Public Lands to the Rescue: How Renewable Energy Development on BLM-Identified Priority Areas and Oil & Gas Diversification can Mitigate the Climate Change Crisis

Lindsay Rostron

In the wise words of Bob Dylan, “for the times they are a-changin’.”[1] One of these big changes is in energy development, production, and consumption.[2] Regardless of political views, burning fossil fuels is not a sustainable energy source. Society needs a more viable resource for energy consumption to match the digitized industrial era of today and the future.[3] Moreover, man-made, artificial global warming is becoming harder to ignore, giving cause for realistic concerns for a climate change crisis. Scientists attribute burning fossil fuels as a leading contributor to this crisis.[4] Drastic changes are needed—now—to help mitigate the effects of global warming. Shifting energy development and production from finite, nonrenewable, carbon-containing resources to more sustainable, greener, renewable resources is a real-time solution that will help achieve ambitious net-zero and decarbonizing goals in the United States. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has already identified priority areas of public lands suitable for renewable energy development.[5] Oil and gas companies can utilize these lands to diversify, avoid another collapse like the coal industry, and increase public trust; while simultaneously combatting the climate change crisis one solar panel at a time. Ultimately, new legislation can expedite and make this happen. This will allow oil and gas companies to repurpose skilled laborers, shift from fossil fuel reliance, help alleviate global warming, and still maintain environmental health for public enjoyment. Renewable energy development on public lands is a vital, proactive solution for a twenty-first century energy and climate problem to help ensure a brighter, greener future.

Clear Blue: Adding Clear and Binding Language to the Paris Agreement to Protect Blue Carbon Solutions and Reverse Climate Change

Heidi E. Johnson

Though more than 50 percent of coastal wetlands have been lost worldwide over the past century, the Paris Agreement fails to require its Parties to protect nature-based solutions, such as blue carbon.[1] Blue carbon refers to ocean biomass that captures carbon dioxide—at twice the speed of terrestrial forests—and retains the gas for several hundred thousand years.[2] Yet international treaties, such as the Paris Agreement, fail to adequately protect blue carbon solutions.[3]

Pursuant to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Conference of the Parties (COP) is responsible for ensuring adequate protections for such solutions.[4] Parties to the Paris Agreement propose goals and commit to achieving them within a given timeframe.[5] COP then evaluates Parties’ commitments and progress to determine whether Parties achieved their goals.[6] When Parties lack significant progress, COP may revise the Paris Agreement to ensure that Parties will meet future goals.[7] Although some Parties recently expressly committed to protecting blue carbon solutions,[8] these promises come too little, too late.

The Power of the SEC as a Mechanism for Advancing Corporate Environmental Responsibility

Sarah Lottman 

In today’s capitalistic-focused world, companies are becoming a more powerful force as consumer demand fuels our economy in all sectors of society.[1] Companies around the world now yield more power and influence than ever before.[2] With this power and influence, companies can be an effective tool in inciting change. The environmental factors that a company chooses to disclose can greatly encourage or discourage the discourse on climate change.[3] By holding companies accountable for their environmental and sustainable practices, a lot can be done to combat climate change.[4] The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged with regulating publicly traded companies dictates what companies need to disclose in yearly filings.[5] The SEC through the Securities Exchange Act (SEA) has the power to make companies disclose more of their environmental impact on the world, and in turn encourage more sustainable practices in companies.[6]

While the SEA requires disclosures for materiality, nowhere in the Act or legislative history is that authority to require disclosures limited to materiality.[7] This is very important because the SEA allows the SEC to require disclosures outside of materiality, it just has not done so before. Some opponents might argue that if the disclosure is not material, then there is no need to mandate it, and if climate disclosure is material than there is no need to mandate it because they are already required to disclose it.[8] Expanding the SEA would cover all instances and removes third party necessity to sue for failure to disclose.[9]

Bet on it: Amending the Wire Act Moves the Line Forward on Interstate Sports Betting

