Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Vibrant Environment

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.

The Ecological Impacts of a Border Wall

Rio Grande River
Caitlin Meagher
Monday, April 3, 2017

Often lost in discussions of efficacy and payment relating to the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall is what would happen to the environment if a concrete divider were placed across a nearly-2,000 mile swath of habitat. While wall-like barriers already stand on hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, expanding to a full-border wall would constitute a massive transformation of the rest of the United States’ southern borderlands, posing substantial threats to the wildlife that roam the area.

Environmental Whistleblowing in the Federal Government

The Office of the Whistleblower Symbol
Michael D. Kohn
Stephen M. Kohn
Monday, March 13, 2017

With the change in the administration there is renewed interest in whistleblower protections by federal employees. Federal employees who are troubled by what is occurring within their agency should take a moment to better understand their rights and consult with lawyers who are knowledgeable about these complex laws before taking action that could result in adverse employment actions. What turns out to be protected or not protected may surprise you. The starting point to understand federal employee whistleblower rights and some things to watch out for are outlined below.

TRADE & ENVIRONMENT: Why Include Environmental Provisions in International Trade Agreements

World airline route map, 2009, Jpatokal
Monday, March 6, 2017

Rising levels of global consumption are having significant impacts on biodiversity worldwide. The world is facing its sixth extinction, a massive loss of biodiversity, with extinctions occurring at 100-1,000 times pre-human levels. International trade increases these threats. A Nature article documenting the impacts of trade in thousands of commodity chains concluded that 30% of threats to threatened and endangered species globally were due to international trade. It found that while wealthy countries drive most consumption, the greatest threats to species are found further down the supply chain, in the developing countries that produce the commodities sought after by the richer nations.

Schrödinger’s Brexit: Letting the Cat Out of the Box

Cat on a Union Jack, Colicaranica
Miriam Aczel
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Although it’s been several months since the United Kingdom’s populist vote to leave the European Union, it seems as though the U.K. is trapped in a bit of Euro-divorce limbo. Some have even gone as far as to call it “Schrödinger’s Brexit,” invoking quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment to explain the government’s policy folly. Like the fate of Schrödinger’s cat, Britain’s future is unclear: Article 50 in the Treaty of Lisbon, which delineates the rules for exiting the European Union, has not yet been triggered. In other words, despite the outcome of the popular referendum, Britain has not yet officially declared whether it is leaving the EU.

FOOD WASTE: City and State Strategies for Source Reduction

Farmers Market Produce
Emmett McKinney
Linda Breggin
Carol Adaire Jones
Monday, February 20, 2017

Strategies for cities and states to reduce food waste can be thought of through the lens of the “Three Rs” of EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy—reduction, reuse, and recycling. In food waste terms, the Three Rs mean preventing wasted food at the source, donating wasted food leftovers, and recycling food waste through composting or anaerobic digestion.

The recent ReFED report on reducing food waste quantifies the economic value and diversion potential of different strategies related to each of the Three Rs. According to ReFED, source reduction and donation generate the most economic value per ton of food saved, while food recycling and composting have the potential to divert a much greater quantity of food from landfills.