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Vibrant Environment

Conservative Conservation: Bipartisan Environmentalism in the Trump Era

Blue heron are among the species benefiting from bipartisan conservation efforts
By Darragh Moriarty, Legal Extern
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

“Anti-environmentalism is a mark of identity,” says Fred Rich, author of Getting to Green: Saving Nature: A Bipartisan Solution. “It is a mark of what it is to be a conservative.” With fossil fuel companies continuing to fund GOP politicians and a president who has called global warming a “hoax,” there are legitimate concerns that environmental issues will continue to polarize. The Republican 2016 Party platform described the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “a political mechanism,” rejecting the “agendas” of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. In spite of this political climate, several politicians, from congressmen to state governors, and city mayors, are making bipartisan efforts to combat climate change. In doing so, they are not only showing that environmental sustainability and economic growth can go hand-in-hand, but that these measures receive support from voters across the political spectrum.

Sustainable Business Models for Codigesting Food Waste

Creating Energy from Food Waste (EPA/Flickr)
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Monday, March 19, 2018

The wastewater sector’s “Utility of the Future” (UOTF) initiative envisions the sector’s transformation from managing waste to recovering and recycling valuable resources, thereby creating financial benefits for utilities, as well as environmental and economic development benefits for communities. Adding food waste to anaerobic digesters (AD) processing sewage sludge, a process called codigestion, is a promising UOTF innovation that expands the sector’s potential to recover renewable biogas for heat, power, and fuel, and to extract nutrients for fertilizers and soil amendments.

Yet, U.S. adoption of codigestion remains low: about 1 in 10 wastewater resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) have adopted AD, and about 1 in 10 of those is codigesting. To address this untapped potential, ELI has launched a new project to identify alternative sustainable business models for successful codigestion.

What the Shell? The Story of the Pearl River Map Turtle

The Pearl River map turtle, unrecognized as a species by the U.S. government, ha
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Pearl River map turtle, found only in Louisiana and Mississippi, has been described as the least-known species of the least-studied turtle genus in North America. Sadly, it may become extinct before it becomes known. While the species is recognized internationally and by the state of Mississippi, the U.S. government does not acknowledge it, and that obscurity is harming its existence. In the March issue of ELR’s News & Analysis, Kristina Alexander explains why listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be the only way to save it from extinction.

Strengthening Rental Housing Policies to Improve Public Health

The New York City Council recently moved to strengthen indoor air quality protec
By Amy Streitwieser, Staff Attorney
Monday, March 12, 2018

Earlier this year, the New York City Council took a notable step forward in addressing common indoor environmental health hazards. The Council passed Law 2018/055, which amends the city’s housing maintenance code to require private landlords to prevent and remediate indoor asthma triggers in their multifamily residential buildings.

Bonus Round: ELI Brainstorms New Ideas for Serious Games

Games can produce valuable information about strategies for taking on environmen
By Emmett McKinney, Research Associate, Azi Akpan, Research Associate, Lovinia Reynolds , Research Associate, and John Hare-Grogg, Research Associate
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Games are not always, well, fun and games. Or maybe they are—which is their greatest strength. As noted by a 2011 article in The Economist, “The main reason why games are different is that they marry the power of modern technology to the insatiable human desire for play.” Lengthy reports often fail to reach their target audiences or deliver information in an engaging format. “Serious games” can be tremendously valuable for developing new approaches to address social challenges. By allowing their audience to interact with the content, play different roles, test out ideas, fail and learn, and change their strategy, games provide effective frameworks for engaging with (and maybe finding solutions to) emerging social, economic, and environmental challenges.

SCOOP & STACK Causing Cracks: Oklahoma Tightens Regulations to Curb Fracking Earthquakes

A USGS map reveals the dramatic increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma (USGS).
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, March 5, 2018

After a slew of earthquakes triggered from shale oil and gas operations, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), the state’s oil and gas regulator, released new rules designed to reduce seismic activity. Hydraulic fracturing—fracking—is being used in combination with horizontal drilling to extract shale oil and gas in what has been called the “US’s hottest new area for horizontal development” in the state’s SCOOP [1] and STACK [2] shale plays, located in the Anadarko Basin.

Pearls of Wisdom From a Mississippi Fisherman: A Conversation With Ryan Bradley (Why I Participate in Gulf Restoration)

on Gulf Spill Restoration
By Azi Akpan, Research Associate
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Historically, the Gulf Coast region has produced more seafood than anywhere else in the continental U.S., both in volume and dollar value. Before the BP oil spill, in 2009, the Gulf seafood industry provided over 213,000 full- and part-time jobs. The oil spill has had a devastating impact on people working in the Gulf’s seafood industry. As a result of the BP oil spill, over 88,000 square miles of the Gulf’s federal waters—nearly 37%—were closed to fishing. There were also fishing closures in the state waters of Alabama (40% closed), Florida (2% closed), Louisiana (55% closed), and Mississippi (95% closed). Fishermen are still facing financial instability years after the spill, and have observed significant declines in landings and stock quality. Here, we highlight one Gulf fisherman’s perspective.

Offshore and Still on the Horizon, Part 2: President Trump’s Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Plan

An oil platform off the coast of California (arbyreed/Flickr)
By Jay Austin, Senior Attorney; Editor-in-Chief, Environmental Law Reporter®
Monday, February 26, 2018

As readers of this blog know, a recent refrain in environmental law has been “can he do that?” – the ongoing reexamination of presidential and executive branch authority in light of a dizzying array of proposed reversals, revisions, and rescissions of existing policies and rules. At ELI, we’ve attempted to answer that question through our “Environmental Protection in the Trump Era” report, which will get updated later this spring. My own contributions have included the chapter on offshore oil and gas drilling, as well as a more detailed look at last April’s Executive Order 13795 on “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” which extends the new watchword of “energy dominance” to the outer continental shelf.

“New Arctic” Is a Dream Meltdown

Inukshuks near Baffin Bay (Wikimedia Commons)
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I went to the North Pole in April, the favored month for travel in the High Arctic. That was 16 years ago. According to the 2017 National Climate Assessment, the region’s warming began accelerating around the time of my visit. It is no longer the same frozen ecology and economy I had seen.

War and Peace: Colombia’s Environmental Degradation Paradox

Policía Antinarcóticos  stand on guard after burning a coca laboratory near Tuma
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Research Associate
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Colombia’s government and FARC rebels signed a historic peace accord in late 2016, ending a civil war that caused over 220,000 deaths and the internal displacement of over 7 million people. In addition to devastating lives and livelihoods, the civil war was destructive to the environment. Following historic negotiations and the congressional ratification of a revised agreement, Colombia still faces environmental risks in a time of relative peace. It is crucial that ongoing talks and reforms in the wake of over five decades of conflict take these factors into account in order to ensure sustained peace and development for the future.