Clean energy technologies require a variety of minerals of varying degrees of scarcity. As a result, decarbonizing the economy will entail expansion of mineral production—not only through imaginative reuse and recycling, but also through new mines and the permits required to build those mines. Some have called for a loosening of environmental standards to address this growing need.
Developments this past summer—including the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA and the historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—have dramatically reshaped the future of U.S. climate law.
Recent judicial and administrative changes to the scope of the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA) have major implications for state regulators. In this month’s issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, ELI Senior Attorney James McElfish examines the existing legal framework for state protection of nonfederal waters and discusses potential impacts of upcoming federal decisions, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency in October.
When the pandemic started, it seemed you couldn’t turn a page or open an email without seeing “unprecedented” used in one context or another. And it was true—we were in uncharted territory, and among everything else, it was hard not to keep returning to that locution. I clearly remember sending a mass email using the word, thinking I was the first person to stumble upon this apt descriptor; little did I know how ubiquitous it would become.
I didn’t know when I became editor of the Forum that the era of landmark environmental lawmaking was almost over—with some exceptions that I will duly note. The year was 1990, and the buzz was all about new amendments to the Clean Air Act that would address the scourge of acid rain through the first large-scale test of emissions trading. It was the kind of legislation that is so desperately needed today to address the climate crisis by moving the United States to a renewable energy economy—a monumental task requiring a comprehensive, nation-wide approach.
As the national conversation following the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) verdict showed, climate change continues to be a focal point of this generation. And that conversation is happening both inside and outside the courtroom in the form of amicus briefs.
When Russian troops swarmed over the border last February, Ukraine became the first country possessing nuclear power plants to be invaded. The attackers seized several of the generating facilities and temporarily entrenched around the mothballed reactor at Chernobyl. At this writing, Moscow’s intentions with regard to the operating power plants was unclear.
Each year, the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (ELPAR)—a collaboration between Vanderbilt University Law School and ELI—identifies some of the year’s best academic articles that present legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems. ELI Senior Attorney Linda Breggin, Vanderbilt Law Prof. Michael Vandenbergh, and students in a Vanderbilt law class select 20 of the most creative, persuasive, and feasible proposals in the environmental legal literature.