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Vibrant Environment

The Wrong Place and the Wrong Time: The Rocky Hill Case and a Landmark Legal Win for Climate Action

Isabelle Smith
Monday, March 25, 2019

As the global community faces the reality that a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is urgently required, a new class of climate change litigation is emerging. But what impact are these proceedings having?

A recent case from New South Wales (NSW), Australia, has directly challenged development that is at odds with GHG emission reduction targets. Hailed as a “landmark decision” in climate litigation, the case represents the first time an Australian court has refused a coal mining development consent not only on the basis of unacceptable “planning, visual and social impacts,” but also to prevent a new source of GHG emissions.

An Uncertain Future for California's Vehicle Emission Standards

ELR Staff
Monday, March 18, 2019

Last month, the Trump Administration formally ended talks with California over the federal government’s plans to freeze vehicle emissions standards and likely revoke the state’s long-standing authority to set its own standards under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The success of California in mitigating air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under CAA §209—and that of the 15 states that have invoked waivers under §177—is now in question. And the Administration’s plan to end negotiations and move forward with its proposed Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule will most certainly lead to a heated, lengthy court battle.

CERCLA and the DOD Dilemma: Challenges and Opportunities

Matthew Beyer
Monday, February 11, 2019

In the late 1970s, revelations about the hazardous waste contaminating sites like Love Canal and Valley of the Drums captured the American public’s attention. In response to concerns about the risk these hazardous dumps posed to both public and environmental health, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980. Commonly referred to as Superfund, CERCLA gives EPA the authority and resources to clean up and remediate sites contaminated by hazardous substances and pollutants.

Oil Spill Kicked Off Anti-Pollution Era

Stephen R. Dujack
Monday, January 28, 2019

“In 1969 the signs of . . . concern were everywhere,” writes John Quarles, EPA’s first deputy administrator, in the opening chapter of his invaluable memoir Cleaning Up America. These signs “were manifest in the outcry against the Santa Barbara oil spill,” which happened on January 28, 1969, just eight days after Richard Nixon’s ascent to the White House. There followed in close order a series of epochal events every month of that year. “Suddenly, in cities across the country, citizen environmentalists campaigned. . . . People were demanding a change in the old policy toward the nation’s resources.”

Will the Current EPA be Able to Effect Lasting Air Permitting Reforms?

Amy M. Marshall
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The regulations, guidance documents, and policy memos that implement the Clean Air Act (CAA) have gotten longer and more complicated over the decades. This increased complexity has created greater compliance burdens for the regulated community, and the argument persists that it has stifled economic growth and not produced health benefits that equal or surpass the burdens imposed. Air quality has dramatically improved over the past 40 years, yet many current air quality standards are now at levels approaching the ambient background.

Getting the Lead Out: A New Strategy for Eliminating Toxic Lead in Drinking Water

ELR Staff
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Lead exposure from drinking water is a deeply rooted regulatory, economic, and environmental justice problem in the United States. Tragic stories from Washington, D.C. in the early 2000s, Flint, Michigan in 2014, and most recently in Newark, New Jersey, expose on the national stage the most extreme cases of drinking water contamination. But it is also an everyday reality that falls disproportionately on many low-income and minority communities across the United States.

A Mission to Reduce Emissions: California’s Fight to Maintain Their Fuel Standards

Hannah Dale
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

California is often considered a leader in environmental issues and has made strides to become a more environmentally conscious state. Through state and local policies, the state has banned certain plastic products, such as bags  and straws, and in 2011 it implemented a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program to curb greenhouse gas pollution. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) implemented this cap-and-trade program to ensure that automakers gradually increase gas mileage on their vehicles and reduce carbon intensity 10 percent by 2020. The state has even sought to extend the LCFS program, with a new goal of 20 percent reduction by 2030. These standards are stricter than the nationwide fuel standards, and while the initiative has received some legal pushback from the agricultural and ethanol industries, even companies in the transportation sector have become accustomed to California’s standards.

California has enjoyed the ability to tackle its own carbon pollution for several years. Now, however, their fuel standards are in danger.

Environmental Justice in the 21st Century: Toxic Waste and Race

Lovinia Reynolds
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Over 30 years ago, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States confirmed that race was the primary factor in determining the location of siting toxic wastes. Published by the United Church of Christ, the report’s release set in motion a movement addressing environmental health and social justice now known as environmental justice (EJ). In the decades to follow, EJ became institutionalized in our government agencies with the formation of the Environmental Equity Working Group at EPA in 1990 and Executive Order No. 12898 signed in 1994. Outside of government, the report catalyzed the formation of grassroots groups to address issues of environment health in their communities. The EJ movement also reorients the mainstream definition of environment. It frames the environment as not simply the woods, mountains, and ocean, but as our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our homes.

The Future of Waste Management: Shifting Toward Circular Economies

Hannah Dale
Monday, October 1, 2018

It is hard to ignore the pervasiveness of waste in our daily lives and around the world. Whether it is mounds of garbage piling onto beaches in the Dominican Republic, the enormous amounts of plastic that marine animals accidentally consume, pollution from industries and transportation in our air and water, or daily individual waste, we cannot look past the impacts of generating unnecessary waste.

ACE Proposed Rule: Part I

Cynthia Harris
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

On August 21, EPA introduced its much-anticipated Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule to replace the Barack Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) Rule for regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from our nation’s aging fleet of power plants. This proposal checks off another item on the Donald Trump Administration’s deregulatory agenda and elicits a number of profound questions. What are the main differences between the ACE and the CPP? What are the implications for public health, the environment, and the electric power sector? More philosophically, why, in the 21st century, do we continue relying on a Victorian-era source of energy to power our cell phones?