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Vibrant Environment

Is Offshore Wind About to Take Off?

By Caroline McHugh, Law Clerk
Monday, November 19, 2018

It’s all happening,” declared a June 2018 article about offshore wind development in the United States. Indeed, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has identified a trend toward a viable U.S. offshore wind industry that is gaining momentum. Despite this trend, it has been 17 years since the first offshore wind project was proposed, and the 30-megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm is still the only operating project. Has the time finally arrived for this industry?

The First Earthrise Launched an Era

By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Exactly 69 hours, 8 minutes, and 16 seconds after launch, the crew of Apollo 8 burned the spacecraft’s retro rockets while behind the far side of the Moon and out of contact with the Earth. That daring maneuver caused the capsule to enter lunar orbit. The craft circled the Moon three times. After the fourth pass behind the satellite, the three astronauts looked through their tiny glass port and became the first humans to witness an Earthrise.

An American (State) in Paris – Can States Commit to the Paris Agreement?

Monday, November 12, 2018

The United States’ decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was a shock to environmentalists and the international community. In response, individual U.S. states took it upon themselves to pledge their commitment to the Paris Agreement without federal support. However, some scholars observed that state involvement in the Paris Agreement may be unconstitutional, a potential violation of the Supremacy Clause, Treaty Clause, and Compact Clause.

In An American (State) in Paris: The Constitutionality of U.S. States’ Commitments to the Paris Agreement, the winner of ELI’s 2017-2018 Henry L. Diamond Constitutional Environmental Law Writing Competition, Kristen McCarthy argues that states’ involvement does not violate the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, she writes, it also may set a precedent for state involvement in future environmental international agreements.

A Mission to Reduce Emissions: California’s Fight to Maintain Their Fuel Standards

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

California is often considered a leader in environmental issues and has made strides to become a more environmentally conscious state. Through state and local policies, the state has banned certain plastic products, such as bags  and straws, and in 2011 it implemented a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program to curb greenhouse gas pollution. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) implemented this cap-and-trade program to ensure that automakers gradually increase gas mileage on their vehicles and reduce carbon intensity 10 percent by 2020. The state has even sought to extend the LCFS program, with a new goal of 20 percent reduction by 2030. These standards are stricter than the nationwide fuel standards, and while the initiative has received some legal pushback from the agricultural and ethanol industries, even companies in the transportation sector have become accustomed to California’s standards.

California has enjoyed the ability to tackle its own carbon pollution for several years. Now, however, their fuel standards are in danger.

Putting the Shine on Corporate Sustainability: Lisa Jackson receives ELI’s 2018 Environmental Achievement Award

By Laura Frederick, Grants & Development Writer
Monday, November 5, 2018

The Environmental Law Institute’s 2018 Award Dinner was a star-studded event. Nearly 750 environmental leaders from across multiple sectors—one of the highest attendances in ELI Dinner history—arrived at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., to hear remarks from this year’s distinguished honoree, Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Apple’s Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives and former U.S. EPA Administrator.

The Rise of Climate Change Adaptation Law

By Sofia Yazykova, Staff Attorney
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

As the effects of climate change become more prominent, countries in various parts of the world begin to consider ways to incorporate climate change adaptation into their legal frameworks. Unlike provisions related to climate change mitigation, which usually set requirements for greenhouse gas emissions, statutory provisions addressing climate change adaptation can be wide-ranging and intricate.

“Every Culture Has a Science”: An Introduction to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Indigenous Scientific Representation

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, October 29, 2018

In the Alaskan Arctic, Inupiat hunt bearded seals for food and blubber—a tradition spanning generations, and based on hunters’ extensive knowledge of the weather, ice, seal habitats, and how to prepare and pay respects to the animal after killing it. But over the past few generations, their ability to harvest seals has been significantly affected with the warming oceans, melting ice, and changing patterns of marine animals in the Bering Sea. Last spring, hunters in Unalakleet, Alaska, could not participate in the harvest because there was little ice cover. Since seals use ice pans as a place to rest above water, reduced ice cover impedes hunters’ ability to find and hunt the animals. Inupiat worry about what these environmental changes will mean for future generations.

ESA and CITES: Avenues for the Future of Species Conservation and Legislation

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) are seminal pieces of legislation that have governed species conservation in the United States for over 40 years. The ESA dictates a regulatory framework for identifying and protecting threatened species and provides funding and incentives to states to reach this goal. CITES is an international agreement signed by 183 nations that seeks to regulate and restrict the international trade of endangered wildlife. The adoption of this agreement gives party states some authority over species conservation in other parts of the world. The ESA acknowledges and works to cooperate with international species conservation policies like CITES, and it even includes provisions for executing CITES policies. Together, CITES and the ESA operate at state, national, and international scales, making use of agency, intergovernmental, and nonprofit partnerships to work toward species conservation.

Eye in the Sky

By Ryan Belyea, Program Manager, AECOM
Monday, October 22, 2018

The usefulness of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) as an emergency response tool has received abundant public attention through intense media coverage of recent hurricane impacts and their aftermath. The dramatic imagery captured by UAS in the wake of Hurricanes Florence and Michael exemplifies how effective these devices are in capturing images and information from hard-to-reach or dangerous areas that are inaccessible to ground personnel. These situations make it important to understand the rules and regulations for operating a UAS, especially in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Unauthorized use of UAS in these areas may hinder search and recovery efforts and should be avoided in these areas. Operating a safe UAS program offers the benefit of instant visualization and mapping to a wide variety of response efforts.

Trotting Toward Trouble: The State of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program

By Caroline McHugh, Law Clerk
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Picture the American West.

What do you see? Does a herd of wild mustangs galloping across a sagebrush expanse come to mind? For many, romantic images of the western landscape celebrated in popular culture symbolize American ideals of rugged individualism and freedom. Although first introduced to North America by European colonists, wild horses came to represent those important American themes in our images of the West. Now, the iconic symbols pose a threat to western ecosystems.