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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.

Looking Ahead to 2021Enviro2021

The Trump Administration has taken dramatic and sweeping steps to remake federal environmental regulation and redefine the relationships among state and federal environmental decisions. In this year of momentous change, with elections on the horizon, many are asking about the status of these changes and where environmental protection should focus in the future. This summer, in response to the growing demand for analysis of how deregulatory initiatives by the Trump Administration will affect environmental protection, governance, and the rule of law, ELI released Environment 2021: What Comes Next?  The report helps environmental practitioners, policymakers, and the public-at-large think about what lies ahead, looking particularly at our nation’s ability to address new problems and confront as yet unsolved challenges like environmental justice.  Each chapter explains the law and recent regulatory and deregulatory activities, identifies why these have significance and how they relate to other aspects of environmental governance, and offers some observations about options going forward. The report makes no assumptions about this fall’s electoral outcomes, but does explore the sensitivity of the various regulatory reform efforts to different electoral outcomes.

HayesRecognizing Excellence

On October 15, ELI will present its 2020 Environmental Achievement Award to Denis Hayes, the organizer of the first Earth Day and current president of the Bullitt Foundation, in recognition of his visionary leadership and outstanding environmental stewardship over a most distinguished career. Denis Hayes is perhaps best known as the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970 and founder of the Earth Day Network. A springboard to many initiatives that have greatly advanced environmental quality, Earth Day has become the most widely observed secular holiday in the world, and Hayes is recognized internationally for expanding the Earth Day Network to more than 190 nations. He now serves as President of the Bullitt Foundation, a position he has held since 1992. The Online Ceremony will take place at 7pm EST and is free and open to the public. ELI will kick off the festivities with a Virtual Network Reception from 5:30 – 7pm ESTTickets to the Networking Reception, which automatically register you to attend the Award Ceremony, help support the agenda-setting research, education, and training programs of ELI while forging new bonds of cooperation with environmental professionals from around the world! Learn more: https://www.eli.org/award-dinner.

MitigationImproving Wetland Compensatory Mitigation Project Reviews 

Healthy wetlands benefit our environment and economy in a number of ways, from providing habitat to wildlife and fisheries, to improving water quality, to offering opportunities for recreation. The Clean Water Act requires certain impacts to be compensated, and each year, thousands of acres of wetlands and streams are restored, enhanced, and protected to satisfy the Act’s compensatory mitigation requirements. But the success of compensatory mitigation projects relies on a robust review and approval process that ensures that the protections in federal regulations are implemented in practice on the ground and that compensation projects effectively offset permitted impacts. Improving Compensatory Mitigation Project Review, a new report from ELI, identifies a number of challenges in the implementation of review and approval—from both the agencies’ and providers’ points of view—as well as best practices that may inform future implementation.

Shining a Light on the Digital Economy’s Environmental Impact 

Now the fourth largest sector in the United States, digital services are rapidly expanding our energy and environmental footprint while promising broad societal benefits. For example, can sharing platforms help reduce food waste? Does ride-hailing generate more greenhouse gas emissions? How much direct energy is needed to run blockchain applications? And what benefits can artificial intelligence bring to more traditional industries? To answer these critical questions, ELI, in partnership with the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at UC Berkeley and the Yale School of the Environment, formed the Project on the Energy and Environmental Implications of the Digital Economy. Supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this Project provided early stage funding to seven interdisciplinary research teams to expand our understanding of the digital and environmental nexus, estimate the impacts of real-world applications, and propose governance options for the sustainable adoption of digital technologies. This past summer, the project released a series of research papers on three key technologies: Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Sharing Platforms. Learn more here.

Supporting Rising Environmental LawyersRubin

ELI is pleased to announce the inaugural class of fellows of the Jim Rubin International Fellowship: Ginary Tatiana Gutiérrez Robledo of Colombia, and Junhong Li of China. Building on Jim’s legacy, and with the generous support of Jim’s wife, Nancie, and other members of the ELI community, ELI launched the Jim Rubin International Fellowship program to support rising environmental lawyers who are committed to building the next generation of environmental protection law and policy. Under the Fellowship, selected environmental lawyers from developing countries work with ELI staff and other fellows on cutting-edge issues and transferable approaches in environmental law and policy. Selected in part due to their proven track record doing meaningful work in overlooked areas of the world, Ginary and Junhong will embody Jim’s focus on both the substantive elements of environmental law and the procedural elements of dispute resolution, capacity-building, and citizen participation.

