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Making a Difference: ELI in Action

ELI has a proud record of making law work for people, places, and the planet for nearly 50 years. Here we highlight some of our more recent accomplishments with regard to environmental law, policy, and protection.

ELI 50thCelebrating ELI’s Golden Anniversary
The Environmental Law Institute turns 50 this December. Throughout 2019, ELI has been reflecting on how we have helped shape environmental law and governance while looking ahead to an even more impactful future. In commemoration of our 50th anniversary, ELI is offering special events, programs, and publications on key issues that have been, and will continue to be, central to our work. This month, we've been focusing on Technology as an Emerging Driver. Recent themes include Gender & The Environment, Environmentnal Justice & Vulnerable Communities, and Courts & the Rule of Law. Visit https://www.eli.org/eli-50th-anniversary to learn more.

Improving Water Quality Through Green Infrastructure
The vast majority of assessed water bodies across the United States are designated as impaired. Cities contribute to the problem with stormwater runoff from roads, buildings, sidewalks, and other impervious surfaces polluting our rivers, lakes, and streams. Indeed, many localities are on the hook to meet a gamut of regulatory requirements, from MS4 permits to TMDLs in order to reduce polluted runoff. Innovative localities are turning to green infrastructure practices to reduce flooding, control erosion, and prevent polluted runoff from entering streams and other water bodies. One method, Green Streets, directly mitigates the environmental impact of roadways by incorporating green infrastructure into public right-of-way design. A number of forward-thinking localities are implementing Green Streets policies, which mandate integrating green infrastructure every time a municipality undertakes a capital project or significant maintenance work in the existing public right-of-way—systematically transforming, over time, our transportation corridors into Green Streets. A new report, Giving Green Streets the Green Light, identifies 14 jurisdictions in the United States that have robust Green Streets policies in place, offers 13 recommendations for crafting a robust and effective Green Streets policy, and includes a model Green Streets ordinance that jurisdictions can use as their starting point.

Supporting Strong Judiciaries
Since its first program in 1991, ELI has developed, presented, and participated in educational workshops on critical topics in environmental law for more than 2,500 judges from 27 countries. Last summer, ELI, in partnership with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), conducted a judicial capacity-building project in Indonesia supported by the Swedish Postcode Foundation to help judges become strong players in the fight against deforestation and the path toward sustainable development. ELI recently created a video about the workshop. Watch it at: https://youtu.be/rd-5NUAHkNk.

Innovating Collaboration in China
ELI, Latham & Watkins, and China’s Policy Research Center for Environment and Economy (PRCEE) received top marks at this year’s Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Europe Awards for their involvement with the China International Business Dialogue on Environmental Governance (CIBDEG). Recognized for their standout performance, the trio ranked first for “Collaboration” in launching CIBDEG, a working group facilitating engagement between multinational companies and Chinese authorities regarding best practices in environmental regulation. And this past July, ELI and its partner, China Environmental Protection Foundation, successfully organized their ninth environmental public interest litigation capacity-building workshop in Beijing. Over 100 NGO workers, prosecutors, and judges across China attended this three-day workshop that was generously funded by the Hewlett Foundation. The training workshop featured leading Chinese and international experts as speakers including Mr. Bie Tao, the head of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s department on laws, regulations, and standards; Professor Liu Xiang, a leading Chinese environmental public interest lawyer; and Robert Hines, a member of ELI’s Leadership Council and partner of Farella Braun + Martel LLP. 

Enhancing Communities’ Capacity to Protect and Restore Watersheds
In-lieu fee (ILF) mitigation is one of the three primary mechanisms—along with mitigation banks and permittee responsible mitigation—that permittees can use to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements. Through an ILF program, permittees may satisfy their legal obligations under the 2008 Compensatory Mitigation Rule by purchasing credits from the program “sponsor”—a government or nonprofit natural resources management entity—who then uses the funds to restore, enhance, or protect wetlands and streams. To date, ILF programs have implemented hundreds of compensatory mitigation projects across the country and many more projects are pending or in the planning stages. In addition, new programs continue to come online to provide additional compensation options for permittees.In-Lieu Fee Mitigation: Review of Program Instruments and Implementation Across the Country outlines the range of practice in ILF mitigation and describes innovative approaches across the country. Our goal was to support the development of effective ILF mitigation programs and enhance the capacity of state/local/tribal governments and others that develop or oversee ILF programs in order to improve the protection and restoration of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems across the country.

