I’ve conducted research on global climate change and on nuclear waste disposal, but vapor intrusion (VI) is the most challenging topic I’ve worked on during my 40-year career. VI’s technical challenges relate to its multimedia nature and the need to understand pollutant fate and transport both above and below ground.
Last month, the New York Times reported that the Trump Administration began drafting a new rule that could eviscerate one of the most powerful tools available to U.S. citizens to hold the government accountable for environmental harm. The new rule, if finalized, would prevent concerned citizens from filing cases with the U.S. EPA Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), as well as inherently change EPA’s appeals process and undermine enforcement of environmental law throughout the country.
In the last two weeks, Indonesian islands Sumatra and Borneo began experiencing severe forest fires, evoking fears within the region that the fires could have similar effects to the fires of 2015, which was one of the worst years for transboundary haze in Southeast Asia. Following the 2015 fires, Indonesia took steps to limit the burning and draining of peatland to reduce the outbreak of fires in addition to improving environmental sustainability and air quality in the region. However, due to a combination of governance challenges and climate change-intensifying dry seasons, the country has struggled to keep up with implementing fire mitigating activities in all fire-prone areas.
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).
Just last month, Illinois became the first state to legalize the sale and use of marijuana through its legislature. Including Illinois, 11 states have now legalized marijuana for recreational use, resulting in fast-paced growth of the cannabis industry across the United States. However, as with most new industries, the increased consumption of cannabis products has brought on new sustainability challenges.
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.
The mission of California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is to "protect California's people and environment from harmful effects of toxic substances by restoring contaminated resources, enforcing hazardous waste laws, reducing hazardous waste generation, and encouraging the manufacture of chemically safer products." But, like any critical mission, its success depends on sufficient funding. And, to the detriment of the vulnerable communities it is charged with protecting, the Department is in the midst of dealing with a budget shortfall that will handicap its ability to reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated in California—hazardous waste that disproportionately impacts low-income and minority communities.
Throughout the month of July, ELI is taking a closer look at “Environmental Justice & Vulnerable Communities” as we continue to offer special events, programs, and publications in commemoration of our 50th Anniversary. As part of this month-long introspection into our work in environmental justice, Research Associate Lovinia Reynolds and Research and Publications Intern Anthony D’Souza reached out to Barry E. Hill, ELI Visiting Scholar and Adjunct Law Professor at Vermont Law School. Prior to coming to ELI, Professor Hill was the Senior Counsel for Environmental Governance at EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs. From 1998 to 2007, he was Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. Below are Professor Hill’s thoughts and perspectives, as an environmental justice advocate, on environmental justice in the United States.
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.
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.