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Vibrant Environment

Celebrating 30 Years of Environmental Collaboration With INECE and AELERT

Participants at the 9th INECE Conference in Whistler, BC
Avital Li
Wednesday, October 2, 2019

In May 2020, the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its first international workshop that was held in Utrecht, Netherlands. In the 30 years since its foundation, we have witnessed an explosion in the development of environmental laws around the world. For example, according to the First Global Report on the Environmental Rule of Law, there has been a 38-fold increase in environmental legislation since 1972.

Of Walls . . . and Windows

Scott Fulton
Monday, September 30, 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.

Innovating Environmental Protection for the Future

GreenTech logo
Kasantha Moodley
Wednesday, September 25, 2019

On the first Earth Day in 1970, Sen. Edmund Muskie called for “A total strategy to protect the total environment.” At that time – and for several decades – the overarching approach was one of regulatory compliance, largely directed by government. But the next 50 years of environmental protection will not look like the first 50—they will be driven by technology as much as by regulation.

Updates on New York’s Proposed Consumer Product Labeling Requirements

Claire Mathis
Allison Killius
Monday, September 23, 2019

On August 27, the New York Supreme Court struck down the New York Household Cleansing Product Information Disclosure Program (HCPDIP), which requires manufacturers to list chemical ingredients of concern on their website. The court struck down the HCPDIP on the basis that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) did not follow proper procedures under the State Administrative Procedures Act (SAPA). The court stated that though the department issued it as a "guidance," it was in fact a binding rule and did not follow the proper procedures in creating a formal law. The HCPDIP was declared "null and void" and remitted back to the DEC for compliance with the SAPA. In light of the court’s ruling, cleaning product manufacturers no longer have to comply with listing requirements by January 2020.

Data and Information Technology for the Environment: The Earth’s Environment Needs the Best Tools Too

ELI 50th anniversary logo
Wayne S. Balta
Friday, September 13, 2019

Our world is flooded with data, and the amount of data continues to increase exponentially. In a prior era, data primarily meant numbers. They were rather orderly, and they would typically be presented in a relatively structured way. That’s not the case today, however.

Data now are far more diverse and unstructured: words from a document that has been scanned into a computer; content of texts and tweets; website URLs; and photos and videos and more. And the continued generation of these data is what’s normal in our world today. If you’re a young adult, a student, or a child, this characterizes the world into which you were born, and it’s normal to you.

Bearing Witness: The Environmental Law Institute at Age 50

Nicholas A. Robinson
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

In the 1960s, a time of extreme air and water pollution across America, governments manifestly were failing to sustain a healthy environment. The conservation victories of the late 19th century and of the Progressive era in the 1920s had proven to be necessary but not sufficient. In April of 1965, the Conservation Foundation (CF) scoped out the growing threats to the North American environment with a conference at Airlie House just outside of Washington, D.C. Clearly, policies and laws were lacking.

Federalism as a Zero-Sum Game?

chess board
ELR Staff
Monday, September 9, 2019

In recent years, “competitive federalism” between U.S. states and the federal government has spread to encompass environmental regulation. After EPA issued the Clean Power Plan in 2015, more than one-half of the states filed lawsuits alleging that EPA’s plan encroached upon state authority to determine energy policy. Between 2009 and 2017, Texas alone sued the Obama Administration at least 48 times, many of those suits over EPA action regarding air and water quality standards. While the pollution control laws passed in the 1970s were founded upon “cooperative federalism,” competitive federalism has resulted in a zero-sum rhetoric that pits environmental protection against economic growth.

In Search of "Bricklayers": Building and Reinforcing the Foundations of Private-Sector Sustainability

Alan B. Horowitz
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

I have a confession: I can’t stand the “what’s your occupation” question—credit card applications, cocktail parties, whatever. I find it limiting and often irrelevant. Truth be told, I haven’t known how to answer the question for years. “Environmental, Health, and Safety Executive?” “Sustainability Leader?” “ESG Champion?” The reality is that my default answer has become “recovering environmental lawyer” but I worry that’s insensitive . . . !

Trade, Tourism, and Trophies—The Elephant in the Room

John Cruden
Catherine Novelli
Dan Ashe
Friday, August 30, 2019

Elephants are amazing animals and perhaps our most enduring mental image of Africa—large, untamed, inexhaustible. That image can also distract us from the unpleasant historical and current realities of colonization and exploitation of Africa and Africans, including African elephants. Evidence of this is like air, it’s all around us. So, like air, it goes unseen, like the fresco above the south entrance to the Federal Trade Commission building, here in Washington, D.C., portraying an obviously western man, extending a money bag to an apparently African man, who is on bended knee and holding an ivory tusk.

Single-Use Plastic Bans Bring Unintended Consequences for People Experiencing Homelessness and Developing Countries

Cynthia R. Harris
Wednesday, August 28, 2019

First plastic bags, then straws, and now . . . miniature toiletries.

In a world where half the plastic produced globally is packaging we use just once, and only nine percent of all plastic is recycled, a consumer tide against single-use plastics is sweeping up grocery retailers, restaurants, and now the hospitality industry.