I am not certain whether I should welcome our readers to this year’s Top 10 Environmental Watch List or provide a warning along the lines of “Discretion Advised: Readers May Find This Material Disturbing.” A central question occupying environmental lawyers of all stripes is the degree to which the current federal administration, under the leadership of President Trump, his cabinet and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, will disrupt federal environmental and natural resources policies constructed over the past five decades. The one common thread across all of the topics covered on this Top 10 list is that lawyers and the courts will play a major role in determining the extent to which President Trump’s environmental agenda is implemented.
For further reading and analysis of the proposed changes to the nation’s environmental laws, you can read the excellent summary by the Environmental Law Institute, linked here. For a quicker read, The New York Times reporters Nadja Popovich and Livia Albeck-Ripka have provided a list of the “52 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.”
The students of our Vermont Journal of Environmental Law and Vermont Law School faculty have teamed up to discuss a number of these issues. The legal questions presented run across a broad range of substantive law and policy, including a host of issues relating to energy policy such as the effects of proposed solar tariffs, the rollback of motor vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, challenges with the limited environmental reviews of natural gas pipelines, and the array of competing public policy and legal considerations associated with energy infrastructure generally. Other articles address the need to consider the growing risk from extreme weather events such as the recent bout of hurricanes on hazardous waste management, or the effects of a nuclear war. This year’s list also includes actions with significant implications for natural resources and wildlife, such as the many legislative proposals to revise the Endangered Species Act, the waiver of environmental laws for the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, and the dramatic proposed reduction of the size of national monuments. One article discusses the progress many states are making to address climate change in the absence of federal leadership.
Despite the challenges ahead, I remain hopeful, inspired even, as a result of the amazing and talented future leaders, problem-solvers and advocates attending Vermont Law School who include the student authors of this year’s Top 10 list. We hope you find this information and analysis helpful and encourage you to take action.