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Vibrant Environment

Regulation: Is $100 Million What It Used to Be?

Congress has used the $100 million threshold in numerous acts. (Photo: Glen Lowe
James M. McElfish, Jr.
Monday, June 19, 2017

Federal regulations undergo a lot of review during their development and drafting by federal agencies: input from government attorneys and economists, rounds of public comments under the Administrative Procedure Act, review by the Small Business Administration, and—often most significantly—review by the regulatory gatekeepers housed at the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

Environmental Sustainability: Finding a Working Definition

Villagers returning home as the sun sets in the Philippines (Source: UN Photo/Od
ELR Staff
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

“Sustainability” was introduced in environmental policy discourse 30 years ago, when the World Commission on Environment and Development published Our Common Future, charting a path for development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” But as Scott Fulton, David Clarke, and María Amparo Albán write in the June issue of

With Declining Budgets, EPA Adjusts Approach to Compliance and Enforcement

EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo: NRDC)
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In the midst of gigantic political divide, on May 4, 2017, the Senate passed a continuing resolution that will finance the government through September 2017. The details of the resolution saw many environmentalists cheer as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) saw a modest cut to its budget to the tune of $80 million, a 1% cut overall. This victory came on the heels of a threatened cut of 31% in the president’s proposed budget.

A Problem in Small-Scale Fisheries Management in Spain and a Need to Rethink Implementation of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy

ACERGA fishing skipper Marcos Alfeirán during the protest camp in late 2015, NOS
Xiao Recio-Blanco
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Galician Association of Purse-Seine Vessel Owners (ACERGA by its acronym in Galician) is the largest association of purse-seine vessel owners in Spain. Over a year ago, ACERGA fishers and many members of their families camped in front of the main building of the government of Galicia (northwestern Spain), demanding that their voice be heard in the regulatory process for determining Spain’s annual fishing quota distribution of mackerel and horse mackerel.

FOOD WASTE: Onsite Food Waste Pre-processing Systems: Is Recycling Really Happening?

By Taz [CC BY 2.0 (http:/creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia C
Christopher Wright
Carol Adaire Jones
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Recycling food waste through composting and anaerobic digestion has the greatest potential by far to reduce the quantity of food waste going to landfills over the next 15 years relative to food waste reduction and reuse, according to ReFED. However, as more cities and states institute landfill food waste bans and other programs to promote recycling, the demand for centralized organic processing facilities is outpacing the supply. To address the gap, vendors are actively marketing to commercial customers new onsite pre-processing systems, including dehydrators, pulpers, and biodigesters. The systems can save money by reducing or eliminating off-site hauling of food waste and are well suited to facilities short on space and staff time. But the question arises: are the nutrients and energy in food waste really being recycled?  The answer depends upon the next stage of processing.

Trumping Environmental Protection

EPA and Donald Trump
Scott Fulton
Monday, May 22, 2017

The Trump Administration is clearly hungry for regulatory reform that reduces the cost and process burden of environmental regulation. Those who see a fundamental conflict between environmental protection and economic development welcome this development, as do those concerned that environmental requirements have become so extensive, detailed, and layered as to make compliance an elusive pursuit. Conversely, the shift raises concerns for those who see environmental protection and economic development as fully compatible goals and who fear environmental backsliding.  

TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT: Protecting the Environment in the Context of International Trade

Container Ship
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Although making no specific commitments, the Trump Administration continues to propose the potential renegotiation of NAFTA. House Democrats, in a Resolution earlier this spring, and a group of 15 environment, labor, and human rights groups, in an Eight-Point Plan, have called for a renegotiation of NAFTA that ensures that regulations protecting the environment are maintained.

In an earlier blog post, I discussed how environmental protection provisions incorporated in trade agreements could help mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of (international) trade. This post explores the inverse topic: how the investment chapters in NAFTA (and other trade agreements) may affect environmental and social protections in parties’ domestic regulation.

A Win for Kids and the Environment in China

Playground in Lanzhou, China, Sigismund von Dobschütz
Zhuoshi Liu
Monday, May 15, 2017

Since the early 2000s, many Chinese schools and kindergartens have built synthetic running tracks on their campuses. However, many of these schools and kindergartens are underfunded and consequently tend to award contracts to the lowest bidders, often at a cost to the environment and human health.

FOOD WASTE: “Smart Technology” Promises to Revolutionize Recycling

Enevo Sensor System
Carol Adaire Jones
Linda Breggin
Emmett McKinney
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Imagine the dumpsters behind restaurant row in your community signaling their hauling company to come pick them up because they are full and about to overflow, or their food is rotting and about to stink up the neighborhood. Such are the promises for waste management of new “smart technologies,” based on sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, big data, and social networks.

The Uncertain Fate of WOTUS

Emerald Bay, Michael
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

In a series of executive orders, the president has requested that agencies review several environmental protection rules, and if deemed necessary, repeal or modify rules to better facilitate economic growth. One such rule, the Clean Water rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS), has been in the crosshairs of industry for some time.