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Vibrant Environment

WOTUS Proposal Poses Challenge for States

By Rebecca L. Kihslinger, Senior Science and Policy Analyst
Monday, February 18, 2019

On February 14, 2019, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a proposed rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to redefine “federal authority under the Clean Water Act.” The proposed rule is the second part of the Trump Administration’s two-step process to repeal and revise the Clean Water Rule adopted in June 2015. The 2015 rule is currently in effect in 22 states as the courts sort out numerous challenges.

Standing on Public Lands

By James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In litigation involving public lands, the first response from today's U.S. Department of Justice is almost always to contest plaintiffs’ standing.

U.S. Supreme Court decisions and numerous federal court decisions over the last several decades have effectively resulted in two evidentiary phases in most of these cases—first, proof of standing as a constitutional threshold, and second, only if standing is maintained, consideration of the evidence supporting the case on the merits. The standing phase is particularly relevant for public interest plaintiffs in public lands cases; it can require a more exacting showing from those seeking to vindicate public interests than from those asserting private economic interests.

CERCLA and the DOD Dilemma: Challenges and Opportunities

By Matthew Beyer, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, February 11, 2019

In the late 1970s, revelations about the hazardous waste contaminating sites like Love Canal and Valley of the Drums captured the American public’s attention. In response to concerns about the risk these hazardous dumps posed to both public and environmental health, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980. Commonly referred to as Superfund, CERCLA gives EPA the authority and resources to clean up and remediate sites contaminated by hazardous substances and pollutants.

INECE Launches Compliance Conversations

By Avital Li, Research Associate, Taylor Lilley, Public Interest Law Fellow, and Jessica Foster, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The global community of agencies and NGOs working in the field of environmental compliance and enforcement has grown substantially in recent years, yet many practitioners remain isolated from others working in the field.

As our understanding of the underlying drivers of environmental compliance and non-compliance deepens, a need arises for creative and unconventional collaboration tools. The recently released UN First Global Report on the Environmental Rule of Law examining the current status of environmental laws highlights... 

Rise of the Shadow ESG Regulators

Monday, February 4, 2019

“Corporate social responsibility” (CSR) has had a mixed reputation on its efforts to achieve environmental protection. Some view the rise of interest in CSR positively, especially as traditional methods of government regulation are hampered by political gridlock and not always up to date with the fast-paced development of current technologies. Others view CSR as “greenwashing,” allowing businesses to reap the benefits of being “green” without actually delivering positive impact for the environment.

Fourth Circuit Vacates Permits Authorizing Pipeline Construction in National Forest

By Hunter Leigh Jones, Associate Editor, ELR
Wednesday, January 30, 2019

On December 13, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service authorizing a pipeline, known as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to be constructed across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed 604-mile natural gas pipeline that would stretch from West Virginia to North Carolina.

Oil Spill Kicked Off Anti-Pollution Era

By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Monday, January 28, 2019

“In 1969 the signs of . . . concern were everywhere,” writes John Quarles, EPA’s first deputy administrator, in the opening chapter of his invaluable memoir Cleaning Up America. These signs “were manifest in the outcry against the Santa Barbara oil spill,” which happened on January 28, 1969, just eight days after Richard Nixon’s ascent to the White House. There followed in close order a series of epochal events every month of that year. “Suddenly, in cities across the country, citizen environmentalists campaigned. . . . People were demanding a change in the old policy toward the nation’s resources.”

Feeling the Burn: the Future of California’s Electric Utilities and Homeowners Insurance in Continual Wildfire Season

By Sierra Killian, Research Associate
Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Months after the devastating Camp, Woolsey, and Hill fires in California, the fallout of the blazes continues to rock the state. In the past month, PG&E, the state’s largest electric utility, transitioned out several top executives, had its credit rating downgraded to junk status, and was mandated to inspect its entire electric grid in a sharply worded court order. Last week, the company announced plans to file for bankruptcy by January 29. Citizens, insurance companies, and the state government are also feeling the heat as expected damage costs rise and climate change intensifies the frequency of wildfires. The strain on California’s public and private institutions foreshadows the difficult decisions to come across the fire-prone American West.

Will the Current EPA be Able to Effect Lasting Air Permitting Reforms?

By Amy M. Marshall, Vice President, Americas Air Quality Practice Director, AECOM
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The regulations, guidance documents, and policy memos that implement the Clean Air Act (CAA) have gotten longer and more complicated over the decades. This increased complexity has created greater compliance burdens for the regulated community, and the argument persists that it has stifled economic growth and not produced health benefits that equal or surpass the burdens imposed. Air quality has dramatically improved over the past 40 years, yet many current air quality standards are now at levels approaching the ambient background.

Insight on Compensatory Mitigation: Progress and Opportunities

Monday, January 14, 2019

Natural resource mitigation—avoiding impacts to important species and habitat, minimizing impacts, and then providing offsets for remaining, residual impacts—is a valuable tool for developers and agencies to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, a variety of federal statutes that regulate impacts to important wildlife species and habitat, and/or public land management statutes requiring that uses of public lands be balanced with protection and conservation.