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Vibrant Environment

Something Old, Something New—Presidential Authority and the Antiquities Act

The Golden Cathedral, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (John Fowler)
By Caitlin F. McCarthy, Director, Education, Associates and Corporate Partnerships
Thursday, December 14, 2017

The 1906 Antiquities Act grants presidents the authority to protect historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest. Yet, last April, more than a century after the passage of the Antiquities Act and more than 50 years since the last alteration of national monument boundaries, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order instructing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to undertake a broad review of national monuments created since 1996 under the Antiquities Act and that span at least 100,000 acres. On December 4, 2017, acting on Secretary Zinke’s recommendations, President Trump issued two proclamations significantly reducing the acreage and perimeters of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

Analyzing the Food Rescue Landscape in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee (Wikimedia Commons)
By Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate, JoAnne Berkenkamp, Senior Advocate, Food & Agriculture Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs
Monday, November 20, 2017

Some say leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. While that may be true, the rest of the year, there are ample missed opportunities to donate surplus prepared foods from institutions and restaurants. Realizing these opportunities is an important way to waste less food and feed more people, because up to 40% of food (along with the water, energy, and land used in production) goes to waste every year in the United States. At the same time, over 13% of Americans—one in eight—experience food insecurity.

Houston After Harvey: Building Resilience, or Business as Usual?

Buffalo Bayou Park (Nora M.L.)
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Former Research Associate
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Houston’s 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park was designed to flood. The park is lined with native vegetation and landscaped to channel runoff and maximize floodwater transport capacity. Dog-walkers, joggers, bikers, and picnickers frequent the park, which also serves as habitat for native plant and animal species and has features that help filter pollutants from stormwater runoff that would otherwise flow directly into the waterway.

Budget Reconciliation: Taxes and a Wildlife Refuge on the Chopping Block

The Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (US FWS)
By Patricia J. Beneke, Visiting Scholar
Monday, November 13, 2017

Many of the provisions in the tax legislation being considered by Congress this month (H.R. 1 “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” and related Senate legislation) as part of the Budget Reconciliation process are getting substantial attention: the reduction in corporate tax rates, elimination of the estate tax, consolidation of individual income tax brackets, elimination of medical and state and local tax deductions, and modification of the mortgage interest deduction. However, one key matter in the package is only now beginning to receive notable public attention: the long and hard-fought legislation to open the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Arctic Refuge) to oil and gas leasing and development.

Spend Now, Save Later: The Economic Value of Floodplain Acquisitions

By Brooks Lamb, Intern
Monday, July 17, 2017

Floodplain acquisitions offer many benefits. As Dr. Rebecca Kihslinger explained in a previous post, buyout properties can be transformed from flood-prone subdivisions and vulnerable riverfront businesses into community gardens, biking trails, and natural habitats. And by acquiring flood-prone properties, local governments can spare families and business owners the heartbreak that accompanies seeing one’s home or livelihood submerged.

District Court Decision on Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Mines: A New Leverage Point for Challenges to Fossil Fuel Development?

Cabinet Mountain Wilderness near Libby, Montana (Photo: Scott Butner)
By Robert Kelsey, Associate Editor, Environmental Law Reporter
Monday, June 26, 2017

On May 30, 2017, in two separate opinions, a Montana district court overturned a U.S. Forest Service approval of a mine proposal submitted by Hecla Mining Company. In the first case, the court held that the approval violated the Clean Water Act (CWA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and National Forest Management Act (NFMA).

FOOD WASTE: Onsite Food Waste Pre-processing Systems: Is Recycling Really Happening?

By Taz [CC BY 2.0 (http:/creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia C
By Christopher Wright, Research and Publications Intern, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Recycling food waste through composting and anaerobic digestion has the greatest potential by far to reduce the quantity of food waste going to landfills over the next 15 years relative to food waste reduction and reuse, according to ReFED. However, as more cities and states institute landfill food waste bans and other programs to promote recycling, the demand for centralized organic processing facilities is outpacing the supply. To address the gap, vendors are actively marketing to commercial customers new onsite pre-processing systems, including dehydrators, pulpers, and biodigesters. The systems can save money by reducing or eliminating off-site hauling of food waste and are well suited to facilities short on space and staff time. But the question arises: are the nutrients and energy in food waste really being recycled?  The answer depends upon the next stage of processing.

Helping Communities Pursue Water-Neutral Growth

Public water supply sign, Walter Baxter
By Adam Schempp, Senior Attorney; Director, Western Water Program
Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Water is fundamental to life, but it is not always bountiful. Many communities around the country already face water scarcity issues, whether such scarcity is due to a history of shortages, a present crisis, or growing concerns over the longevity of supplies. Accommodating population growth, and realizing the benefits from new development, only adds to the challenge in water-stressed areas.

Floodplain Buyouts: From the Archives and for the Future

Usk floodplain, Caerleon, Jaggery
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Former Research Associate
Monday, April 24, 2017

With all the national-level news surrounding the new administration’s approach to environmental protections, it can be easy to lose track of the important roles that state and local governments have in pushing forward plans and policies for environmental protection and resilient communities. Working on ELI and UNC’s floodplain buyouts project and stumbling upon a book from the ELI archives refreshed my excitement and understanding of the various levels on which we can push for environmental action.

FOOD WASTE: “Smart Technology” Promises to Revolutionize Recycling

Enevo Sensor System
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Emmett McKinney, Former 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.