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Vibrant Environment

The Summer That Launched an Era

Stephen R. Dujack
Monday, July 22, 2019

In a period of less than a month, everything good seemed possible for America. First came the Moon landing, on July 20, 1969. Billions watched our astronauts live from the lunar surface and took pride in humanity’s achievement. In the United States, the concept of collective will to conquer a huge national challenge got a big boost. Project Apollo joined the Manhattan Project as paradigms of government-led Yankee ingenuity licking a technological problem — and on a tight timetable to boot, expenses be damned because of the extreme nature of the threat.

California DTSC's Efforts to Address the Segregation of Pollution

Davina Pujari
Cole A. Benbow
Friday, July 19, 2019

The mission of California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is to "protect California's people and environment from harmful effects of toxic substances by restoring contaminated resources, enforcing hazardous waste laws, reducing hazardous waste generation, and encouraging the manufacture of chemically safer products." But, like any critical mission, its success depends on sufficient funding. And, to the detriment of the vulnerable communities it is charged with protecting, the Department is in the midst of dealing with a budget shortfall that will handicap its ability to reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated in California—hazardous waste that disproportionately impacts low-income and minority communities. 

Western Regional Power Market: Sustainable Path Forward or Stumble Back to More Emissions?

Helena Kilburn
Monday, July 15, 2019

Would the formation of a regional power market in the western United States be a step forward into a more sustainable future or a stumble backward into continued use of fossil fuels for the region? Much of the debate concerns how a regional power market would increase or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Advocates of the regional power market argue that with increased use of renewable energy and its more efficient integration and transfer, carbon emissions would decrease. In contrast, proponents against the new framework maintain that less state control over their energy grids could result in less support for renewable energy and an increased use of coal. The formation of this market could lead to a cleaner, greener future or it could incentivize continued use of fossil fuels within some of the western states.

A High Steaks Battle: What Can Legally Be Considered “Meat”?

Patree (Well) Witoonchart
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Does “meat” have to come from a living, breathing animal? According to proponents of cellular agriculture, this may not always be the case. This new industry aims to produce “meat” by growing animal cells outside of a living body, envisioning a future where humans can consume beef, pork, chicken, and seafood without having to slaughter a single animal. The process of producing such cell-based food involves taking cells from a live animal and using a growth medium to grow the cells into large, edible tissue. In recent years, this technology has generated public excitement, attention, and, most importantly, investment. However, regardless of what the products of cellular agriculture look like or when this technology will be fully developed, naming this product is much more complicated.

Are Secondhand Cars Treasure or Trash? Takeaways From the Second INECE Compliance Conversation

Shehla Chowdhury
Monday, July 8, 2019

Over the last several decades, many countries have sought to decrease their carbon footprint by creating stricter emissions standards for motor vehicles. However, once these standards are in place, a serious question arises: what should be done with older, “dirtier” vehicles? Often, the answer has been to export them to regions with less strict vehicle standards.

Overcoming Impediments to Offshore CO2 Storage: Legal Issues in the United States and Canada

ELR Staff
Monday, July 1, 2019

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a hot-button topic as a strategy to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. CCS entails capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and industrial plants at the source, then injecting the captured carbon dioxide into underground geologic formations for storage. Much research has focused on sequestering carbon dioxide onshore, in depleted oil and gas reservoirs or deep saline aquifers. Offshore CCS also may be feasible, but presents several governance and legal challenges.

EPA's New Section 401 Guidance: Will It Limit States' Authority or Just Make Them Mad?

Michael R. Campbell
Barbara D. Craig
Cherise M. Gaffney
Laura Kerr
Monday, June 24, 2019

Frustrated by some states’ use of their Clean Water Act (CWA) §401 authority to oppose or delay energy projects—particularly the transportation of fossil fuels—the Trump Administration issued the second installment in its efforts to restrict that authority on June 7. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Water Act Section 401 Guidance for Federal Agencies, States and Authorized Tribes  strictly interprets state deadlines under §401 and takes a narrow view of the grounds on which states may deny or condition their approval of projects. The guidance follows an April 10 executive order, and will be followed in August by proposed EPA rules, with final rules by May 2020.

Maps, Mistakes, and Murder: Is Carpenter the Most Critical Environmental Case This Year?

Kieran Minor
Friday, June 21, 2019

Several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term touched environmental law, ranging from jurisdictional disputes over a state’s right to ban uranium mining to whether state or federal laws apply when hunting moose from a hovercraft along an Alaskan river. An unusual amount of cases navigate the intersection of environmental regulations and tribal sovereignty, the Court so far siding with tribes on the issues of state fuel tax exemptions and hunting rights. One pending case, Carpenter v. Murphy, is not explicitly environmental, but the answer to its core question has potentially seismic environmental implications: is the eastern half of Oklahoma still, technically, an Indian reservation? While the case primarily involves criminal jurisdiction, the degree to which the Court accepts or rejects this question may alter taxation, regulation, and even ownership of one of the most energy resource-rich regions in the country.

Secretary Bernhardt Says He Doesn’t Have a Duty to Fight Climate Change. He’s Wrong.

John D. Leshy
Wednesday, June 19, 2019

With the help of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has had a long and proud history of tackling pressing challenges through responsible and inclusive management of America’s public lands. One might expect it would continue that tradition as climate change has become a major challenge confronting the nation.

Leadership of Women in the Environmental Movement

Helena Kilburn
Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Women have been leaders in every major movement, though their contributions all too often go unrecognized. The environmental movement is no exception. Women striving toward the betterment of this field have faced many challenges, but through skill and determination, they persevered. The environmental movement is over two centuries long with generations of women shaping policies and laws within the field. This blog features just a handful of the numerous women who paved the way for future environmentally conscious generations.