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Vibrant Environment

A Mission to Reduce Emissions: California’s Fight to Maintain Their Fuel Standards

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

California is often considered a leader in environmental issues and has made strides to become a more environmentally conscious state. Through state and local policies, the state has banned certain plastic products, such as bags  and straws, and in 2011 it implemented a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program to curb greenhouse gas pollution. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) implemented this cap-and-trade program to ensure that automakers gradually increase gas mileage on their vehicles and reduce carbon intensity 10 percent by 2020. The state has even sought to extend the LCFS program, with a new goal of 20 percent reduction by 2030. These standards are stricter than the nationwide fuel standards, and while the initiative has received some legal pushback from the agricultural and ethanol industries, even companies in the transportation sector have become accustomed to California’s standards.

California has enjoyed the ability to tackle its own carbon pollution for several years. Now, however, their fuel standards are in danger.

Environmental Justice in the 21st Century: Toxic Waste and Race

By Lovinia Reynolds , Research Associate
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Over 30 years ago, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States confirmed that race was the primary factor in determining the location of siting toxic wastes. Published by the United Church of Christ, the report’s release set in motion a movement addressing environmental health and social justice now known as environmental justice (EJ). In the decades to follow, EJ became institutionalized in our government agencies with the formation of the Environmental Equity Working Group at EPA in 1990 and Executive Order No. 12898 signed in 1994. Outside of government, the report catalyzed the formation of grassroots groups to address issues of environment health in their communities. The EJ movement also reorients the mainstream definition of environment. It frames the environment as not simply the woods, mountains, and ocean, but as our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our homes.

The Future of Waste Management: Shifting Toward Circular Economies

By Hannah Dale, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, October 1, 2018

It is hard to ignore the pervasiveness of waste in our daily lives and around the world. Whether it is mounds of garbage piling onto beaches in the Dominican Republic, the enormous amounts of plastic that marine animals accidentally consume, pollution from industries and transportation in our air and water, or daily individual waste, we cannot look past the impacts of generating unnecessary waste.

ACE Proposed Rule: Part I

By Cynthia Harris, Staff Attorney
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

On August 21, EPA introduced its much-anticipated Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule to replace the Barack Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) Rule for regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from our nation’s aging fleet of power plants. This proposal checks off another item on the Donald Trump Administration’s deregulatory agenda and elicits a number of profound questions. What are the main differences between the ACE and the CPP? What are the implications for public health, the environment, and the electric power sector? More philosophically, why, in the 21st century, do we continue relying on a Victorian-era source of energy to power our cell phones?

China’s Gas Shortage

By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, August 27, 2018

Recent strategies and policies to phase out coal in China have led to an increase in demand for natural gas. In October 2017, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection unveiled plans to cut harmful air pollution, especially the particularly damaging fine particulate matter known as PM2.5. The plan, or “Coal Ban,” has set strict targets on air quality levels in addition to a ban on burning coal in 28 of its northern cities, including Beijing. However, while the air quality improved significantly in Beijing this past winter, the rapid ban on coal burning and the transition to natural gas has left thousands without heat.

Talking Trash About Plastics

Plastic bag or jellyfish? Research suggests there will be more plastic than fish
By Cynthia Harris, Staff Attorney
Monday, July 2, 2018

It’s official: China isn’t taking our garbage anymore. Literally. Effective this year, China started restricting the import of 24 types of waste and established new thresholds for contaminants such as food residues and metals. Why does that create a significant problem for the United States? Consider this: China imported 776,000 metric tons of reclaimed plastic and 13 million metric tons of recycled paper from the United States in 2016 alone.

States Craft New Policies for Protecting Indoor Air Quality

Houses along San Francisco street
By Tobie Bernstein, Senior Attorney; Director, Indoor Environments and Green Buildings Program
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

June is National Healthy Homes Month, a good time for policymakers to consider strategies for reducing exposure to air pollutants inside homes. It’s also a good time to highlight new policies in California and New York that aim to improve home indoor air quality and that are likely to have impacts beyond those two states.

Restoring and Protecting Water Quality

ELI organized the 2018 National Training Workshop for CWA 303(d) Listing & TMDL
By Adam Schempp, Senior Attorney; Director, Western Water Program
Monday, June 25, 2018

Restoring and protecting our country’s lakes, rivers, and streams is difficult, especially with populations increasing and budgets in decline. It requires innovation, partnerships, sound science, and effective means of communicating.

ELI has long worked with the agencies tasked with restoring and protecting our waters. Earlier this month, we held the 2018 National Training Workshop for CWA §303(d) Listing and TMDL Staff at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia....

A Hard Look’s Gonna Come: The Energy Executive Order, NEPA, and the Social Cost of Carbon

The social cost of carbon quantifies the economic impact of greenhouse gas emiss
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

In March of last year, President Trump issued fossil-fuel friendly Executive Order No. 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. Section 5 of this Order directed agencies to discontinue use of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC), a protocol developed under the Obama Administration to monetize the impacts of climate-related disasters and disruption.

Recycling Household Waste: A Ten-Year Report

In this month's ELR, Viscusi et. al examine household recycling behavior
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Recycling is perhaps the most prevalent pro-environmental activity at the household level. Household recycling efforts may be influenced by supportive nudges and, in some cases, laws that mandate recycling behavior. But unlike efforts such as decreasing household energy usage, success in recycling also hinges on governmental support: there must be some mechanism for collecting the recycled materials and converting them into useable commodities. Government entities, and in some cases private waste collection firms, provide for these recycling amenities.