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Vibrant Environment

Western Regional Power Market: Sustainable Path Forward or Stumble Back to More Emissions?

By Helena Kilburn, Educational Programming Intern
Monday, July 15, 2019

Would the formation of a regional power market in the western United States be a step forward into a more sustainable future or a stumble backward into continued use of fossil fuels for the region? Much of the debate concerns how a regional power market would increase or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Advocates of the regional power market argue that with increased use of renewable energy and its more efficient integration and transfer, carbon emissions would decrease. In contrast, proponents against the new framework maintain that less state control over their energy grids could result in less support for renewable energy and an increased use of coal. The formation of this market could lead to a cleaner, greener future or it could incentivize continued use of fossil fuels within some of the western states.

Are Secondhand Cars Treasure or Trash? Takeaways From the Second INECE Compliance Conversation

By Shehla Chowdhury, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, July 8, 2019

Over the last several decades, many countries have sought to decrease their carbon footprint by creating stricter emissions standards for motor vehicles. However, once these standards are in place, a serious question arises: what should be done with older, “dirtier” vehicles? Often, the answer has been to export them to regions with less strict vehicle standards.

Fast Fashion: Cutting Corners to Fuel Excessive Consumption

By Kashaf Momin, Research & Publications Intern, and Kaveri Marathe, Founder, Texiles
Wednesday, June 26, 2019

When’s the last time you found yourself idly shopping out of boredom or buying a shirt just because it was on sale? If it was in the last week, then you’re not alone. The average American shopper buys 60% more clothing today than they did just 15 years ago, but keeps it for only half as long. At the end of the year, this results in approximately 80 pounds of unwanted clothing per person!

EPA's New Section 401 Guidance: Will It Limit States' Authority or Just Make Them Mad?

By Michael R. Campbell, Partner, Stoel Rives LLP, Barbara D. Craig, Partner, Stoel Rives LLP, Cherise M. Gaffney, Partner, Stoel Rives LLP, and Laura Kerr, Associate, Stoel Rives LLP
Monday, June 24, 2019

Frustrated by some states’ use of their Clean Water Act (CWA) §401 authority to oppose or delay energy projects—particularly the transportation of fossil fuels—the Trump Administration issued the second installment in its efforts to restrict that authority on June 7. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Water Act Section 401 Guidance for Federal Agencies, States and Authorized Tribes  strictly interprets state deadlines under §401 and takes a narrow view of the grounds on which states may deny or condition their approval of projects. The guidance follows an April 10 executive order, and will be followed in August by proposed EPA rules, with final rules by May 2020.

Leadership of Women in the Environmental Movement

By Helena Kilburn, Educational Programming Intern
Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Women have been leaders in every major movement, though their contributions all too often go unrecognized. The environmental movement is no exception. Women striving toward the betterment of this field have faced many challenges, but through skill and determination, they persevered. The environmental movement is over two centuries long with generations of women shaping policies and laws within the field. This blog features just a handful of the numerous women who paved the way for future environmentally conscious generations.

The Fifth Circuit’s Partial Vacatur of EPA’s 2015 Effluent Limitation Guidelines

By Hunter Leigh Jones, Associate Editor, ELR
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

On April 12, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated portions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2015 Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category (ELG Rule). ELGs are nationwide standards set by EPA to govern pollutant discharges from point sources.

Cuyahoga's Myths and Urban Justice

By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Monday, May 13, 2019

The famous Cuyahoga River fire of June 22, 1969 — the spur that started debate on pollution across the nation, and led to passage of the Clean Water Act three years later — is lodged more in legendary storytelling than in reality. The fire was actually fairly minor, causing only $50,000 in losses to the Republic Steel Mill located along the river, damaging some wooden trestles. Moreover, no photograph of the event exists — the photo reproduced here, like the one a month later in Time magazine, was from a much larger 1952 blaze.

A “Sticky” Situation: Addressing PFAS Risk in Corporate Transactions

By Loyti Cheng, Co-head of the Environmental Practice Group and Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and Michael Comstock, Associate, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Friday, May 3, 2019

PFAS is a catch-all term for the chemical compounds per- and polyfluoroalkyls (including PFOA, PFOS, and replacements such as GenX). Seemingly overnight, these substances have gone from something talked about mainly by environmental lawyers and advocates to something that the public is increasingly focused on. The reasons for this shift include EPA’s and the states’ move to regulate these substances, recent lawsuits targeting PFAS manufacturers, and a better understanding of the way these substances may persist in the environment and harm human health. Because the future costs and obligations regarding the cleanup of, and human exposure to, PFAS are uncertain and likely significant, they present a challenge for environmental attorneys and their clients when performing deal diligence and negotiating contracts.

Tribal Regulation of Single-Use Plastics

By Cynthia Harris, Staff Attorney; Director of Tribal Programs; Deputy Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs
Monday, April 29, 2019

The world is waking up to the growing problem of plastic waste contaminating our ocean and terrestrial environments. Local governments—lauded as laboratories of innovation—have begun enacting bans and fees on single-use plastics, reducing the amount entering the waste stream in the first place. Businesses are stepping up; national and multinational governance bodies are adopting laws cutting down on the manufacture and distribution of single-use plastics. In the United States, California, the District of ColumbiaHawaii, and Maine have initiated statewide restrictions, while Oregon and Washington are considering similar measures.

Rethinking “Compliance”: Lessons Learned From the First INECE Compliance Conversations

By Taylor Lilley, Public Interest Law Fellow, Avital Li, Research Associate, and Jessica Foster, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Lack of access to safe wastewater management infrastructure and improved sanitation is a global challenge that affects over 2 billion people worldwide. While large-scale wastewater treatment plants are common throughout the world, off-grid communities that exist outside of areas covered by centralized water infrastructure are often geographically isolated or economically marginalized, making these services not only unaffordable but inaccessible. In the absence of these networks, many communities have chosen to adapt. Although it is typically considered to be unlawful or illegitimate by their national governments, communities have begun to build decentralized systems to treat and reuse wastewater for agricultural purposes.