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Vibrant Environment

2019 Year in Review: Environmental Compliance & Enforcement

By Avital Li, INECE Program Manager
Monday, February 3, 2020

Since 2015, ELI has served as Secretariat for the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE). Now a month into the new year, we thought it was an opportune time to look back at INECE’s accomplishments from 2019, reflect on key developments pertaining to environmental compliance and enforcement, and share some news for 2020.

Water Act Rule Poses Challenges for States

By Rebecca L. Kihslinger, Senior Science and Policy Analyst, and James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
Monday, January 27, 2020

On January 23, 2020, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a final Navigable Waters Protection Rule to redefine “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). This new rule repeals a Reagan-era definition rule and adopts an even more limited definition of the waters of the United States that are subject to the federal Clean Water Act.

Solving the Plastic Packaging Problem

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The packaging industry faces mounting shareholder and public pressure to reduce the environmental impact of plastic. The recycled plastics market in the United States is positioned for growth, but developing a reliable supply of post-consumer plastics will be costly. Reliance on export markets has limited investment in domestic recycling capacity, local collection programs vary considerably, and many consumers are ignorant about what can and cannot be recycled. The low cost of manufacturing virgin plastics compounds these challenges.

2020 Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review Winners Announced

By Anna Beeman, Research Associate, and Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs
Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Each year, the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (ELPAR)—a collaboration between Vanderbilt University Law School (VULS) and ELI—identifies articles that propose innovative law and policy approaches to pressing environmental problems. This year's awardees propose creative approaches to a range of cutting-edge environmental issues:

Portable Electronic Devices in Hazardous Areas

Digital Multimeter
By Gayle Nicoll, Ph.D, REP, ASP, CSP; AECOM’s Americas Process Safety Lead
Monday, January 13, 2020

There are plenty of blog posts stating portable electronic devices (PEDs) and industrial settings don’t mix, but most are about distracted working: PED use is unsafe because employees are distracted and unfocused and accidents can happen. That’s not this post. Instead, I want to talk about the legal and safety challenges that pose liabilities when PEDs are intentionally used as part of the work environment—especially within designated hazardous environments.

Federal Court Applies Environmental Justice

Photo by Caitlin Morris.
By James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Tuesday, January 7, 2020, explicitly relied on environmental justice (EJ) concepts to vacate and remand a Virginia state air pollution permit for a compressor facility associated with an interstate natural gas pipeline. This is one of only a very few federal court decisions to address EJ expressly, and is noteworthy because of its explicit application of EJ elements.

E-commerce and the Environment

By Dave Rejeski, Visiting Scholar
Monday, January 6, 2020

After almost getting hit by an Amazon Prime truck as I wandered around Greenwich Village, I started to look around at what was piling up in the foyers of posh condos and on the steps of the venerable brownstones. Maybe lying under these mountains of cardboard was a first edition of The Call of the Wild off eBay, but I doubted it.

The Paris Agreement, Climate Engineering, and an Uncertain Future

Monday, December 30, 2019

In early December, delegates from around the world convened in Madrid for the 25th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 25). They celebrated the 2nd meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement, aiming to complete the Paris Agreement rulebook.

NEPA: Time for a Tune-Up

By Dava Kaitala, General Director, Construction Permitting and Sustainability, BNSF, and John Lovenburg
Friday, December 27, 2019

The passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was a seminal moment in the history of U.S. environmental federal policy, advancing protection of the environment in decisionmaking. Unfortunately, the process has become increasingly cumbersome, lengthy, and frustrating to many parties.  Moving forward, an improved focus on the quality and alignment of decisions is needed.

Building on the Past to Secure the Future

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, December 23, 2019

The Environmental Law Institute’s 50th anniversary on December 22 occured during a record-breaking year in terms of the sheer number of ELI educational and convening programs, which have been organized around the themes that continue to animate the work of environmental protection after half a century.