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Vibrant Environment

Harmful Algae Blooms in Coastal Waters: Removing Toxic Algae From Florida’s Waterways

By Dan Levy, Vice President, AECOM
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Widespread harmful algae bloom (HAB) outbreaks have profound negative impacts: threats to human health and safety, stress on ecological systems, diminished quality of life, and significant economic loss to water-based recreational and commercial activities. They occur due to decades worth of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient runoff deposited into our freshwater lakes and water bodies. Now, excess nutrient runoff and human activity have contributed to an uncontrollable rise in HABs across the globe. This ongoing accumulation of nutrients into our shrinking freshwater supplies combined with warmer temperatures has turned these precious water bodies into petri dishes for harmful algae growth. Removing the overabundance of nutrients is essential to restoring these water bodies and preventing the growth of future HABs.

Changing Flood Insurance for a Changing Climate

Monday, April 8, 2019

The current flooding disasters in the Midwest, as well as the flooding consequences of Hurricanes Michael, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, have damaged thousands of U.S. homes and businesses over the last decade. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), enacted by Congress in 1968, aims to minimize the risk of flood damage as well as reduce flood-related disaster recovery costs. This federally backed program provides insurance to property owners and renters, establishes building and land use requirements and floodplain management practices for local communities to qualify, and maps flood-risk areas to inform development decisions and insurance premiums. But the NFIP assumes that flood risks are static and change little over time, and the effects of climate change are challenging this assumption.

Environmental Justice and the Fight to Be Heard

By Kieren Rudge, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Many nationally recognized environmental groups have adopted principles of equity and diversity into their missions over the past two decades, but the environmental justice movement and the marginalized groups that have historically driven the movement are often left out of the “mainstream” environmental discussion. Groups that lack political power such as people of color, people with disabilities, people of low income, the LGBTQ community, and women are often ignored by those with more social influence. Progress has certainly been made in recent years, but more opportunities exist to connect national-scale nonprofits to the groups who face the disproportionate effects of environmental degradation. This issue is highly important because the effects of environmental detriment disproportionally impact these minority groups, and is still a reality that many of these communities face every day. As such, it is essential to recognize that marginalized communities have had a significant impact on environmental policy, and it is imperative to continue to fight for more equitable conditions.

Earlier Laws Had Lessons for Clean Air Act

By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Monday, April 1, 2019

It was a half century ago that the federal government for the first time went to court “to close down a plant for polluting the air.” The quote is from the February 8, 1969, edition of the New York Times. The facility at issue was a chicken rendering plant in Bishop, Maryland, whose emissions were wafting into neighboring Delaware, thus allowing newly installed Attorney General John Mitchell — who would go on to play a major role in the Watergate scandal — to initiate the history-making suit.

Re-Imagining Environmental Governance: The Future of Environmental Law

ELI Logo - 50th
By Robert (Buzz) Hines, Partner, Farella Braun + Martel LLP
Friday, March 29, 2019

Not to dwell on the past, but I have been struck of late reading obituaries of certain leading figures in environmental law by a recurrent theme, which is essentially captured by the following quote: “This was an old-school environmentalist, when Republicans and Democrats all agreed the environment should be protected.”

Macbeth Report: Cooperative Federalism Reimagined

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, March 27, 2019

In the Summer of 2017, ELI undertook a special project in memory of our dear departed colleague Angus Macbeth. We did so with support, encouragement, and input from across the ELI community and the American College of Environmental Lawyers, and in cooperation with the Environmental Council of States. Angus was the friend of many, but was also one of the great leaders in environmental law, a former president of the college, and a long-time supporter of ELI.

The Wrong Place and the Wrong Time: The Rocky Hill Case and a Landmark Legal Win for Climate Action

By Isabelle Smith, Law Clerk
Monday, March 25, 2019

As the global community faces the reality that a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is urgently required, a new class of climate change litigation is emerging. But what impact are these proceedings having?

A recent case from New South Wales (NSW), Australia, has directly challenged development that is at odds with GHG emission reduction targets. Hailed as a “landmark decision” in climate litigation, the case represents the first time an Australian court has refused a coal mining development consent not only on the basis of unacceptable “planning, visual and social impacts,” but also to prevent a new source of GHG emissions.

Trips to the Biotech Frontier: Episode 1

By Kashaf Momin, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “biotechnology?” Do you tend to think of genetically modified corn or lab-grown meat? Have you ever thought of bricks grown from bacteria or leather bags made from mushroom roots as biotechnology?

Genetically engineered food is one popular form of biotechnology, but the possible products of biotechnology are expanding rapidly beyond food and agriculture, transforming a variety of other industries, such as construction and clothing.

Here are four new and emerging applications of biotechnology that you might have never considered.

An Uncertain Future for California's Vehicle Emission Standards

Monday, March 18, 2019

Last month, the Trump Administration formally ended talks with California over the federal government’s plans to freeze vehicle emissions standards and likely revoke the state’s long-standing authority to set its own standards under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The success of California in mitigating air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under CAA §209—and that of the 15 states that have invoked waivers under §177—is now in question. And the Administration’s plan to end negotiations and move forward with its proposed Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule will most certainly lead to a heated, lengthy court battle.

Environmental Law Futures

By Jonathan Cannon, Blaine T. Phillips Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law; Hunton & Williams Professor of Law; Director, Environmental and Land Use Law Program, University of Virginia School of Law
Friday, March 15, 2019

In the early 1970s, I told my stepfather, a distinguished judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals, that I wanted to go to law school to study environmental law. He thought that was a silly idea. There wasn’t—and wouldn’t be—a separate field of environmental law. If I wanted to study administrative law with an emphasis on environmental applications, fine. But I was deluding myself to think there would be a new domain of law defined by the environmental issues of the day.