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Vibrant Environment

On the 20th Anniversary of Climate Change Law, Where Do We Go From Here?

Friday, May 31, 2019

Any self-respecting environmental lawyer knows, 2019 marks a major anniversary for environmental law: the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969. While we note the anniversary today, I doubt onlookers in Cleveland appreciated at the time that it would give rise to a five-decade era of environmental lawmaking.

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.

Toward Citizen Science Policy Outcomes

By Kasantha Moodley , Manager, Innovation and Governance, and George Wyeth , Visiting Scholar
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

In ways that did not exist even ten years ago, everyday people are acting as scientists: contributing their time and data to make notable discoveries, answer lingering questions, and develop awareness. Motivated by technology innovations, public concern, and limited institutional capacity, citizen science is gently reshaping the conventional systems that address human health and environmental protection.

Of Walls . . . and Windows

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

“For everything there is a season,” says the old Pete Seeger song, quoting the much older still book of Ecclesiastes. It seems that we are currently in the season of walls. The physical manifestation of this particular period may be the issue of the wall on our southern border. But there are other walls, and some of them have law as their concrete or steel.

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.

Trips to the Biotech Frontier: Episode 3

By Kashaf Momin, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, May 8, 2019

By now, you have seen how biotech is transforming the food industry. You have also seen how it can revolutionize the construction and textile industries. In this final episode, we will explore biotechnology products you may find in your home in the near future.

The same platform used to brew hoppy beer without the hops, discussed in our last episode, is also transforming the fragrance business. In partnership with a Swiss perfume company, the bioscience firm Amyris synthetically produced patchouli, one of the essential oils that constitutes traditional perfume. This product, called CLEARWOOD®, was created using engineered yeast as its microbial platform, a more sustainable alternative to the costly and lengthy cultivation and extraction process of the patchouli plant. Meanwhile, Ginkgo Bioworks has designed its own aromatic oil....

Climate Policy Past and Present: Designing the New Green Deal

Monday, May 6, 2019

Climate policy has again risen to the top of the national agenda. Although the current Administration has taken actions such as withdrawing from the Paris Agreement or relaxing regulations on vehicle and power plant emissions, members of Congress are formulating progressive proposals to mitigate climate change, and states have taken ambitious steps to reduce carbon emissions. A carbon tax proposal has gained traction among conservative think-tanks and politicians, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has formed a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and the Green New Deal has sparked a robust debate on pathways to a more sustainable future.

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.

Environmental Rule of Law

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, May 1, 2019

I write this column on a plane returning from Beijing and an ELI convening called the China International Business Dialogue on Environmental Governance (CIBDEG).  This is an innovative project brought to ELI by Leadership Council member Paul Davies of Latham’s London office. The heart of the idea is for ELI and a Chinese partner entity (the Policy Research Center on Environment and Economy (PRCEE)) to broker a conversation between Chinese regulators and multinational companies that are either trying to make a go of it in China or deeply reliant on supply chains that originate in China. This is a project in which I am personally involved, mainly because of my relationships with Chinese regulators from my days doing international work at EPA. 

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.