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Vibrant Environment

Of Walls . . . and Windows

Scott Fulton
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

“For everything there is a season,” says the old Pete Seeger song, quoting the much older still book of Ecclesiastes. It seems that we are currently in the season of walls. The physical manifestation of this particular period may be the issue of the wall on our southern border. But there are other walls, and some of them have law as their concrete or steel.

Cuyahoga's Myths and Urban Justice

Stephen R. Dujack
Monday, May 13, 2019

The famous Cuyahoga River fire of June 22, 1969 — the spur that started debate on pollution across the nation, and led to passage of the Clean Water Act three years later — is lodged more in legendary storytelling than in reality. The fire was actually fairly minor, causing only $50,000 in losses to the Republic Steel Mill located along the river, damaging some wooden trestles. Moreover, no photograph of the event exists — the photo reproduced here, like the one a month later in Time magazine, was from a much larger 1952 blaze.

Trips to the Biotech Frontier: Episode 3

Kashaf Momin
Wednesday, May 8, 2019

By now, you have seen how biotech is transforming the food industry. You have also seen how it can revolutionize the construction and textile industries. In this final episode, we will explore biotechnology products you may find in your home in the near future.

The same platform used to brew hoppy beer without the hops, discussed in our last episode, is also transforming the fragrance business. In partnership with a Swiss perfume company, the bioscience firm Amyris synthetically produced patchouli, one of the essential oils that constitutes traditional perfume. This product, called CLEARWOOD®, was created using engineered yeast as its microbial platform, a more sustainable alternative to the costly and lengthy cultivation and extraction process of the patchouli plant. Meanwhile, Ginkgo Bioworks has designed its own aromatic oil....

Climate Policy Past and Present: Designing the New Green Deal

ELR Staff
Monday, May 6, 2019

Climate policy has again risen to the top of the national agenda. Although the current Administration has taken actions such as withdrawing from the Paris Agreement or relaxing regulations on vehicle and power plant emissions, members of Congress are formulating progressive proposals to mitigate climate change, and states have taken ambitious steps to reduce carbon emissions. A carbon tax proposal has gained traction among conservative think-tanks and politicians, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has formed a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and the Green New Deal has sparked a robust debate on pathways to a more sustainable future.

A “Sticky” Situation: Addressing PFAS Risk in Corporate Transactions

Loyti Cheng
Michael Comstock
Friday, May 3, 2019

PFAS is a catch-all term for the chemical compounds per- and polyfluoroalkyls (including PFOA, PFOS, and replacements such as GenX). Seemingly overnight, these substances have gone from something talked about mainly by environmental lawyers and advocates to something that the public is increasingly focused on. The reasons for this shift include EPA’s and the states’ move to regulate these substances, recent lawsuits targeting PFAS manufacturers, and a better understanding of the way these substances may persist in the environment and harm human health. Because the future costs and obligations regarding the cleanup of, and human exposure to, PFAS are uncertain and likely significant, they present a challenge for environmental attorneys and their clients when performing deal diligence and negotiating contracts.

Environmental Rule of Law

Scott Fulton
Wednesday, May 1, 2019

I write this column on a plane returning from Beijing and an ELI convening called the China International Business Dialogue on Environmental Governance (CIBDEG).  This is an innovative project brought to ELI by Leadership Council member Paul Davies of Latham’s London office. The heart of the idea is for ELI and a Chinese partner entity (the Policy Research Center on Environment and Economy (PRCEE)) to broker a conversation between Chinese regulators and multinational companies that are either trying to make a go of it in China or deeply reliant on supply chains that originate in China. This is a project in which I am personally involved, mainly because of my relationships with Chinese regulators from my days doing international work at EPA. 

Tribal Regulation of Single-Use Plastics

Cynthia Harris
Monday, April 29, 2019

The world is waking up to the growing problem of plastic waste contaminating our ocean and terrestrial environments. Local governments—lauded as laboratories of innovation—have begun enacting bans and fees on single-use plastics, reducing the amount entering the waste stream in the first place. Businesses are stepping up; national and multinational governance bodies are adopting laws cutting down on the manufacture and distribution of single-use plastics. In the United States, California, the District of ColumbiaHawaii, and Maine have initiated statewide restrictions, while Oregon and Washington are considering similar measures.

Youth Activism and Climate Change: A European Perspective

Miriam Aczel
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Following the recently granted extension, the United Kingdom (U.K.) will soon trigger Article 50, officially “Brexitting” from the European Union (EU), a decision that will fundamentally change the U.K. and the wider EU. Protesters—many of them young—have mobilized in London, in Westminster, and across the U.K. to express concern about how this move out of the EU will affect their future. Nearly 6 million people, dominated by young voices, have signed a petition to revoke Article 50. Similarly, students and youth worldwide have joined “climate strikes” in a unified call for concerted action on global climate change. Are these widespread protests a harbinger of social change and action on climate, driven by the younger generation?

Trips to the Biotech Frontier: Episode 2

Kashaf Momin
Monday, April 22, 2019

If you read Episode 1 of Trips to the Biotech Frontier, you know that biotechnology has far-reaching applications beyond genetically modified crops. But even within the food and agriculture industry, the industry is seeing the use of biotechnology in ways we may never imagined. In this episode, we will explore some of these new and emerging applications in food.

Rule of Law in Climate Response and Energy Transformation

Amy L. Edwards
Friday, April 19, 2019

When I was a child, my father would repeatedly remind me (and my siblings) to “turn off the lights—money doesn’t grow on trees”. Was it because he was concerned about the environment? No, not really—it was because we were relatively poor. But I am pretty good now about remembering to turn off the lights (and I get pretty annoyed when others don’t—especially when the lights are “supposed” to go off automatically but don’t).

Now, as the current chair of the ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER), I have the ability and privilege to oversee many exciting initiatives. 

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