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Vibrant Environment

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?

Finding Legal Avenues for Bottom-Up Management of Small-Scale Fisheries in the Mesoamerican Reef

By Sierra Killian, Research Associate
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

According to the World Bank, small-scale fisheries (SSF) in developing countries produce over one-half of total fish catch and employ almost 90 percent of part- and full-time fishers. Despite the subsector’s clear importance to food security and the financial sustainability of fisheries-dependent communities around the world, there are considerable gaps in both knowledge of and management strategies for small-scale fisheries. Because fishers in the SSF subsector are widely dispersed, it is difficult for governing bodies to collect data and make management decisions based on incomplete information. Given the precarious state of global fisheries, one-third of which are fished beyond biological sustainability, managing SSF despite the lack of data is a crucial component of sustainably feeding the world into the future.

Mississippi Meetup: ELI in the Gulf

Turkey Creek, MS
By Amy Reed, Staff Attorney
Monday, August 6, 2018

Last month, fellow ELI Gulf Team member Teresa Chan and I travelled to Mississippi to attend two public events hosted by the Deepwater Horizon natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) trustees: a community education workshop in Gulfport, and the Trustee Council’s annual public meeting in Long Beach.