Aiding Communities’ Rights to Freshwater
Clearly defined and legally secure freshwater tenure rights are essential to Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ livelihoods and food security, as well as to countries’ efforts to achieve sustainable development priorities and ensure climate resilience. However, the extent of the legal recognition of these rights to water remains largely unknown and unmonitored. This past August, Jessica Troell, Director of ELI’s International Water Program and its Africa Program, was in Stockholm, Sweden, to attend World Water Week, an annual global event organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) for addressing the planet’s water issues and related concerns of international development. At the conference, Jessica shared findings from the first international comparative assessment of the extent to which various national-level legal frameworks recognize the freshwater rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as the specific rights of women to use and govern community waters. The analysis stems from a collaboration between ELI and the Rights and Resources Initiative—which hosts the world’s only research program dedicated to monitoring the status of community-based land, forest, and freshwater tenure rights. The study will be expanded and updated over time. A summary of the report is available here.

Protecting Our Oceans
Marine special planning (MSP) is a collaborative approach that uses spatial information to ensure we make informed and coordinated decisions about how to use marine resources sustainably. Earlier this month, in partnership with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, the IUCN, and the Waitt Institute, ELI held an MSP workshop in Auckland, New Zealand, to strengthen the capacity of island and coastal states to draft effective, locally appropriate marine spatial planning laws. Over 40 government officials and NGO representatives from 12 island and coastal nations, including Australia, Costa Rica, and New Zealand, attended the workshop. As a result of this workshop, legal and policy officials from island and coastal states have access to a broad network of legal expertise and related resources to support the legal aspects of MSP that are tailored to their specific needs.

Providing Insight to International Developments
This past spring, senior officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice visited their Chinese counterparts to discuss recent legislative and regulatory developments, best practices for combating environmental crimes, and the impact of China’s environmental enforcement efforts on U.S. businesses. The U.S. officials also met representatives from U.S. multinational corporations and NGOs, as well as members of the Chinese judiciary and the academia. On July 29, ELI and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum hosted three of these top U.S. officials to hear about their historic trip. Panelists discussed Chinese environmental law developments, new approaches to enforcement, and the effects of Chinese environmental laws on U.S. companies.

Protecting Young Children From Hazards
Environmental site hazards at a childcare facility may arise from contamination of the air, soil, or water caused by historical uses of the property or nearby activities. Identifying and remedying site hazards before a childcare facility is licensed, as well as during facility operations, can help prevent and reduce harmful exposures to staff and children. A new report, Funding for Environmental Assessment and Remediation at Child Care Facilities, highlights some of the federal, state, and nongovernmental funding sources that might potentially be available to help ensure that childcare programs are able to address environmental hazards and continue serving their communities. The examples of financial assistance programs presented in the paper offer a starting point for exploring funding resources that are available in other states or that could be established in the future.

Improving Our Streams and Waterways
Over the past year, ELI hosted a series of webinars on the policy, practice, and science of stream compensatory mitigation. The series covered a range of issues from assessing stream functions and conditions to the watershed approach to credit-debit determination and the long-term performance of compensation projects. The final webinar was held on August 27, where panelists reviewed some of the highlights from the series and engaged in a forward-looking discussion on challenges, needs, and opportunities for improving practice. The panel included experts on stream compensatory mitigation from the government, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors. To learn about the series, visit https://www.eli.org/events/stream-compensatory-mitigation-whats-next.


TEF cover


There is a movement among business to use less power obtained from fossil fuels, which in many cases means more renewable energy. Some companies are even pledging to go “100 percent renewable,” with firms joining such groups as RE100 and the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Alliance, signing on to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, and undertaking other initiatives. At least 150 large companies have set goals to rely exclusively on renewable energy by a certain date. Many others have targets of relying on substantial percentages, in portions of their operations, or in certain locations. The July-August issue of The Environmental Forum asks, What Does 100% Renewable Really Mean? It explains the many strategies that can be used in setting and fulfilling such goals, with differing effects on the energy environment and resulting emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. 


Check out ELI’s blog series, Vibrant Environment. New blogs are posted twice a week. Recent entries include:

For more, visit https://www.eli.org/vibrant-environment-blog.



Each month, ELI features one article from the Environmental Law Reporter's monthly law journal, News & Analysis, free for download. Recent featured articles include:

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RECENTLY FEATURED IN People Places Planet Podcast


podcastELI’s official podcast, People Places Planet Podcast, offers cutting-edge, thought-provoking conversations about current issues central to environmental law and governance. Our podcasts build upon the pivotal role ELI has played in shaping the fields of environmental law, policy, and management, domestically and abroad, over the last 50 years. Recent episodes include Trailblazing Tribes: Agriculture, Carbon Taxation by Regulation, and Environmental Disruptors: Global Water Girls. These podcasts offer another avenue for ELI to build the skills and capacity of tomorrow’s leaders and institutions, analyze complex and pressing environmental challenges, and convene people with diverse perspectives to build understanding through robust debate and discussion. Visit www.eli.org/podcast or find us on your favorite podcast app.

Read "What's New at ELI" from summer 2017, fall 2017, winter 2018, spring 2018, summer 2018, fall 2018winter 2019, or summer 2019.