The Center for State, Local, and Regional Environmental Programs
State and local agencies are continually grappling with environmental legislation and related policy, attempting to generate the most effective and efficient methods of protecting the environment. However, their struggles are often overlooked by efforts to support legal reform and improved environmental programs.
The Environmental Law Institute recognizes that state and local governments bear the primary responsibility for implementing and enforcing environmental protection laws. Since its inception thirty eight years ago, ELI has studied state programs, legal innovations, enforcement practices, and interrelationships with federal agencies. In 1986, funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ELI founded the Center for State, Local, and Regional Environmental Programs to promote this important agenda. This unique approach highlights ELI’s in-depth knowledge of state, local, and regional environmental law procedure, and supports the growing need for guidance and analysis of these protection efforts.
The State Center addresses these issues by advancing two goals. First, we focus on creating stronger state, local, and regional environmental programs. Secondly, we seek to support the role of state and local governments in environmental management and enforcement.
ELI pursues the goals of the Center for State, Local, and Regional Environmental Programs, through a variety of activities, including:
- Training — working with state and local agencies to help them design, implement, and enforce their own environmental laws. In an effort to build capacity and institutions, the State Center conducts specialized training courses for officials at the state and local level.
- Consultation — encouraging exchange of ideas among the states, through day-to-day consulting and organizing meetings between state officials and relevant experts. The State Center also provides analytical services to assist states and localities in evaluating and implementing environmental law and policy.
- Survey and analysis of state programs — identifying successful state initiatives, and analyzing their methods and accomplishments. The State Center then provides this information to other states and the federal government, allowing the sharing of ideas and achievements among interested parties. Recent surveys include ELI’s Almanac of Enforceable State Laws to Control Nonpoint Source Water Pollution, Beyond Enforcement: Enforcement, Compliance Assistance, and Corporate Leadership Program in Five Midwest States, and the 2001 update of An Analysis of State Superfund Programs.
- Defining state-federal relationships — contributing to the public policy debate on state-federal relations. The State Center is often called upon by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the states to assist in building state-federal relations. Reports on these issues include: Report for Great Lakes Protection Fund: Potential Federal Preemption of Laws in the Great Lakes States, Role of Local Governments in Long Term Stewardship at DOE Facilities, Federal Regulations and State Flexibility in Environmental Standard Setting, and Comparison of Federal-State Allocation of Responsibility in Five Environmental Statutes.
- ELI also provides resources to the states including: the Brownfields Center and the State TMDL Program Resource Center.
Looking toward the future, the State Center will increase its efforts at distributing critical information on environmental law, policy, and management to a broader base of state and local constituencies; supporting interaction with state and local officials and community groups; using states as laboratories and sources for experimentation and emulation of environmental laws; and working with other groups to reform state planning laws.
One key to extending our scope is the creation of a “Virtual State Center.” Searchable databases of the information ELI possesses about state programs will provide important resources for citizens groups or individuals interested in environmental law. Anyone with access to a computer — not just those on ELI’s mailing list — will have easy access to data that is currently difficult to obtain.
ELI’s State Center works closely with the State Biodiversity Program, and the Green Building and Indoor Environments program.
ELI works with other non-governmental organizations and state and local governments to identify laws and programs that effectively respond to the environmental issues facing states and local governments, including Mississippi River water quality, nanotechnology, water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, and adaptation to climate change.
Producing a wide range of publications to serve state agencies, the private bar, and the general public is central to the work of this program. These publications are a result of intense research and interpretation of data by experienced professionals at the Environmental Law Institute. They cover a variety of subjects pertinent to state, local, and regional issues. Recent publications include Plumbing the Future: Sewage Infrastructure and Sustainability in Western Pennsylvania; Guiding Growth in Virginia: Local Incentives for Revitalization and Preservation; and Protecting Delaware’s Natural Heritage: Tools for Biodiversity Conservation. Please visit our Publications Page for a complete list.
John Pendergrass is the Director of the Center for State, Local, and Regional Environmental Programs.