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Vibrant Environment

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....

Trust, But Verify: The Need for Demonstrable Disaster Resilience

2017 was one of the costliest hurricane seasons on record (NOAA).
By Jon Philipsborn, Associate Vice President, Climate Adaptation Practice Director, AECOM
Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Early in my career, I was conducting bird research for a very inspiring, but demanding professor. With each bird identification that I brought to him, he would respond with a series of qualifying questions, challenging me to provide sufficient proof that my observations would meet his standards for making a positive identification of whatever species I claimed to have seen. Somewhat over-confident and always eager to report my sightings, his response usually left me unsatisfied, and often frustrated. “Trust but verify,” this professor would always say.

ELI Collaborates With Niue to Help Create One of the World’s Largest MPAs

Niue's Avatele Bay
By Xiao Recio-Blanco, Director, Ocean Program
Monday, June 18, 2018

One of the highlights of the 2017 Our Ocean Conference in Malta was the announcement made by Minister for Natural Resources Hon. Dalton Tagelagi that Niue, a small island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, would create a new, large marine protected area to adequately conserve the unique marine biodiversity in Niuean waters.

U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Ninth Circuit’s Decision in Barrier Culverts Case

Coho Salmon in Washington (Photo: BLM)
By J. Nathanael Watson, Of Counsel, Stoel Rives LLP
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

On June 11, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4-4 per curium decision (Justice Anthony Kennedy was recused) affirming the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Washington v. United States, often referred to as the “culverts case.” 

Every tribe, person, public utility, municipality, state, or developer that has an interest in water rights or projects that impact salmon should pay attention to the Court’s ruling in the culverts case—and work with counsel to prepare your strategy for productive engagement to resolve these issues before they lead to expensive bet-the-farm litigation.

Connecting the Dots: ELI Discussion Series Helps Align Impact Assessment with Environmental Compliance and Enforcement

The Mekong River flows through 6 countries, creating significant transboundary E
By Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate
Monday, June 11, 2018

Environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA), as well as compliance and enforcement, form two essential pillars in the foundation of sustainable development. To produce lasting benefits, these systems must work in tandem. As the Secretariat for the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement, ELI brought together over 160 people from 31 countries to exchange ideas on how to strengthen and harmonize these two frameworks. The presentations and recordings are available on the INECE website, here.

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.

“Is this Organic?”: Decoding Environmental Marketing

Environmental product labels, such as "organic," are not always clear.
By Samantha Goins, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, June 4, 2018

If you walk into a grocery store almost anywhere in the United States, the first thing you see when you come in is produce. The produce section is a vast treasure trove of fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs. When shopping for these—something most of us do each week—one immediate decision is whether or not to pay a little extra for “organic” products. We have to make a similar choice in the dairy aisle. And in other areas of the store, we have to decide if it’s worth it to pay extra for “all natural,” “GMO-free,” or “ethically/sustainably produced” goods.

Making the Most of the Watershed Approach

By James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Oil Pollution Act and CERCLA allow for the recovery of more than just cleanup costs following an oil spill or the release of hazardous substances. These laws also provide for the recovery of damages to restore or replace natural resources to the conditions that would have existed prior to the spill or release, as well as to compensate for interim losses of ecological services. Natural resource trustees—states and tribes acting on behalf of the public—are tasked (along with federal trustees) with planning and implementing the restoration of these lost natural resources and services.