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Volume [field_article_intvolume_value], Issue [field_article_intissue_value] — June 2017


Caring for the Orphans: Approaches for Mitigating Fugitive Methane Emissions From Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

by Cameron Rotblat

Recent scientific research indicates fugitive methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells may contribute more to climate change than methane leakage from oil and gas production. Yet current orphaned well regulations fail to ensure that such wells are plugged in a timely fashion. This Article applies domestic comparative law to identify three promising alternative approaches to the current system of orphan well reclamation funds: cooperative federal grant programs, joint and several liability of potentially responsible parties, and carbon offsets credits. By providing more equitable funding, expanded liability, and market-based incentives, these approaches can complement existing efforts and help mitigate fugitive methane emissions from orphaned wells.

Leveraging Supplemental Environmental Projects: Toward an Integrated Strategy for Empowering Environmental Justice Communities

by Patrice L. Simms

Environmental justice communities are especially disadvantaged when it comes to direct community intervention in matters critical to their well-being. Opportunities may exist, however, to institutionalize resources for those communities’ benefit. In particular, environmental enforcement actions could prove a reliable and effective conduit to access resources and obtain environmental and public health benefits, tailored to communities’ self-identified needs. This Article focuses on the supplemental environmental project (SEP) as a mechanism to accomplish this, and proposes SEP Community Empowerment Partnerships (SCEPs). This deliberate strategy—involving government entities, NGOs, academic institutions, funders, and private firms—could help more effectively fold communities into settlement decisions, and allow them to leverage SEPs as an additional tool to advance the restorative goals of environmental justice.


An Exploration of and Reflection on China’s System of Environmental Public Interest Litigation

by Sun Qian and Jack Tuholske

Commensurate with its significant environmental problems, China’s environmental protection laws and court system have undergone profound changes in the past two years. In this Comment, the authors highlight the development and implementation of China’s environmental public interest litigation system, which shifts the legal paradigm from tort suits to recover damages incurred by pollution victims to cases that more closely resemble U.S. citizen suits.

Annual Review of Chinese Environmental Law Developments: 2016

by Mingqing You and Haijing Wang

The year 2016 witnessed the adoption or revision of several of China’s environmental laws by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, as well as some major judicial initiatives by the Supreme People’s Court. This Comment summarizes these developments.

Environmental Sustainability: Finding a Working Definition

by Scott Fulton, David Clarke, and María Amparo Albán

Since at least 1987, when the World Commission on Environment and Development published Our Common Future, sustainability has become an increasingly central concept in redefining environmental stewardship—development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The march toward realizing the ideal of more responsible stewardship of the earth’s natural resources continues to advance, notwithstanding dramatic changes in the political landscape. In the context of both climate change and the broader sustainability objective, we are witnessing a revolutionary push coming from local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and businesses. This said, a good deal more could be accomplished if sustainability were reduced to a clearer and, ultimately, universally accepted frame serving as a consistent reference for policy development and decisionmaking. Borrowing from NEPA, this Comment proposes a functional working definition of environmental sustainability.


Environmental Impacts of the Border Wall

by David Roche, Dan Millis, Andy Gordon, Sarah Krakoff, and Sarah Burt

On January 25, 2017, during his first week in office, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order calling for the “immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border” of the United States. Such a wall would span more than one thousand miles, across many different habitats and many different communities. Before a wall can be built, numerous questions must be answered: Which environmental laws apply? How might all this work? On February 16, ELI convened experts to discuss how environmental law and policy may interact with the Executive Order and to spark discussion about important environmental resources and communities along the border. Below, we present a transcript of the event, which has been edited for style, clarity, and space considerations.