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People Places Planet Podcast

Welcome to People Places Planet Podcast, the official podcast of the Environmental Law Institute. Here, listeners can gain insight on some of the thinking behind ELI's work. Be sure to tune into our special series on Environmental Disruptors.

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Last October, policymakers, lawmakers, technologists, NGOs, and leaders from some of the world’s most innovative companies joined ELI in Seattle, Washington, at its inaugural GreenTech conference to explore environmental protection in an era of transformative technological change. In this episode, ELI’s Dominic Scicchitano speaks to Kasantha Moodley, ELI’s Manager of Innovation and Governance, and ELI President Scott Fulton, both of whom played an integral role in orchestrating the conference. They discuss the conference’s origins, highlights from the event, and plans for GreenTech 2020. Additional information about GreenTech, including a summary from the 2019 conference, are available at https://www.greentechconference.org/.


Extreme heat kills more people than any other natural disaster, and heat waves are growing longer, hotter, and more frequent, due to climate change. Cities are particularly impacted because climate change exacerbates the urban heat island effect. In this episode, ELI’s Cynthia Harris chats with Rachel Licker, Senior Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Michael Gerrard, Professor at Columbia Law School and Faculty Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law; and Councilmember Tom Hucker, from Montgomery County, MD, to learn about one possible tool cities can bring to bear on this public health crisis: air conditioning mandates.


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 this episode—the third in a series of podcasts in which we talk to former EPA General Counsels—Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, talks to former EPA General Counsel Roger Martella, who now serves as Director and General Counsel for General Electric’s Environment, Health and Safety operations worldwide.


Local governments often require developers to bear the costs of new infrastructure. Known as “exactions,” the funds help localities address the burdens that growth places on schools, transportation, water, and sewers. But Professors Jim Rossi and Christopher Serkin, both with Vanderbilt University Law School, have proposed imposing “energy exactions” to address the energy impacts of new residential or commercial growth. In this episode, Linda Breggin, a senior attorney at ELI, and students from the law school talk to Professors Rossi and Serkin to learn more about this novel idea.


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 this episode—the second in a series of podcasts in which we talk to former EPA General Counsels—Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, talks to former EPA General Counsel Scott Fulton, who now serves as President of ELI.


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 this episode, Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, talks to former EPA General Counsel Avi Garbow, the longest serving General Counsel in EPA’s history. This episode is 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 Amazon Rainforest is a hotbed of biodiversity and—perhaps most crucial to our current climate crisis—stores approximately 120 billion tons of carbon. But deforestation is threatening the Amazon at an alarming rate. Given the vast size and numerous stakeholders that rely on the rainforest, innovative and cooperative methods are needed to combat deforestation. In this episode, we talk to Professor Mark Ungar to learn more.


Do-It-Yourself biology, 3D printing, and the sharing economy are equipping ordinary people with new powers to shape their biological, physical, and social environments. This phenomenon of distributed innovation is yielding new goods and services, greater economic productivity, and new opportunities for fulfillment. Distributed innovation also brings new environmental, health, and security risks that demand oversight, yet conventional government regulation may be poorly suited to address these risks. Dispersed and dynamic, distributed innovation requires the development of more flexible tools for oversight and government collaboration with private partners in governance. In this episode, Linda Breggin, Director of ELI’s Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Anna Beeman, Research Associate, sit down with Prof. Albert C. Lin of the University of California, Davis, School of Law to discuss some of the responses to the challenges raised by distributed innovation.


In this episode of People Places Planet Podcast, we listen in on a casual conversation between Special Agent Andrea Abat, a criminal investigator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Tracy Hester, a Professor at the University of Houston Law Center, on the field of environmental enforcement. Andrea Abat discusses her illustrious career investigating oils spills on the North Slopes of Alaska and anthrax in Washington D.C. She also provides valuable career advice for those looking to enter the environmental enforcement field. Professor Hester discusses advancements in environmental enforcement and the best advice he has received as a lawyer looking to enter the environmental field.


