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Vibrant Environment

Spotlight on Judicial Training: Science in the Courts

By Helena Kilburn, Educational Programming Intern, and Anna Beeman, Research Associate
Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Judges rely on precedential case law and legal interpretation in issuing their decisions, but with an increasing number of court cases relying on scientific evidence, judges must also understand the science to ensure a sound judicial process. Accurately deciding such cases not only determines the case at hand, but could set the precedent for similar cases in the future.

New U.S. EPA Rule Change Would Inhibit Citizens From Filing Environmental Claims

By Shehla Chowdhury, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, August 19, 2019

Last month, the New York Times reported that the Trump Administration began drafting a new rule that could eviscerate one of the most powerful tools available to U.S. citizens to hold the government accountable for environmental harm. The new rule, if finalized, would prevent concerned citizens from filing cases with the U.S. EPA Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), as well as inherently change EPA’s appeals process and undermine enforcement of environmental law throughout the country.

How I Met ELI: A First Date That Worked

By Ridgway M. Hall, Jr., Vice Chair, Chesapeake Legal Alliance
Friday, August 16, 2019

In 1974, I was a trial lawyer with Cummings & Lockwood in Stamford, Connecticut, with a lifelong interest in the environment. EPA had been recently created, Congress had just passed two new laws to protect air and water quality, and President Kennedy had made service in the federal government a noble calling.

Eager to learn something about EPA and its Office of General Counsel, I called a college classmate who was then working for Ralph Nader and asked, “Whom should I call to learn about EPA?” He replied, “The man to call is Fred Anderson, President of the Environmental Law Institute.” I called Fred, and he gave EPA’s Office of General Counsel a rave review. “Hottest legal shop in town,” he said. “They don’t even recruit. Top-quality resumes just pour in.” 

Transboundary Haze in Southeast Asia: The 2015 Fires Were Only the Beginning

By Anna Beeman, Research Associate
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

In the last two weeks, Indonesian islands Sumatra and Borneo began experiencing severe forest fires, evoking fears within the region that the fires could have similar effects to the fires of 2015, which was one of the worst years for transboundary haze in Southeast Asia. Following the 2015 fires, Indonesia took steps to limit the burning and draining of peatland to reduce the outbreak of fires in addition to improving environmental sustainability and air quality in the region. However, due to a combination of governance challenges and climate change-intensifying dry seasons, the country has struggled to keep up with implementing fire mitigating activities in all fire-prone areas.

What Lies Beyond the Beach? Diving into Our Nation’s Ocean

By Margaret Spring, Chief Conservation & Science Officer, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Hilary Tompkins, Partner, Hogan Lovells
Monday, August 12, 2019

With summer in full swing and trips to the beach on our minds, the timing is perfect to consider the role of environmental law and the courts in guiding decisions with implications for the health of our oceans. This blog highlights recent updates from two major federal players with authority over what happens in the waters of the United States covering the three- to 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ): the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

The Courts and the Rule of Law: Primary Forces in Advancing Environmental Protection

By Karin P. Sheldon, President, Four Echoes Strategies
Friday, August 9, 2019

Fifty years ago, on June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River of Ohio burst into flame. Although it was not the first time an oil slick burned on the heavily polluted river, the event is often credited as one of the key environmental crises that galvanized the American public to recognize that pollution and other environmental damage were not just local problems, but required national attention.

Marijuana: Not so Green?

By Shehla Chowdhury, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Just last month, Illinois became the first state to legalize the sale and use of marijuana through its legislature. Including Illinois, 11 states have now legalized marijuana for recreational use, resulting in fast-paced growth of the cannabis industry across the United States. However, as with most new industries, the increased consumption of cannabis products has brought on new sustainability challenges.

Reforming Selective Enforcement of Trade Laws in the Energy and Fisheries Sectors

By Anna Beeman, Research Associate, and Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs
Monday, August 5, 2019

The “fairness” of free trade agreements is front and center in today’s often rancorous political dialogue—but rarely is the environment a top-tier consideration in the debate. In a timely article, Vanderbilt University Law School Prof. Timothy Meyer offers a valuable environmental perspective on trade agreements that deserves attention. Professor Meyer offers empirical evidence that selective enforcement of environmental laws is “considerably more pervasive than commonly thought.” The result, he contends, is that trade agreements can undermine environmental interests in the energy and fisheries sectors, the most traded commodity and the most traded food respectively.

Companies and Communities: Environmental Justice as an Effective and Proactive Business Practice

By Benjamin F. Wilson, Chairman, Beveridge & Diamond, P.C, Washington, DC
Friday, August 2, 2019

In recent months, the long-standing environmental justice (EJ) movement—which began with the civil rights movement—has gained new momentum. EJ refers to the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” As natural disasters ravage minority, low-income communities, global climate justice campaigns demand equitable solutions, and members of Congress underscore the importance of ensuring environmental protection for our most vulnerable communities, EJ principles are given a leading role in the conversation about environmental policy.

Feet to the Fire: Managing the Continued Fallout From California’s Camp Fire

By Sierra Killian, Research Associate, and Rebecca L. Kihslinger, Senior Science and Policy Analyst
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Lasting repercussions of the 2018 fire season have continued to vex California’s electric utility sector, the state government, and communities across the state that are recovering from previous fires and bracing for the next wave of wildfires.

PG&E, the bankrupt private electric utility whose aging infrastructure has been linked to 19 major wildfires in 2017 and 2018, has faced withering coverage in the press, intense scrutiny by state officials, and public questioning in federal court. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that PG&E has repeatedly delayed updates to its transmission lines and towers, many of which are still in operation well beyond their life expectancy.