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Vibrant Environment

James W. Rubin, Esq.—A Life Well Lived

In Remembrance of Jim Rubin
By Ignacia S. Moreno, CEO & Principal, The iMoreno Group, PLC, Ethan G. Shenkman, Partner, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, Russell F. Smith III , Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2010-2017., and Tseming Yang, Professor of Law, Santa Clara University School of Law
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

At James W. Rubin’s memorial service on November 4, 2017, a vast network of friends and colleagues remembered him for his brilliant mind, relentless spirit, infectious sense of humor, and unwavering dedication to his family. The four of us consider ourselves fortunate to have worked closely with Jim at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) and to be his friends.

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.

By far the biggest news story here in the United States was the arrival of the Trump Administration. In response to the growing demand for unbiased answers and analysis on how deregulatory initiatives by the new Administration and Congress will impact environmental protection, governance, and the rule of law, ELI released a special report, Regulatory Reform in the Trump Era

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, Former 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.

The Summit was billed as “an opportunity for any member of the public to learn about current restoration projects in Mississippi and the announcement of new projects for 2017.” (It also served as the annual public meeting for the Mississippi Trustee Implementation Group (TIG), a group of federal and state agency representatives overseeing the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process in Mississippi.)

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., Esq., MDR, 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.