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Vibrant Environment

Trumping Environmental Protection

EPA and Donald Trump
By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, May 22, 2017

The Trump Administration is clearly hungry for regulatory reform that reduces the cost and process burden of environmental regulation. Those who see a fundamental conflict between environmental protection and economic development welcome this development, as do those concerned that environmental requirements have become so extensive, detailed, and layered as to make compliance an elusive pursuit. Conversely, the shift raises concerns for those who see environmental protection and economic development as fully compatible goals and who fear environmental backsliding.  

TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT: Protecting the Environment in the Context of International Trade

Container Ship
By Greta Swanson, Visiting Attorney
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Although making no specific commitments, the Trump Administration continues to propose the potential renegotiation of NAFTA. House Democrats, in a Resolution earlier this spring, and a group of 15 environment, labor, and human rights groups, in an Eight-Point Plan, have called for a renegotiation of NAFTA that ensures that regulations protecting the environment are maintained.

In an earlier blog post, I discussed how environmental protection provisions incorporated in trade agreements could help mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of (international) trade. This post explores the inverse topic: how the investment chapters in NAFTA (and other trade agreements) may affect environmental and social protections in parties’ domestic regulation.

A Win for Kids and the Environment in China

Playground in Lanzhou, China, Sigismund von Dobschütz
By Zhuoshi Liu, Staff Attorney
Monday, May 15, 2017

Since the early 2000s, many Chinese schools and kindergartens have built synthetic running tracks on their campuses. However, many of these schools and kindergartens are underfunded and consequently tend to award contracts to the lowest bidders, often at a cost to the environment and human health.

FOOD WASTE: “Smart Technology” Promises to Revolutionize Recycling

Enevo Sensor System
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney, and Emmett McKinney, Research Associate
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Imagine the dumpsters behind restaurant row in your community signaling their hauling company to come pick them up because they are full and about to overflow, or their food is rotting and about to stink up the neighborhood. Such are the promises for waste management of new “smart technologies,” based on sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, big data, and social networks.

The Uncertain Fate of WOTUS

Emerald Bay, Michael
By Robert Kelsey, Associate Editor, Environmental Law Reporter
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

In a series of executive orders, the president has requested that agencies review several environmental protection rules, and if deemed necessary, repeal or modify rules to better facilitate economic growth. One such rule, the Clean Water rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS), has been in the crosshairs of industry for some time.

The Ecological Impacts of a Border Wall

Rio Grande River
By Caitlin Meagher , Research & Publications Intern - Spring 2017
Monday, April 3, 2017

Often lost in discussions of efficacy and payment relating to the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall is what would happen to the environment if a concrete divider were placed across a nearly-2,000 mile swath of habitat. While wall-like barriers already stand on hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, expanding to a full-border wall would constitute a massive transformation of the rest of the United States’ southern borderlands, posing substantial threats to the wildlife that roam the area.

Environmental Whistleblowing in the Federal Government

The Office of the Whistleblower Symbol
By Michael D. Kohn, Partner, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP, and Stephen M. Kohn, Partner, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP
Monday, March 13, 2017

With the change in the administration there is renewed interest in whistleblower protections by federal employees. Federal employees who are troubled by what is occurring within their agency should take a moment to better understand their rights and consult with lawyers who are knowledgeable about these complex laws before taking action that could result in adverse employment actions. What turns out to be protected or not protected may surprise you. The starting point to understand federal employee whistleblower rights and some things to watch out for are outlined below.

TRADE & ENVIRONMENT: Why Include Environmental Provisions in International Trade Agreements

World airline route map, 2009, Jpatokal
By Greta Swanson, Visiting Attorney
Monday, March 6, 2017

Rising levels of global consumption are having significant impacts on biodiversity worldwide. The world is facing its sixth extinction, a massive loss of biodiversity, with extinctions occurring at 100-1,000 times pre-human levels. International trade increases these threats. A Nature article documenting the impacts of trade in thousands of commodity chains concluded that 30% of threats to threatened and endangered species globally were due to international trade. It found that while wealthy countries drive most consumption, the greatest threats to species are found further down the supply chain, in the developing countries that produce the commodities sought after by the richer nations.

Schrödinger’s Brexit: Letting the Cat Out of the Box

Cat on a Union Jack, Colicaranica
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Although it’s been several months since the United Kingdom’s populist vote to leave the European Union, it seems as though the U.K. is trapped in a bit of Euro-divorce limbo. Some have even gone as far as to call it “Schrödinger’s Brexit,” invoking quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment to explain the government’s policy folly. Like the fate of Schrödinger’s cat, Britain’s future is unclear: Article 50 in the Treaty of Lisbon, which delineates the rules for exiting the European Union, has not yet been triggered. In other words, despite the outcome of the popular referendum, Britain has not yet officially declared whether it is leaving the EU.

Angus Macbeth: An Environmental Lawyer’s Lawyer

Angus Macbeth
By Sam Gutter, Senior Counsel, Sidley Austin LLP
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Angus Macbeth died in his sleep on January 22. With his passing, the environmental bar lost a founding father, an extraordinary advocate who helped establish the Natural Resources Defense Council, built and led the environmental practice in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and grounded the environmental practice group at Sidley Austin LLP.

Along with many others, I lost a friend and mentor—a man who shaped our collective approach to the law not through lectures or pronouncements, but by brilliant example, always finding the best analytical path, the right words to sum up the central theme, the most convincing advocacy.