and Improve Air Quality to Prevent High Mortality Rates from Future Pandemics

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and Health

April 21, 2020
by Betsy Lawton

As the earth’s climate warms and animals and humans relocate to more habitable locations, increased interactions with a variety of wildlife in new and different contexts places humans at risk of new viruses, making preventative measures to reduce pollution and address underlying health vulnerabilities such as asthma, chronic lung disease, or heart conditions even more important.

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As Temperatures Rise, Equitable Tree Cover can Help Mitigate the Health Risks from Urban Heat Islands and Address Health Inequities within Communities

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and Health

January 30, 2020
by Betsy Lawton

Trees are beautiful, but are they also a cure for climate change related health hazards? We know that trees beautify urban spaces, increase property values, reduce stress, improve mental health, and benefit communities by reducing crime rates and increasing social cohesion. But tree cover can also provide significant cooling benefits to offset dangerous temperatures during extreme heat events, which are on the rise in urban areas as a result of climate change.

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Water Quality and Public Health – Preparing for a Changing Climate

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and Health

October 23, 2019
by Betsy Lawton

Human exposure to waterborne illnesses will increase as climate change creates more extreme precipitation events that drive harmful pollutants that into fresh waters used for drinking, bathing, swimming, and boating. Rising global temperature is also predicted to promote the growth of pathogens and toxic algae blooms in freshwater. Communities recognizing these threats are establishing adaptation plans and policies to prevent increased risks to human health as the climate changes.

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Policy Surveillance: Preschool Social and Emotional Learning

Quick ReferenceHealth in SchoolMaternal and Child HealthMental Health and Well-BeingMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

October 21, 2019
by Betsy Lawton and Jill Krueger

Social and emotional learning (SEL) has a strong association with outcomes important to public health, from increased high school graduation rates to reduced drug use. This Quick Reference outlines the Network’s project to review policies and laws related to SEL.

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With Natural Disasters on the Rise, Solar Batteries Could Become Essential to Public Health and Safety

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and Health

June 18, 2019
by Betsy Lawton

When natural disasters occur, entire electrical grid systems (including those powered by solar energy) can shut down. Solar energy stored in batteries, which operate independent of the grid, have become an increasingly important, reliable back-up system for maintaining the health and safety of communities in emergencies. Solar batteries also help reduce public health harms caused by climate change and the use of fossil fuels.

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Gaps in Federal and State Laws Leave Private Well Users Vulnerable to Drinking Water Contamination

Law & Policy Insights

April 9, 2019
by Betsy Lawton

There are distinct differences in how U.S. laws do (or don’t) protect individuals from drinking water contamination. While a landmark federal law, the Safe Drinking Water Act, generally protects individuals who use a public water supply from exposure to unsafe levels of regulated contaminants, there is no similar protection for the approximately 45 million U.S. residents who rely on private wells for water. This gap in regulatory oversight increasingly burdens rural households, where the risk of exposure to nitrate contaminates is highest.

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