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.
In the spring of 1972, environmental law was still in its infancy in many places around the world. Here in the United States, NEPA, the Clean Air Act, and ELI itself were toddlers—all under three years old—and the Clean Water Act wouldn’t be amended to what we know it as today until that fall. Within this setting, the UN hosted the first global Conference on the Human Environment in Sweden.
Peace is an essential element of sustainable development. In early June, the international community will gather at the forthcoming Stockholm+50 International Meeting to reflect on progress in sustainable development, the outstanding gaps and challenges, and to discuss the way forward. It is time — indeed, past time — to formally acknowledge the central role of peace in sustainable development and to take specific, concrete measures to incorporate these linkages in our policies, institutions, finances, and practices.
Regional or bilateral trade promotion agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), sometimes include environmental obligations for signatories. But only a few of these allow for environmental submissions—a process where persons or legal entities can raise issues with the enforcement record of any of the signatory nations.
In 1970, amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act introduced state “Water Quality Certifications” into federal environmental law. This provision, recodified as Section 401 of the Clean Water Act in 1972, provides that states have the opportunity to review applications for any “federal license or permit to conduct any activity” which may result in any discharge to the waters of the United States, and to certify that any such discharge will comply with, among other things, state water quality standards for such waters.
When was environmental law first recognized as a field worthy of endeavor? Legal academies began teaching courses in the new laws as they were propounded a half century ago, but the field existed earlier. It could be found, if only in fragments, in some law schools and engineering schools and colleges of agriculture, mining, and forestry. And there were repositories of environmental professionals in the government’s land bureaus and extension services.
On January 1, I was welcomed as ELI’s new president. I’m extraordinarily excited and deeply honored to lead this remarkable organization. It is special for me because I began my legal career at the Institute many years ago, an experience that shaped some of my core values around integrity and impact. I continue to be inspired by ELI’s mission and I’m delighted to be back, working with this wonderful group of people and our partners.
This column is indeed my “closing statement.” This past January, I officially stepped down from my role as president to take up residence with my wife in Rome. I will continue working with the Institute from Europe on a part-time basis, primarily supporting ELI’s international portfolio. The balance of my time will be devoted to working with the consultancy Sustainability Frameworks.
Part 1 of this two-part blog series explored the history and current use of carbon, capture, and storage (CCS). Part 2 discusses the policy challenges that limit CCS use and how these policies can be improved to expand it.
The biggest question is: if CCS can reduce carbon dioxide emissions so drastically, why isn’t everyone implementing it?