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Vibrant Environment

Oil Spill Kicked Off Anti-Pollution Era

By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Monday, January 28, 2019

“In 1969 the signs of . . . concern were everywhere,” writes John Quarles, EPA’s first deputy administrator, in the opening chapter of his invaluable memoir Cleaning Up America. These signs “were manifest in the outcry against the Santa Barbara oil spill,” which happened on January 28, 1969, just eight days after Richard Nixon’s ascent to the White House. There followed in close order a series of epochal events every month of that year. “Suddenly, in cities across the country, citizen environmentalists campaigned. . . . People were demanding a change in the old policy toward the nation’s resources.”

Feeling the Burn: the Future of California’s Electric Utilities and Homeowners Insurance in Continual Wildfire Season

By Sierra Killian, Research Associate
Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Months after the devastating Camp, Woolsey, and Hill fires in California, the fallout of the blazes continues to rock the state. In the past month, PG&E, the state’s largest electric utility, transitioned out several top executives, had its credit rating downgraded to junk status, and was mandated to inspect its entire electric grid in a sharply worded court order. Last week, the company announced plans to file for bankruptcy by January 29. Citizens, insurance companies, and the state government are also feeling the heat as expected damage costs rise and climate change intensifies the frequency of wildfires. The strain on California’s public and private institutions foreshadows the difficult decisions to come across the fire-prone American West.

Will the Current EPA be Able to Effect Lasting Air Permitting Reforms?

By Amy M. Marshall, Vice President, Americas Air Quality Practice Director, AECOM
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The regulations, guidance documents, and policy memos that implement the Clean Air Act (CAA) have gotten longer and more complicated over the decades. This increased complexity has created greater compliance burdens for the regulated community, and the argument persists that it has stifled economic growth and not produced health benefits that equal or surpass the burdens imposed. Air quality has dramatically improved over the past 40 years, yet many current air quality standards are now at levels approaching the ambient background.

Insight on Compensatory Mitigation: Progress and Opportunities

Monday, January 14, 2019

Natural resource mitigation—avoiding impacts to important species and habitat, minimizing impacts, and then providing offsets for remaining, residual impacts—is a valuable tool for developers and agencies to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, a variety of federal statutes that regulate impacts to important wildlife species and habitat, and/or public land management statutes requiring that uses of public lands be balanced with protection and conservation.

Independent Oversight and the Rule of Law

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, January 9, 2019

There has been a good deal of focus of late on the role of independent oversight in the administration of government operations. Sometimes oversight mechanisms are created in an ad hoc manner in response to particular issues, as with the appointment of an independent counsel. More often it proceeds under the established system of checks built into law to help ensure transparent, effective, and ethical effectuation of government authorities and duties.

The Future of the Amazon Under Bolsonaro

By Avital Li, Research Associate
Monday, January 7, 2019

On the campaign trail, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro promised to eliminate existing protections of the Amazon. Despite some restrictions on his power to fulfill those promises, his administration will have a huge role to play in determining the delicate future of the earth’s largest rainforest, 65% of which is located within Brazil’s borders. Indeed, limiting the ability of agencies to enforce existing laws is more than sufficient to enable the proliferation of illegal logging, farming, and mining in the rainforest.

Tuning the Old Piano

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Welcome to 2019, a year that stands to be both stimulating and challenging, taking into account all that is happening in our sphere. It also promises to be a year that is deeply reflective for ELI, as we celebrate the Institute's 50th anniversary—50 years of building effective governance and rule of law for environmental protection. The idea around which our programing for the year will be organized is "building on the past to secure the future," and, as you can discern from our website, we will have under this broader rubric a monthly theme and focus. January's theme is pollution prevention.

2018 Year in Review

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, December 26, 2018

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 2018.

While environmental quality over the past 50 years has no doubt improved, the pace of change is leaving in the dust the linear environmental strategies of the past. We’re living in a fascinating moment in time when divergent forces—private environmental governance, law, technologies, and communities—are coming together, allowing us to harness their combined power in a new environmental paradigm. In A New Environmentalism: The Need for a Total Strategy for Environmental Protection, ELI offers a new way to think about the environmental strategies of tomorrow. The article was published in the September issue of ELR’s News & Analysis and was featured at the 2018 ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum. We look forward to continuing the conversation in 2019.

This Is America’s Food Policy—This Is the 2018 Farm Bill

By Caitlin F. McCarthy, Director, Education, Associates and Corporate Partnerships
Wednesday, December 19, 2018

“Our nation's food security depends on strong agricultural policy that provides stability for America's farmers and ranchers; protects our land and natural resources; develops new trade opportunities while leveling the playing field for our producers; strengthens rural communities; and helps Americans of all stripes access the nutritious foods they need to keep their families healthy. This is America's food policy. This is the Farm Bill.” (The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture)

This Is How the Light Gets In: The Sunrise Movement and Climate Protests of the Present

By Avital Li, Research Associate
Monday, December 17, 2018

Close to 150 activists were arrested during peaceful protests organized by the youth-led organization Sunrise Movement on Monday, December 10. During and after the direct action, in which thousands of activists visited democratic offices demanding support for incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) proposal for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, 10 additional democratic representatives pledged their support for the proposal. The resolution would create a committee that would have the specific mandate to draft a Green New Deal—the goals of which include 100% renewable energy, upgrading infrastructure, and green technology deploymentthat would be ready by 2020. For “green” democrats, this is a difficult proposal to deny, especially given the depth of research on scaling green strategies, as exemplified by ELI Press’ latest release, Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States: Summary and Key Recommendations.