Environmental Governance

The Environmental Governance Programs work to develop inventive approaches to new or entrenched environmental problems and changing technologies and economies. The term “governance” includes the range of legal and other tools employed in both the private and public sectors to foster environmental protection.

Governance tools include, for example, not only traditional regulations, but environmental assessments, information disclosure, market mechanisms, economic incentives, and public policies and programs that promote voluntary stewardship.

ELI’s Environmental Governance Programs operate at the international, federal, state and local levels. Key objectives are to:

  • Develop and foster innovative government and business approaches to environmental protection.
  • Safeguard and strengthen the safety net of federal environmental law.
  • Introduce policymakers and practitioners to innovative ideas from academia.
  • Educate judges about the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws.
  • Develop effective environmental, health, and safety governance structures for new technologies.

What’s New and Upcoming....


Proposed NEPA Regulation Revisions

On January 10, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality published in the Federal Register its proposal for a comprehensive rewrite of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations that govern how federal agencies identify, analyze, and mitigate for the anticipated environmental impacts of proposed major federal actions. Comments to the proposal are due March 10. Given the impact the proposed revisions could have on environmental governance in the United States, the Environmental Law Institute has released Practitioners’ Guide to the Proposed NEPA Regulations—an issue-spotter to assist commenters and others in determining what changes have been proposed and how they may relate to familiar NEPA regulatory concepts.

For an inside look at the original 1978 regulations and their history, be sure to read NEPA at 50  by Nick Yostone of the nation’s most experienced NEPA lawyers and the primary drafter of the original 1978 regulations. The article was featured in the November-December 2019 issue of The Environmental Forum. Interested stakeholders may also want to listen to  Season 2, Episode 4 of People Places Planet Podcast, where ELI Senior Attorney Jim McElfish and Nick Yost discuss the proposed changes. To listen, visit www.eli.org/podcasts or find us on your favorite podcast app. 

Reimagining Environmental Law

The year 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), and the environmental law program at George Washington University School of Law (GWU). In honor of these anniversaries, GWU and ELI set out to re‐imagine environmental and natural resources law for the next 50 years in collaboration with leading environmental legal thinkers. This collaboration has taken place at two in‐person meetings: the first at The Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, in March 2019, and the second at Airlie House Conference Center in Warrenton, Virginia, in November 2019. Meridian Institute provided facilitation support for both events.

Visit https://www.eli.org/environmental-governance/reimagining-environmental-law to download meeting-related materials and proceedings, including the Wingspread Workshop Report and the Airlie House Workshop Report.

Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (ELPAR) Conferences

Each year, Vanderbilt University Law School students work with an expert advisory committee and senior staff from ELI to identify the year's best academic articles that present legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems. In conjunction with the ELPAR publication, ELI and Vanderbilt co-sponsor an annual conference in Washington DC.

The 2021 ELPAR Conference will take place on Friday, April 9 from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm EST, via webinar.

The articles that will be featured at the conference include:

  • Michael Burger, Jessica Wentz, and Radley Horton, The Law and Science of Climate Change Attribution
  • Madison Condon, Externalities and the Common Owner
  • Charles Lee, A Game Changer in the Making? Lessons from States Advancing Environmental Justice through Mapping and Cumulative Impact Strategies
  • Joshua C. Macey, Zombie Energy Laws

Please join leading professors, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss the proposals selected this year. The agenda can be found here.

ELPAR VULS Class 2018-2019

Vanderbilt University Law Students ELPAR 2019-2020 with ELI Senior Attorney Linda Breggin (front row second from right) and Professor Michael Vandenbergh (front row left) 

Nashville Food Waste Initiative 

ELI is the Project Coordinator for the Nashville Food Waste Initiative (NFWI), a project of the Natural Resoures Defense Council. NFWI's goal is to engage  consumers, restaurants, community institutions, retailers and local government to reduce and prevent food waste, rescue surplus food to direct to hungry people, and compost and digest what's left to help build healthy soil. As part of its work, ELI is conducting a study on the barriers and opportunities for increased food scrap recycling in the Nashville region. For updates, follow NFWI on Twitter @nashfoodwaste and click here for NFWI's most recent newsletter.  

Column: Recycling Increases in Red States, but Blue States Still Recycle More

In the November/December 2018 issue of The Environmental Forum, a column by ELI Senior Attorney Linda Breggin discusses the results of a decade-long survey about house-hold recycling trends across the United States. 

Blog Post: Taking Innovative Environmental Law and Policy Proposals from Academia to Practitioners and Policymakers 

In a recent ELI Vibrant Environment blog post, Taking Innovative Environmental Law and Policy Proposals from Academia to Practitioners and Policymakers, ELI Senior Attorney Linda Breggin and Former Research Associate John Hare-Grogg discuss the importance of bridging the gap between academic scholarship and policymakers to implement effective and creative environmental law and policy. The publication of the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (ELPAR), a special issue of the Environemental Law Reporter, aims to bridge this gap, beginning with a rigorus article selection process and culminating in a conference to convene the selected article authors and enviornmental law and policy practitioners. 

Environmental Governance
R&P Programs and Projects