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Vibrant Environment

What Lies Beyond the Beach? Diving into Our Nation’s Ocean

By Margaret Spring, Chief Conservation & Science Officer, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Hilary Tompkins, Partner, Hogan Lovells
Monday, August 12, 2019

With summer in full swing and trips to the beach on our minds, the timing is perfect to consider the role of environmental law and the courts in guiding decisions with implications for the health of our oceans. This blog highlights recent updates from two major federal players with authority over what happens in the waters of the United States covering the three- to 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ): the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

Bridging the Gulf: Environmental Justice and Spill Restoration

By Taylor Lilley, Public Interest Law Fellow, and Lovinia Reynolds , Policy Analyst and Environmental Justice Coordinator
Wednesday, July 24, 2019

In honor of the Environmental Law Institute’s 50th Anniversary Year, each month of 2019 highlights a different key theme that represents an important aspect of our work. July is focused on environmental justice, a movement and a concept that encompasses efforts to highlight the disproportionately harmful environmental impacts experienced by vulnerable communities, as well as a commitment to ensuring justice for all people. The growing effort to identify environmental justice concerns and to develop solutions for communities closely aligns with ELI’s mission to make law work for people, places, and the planet, including through our work in the Gulf of Mexico region.

Overcoming Impediments to Offshore CO2 Storage: Legal Issues in the United States and Canada

Monday, July 1, 2019

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a hot-button topic as a strategy to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. CCS entails capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and industrial plants at the source, then injecting the captured carbon dioxide into underground geologic formations for storage. Much research has focused on sequestering carbon dioxide onshore, in depleted oil and gas reservoirs or deep saline aquifers. Offshore CCS also may be feasible, but presents several governance and legal challenges.

How Do We Bounce Back? Defining and Measuring Community Resilience

By Sierra Killian, Research Associate, and Rebecca L. Kihslinger, Senior Science and Policy Analyst
Monday, June 17, 2019

With climate change actively intensifying impacts from natural disasters, it is now more important than ever to design and implement community resilience plans and actions that will minimize damage when disasters occur. To prepare for an increasingly uncertain and fraught future, communities are identifying vulnerabilities, planning for forthcoming disasters, and taking action to become more resilient. But what exactly does resilience mean? What does it mean to be a resilient community? And, importantly, is there a concrete way to measure a community’s progress toward resilience as it is defined by the community so that its members can ensure they are taking appropriate steps to be better able to respond to a new normal?

From Linear to Circular: Tackling Sustainability Challenges Through Full Life-Cycle Thinking

By Isabelle Smith, Law Clerk
Monday, April 15, 2019

March 16, 2019; a young whale is found washed up on a beach in the Philippines. Autopsy reveals the whale died from “gastric shock” after ingesting 40kg of plastic rubbish including plastic bags and other disposable plastic products. Three weeks later, a pregnant sperm whale is found dead on a beach in Sardinia, Italy, more than two-thirds of her stomach filled with plastic waste.

These whales are the latest casualties of a growing worldwide plastic pollution problem.

Harmful Algae Blooms in Coastal Waters: Removing Toxic Algae From Florida’s Waterways

By Dan Levy, Vice President, AECOM
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Widespread harmful algae bloom (HAB) outbreaks have profound negative impacts: threats to human health and safety, stress on ecological systems, diminished quality of life, and significant economic loss to water-based recreational and commercial activities. They occur due to decades worth of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient runoff deposited into our freshwater lakes and water bodies. Now, excess nutrient runoff and human activity have contributed to an uncontrollable rise in HABs across the globe. This ongoing accumulation of nutrients into our shrinking freshwater supplies combined with warmer temperatures has turned these precious water bodies into petri dishes for harmful algae growth. Removing the overabundance of nutrients is essential to restoring these water bodies and preventing the growth of future HABs.

Changing Flood Insurance for a Changing Climate

Monday, April 8, 2019

The current flooding disasters in the Midwest, as well as the flooding consequences of Hurricanes Michael, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, have damaged thousands of U.S. homes and businesses over the last decade. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), enacted by Congress in 1968, aims to minimize the risk of flood damage as well as reduce flood-related disaster recovery costs. This federally backed program provides insurance to property owners and renters, establishes building and land use requirements and floodplain management practices for local communities to qualify, and maps flood-risk areas to inform development decisions and insurance premiums. But the NFIP assumes that flood risks are static and change little over time, and the effects of climate change are challenging this assumption.

Oil Spill Kicked Off Anti-Pollution Era

By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Monday, January 28, 2019

“In 1969 the signs of . . . concern were everywhere,” writes John Quarles, EPA’s first deputy administrator, in the opening chapter of his invaluable memoir Cleaning Up America. These signs “were manifest in the outcry against the Santa Barbara oil spill,” which happened on January 28, 1969, just eight days after Richard Nixon’s ascent to the White House. There followed in close order a series of epochal events every month of that year. “Suddenly, in cities across the country, citizen environmentalists campaigned. . . . People were demanding a change in the old policy toward the nation’s resources.”

Before Disaster Strikes: Pre-Disaster Mitigation Funding

By Sierra Killian, Research Associate, and Rebecca L. Kihslinger, Senior Science and Policy Analyst
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

In 2017, almost eight percent of the American population was affected by natural disasters. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria swept through Florida, GeorgiaTexas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, leading to billions of dollars of federal disaster assistance. The 2018 hurricane season was another year of devastating destruction, most recently seen in the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence and Michael in the Southeast, severely affecting the citizens of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. With climate change likely to amplify the impacts of hurricanes, hurricane season will continue to strain communities, infrastructure, and federal disaster programs into the future.

Is Offshore Wind About to Take Off?

By Caroline McHugh, Law Clerk
Monday, November 19, 2018

It’s all happening,” declared a June 2018 article about offshore wind development in the United States. Indeed, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has identified a trend toward a viable U.S. offshore wind industry that is gaining momentum. Despite this trend, it has been 17 years since the first offshore wind project was proposed, and the 30-megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm is still the only operating project. Has the time finally arrived for this industry?