Providing A Multidisciplinary Approach

With its intricate layers of international, federal, and state protections, environmental law is more established than animal law. Yet, animal law faces many of the same legal and strategic challenges that environmental law faced in seeking to establish a more secure foothold in the United States and abroad. As such, animal law stands to gain valuable insights from the lessons of the environmental law movement. This summer, ELI Press released the second edition of What Can Animal Law Learn From Environmental Law? Drawing on lessons from history, politics, and law, the 29-chapter book examines how environmental law’s successes and shortcomings can inform animal law, and how the two fields can work together to secure mutual gains in the future. Learn more here.

Inuit ReportSupporting Inuit Food Sovereignty & Self Governance

Inuit are at the forefront of the drastic changes taking place in the Arctic. As the world community increasingly turns its focus to the Arctic, it is important to ensure that Inuit Food Sovereignty is a priority in every context. Western management systems overlaid on top of traditional Inuit practices often take a different approach, sometimes grounded in historical discrimination.  ELI contributed to a new Inuit-led report that links Inuit Food Sovereignty to holistic and adaptive management strategies that can ensure the food security, health, and well-being of Inuit throughout the Arctic for generations to come. The report uses four case studies focused on walrus, char, beluga, and salmon as a lens to explore current management and co-management practices in Alaska and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The report, Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance: Inuit Role in Managing Arctic Marine Resources, also offers snapshots of important connecting components such as climate change, the need for an ecosystem-based approach, the impacts of imposed borders, and the strength and resilience of Inuit culture.  The report is a product of over 90 Inuit authors and a nine member Advisory Committee. Throughout this work, the authors have emphasized the importance of law and policy reforms needed to capture the perspectives of Inuit.

Reducing Risk Exposure

Dry cleaners are a common feature of many commercial and mixed-use areas throughout the United States. A considerable number of these businesses use perchloroethylene, an organic solvent with well-documented health effects. This summer, ELI released a new report that describes some of the federal, state, and local laws and regulations that have been established to reduce the potential health risks posed by the use of perchloroethylene at dry cleaners, with a focus on policies that can help reduce exposures at nearby child care facilities and other sensitive land uses. The information is provided to assist policymakers, advocates, and others in further developing and implementing policies and programs in the areas of environmental protection, health, land use, and child care licensing.

heronCalling All Wetland Heroes!

Since 1989, the National Wetlands Awards Program has honored over 200 champions of wetlands conservation. The program recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional effort, innovation, and excellence in wetlands conservation at the regional, state, or local level. Past award recipients share a dedication to protecting the nation’s remaining wetlands; educating citizens, students, and agencies about the value of wetlands; and working with a diverse array of organizations and interests to advance wetlands protection. ELI is now accepting nominations for the 32nd Annual National Wetlands Awards. Recipients will be honored during American Wetlands Month in May. The deadline for submitting a nomination is December 23, 2020. The 2021 National Wetlands Awards Program will honor individual achievement in up to six categories: Youth Leadership; Scientific Research; Promoting Awareness; Local Stewardship; Wetlands Program Development; and Business Leadership. Organizations and federal employees are not eligible for nomination. Visit  http://elinwa.org/nominations today.

Seeing Stars

Five decades after Apollo 11 landed on the moon, we’re experiencing a resurgent interest in space exploration. With an ever-growing population and dependence on natural resources, companies, government, and academia are beginning to look increasingly to possibilities for space mining. The passage of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, which allows U.S. citizens and corporations to engage in the commercial exploration and exploitation of space resources, has also led to an uptick in interest in asteroid mining. In this relatively unchartered territory, what can space law learn from environmental law? How can exploitation of natural resources beyond Earth’s orbit help or hinder environmental protection in the United States? What factors are guiding decisionmakers on future plans for space exploration? On July 30, ELI hosted a webinar where leading experts explored the intersection of environmental law and space law. Visit ELI’s Events Calendar to learn about other ELI webinars.


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Environmental protection intersects with public health a considerable amount. Thousands of professionals work actively at the junction, protecting lives and livelihoods through measures to reduce exposure and resulting disease. It can be useful to draw lessons from one facet of the fight for life — and how society implements measures to counter a threat — for possible application in another. The primary observation is that when thousands of lives are at risk, there can be an urgent response. That was true in the early days of environmental law, when Congress passed by huge majorities the signal statutes that are still at work today. But it has been 30 years since reauthorization of the Clean Air Act despite the discovery that fine-particle pollution causes 100,000 deaths in the United States every year and the realization that climate change looms over humanity with the promise of even more death and destruction to come. A reauthorized CAA could tackle these problems more easily than the current law. The September/October issue of The Environmental Forum asked a quartet of experienced professionals from different sectors to shine a light on the common facets they observe, and to draw lessons from the fight against pollution for application in the coronavirus response and vice versa. Read the Debate in the March/April issue of The Environmental Forum.



Check out season 2 of People Places Planet Podcast. Recent episodes include: 



For 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.

 This page is updated quarterly. Check back for updates, or peruse our website to see what else we've been up to!