For more than a century, energy rate setting has been used to promote public good and redistributive goals, akin to general financial taxation. Various non-tax subsidies in customer energy rates have enormous untapped potential for promoting low-carbon sources of energy, while also balancing broader economic and social welfare goals. In Carbon Taxation by Regulation, 102 Minn. L. Rev. 277 (2017), Prof. Jim Rossi of Vanderbilt University Law School (VULS) argues that even though a carbon tax remains politically elusive, “carbon taxation by regulation” has begun to flourish as a way of financing carbon reduction. His article received Honorable Mention in the special “Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review” edition of ELR’s News & Analysis. In this episode, Linda Breggin, Director of ELI’s Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Elizabeth Holden, a student at VULS, sit down with Prof. Jim Rossi to learn more.


At least 150 large companies have set goals to rely exclusively on renewable energy. These voluntary pledges can boost a company’s environmental image and can have a significant impact on the amount of generated renewable energy. But there are many different ways to get to 100% renewable power, all of which differ in the impact they have on the energy market. ELI recently published Corporate Statements About the Use of Renewable Energy: What Does the “100% Renewable” Goal Really Mean? In this episode, we talk to lead author Sofia Yazykova, a staff attorney at ELI, and Priya Barua, a Senior Manager with the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (formerly with the World Resources Institute), to learn what it really means when a company pledges to go 100% renewable. ELI created a handy terminology guide to help listeners follow along. Listeners may also be interested in this report from WRI. 


When it comes to the 573 federally recognized tribes in the United States, agriculture represents not just a source of food security, but an opportunity to express tribal sovereignty, drive economic development, and reclaim the cultivation of plants and animals central to a tribe’s culture across generations. Join Cynthia R. Harris, ELI’s Director of Tribal Programs, as she explores how tribes are taking on challenges, reclaiming traditional practices, and innovating in agriculture and food production with special guests  Zach Ducheneaux, Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council; Chris Roper with the Quapaw Services Authority; Pat Gwin, Environmental Resources Senior Director for the Cherokee Nation; and Colby Duren, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law.


Since 2010, ELI has been supporting Gulf communities as they navigate the Deepwater Horizon restoration process. In this episode, Taylor Lilley, Public Interest Law Fellow, and Christina Libre, a Research Associate, speak with residents of coastal Mississippi to hear about the challenges and successes they have encountered engaging with the recovery process in the nine years since the spill, as well as their hopes for the future.


Last March, ELI Press released Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, a "legal playbook" for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. With 35 peer-reviewed chapters and over 50 contributing authors, the book offers more than 1,000 legal pathways involving federal, state, and local law, as well as private governance. In this episode, we talk to the lead editors of the project, Professors Michael B. Gerrard and John C. Dernbach, and to some of the book's contributing authors, to get an inside look.


On average, Americans waste about 40% of their food. In this episode, we sit down with Linda Breggin, Director of ELI’s Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs and Project Coordinator for the Nashville Food Waste Initiative (NFWI), and Sam Koenig, a research associate at ELI. A project of the Natural Resources Defense Council, NFWI seeks to develop high-impact policies, strategies, and practical tools to serve as models for cities around the country. Linda and Sam discuss the scale and impact of food waste and the actions that are being taken to address it.


There have been a number of changes – or attempted changes – to the environmental legal landscape since President Trump took office on January 20, 2017. In this podcast, Ethan Shenkman, former Deputy General Counsel of EPA and current partner of Arnold & Porter, and Stacey Sublett, a shareholder with Beveridge & Diamond, discuss environmental law and policy in the Trump era and, more specifically, the limits of executive branch authority. The episode was brought to you in partnership with the American Bar Association Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice.


An increasingly fast-paced technological world requires a restructuring in environmental protection strategy. In our first episode, ELI President Scott Fulton and Dave Rejeski, Director of ELI's Technology, Innovation and Environment Project, discuss how environmental protection could be organized and implemented in the future. Their conversation stems from a recent paper they wrote on the topic, available free for download.


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