People Places Planet Podcast

Welcome to ELI’s People Places Planet Podcast. Here, listeners can gain insight on some of the thinking behind ELI's work. Below you will find our most recent episodes. Be sure to tune into our special series on Environmental Disruptors.

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Once the subject of science fiction, artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to stay. From self-driving cars to “smart” appliances to movie recommendations from your favorite streaming service, AI pervades so many aspects of modern daily life. And while the conveniences AI offers are not without their environmental costs, it can hold great promise for protecting the planet. In this episode, ELI’s Georgia Ray speaks with Jed Anderson, the founder of EnviroAI, to discuss the role of AI in environmental compliance. Jed shares how we can leverage the sophisticated pattern-recognition capabilities implicit in AI technology to better monitor emissions and takes Georgia on a virtual tour of a Texas oil refinery.

The renewable fuel standard program seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, grow the United States’ renewable fuels sector, and lessen our reliance on imported oil. At its most basic, the program requires a certain volume of renewable fuel to replace or reduce petroleum-based transportation fuel, heating oil, or jet fuel. Yet, the program fails to confer benefits to all Americans, and in some respects, it may even disproportionally burden disenfranchised communities. How can we leverage renewable energy standards to better aid vulnerable communities so that energy systems advance rather than thwart environmental justice? In this episode, ELI’s Georgia Ray talks to two people who have been following the issue closely: Carlos Garcia, a Federal Policy Manager at Bloom Energy, and Joel Porter, a Policy Manager for CleanAIRE NC. 
Interested in learning more? Contact Carlos Garcia via email; check out Bloom Energy’s webpage on biogas and its resources on energy sources for animal agriculture; and/or read about the issues Joel Porter describes in these articles on: wood pellets, marginalized communities in the American South, biogas and methane leaks, hog farms, and manure wastewater. Also check out Joel’s blog on the cost of livestock factory farming in North Carolina. 

INTERPOL’s Pollution Crime Working Group, a global network of national experts, initiates and leads a number of projects to combat the transport, trading, and disposal of hazardous wastes or resources in contravention of national and international laws. Justin Savage, a Partner and the Global Co-Leader of the Environmental practice at Sidley Austin LLP, and Nicole Noelliste, a Managing Associate at Sidley Austin LLP, talk to two members serving on INTERPOL’s Pollution Crime Working Group: Joseph Poux and Anne Brosnan. Also available on video!
Since 1984, the faces and voices of ELI’s constituents have come together in a gathering of environmental professionals at the annual ELI Environmental Achievement Award. In this episode, ELI’s Georgia Ray sits down with the recipient of this year’s Environmental Achievement Award: Benjamin F. Wilson, an environmental lawyer and civil rights advocate who has worked tirelessly to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the legal field. 

What happens when federal regulatory changes to the CWA framework result in regulatory “gaps” for the states to resolve? Jim McElfish, a Senior Attorney and Director of ELI’s Sustainable Use of Land program, explains the challenges of water regulation when federal protections are taken away. Jim also offers his thoughts on what may happen if the U.S. Supreme Court’s impending decision in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency results in a rollback in what qualifies as WOTUS.  Listeners hungry for more information on this important topic are encouraged to read Jim’s article from the September 2022 issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, available for free download here

Digital technologies have steadily woven themselves into the global economy, transforming the pace at which we access and process information. “Digital sharing services” like Airbnb and Lyft often promise broad society benefits, including a reduction in energy usage, a lower environmental footprint, and more efficient use of existing products. But are these sharing innovations really changing our environmental outlook for the better? Listen to a comprehensive review of research sponsored by the Network for the Digital Economy and the Environment and hear what is known about the environment performance of digital sharing services.

Water utilities are tasked with providing clean, affordable water to their constituents, yet, a growing number of utilities are charging high prices for water and/or carrying out policies that decrease, rather than increase, water access. Participatory governance, which aims to enable those who are most closely affected by a problem to influence how policymakers solve that problem, may offer a path to a more just water policy. In “Turning Participation into Power: A Water Justice Case Study,” Prof. Jaime Lee of the University of Baltimore School of Law offers a revamped model of participatory governance she dubs the “Constituent Empowerment Model.” The model, which was recently implemented in Baltimore, Maryland, goes beyond traditional community involvement mechanisms and has the lofty goal of shifting power dynamics. In this episode, Linda Breggin, a Senior Attorney at ELI and Lecturer in Law at Vanderbilt Law School, speaks with Professor Lee to learn more.

In this episode of the People Places Planet Podcast, ELI’s six summer interns (Jesse Ferraoili, Rebecca Huang, Fatima Lawan, Priyanka Mahat, Raf Rodriguez, and Jeremy Rubin) join host Georgia Ray to reflect on their time as summer interns, talk a little more about who they are, what they are interested in, and what brought them to ELI. They discuss their independent research work, work done on broader projects at the organization, and things they have learned throughout the summer.
A Tufts rising senior will tell you about her fight for maternal health in the Black community, especially as it pertains to air quality. Another will dive into uranium contamination in America’s southwest. A third will talk about his work with prison populations and the heat related illnesses that can occur inside the system. All of them will discuss what it was like to work at ELI, how they hope to continue in the environmental space, and the lessons they have learned spending the summer in D.C. 

If you are interested in learning more about The Center for Black Maternal Health & Reproductive Justice at Tufts (with whom Fatima worked closely on her project), you can visit their website.

In this episode of the People Places Planet Podcast, former Research Associate Shehla Chowdhury joins host Georgia Ray to reflect on her time as a research associate, which ended in June 2022. She discusses her work in the nascent field of environmental peacebuilding, while also delving into her contributions to the local government environmental assistance network, differences between domestic and international environmental work, and her takeaways from studying non-governmental organizations in the Global North and Global South.

Interest and urgency in advancing environmental justice has gained new momentum in the United States in recent years. In 2021, we spoke to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette to learn about New Jersey’s newly enacted EJ law. In this latest episode, he joins us again to discuss proposed regulations for implementing the law. The episode is part of the Groundtruth series created in partnership with Beveridge & Diamond, one of the nation’s leading environmental law firms.