Wetlands in Washington State
By ELR Staff

Recent judicial and administrative changes to the scope of the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA) have major implications for state regulators. In this month’s issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, ELI Senior Attorney James McElfish examines the existing legal framework for state protection of nonfederal waters and discusses potential impacts of upcoming federal decisions, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency in October. 

US Supreme Court building
By Jordan Diamond

When the pandemic started, it seemed you couldn’t turn a page or open an email without seeing “unprecedented” used in one context or another. And it was true—we were in uncharted territory, and among everything else, it was hard not to keep returning to that locution. I clearly remember sending a mass email using the word, thinking I was the first person to stumble upon this apt descriptor; little did I know how ubiquitous it would become.

U.S. Capitol building
By Stephen R. Dujack

I didn’t know when I became editor of the Forum that the era of landmark environmental lawmaking was almost over—with some exceptions that I will duly note. The year was 1990, and the buzz was all about new amendments to the Clean Air Act that would address the scourge of acid rain through the first large-scale test of emissions trading. It was the kind of legislation that is so desperately needed today to address the climate crisis by moving the United States to a renewable energy economy—a monumental task requiring a comprehensive, nation-wide approach.

US Supreme court building
By Jeremy Rubin

As the national conversation following the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) verdict showed, climate change continues to be a focal point of this generation. And that conversation is happening both inside and outside the courtroom in the form of amicus briefs.

Nuclear power plant
By Stephen R. Dujack

When Russian troops swarmed over the border last February, Ukraine became the first country possessing nuclear power plants to be invaded. The attackers seized several of the generating facilities and temporarily entrenched around the mothballed reactor at Chernobyl. At this writing, Moscow’s intentions with regard to the operating power plants was unclear.

Book pages
By Heather Luedke, By Linda Breggin

Each year, the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (ELPAR)—a collaboration between Vanderbilt University Law School and ELI—identifies some of the year’s best academic articles that present legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems. ELI Senior Attorney Linda Breggin, Vanderbilt Law Prof. Michael Vandenbergh, and students in a Vanderbilt law class select 20 of the most creative, persuasive, and feasible proposals in the environmental legal literature.

Stockholm on water
By Jordan Diamond

In the spring of 1972, environmental law was still in its infancy in many places around the world. Here in the United States, NEPA, the Clean Air Act, and ELI itself were toddlers—all under three years old—and the Clean Water Act wouldn’t be amended to what we know it as today until that fall. Within this setting, the UN hosted the first global Conference on the Human Environment in Sweden.

Stockholm cityscape
By Carl Bruch, By Catriona Gourlay, By Ryan Maia, By Catherine Wong

Peace is an essential element of sustainable development. In early June, the international community will gather at the forthcoming Stockholm+50 International Meeting to reflect on progress in sustainable development, the outstanding gaps and challenges, and to discuss the way forward. It is time — indeed, past time — to formally acknowledge the central role of peace in sustainable development and to take specific, concrete measures to incorporate these linkages in our policies, institutions, finances, and practices.

Shipping port
By ELR Staff

Regional or bilateral trade promotion agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), sometimes include environmental obligations for signatories. But only a few of these allow for environmental submissions—a process where persons or legal entities can raise issues with the enforcement record of any of the signatory nations.

Wetland marsh
By James M. McElfish, Jr.

In 1970, amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act introduced state “Water Quality Certifications” into federal environmental law. This provision, recodified as Section 401 of the Clean Water Act in 1972, provides that states have the opportunity to review applications for any “federal license or permit to conduct any activity” which may result in any discharge to the waters of the United States, and to certify that any such discharge will comply with, among other things, state water quality standards for such waters.