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Vibrant Environment

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.

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.

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.

Welcome, Mayor—Now Here Comes the Hurricane

By Sam Koenig, Research Associate
Monday, October 8, 2018

What would you do if your job was to manage a small coastal community besieged by job loss, irate voters, hurricanes, oil spills, and hipsters? Here’s a way to find out: boot up your laptop or tablet and check out ELI’s new “serious game,” Digital Cards Against Calamity.

In the wake of Hurricanes Maria, Irma, Harvey, and Florence, which have resulted in an estimated total of over 3,200 deaths and more than $375 billion in damage, finding ways to increase a community’s “resilience IQ” should be a national priority.

The Future of Waste Management: Shifting Toward Circular Economies

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, October 1, 2018

It is hard to ignore the pervasiveness of waste in our daily lives and around the world. Whether it is mounds of garbage piling onto beaches in the Dominican Republic, the enormous amounts of plastic that marine animals accidentally consume, pollution from industries and transportation in our air and water, or daily individual waste, we cannot look past the impacts of generating unnecessary waste.

ACE Proposed Rule: Part II

By Cynthia Harris, Staff Attorney
Monday, September 24, 2018

In Part One of this two-part blog, we looked at EPA's recently proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule and how it generally compares with the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan (CPP) Rule. But with many environmental lawyers being closet economists, no contemplation of new environmental regulation is complete without a discussion of cost-benefit analysis.

ACE Proposed Rule: Part I

By Cynthia Harris, Staff Attorney
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

On August 21, EPA introduced its much-anticipated Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule to replace the Barack Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) Rule for regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from our nation’s aging fleet of power plants. This proposal checks off another item on the Donald Trump Administration’s deregulatory agenda and elicits a number of profound questions. What are the main differences between the ACE and the CPP? What are the implications for public health, the environment, and the electric power sector? More philosophically, why, in the 21st century, do we continue relying on a Victorian-era source of energy to power our cell phones?