This Month's Issue of ELR

Volume 53 Issue 3 —

by Franklyn P. Salimbene and William P. Wiggins

The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 led to massive investments in highway construction, changed the nation’s physical landscape, and transformed how people traveled and where they lived. It also wreaked havoc on low-income and Black neighborhoods, imposing undeniable injustices, making no aid available to support residents displaced from their homes, and doing little to protect them from deleterious effects on air quality. This Article reviews events leading up to and repercussions flowing from the decision to build the Interstate Highway System, focusing on Black and low-income displacement and its repercussions in Baltimore, Maryland; Columbus, Ohio; and St. Paul, Minnesota. It reviews the impacts of the environmental justice movement on the federal government’s strategy and on the current regulatory policies of the Federal Highway Administration. The authors offer examples from Charleston, South Carolina, and Houston, Texas, that demonstrate the limits of federal leverage on road-building, and conclude with suggestions for moving forward.

by Charles Openchowski

The Oak Ridge Reservation is one of the largest U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facilities in the country, with areas that are highly contaminated by chemicals, metals, and radionuclides. DOE is in the middle of a multi-decade, multi-billion-dollar cleanup there, and a recent Superfund decision for one portion of the site raises a number of significant legal issues. This Article addresses some related questions: Should radionuclides get less stringent cleanup than other equally harmful pollutants like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls? Should Bear Creek and its downstream waters, which run through the facility, get less protection than other streams designated for recreational use? Should recreational fishermen using Bear Creek and its downstream waters be exposed to greater risk? And should DOE get a better deal than other polluters? It concludes there is a clear path forward to bring the Oak Ridge cleanup in line with CERCLA, the national contingency plan, and existing EPA guidance and policy, as required by its federal facility agreement.

by Tracy Stein, Carl Bruch, and Jordan Dieni

The global transition to a carbon-neutral economy will bring about a surging demand for land and for minerals required in renewable energy technologies. It brings the threat of conflict between those seeking to develop these resources and those who live on the lands and risk displacement, loss of livelihood, and environmental contamination. These risks are particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, though many Sub-Saharan countries have adopted legislation to prevent and peacefully resolve disputes. This Article summarizes the relevant legal provisions in 48 countries that could prevent, reduce, and resolve conflicts over land and minerals, including laws that recognize customary land rights, protect the environment, require compensation and benefit sharing, guarantee access to information and participation, and provide for access to justice. It details a number of important trends, and finds that many countries have already enacted critical legal provisions which, if implemented and enforced, may help prevent a “green resource curse.”

In the Courts

D.C. Circuit vacates FERC license for a hydroelectric dam in Maryland.

In the Agencies

EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalize WOTUS rule.

In the Congress

President signs hazard mitigation bill.

In the States

New Jersey adopts CO2 limits for electricity generation.

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