ELI In the News
Today, in a ruling on a nonexistent plan with nonexistent harms to the people who brought the suit, the Supreme Court took an opportunity to curb the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate power sector carbon emissions. In a summer of big decisions from the US Supreme Court, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency was one of the stranger cases on the docket. For one thing, it concerned a dispute that didn’t really exist. The complaint was about the Clean Power Plan, a set of rules issued by the EPA in 2015 that would have pushed power plants to substantially cut carbon emissions by 2030. Only the plan never panned out. Fossil fuel executives and Republican officials raised hell about its potential economic effects, went to court, and quickly got the rules suspended. A year later, then-President Barack Obama handed the keys to the EPA to Donald Trump, and the plan was gone for good. . . .
EPA today released its latest blueprint for agency lawyers and policymakers to wield the instruments at their disposal to achieve the Biden administration’s environmental justice goals. EPA Legal Tools to Advance Environmental Justice — an update to a 2014 EPA document — focuses on implementing core environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to tackle pollution and climate impacts in communities of color. The latest version includes guidance on implementing the 2016 reauthorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act in environmental justice work and adds a new chapter on civil rights in federal assistance programs. . . .
Environmental justice (EJ) communities (which we define in our Web Resource on Environmental Justice as communities of color and low-income communities that face disproportionate environmental burdens), have been fighting for decades to preserve their right to a healthy environment. Many barriers to that work exist, however. State attorneys general (AGs), as government lawyers, can play an important role in addressing those barriers. Below, we lay out several areas where attorneys general can and, in some cases, have been able to use their unique powers to do just that. . . .
As we observe Earth Month, it's time to think about the impact lawyers have on this planet. Did you know that the percentage of pro bono environmental law work within corporate law departments dropped from a paltry 6% in 2012 to an even more startling 2% in 2020, according to reports from the Corporate Pro Bono Institute? Or that Law Students for Climate Accountability evaluated the climate impact of Vault 100 law firms in 2020, and determined that only four firms received an "A" climate score? Apparently, Vault 100 firms worked on 10 times as many cases exacerbating climate change as cases addressing climate change during the period of the survey: 286 cases, compared to 27 cases. . . .
Since the beginning of time, people have been on the move in hopes of a better life. Whether people relocate voluntarily in search of better jobs, or they are forced to leave their homes because of war or environmental displacement, all migrating people deserve to be treated with dignity. Sadly, human rights and human dignity are too often treated as an afterthought to the migration process. . . .
A few years ago, I started providing pro bono legal assistance to a nonprofit in New Jersey that was helping community gardens expand their composting operations without prohibitively expensive permits. In order to change state regulations, I tapped my network to arrange meetings with local residents and elected officials who could provide support. . . .
Fears over environmental catastrophes are growing among humanitarian experts and environmental organizations as the Russian invasion of Ukraine moves into its second week. On Friday, over 1,000 organizations and individuals from more than 75 countries released an open letter expressing their solidarity with the people of Ukraine and voicing concern over the war’s environmental and human toll. . . .
Fires in the Amazon and the Arctic, hurricanes in Europe, volcanic eruptions and polar vortexes … Extreme weather events are becoming much more widespread and routine, but we don’t have to be terrified. There is so much we can still do to stop the march of climate change. Many thoughtful activists, educators and leaders are working non-stop to fight the climate crisis. In 2022, it’s our time to learn and advocate, and these podcasts lead the way. Here are the top 10 environmental podcasts you should listen to this year: 1. People, Places, Planet Podcast . . . .
State-level environmental justice screening tools are being supported by environmental justice advocacy groups in Michigan and across the country, according to a new study from the University of Michigan. These screening tools document the communities that are hardest hit by environmental injustices. In the new study, published online Feb. 1 in the journal Environmental Law Reporter, U-M researchers reviewed state-level environmental justice screening tools and conducted in-depth interviews with nearly 30 stakeholders across the United States to determine their views about the utility of employing such tools to advance environmental justice goals. . . .
Mayor John Cooper’s early 2022 sustainability agenda begins with a bold pledge: cut Metro government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Office is working on a solar feasibility assessment for 600-plus city-owned sites as the mayor also pledged his support for a much-needed tree-planting effort. “America’s cities are on the front lines of combating climate change and increasing our resilience to natural disasters,” Mayor Cooper said. “Nashville has brought a sense of urgency and a practical, collaborative approach to getting this work done. We made strong gains in 2021, and I’m committed to doing more.” . . .