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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 50th

Celebrating ELI’s 50th Anniversary
The Environmental Law Institute turns 50 on December 22! All year long, in commemoration of our golden anniversary, ELI has been reflecting on our important work in shaping environmental law and governance in the United States and across the globe and imagining an even more impactful future. Throughout the year, ELI has offered special events, programs, and publications on key issues that have been, and will continue to be, central to our work. The special Golden Anniversary issue of ELI’s policy magazine, The Environmental Forum, features several articles on the last 50 years of environmental law and policy as well as on prospects for the future. And be sure to check out From Law and the Environment to Environmental Law: A Founder’s Recollections, by Thomas P. Alder, one of the founders of ELI. Visit https://www.eli.org/eli-50th-anniversary to learn more.

Supporting Small-Scale Fisheries
With half of all fish catches coming from artisanal and household fishing operations, small-scale fisheries (SSFs) are a crucial component of food security and the global economy. The international community has worked to account for these contributions in legal and regulatory frameworks, but most nations’ laws and regulations either fail to promote sustainable fisheries or are overly ambitious and difficult to implement. This past October, at the Our Ocean 2019 conference in Oslo, Norway, ELI Ocean Program Director Xiao Recio-Blanco announced ELI will work to fill this void by developing publicly available, model legal language that governments around the world can use to promote a sustainable fisheries sector. “Support for vulnerable coastal communities begins by galvanizing community participation in fisheries management through lawmaking that is based on best practices,” explained Recio-Blanco via video. “Through this project, ELI will identify effective avenues to achieve comprehensive policy reforms of SSFs and develop detailed governance roadmaps for strengthening rule of law in coastal fisheries management around the world.” Learn more here.

Identifying Solutions for Water-Stressed Regions
The American West is one of many regions around the world dealing with the environmental, economic, and social challenges of increased water scarcity. The Colorado River Basin (CRB) supplies more than one in 10 Americans with some, if not all, of their water for municipal use, including drinking water. In addition, the economic importance of the CRB cannot be overstated: the Colorado River supports $1.4 trillion in annual economic activity and 16 million jobs in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, which is equivalent to about 1/12 of the total gross domestic product in the United States. It has become clear, however, that under current and projected conditions, the Colorado River is no longer able to meet the demands of its many users. For this reason, the CRB is seen as a strategic “testbed” to determine the feasibility of emerging and novel digital technological solutions for the water sector. Last month, ELI and Water Foundry released Digital Technology Opportunities for the Colorado River Basin, which profiles potential opportunities of emerging digital technologies to address the water quality and quantity challenges faced by public and private entities in the Basin. Download the report at https://www.eli.org/research-report/digital-technology-opportunities-colorado-river-basin.

Innovating Environmental Protection for the Future
The next 50 years of environmental protection will not look like the first 50—they will be driven by technology as much as by regulation. But how can we harness it in ways that protect or, better yet, improve our environment? On October 1-3, 2019, ELI and collaborators convened GreenTech 2019 in Seattle, Washington, where innovative companies, policymakers, lawmakers, technologists, and NGOs explored environmental protection in our era of transformative technological change. Former EPA Administrator William Reilly kicked off the conference with a keynote address in which he called for the United States to reclaim its “planetary leadership” role to help the world effectively tackle climate change and other increasingly urgent problems. A summary of the entire conference can be found here https://www.greentechconference.org/the-greentech-mission. And be sure to save the date for Greentech 2020, to be held in Seattle on September 14-16, 2020. Visit https://www.greentechconference.org/ for more.

One Word: Plastics
“There’s a great future in plastics,” Mr. Braddock famously advises Ben, Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1971 film “The Graduate.” Nearly 50 years later, plastics have drawn intense public scrutiny. Millions of tons of plastic enter the environment every year, killing wildlife, releasing toxins, clogging drains, and marring landscapes. Bans or restrictions on single-use plastics—most commonly bags and straws—have exploded in popularity recent years as a means of addressing these problems. Yet, these bans remain controversial. Some businesses have pushed back against what they consider excessive regulation. Others point out that some populations, including those with disabilities, may require the use of a plastic straw. And some assert that banning single-use plastics consumes valuable political capital that could instead be spent advancing more urgent and system agendas like transitioning to a low-carbon economy. On October 16, ELI and panelists explored the benefits and challenges of this increasingly popular, and increasingly contentious, approach to the problem of plastic pollution. The seminar will be featured in the January 2020 issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter (our 50th volume!).

