This Month's Issue of ELR

Volume 52 Issue 5 —

by Michael Curley, Urvashi Kaul, Doug Vine, and Sara K. Orr

What impact does inflation have on environmental sectors? Economists have recently raised concerns about “greenflation,” a term coined to describe rising commodity prices associated with going green, due to a higher demand for sustainable materials. The implementation of more carbon-neutral regulation and increasing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices may contribute to these rising costs. On January 26, 2022, the Environmental Law Institute hosted leading experts for an in-depth economic discussion about greenflation, regulations, and ESG practices. Below we present a transcript of that discussion, which has been edited for style, clarity, and space considerations.

by Danielle Spiegel-Feld and Katrina M. Wyman

The European Union, China, California, and a number of U.S. states in the Northeast are currently using emissions trading as part of their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the popularity of emissions trading as a policy tool co-exists with a well-established, and increasingly politically powerful, set of critiques of it in the United States. These critiques come from environmental justice advocates as well as some academics and other observers. This Comment ventures to propose an innovative application for tradingthe development of a municipal trading program to help reduce GHG emissions from buildings, which account for the lion’s share of many cities’ GHG emissions—and lays out two forms of the proposed policy mechanism that cities could implement.

by Michael C. Blumm and Gregory A. Allen

President Joe Biden’s Executive Order No. 14008 of January 2021 called for the Administration to conserve at least 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. To accomplish this ambitious “30 by 30” effort, the Order directed federal agencies to work with tribal governments, among others, to propose lands and waters as qualifying for conservation. This Comment examines "areas of critical environmental concern" and their potential role in the 30 by 30 program, particularly their potential to enlist tribal governments in helping to manage lands of tribal cultural significance. 

by Cinnamon P. Carlarne

At this point in time, climate change pervades every aspect of contemporary life. It is a persistent current through our lives and, increasingly, throughout the law. One would be hard-pressed to find any area of law that has not or will not soon be touched by climate change. The onset of climate change has prompted decades worth of deep and wide efforts to reshape law and policy. Yet, alongside this development, there is also erosion. This Comment takes up these two competing trends: the steady development of climate-related legal and political measures versus countermoves designed to undercut the emerging rule of law around climate change. It suggests that, despite the lack of climate-specific legislation, there is a growing body of law that advances efforts to limit climate change, and limits the ability of political actors (including the U.S. Supreme Court) to undercut legal progress.

by Keith H. Hirokawa

Humans are inescapably dependent upon geological processes and structures. Many of these interactions are direct, such as when we cultivate the soil or mine the earth. However, the terms of our interaction with geology are usually invisible and unacknowledged. Although the relationships are complex, a firm understanding of the environment and our dependence on it cannot ignore the interconnections between earth’s systems, including subsurface geology, vegetation, oceans, and atmosphere. This Article suggests serious consideration of geosystem services, an effort to identify the value to humans of processes occurring throughout the geosystem for the services—not just the goods—that they provide. It proposes a legal regime of geosystem services, and illustrates the immense value of geosystem benefits that are at risk when they are not expressly included in decisionmaking processes.

In the Courts

Fifth Circuit stays district court injunction of social cost of carbon.

In the Agencies

EPA restores California's CAA waiver for GHG emission standards.

In the Congress

The Senate passed the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act.

In the States

Illinois proposed to amend its performance standards for surface mining activities and underground mining operations.