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Vibrant Environment

Environmental Law and the Border Wall

Long Border Fence, Hillebrand Steve
By David Roche, Staff Attorney
Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What happens when environmental laws are not enforced? That question is usually reserved for countries that lack sufficient rule of law. In fact, one of ELI’s core missions is to support rule of law all over the world.

But, in one limited case, the problem hits a little closer to home. The border wall proposed by the Trump Administration would be exempt from most environmental laws.

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.

Floodplain Buyouts for a Better Future

Flooded homes in MN, Andrea Booher, FEMA Photo Library
By Rebecca L. Kihslinger, Senior Science and Policy Analyst
Monday, March 27, 2017

Flooding, storms, and other hazardous conditions cost billons of dollars in damages annually across the United States. Hazard mitigation programs attempt to break the cycle of repeated disaster damage by identifying and addressing a community’s disaster vulnerabilities in anticipation of future events. One such hazard mitigation solution is the voluntary acquisition of flood-damaged properties from their owners, using the federal hazard mitigation grant program and other state and federal grant programs. The acquisition and restoration of these floodplain properties can increase community resilience while improving wildlife habitat, enhancing ecosystem services, and providing much-needed open space and recreational facilities to a community. Buyouts present an opportunity for communities to create public assets while restoring the ecological integrity of the floodplain and strengthening the community’s resilience to future disasters.

FOOD WASTE: Food Donation Receives a Technology Boost

smart phone and food
By Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar, and Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In a Vibrant Environment blog post on February 17, 2017, we provided an overview of the types of approaches that cities and states can use to address the environmental and social justice implications of wasting 40%  of the food that is produced in the United States. We addressed reducing food waste before it happens, but because that is not always possible, we turn now to the next best alternative—rescuing or donating wasted food.

EPA's Report on Fracking and Water Quality: Too Little Too Late?

Fracking roads, pipelines, and well pads, Simon Fraser University
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Since 2008, there have been numerous reports of drinking water contaminated by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Footage from the film Gasland famously showed residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania, igniting water from their taps, arguably demonstrating that methane had migrated into their water sources during the fracking processes.

Which Wetlands Can Reduce Risk From Climate Change Impacts?

Wetlands, Svetlana Makarova
By James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
Monday, February 27, 2017

Climate change presents immense challenges to coastal communities and to ecosystems affected by sea-level rise, salt water intrusion, changes in average temperature, storm frequency, and species composition. Existing wetland complexes are among the “natural and nature-based features” that currently buffer human communities from catastrophic storm events and that help ecosystems rebound from major stresses and impacts.

FOOD WASTE: City and State Strategies for Source Reduction

Farmers Market Produce
By Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Monday, February 20, 2017

Strategies for cities and states to reduce food waste can be thought of through the lens of the “Three Rs” of EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy—reduction, reuse, and recycling. In food waste terms, the Three Rs mean preventing wasted food at the source, donating wasted food leftovers, and recycling food waste through composting or anaerobic digestion.

The recent ReFED report on reducing food waste quantifies the economic value and diversion potential of different strategies related to each of the Three Rs. According to ReFED, source reduction and donation generate the most economic value per ton of food saved, while food recycling and composting have the potential to divert a much greater quantity of food from landfills.

England's Second Fracking Site Given Green Light

North Yorkshire County, Nilfanion
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The controversial technology of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, just had another victory in the North of England. As of last month, fracking may now move forward at the United Kingdom’s second fracking site, Kirby Misperton, following a UK High Court ruling that dismissed environmentalists’ legal challenges.”

Fracking has rapidly expanded in the United States. In 2000, there were 26,000 hydraulically fracked wells, which comprised roughly 7% of the U.S. total gas production, while in 2015, the number of wells had increased to 300,000, or 67% of the country’s gas output. This growth has prompted the U.K., along with other countries, to look into exploiting their own shale gas deposits.

FOOD WASTE: From The Ground Up: How Cities and States Can Be Leaders in Food Waste Reduction

Food scraps, Tim Jewett
By Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency announced an ambitious goal of reducing food waste in the United States by 50% by 2030. While the change in presidential administrations presents new obstacles for many federal environmental initiatives, reducing food waste continues to offer fertile ground for cooperation.

Understanding the Business of Water

The Business of Water, ELI Forum
By Elana Harrison, Assistant Director of Professional Education
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Prior to the 2016 ELI Award Dinner, ELI convened an expert panel of business leaders, legal minds, and nongovernmental advocates to discuss “The Business of Water.” This conversation was particularly timely, because as climate change alters global weather patterns and the Earth’s population continues to grow and urbanize, water resources are poised to become an ever-increasing point of contention, even in regions where water scarcity has not historically been an issue. Water law and policy is complex, varying regionally, country by country, and even within national borders. As more stakeholders compete for water resources, businesses around the world are changing the way they value water within their business models, and policymakers are looking at new levers to ensure responsible use of this increasingly precious resource.