Recognizing Environmental Excellence: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
On October 22, ELI presented its 2019 Environmental Achievement Award to Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Rose Marcario, Patagonia’s president and CEO, in recognition of their visionary leadership and outstanding environmental stewardship at Patagonia. From Patagonia’s early beginnings, Mr. Chouinard ensured the company’s dedication to producing sustainable, long-lasting products and supporting grassroots environmental efforts. That support was amplified when Mr. Chouinard co-founded 1% for the Planet, reflecting the company’s commitment to donate 1% of its sales to grassroots environmental groups around the world that are working on solutions to the environmental crisis. Ms. Marcario’s work as CEO and formerly CFO has served to expand on Mr. Chouinard’s vision of private-sector leadership and success. Since she joined the company in 2008, Patagonia has dramatically improved its supply chain management efforts and drastically reduced the company’s environmental footprint, while at the same time quadrupling the company’s bottom line, setting an example for and challenge to other corporations aspiring to be environmentally and socially responsible. And in celebration of our 50th anniversary year, ELI also presented a Founders Award to a number of people who helped create ELI 50 years ago—James (Jim) Moorman, Craig Mathews, and Tom Alder—and an Environmental Futures Award to the next generation of leaders striving to address the challenges of tomorrow—Seema Kakade, Jordan Diamond, and Nick Bryner.

Securing Energy Needs in a Climate-Sensitive World
In the absence of a national government mandate to intensify use of renewable energy, many corporations are increasing their own reliance on renewable energy forces. At the same time, many countries and businesses are reassessing the role of nuclear power in a climate-sensitive future. These topics were discussed during two public forums held on October 22 in conjunction with the annual award dinner. At this year’s Annual ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum, panelists delved into the complex history, the multifaceted regulations, and the future of nuclear energy development. And the 2019 Corporate Forum looked at the obstacles and opportunities the private sector faces as it transitions toward using more wind, thermal, and solar power in their energy mix.

Encouraging Collaboration Across Borders and Sectors
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. The awards stem from the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Report 2019, an annual ranking of innovative law firms, legal service providers, and lawyers. Rankings for collaboration are based on originality, leadership, and impact. For information about CIBDEG, visit https://cibdeg.eli.org/.

podcastGaining Insight From Past EPA General Counsels

EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) is the Agency’s chief legal advisor, providing counsel to EPA policymakers and providing critical input to Agency rules, regulations, and guidance documents. In November, ELI released the first in a year-long series of conversations with former EPA General Counsels, allowing listeners to hear first-hand accounts of their experiences at EPA. The first two episodes feature Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, who talks to former EPA General Counsel Avi Garbow, the longest-serving General Counsel in EPA’s history, and Scott Fulton, who now serves as President of ELI. To listen, visit www.eli.org/podcasts or find us on your favorite podcast app.


TEF cover


Last May, a group of CEOs from some of the largest corporations banded together with a group of NGO advisers to call for a greater federal role in America’s response to the threat of climate change. This unprecedented announcement from the CEO Climate Dialogue shook the climate change policy world, as more than a dozen CEOs representing some of the biggest energy producers and consumers across the globe have decided that climate change is a crisis, imperiling their profits and humanity at the same time. In the September-October issue of The Environmental Forum, officers from three of these companies describe what they are doing about climate change and flesh out in some detail the shape of the federal role they desire. An NGO partner and a scholar weigh in as well. Read it here.



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.


For nearly 50 years, ELI’s flagship journal, ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, has provided insightful articles on the most pressing environmental topics of the day. Recent articles include: 


Curious about ELR’s full suite of offerings? Learn more here.



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