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Vibrant Environment

2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review
By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

As we get ready to ring in the New Year, the editors of Vibrant Environment thought it might be nice to take a look back at some of the work ELI did in 2017.

Ninth Circuit Reinforces Executive Power to Withdraw Public Lands From Mining Extraction

The Colorado River, Grand Canyon
By Robert Kelsey, Associate Editor, Environmental Law Reporter
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Following President Trump’s announcement that he was reducing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, there have been questions as to the extent of the executive branch’s power to manage federal lands. The announcement has put the Antiquities Act, which grants the president the authority to protect federal lands, under a microscope. Recently, two cases concerning the U.S.

Rethinking Reforestation: Degradation as a Carbon Source in Tropical Forests

The Brazilian Amazon (Wikimedia Commons)
By Lovinia Reynolds , Research Associate
Monday, December 18, 2017

Tropical forest ecosystems are globally recognized for their carbon sequestration capacities. Past research has estimated that tropical forests on average sequester a net 1400 teragrams of carbon per year, the equivalent of taking approximately 1 billion passenger vehicles off the road. International governing bodies, national governments, and nonprofit organizations have attempted to capitalize on the carbon sequestration services provided by tropical forests in an increasingly carbon rich atmosphere.  Programs such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation + enhancing forest carbon stocks) have resulted in significant expenditures of efforts and resources into developing frameworks for preserving tropical forests.

Something Old, Something New—Presidential Authority and the Antiquities Act

The Golden Cathedral, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (John Fowler)
By Caitlin F. McCarthy, Director of the Associates Program
Thursday, December 14, 2017

The 1906 Antiquities Act grants presidents the authority to protect historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest. Yet, last April, more than a century after the passage of the Antiquities Act and more than 50 years since the last alteration of national monument boundaries, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order instructing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to undertake a broad review of national monuments created since 1996 under the Antiquities Act and that span at least 100,000 acres. On December 4, 2017, acting on Secretary Zinke’s recommendations, President Trump issued two proclamations significantly reducing the acreage and perimeters of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

Human Rights Day 2017: A Reflection on Human Rights and Environmental Rule of Law

Eleanor Roosevelt and the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Research Associate
Monday, December 11, 2017

December 10, 2018, will mark the 70th anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Declaration outlines inalienable rights entitled to every human being, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, language, political or other affiliation, social or national origin, birth, or other status.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: A Step Toward Deep Decarbonization?

Coal power plant emissions (Pixabay).
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Last month, Trump Administration officials attended the latest round of U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, but they weren’t there to discuss reducing emissions. Rather, they touted the promises of nuclear energy, natural gas, “clean coal,” and carbon capture. This is not surprising, given the President’s views on climate policy and his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. But even had Trump decided otherwise, the current Agreement does not do enough to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change.

Participating in Gulf Restoration

Biloxi, Mississippi
By Amy Streitwieser, Staff Attorney
Monday, December 4, 2017

[Updated December 13, 2017]

November was a busy month for Gulf restoration.

A couple of weeks back, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) held its second annual Restoration Summit.

To Do, and Not to Undo: The Issue of Presidential Authority Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

Oil platform off the coast of Alaska (Photo: BSEE).
By Tim Briscoe, Law Clerk
Wednesday, November 29, 2017

In December 2016, President Barack Obama issued a presidential Memorandum withdrawing about 128 million acres of federally owned underwater land in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from disposition for oil and gas leasing. Obama invoked a presidential power granted by Congress in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).

The Environmental Justice Act of 2017: A Monumental Opportunity

Capitol Hill
By Scott W. Badenoch, Jr., Visiting Attorney
Monday, November 27, 2017

On October 24, 2017, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) announced The Environmental Justice Act of 2017 (EJA), S. 1996, H.R. 4114, a bill focused on strengthening legal protections against environmental harms for communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities. The EJA would be the first federal law of its kind, and follows in a 25 year legacy of legislative efforts, starting with the great Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in the 1990s, to codify environmental justice (EJ) once and for all.

Analyzing the Food Rescue Landscape in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee (Wikimedia Commons)
By Emmett McKinney, Research Associate, JoAnne Berkenkamp, Senior Advocate, Food & Agriculture Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney
Monday, November 20, 2017

Some say leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. While that may be true, the rest of the year, there are ample missed opportunities to donate surplus prepared foods from institutions and restaurants. Realizing these opportunities is an important way to waste less food and feed more people, because up to 40% of food (along with the water, energy, and land used in production) goes to waste every year in the United States. At the same time, over 13% of Americans—one in eight—experience food insecurity.