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Vibrant Environment

Our Ocean Conference 2016: Ensuring Effective Enforcement of Marine Protected Areas

 Legal Tools for Strengthening Marine Protected Area Enforcement
By Xiao Recio-Blanco, Senior Attorney; Director, Ocean Program
Thursday, September 29, 2016

At the 2016 Our Ocean Conference, nearly 20 countries announced the creation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or the expansion of existing ones. This is an important step in the right direction, but creating new MPAs will not make a significant difference if new and old MPAs are not effectively enforced. Through the release of its report, Legal Tools for Strengthening Marine Protected Area Enforcement: A Handbook for Developing Nations, the Environmental Law Institute’s (ELI’s) Ocean Program is playing its part to assist countries in ensuring that MPAs are effectively implemented and enforced, delivering positive conservation outcomes.

RESTORE Draft Comprehensive Plan Update: What It Is, What It Does, and Uncertainties

Gulf of Mexico
By David Roche, Staff Attorney
Thursday, September 22, 2016

On August 23, 2016, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) released its draft Comprehensive Plan Update. This plan “is intended to provide strategic guidance” to the Council in order to “improve Council decisions…” No projects or programs are proposed in the plan. The public has until October 7, 2016 to comment on the plan. If the plan is approved, it will “supersede[] the Initial Plan approved by the Council in August 2013.”

This post highlights some of the key features of the plan, including where it fits into Gulf restoration, what’s in the plan, and what questions remain.

Changing Maps, Changing Coastal Laws & Policies

Coastal flooding
By David Roche, Staff Attorney
Thursday, September 8, 2016

Imagine a map of sea-level rise in the year 2100. You know the ones—they show many of the world’s major coastal cities inundated by blue shading. With the sea predicted to rise one to two meters over that time, those maps are showing the consequences. Billions of people and trillions of dollars will be flooded out.

However, those maps only tell part of the story. Most of the world will not passively await the blue shading to come over them. Instead, local and national governments will adapt to sea-level rise. Through a suite of adaptation strategies, they will try to reduce impacts when possible and manage retreat when required.

A SEP in the Right Direction: The Path Toward Win-Win Scenarios

Environmental Law Institute
By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Thursday, September 1, 2016

Originally posted on ACOEL's blog.

One of the interesting questions that emerged in the strategic planning process for the Environmental Law Institute is whether ELI could offer more support in the development and/or administration of supplemental environmental projects, or “SEPs”. 

Having played a role in the birthing of the original SEP framework in the early 1990s while at EPA, and through my own experience as a practitioner, I am convinced that penalty mitigation through the performance of SEPs can come as close to a win-win as is possible in the enforcement context. 

Lago Agrio: The Drama Continues

Guillermo Granja/Reuters
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Former Research Associate
Thursday, August 25, 2016

I was in the 10th grade when I first heard about the ecological and human health disaster caused by petroleum extraction in Ecuador. A film festival in my hometown showed Crude, a documentary that details the impact of abandoned oil fields near Lago Agrio and the accompanying legal battle. Local populations whose livelihoods and health were allegedly harmed by careless corporate and government actions had been fighting to hold Texaco accountable for cleanup and compensation since 1993. The film, however, focused on several key characters that became involved in the case many years later. There were lawyers (Steven Donzigner and Pablo Fajardo), a corporation (Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001), celebrities (including Sting), and a young and charismatic Presidente (Rafael Correa of Ecuador).

Highlighting Innovative Law and Policy Proposals to Advance Environmental Problem Solving

ELR News & Analysis August Cover
By Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs
Thursday, August 18, 2016

At a time when environmental challenges are rising to the forefront of global conversation, it is more important than ever to think creatively about solving the world’s most pressing environmental crises. Academics are a key source of new ideas, yet all too often they talk among themselves, and their ideas are not vetted with policymakers, let alone adopted in the law and policy arena. To help bridge the gap between academic scholarship and environmental policymaking, each year, Vanderbilt University Law School (VULS) students and ELI staff select some of the best articles in the legal environmental scholarship from the previous year.

The January 2016 Gulf Aquaculture Plan: A Contested Impact

Fishing boat catch
By Hannah Hauptman, Research and Publications Intern, Summer 2016
Thursday, August 11, 2016

This past January, NOAA released a landmark final rule (referred to here as the Gulf Plan) establishing a permitting and regulatory framework for offshore aquaculture—fish farming—in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Since the Gulf Plan is the first rule to enable aquaculture in federal waters (3-200 miles offshore), the environmental and economic outcomes are uncertain. This ruling—the product of over a decade of research and revision—has become the subject of intense criticism from both environmental organizations and proponents of offshore aquaculture. NOAA lauds the ruling as a long-overdue policy to create economic growth and meet demands for sustainable seafood. At the same time, some environmentalists predict increased pollution and fish disease, fishermen fear price drops, and potential investors think the regulation is overly complex.

Sand Mining: The Biggest Environmental Issue No One Is Talking About

Sand Mining
By David Roche, Staff Attorney
Thursday, August 4, 2016

It all starts as mountain rock.

That rock erodes from wind and rain and time, getting transported down rivers all the way to the sea, where it accretes onto beaches and into other sediments. That is the origin story of sand. Once that sand is on a beach, or off the coast, or on an inland shore, it is transported through a natural cycle that replenishes the resource over geologic time.

Or rather, that is the way it is supposed to work.

What is a "Good" Project? Breaking Down Our Survey Results on Gulf Restoration Priorities

Gulf restoration project elements diagram
By Teresa Chan, Senior Attorney
Thursday, July 28, 2016

Note: This blog was cross-posted from ELI's Gulf-specific website, where you can find information on everything you need to know about Gulf restoration.

In June, the ELI Gulf Team released a survey on priorities for Gulf restoration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It was designed to understand what elements our partners and collaborators think are most important to good restoration projects. We started with a list of eight project elements:

Conversation About Climate and Courts

California
By Jay Austin, Senior Attorney; Editor-in-Chief, Environmental Law Reporter®
Thursday, July 21, 2016

While all eyes are on the challenge to EPA’s Clean Power Plan, currently being briefed in the D.C. Circuit, other forms of climate litigation are slowly gaining traction in courts around the country. In Oregon, where I live, a group of young plaintiffs have invoked the “atmospheric trust” theory in their attempt to compel the state government to regulate greenhouse gases; similar state-law actions are pending in Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington. The Oregon youths have brought an even more ambitious suit against the entire federal government, alleging that its long history of climate change inaction amounts to a violation of their fundamental constitutional rights.