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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

This 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). Recognizing the progress made over the last 50 years, GWU and ELI jointly convened a meeting of environmental and natural resources legal scholars and leaders from the community of practitioners in March 2019 to discuss the critical issues and solutions that will define the next 50 years of environmental and natural resources law. The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread hosted this meeting, and Meridian Institute provided facilitation support. Visit https://www.eli.org/environmental-governance/reimagining-environmental-law to download meeting-related materials and proceedings.

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, where the authors of the articles and commenters present their ideas and views to an audience that includes buisness, government (federal, state, and local), think tank, and non-profit representatives.

The 2018 DC conference was held at ELI on April 6 from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM. The conference featured articles covering the following topics:

  • Preventing Industrial Disasters in a Time of Climate Change: A Call for Financial Assurance Mandates (Zachary C.M. Arnold, author)
  • Visual Rulemaking (Kathryn A. Watts, co-author)
  • Impact Transaction: Lawyering for the Public Good Through Collective Impact Agreements (Patience A. Crowder, author)

ELPAR also held a symposium at Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville on March 12, 2018 from 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM, where the topic of discussion featured the article "Relative Administrability, Conservatives, and Environmental Regulatory Reform" (Blake Hudson, author).

Please check back in 2019 for information regarding the 2019 ELPAR Washington DC Conference and the 2019 ELPAR Symposium at Vanderbilt University Law School.

ELPAR VULS Class 2018-2019

Vanderbilt University Law Students ELPAR 2018-2019 with ELI Senior Attorney Linda Breggin (front row left) and Professor Michael Vandenbergh (front row right)

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.