Elsa Larsen

Back in the day, your bookie was a friend: they knew your name, your favorite team, wrote you a ticket by hand, and celebrated when you came for a winning payout.[1] This is the Las Vegas sports-betting era that Parker remembers.[2] Parker was lucky enough to live in Nevada—at the time, the state held a monopoly on sports betting—so she often received calls from friends outside of the state asking if she could place sports-bets for them at the casino. Parker has lived her whole life in Sin City and a drive down Las Vegas Boulevard with her demonstrates just how much the city has changed.[3] She recalls the fire at the MGM Grand Hotel and near-fatal car bombing of mobster Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, both of which left Las Vegas locals on edge.[4] The deafening sounds of hotel implosions are seared in her mind, along with the hope that visionaries like Steve Wynn and Kirk Kerkorian brought to the desert oasis in the form of hotel-casinos.[5] Parker reflects on the changes her city has gone through, including witnessing the evolution of Vegas’s sports-betting scene. What started as a-cash-rules-everything-around-me-type-town to the recent trend towards virtual currency.[6] Fast forward to the era of the internet: mobile sportsbooks and sports-betting apps have replaced Parker. Her out-of-state friends no longer need to call Parker in order to place their sports-bets.

In Murphy v. NCAA, the Supreme Court held that states have the authority to legalize sports-betting schemes.[7] The Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy did not affect the applicability of the federal Wire Act, and as such has not authorized interstate sports-betting by phone or internet. Currently, neither the text of the Wire Act nor the holding of Murphy approves of sports-betting via internet or phone between states without both states having legalized sports-betting. Interpretations of the Wire Act paint a disorderly picture, full of inconsistencies and misunderstandings, leaving no other option but for the antiquated legislation to be amended and updated.[8] Due to the Wire Act’s conflicting interpretations, interstate sports-betting is still prohibited, despite the country’s increasing embrace of sports-gambling and the ever-present technological world that exists today.[9]

The Playground or the Penitentiary: How Amending the Juvenile Justice and Reform Act can Curb Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences

David Olson

When Brett Jones was 15 years old, a jury convicted him of murder.[1] Subsequently, a Mississippi trial judge sentenced him to life without parole.[2] This was back in 2004, in 2021 at the age of 32, Jones petitioned the Supreme Court contending that it must make a separate factual finding that a murderer, under the age of 18 when they commit the murder is “permanently incorrigible” before imposing a life sentence without parole.[3] The Court ruled that, a finding of permanent incorrigibility is not required.[4]

This ruling essentially made it easier to sentence juveniles to life. Jones is one of 1,465 people serving life sentences without parole in the United States.[5] Those 1,465 children will never see the outside of the of those prison walls because of mistakes made during adolescence. Although the Court has recognized that adolescence is a time of “immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,[6] there are 25 states that allow judges to impose life without parole sentences on juveniles.[7] As crazy as it sounds, only 9 of those have zero people serving a juvenile life without parole sentence.[8]

Death by Committee: Reviving Federal Environmental Justice Legislation to Solve Disproportional Impacts on Vulnerable Communities

Sara C. Babcock

The environment should not be a luxury for the privileged.[1] Clean air, clean water, and clean land should not be earned, but freely given. Yet, every day, communities of color, low-income communities, and other marginalized communities face the bulk of the environmental threats and toxic pollutants, leaving these communities overburdened and vulnerable.[2] Racist and otherwise discriminatory institutional rules, regulations, and policies combined with corporate decisions have intentionally targeted vulnerable communities for unfavorable land uses and poor zoning laws.[3] Buchanan v. Warley banned the use of explicit race-based zoning in 1917, but city planners and homeowners found indirect methods to continue segregating neighborhoods.[4] Citing to economic concerns, cities like St. Louis, Seattle, and Newark were able to create laws that kept minorities out of white neighborhoods.[5] Despite the laws and policies no longer being in effect, St. Louis, Seattle, Newark, and many other cities nationwide maintain the segregation patterns to this day.[6]

Corporations and governments have taken advantage of the past racist and otherwise discriminatory institutional rules, regulations, and policies to disproportionately expose communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities to toxic and hazardous waste.[7] Years of consistent exposure to toxic and hazardous waste has led to a whole host of medical issues within these communities such as asthma, cancer, higher blood lead levels, cardiovascular disease, and developmental disorders.[8]

Recycling Is Rubbish: Four Concrete Steps Congress Must Take to Reimagine Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle by Reinventing, Reformatting, and Restructuring the Way the United States Manages Packaging Materials

James D. Brien

The United States uses and disposes of materials at an alarming and unsustainable rate. The EPA estimates that in 2018 the U.S. generated over 292 million tons of household waste.[1] Between 30% and 65% of this waste comes from one source: containers and other packaging materials.[2] The U.S. then incinerated or landfilled more than 60% of these 292 million tons of waste.[3] Incinerating and landfilling at this rate harms people, resources, and the environment. This is unsustainable. Recycling and reusing these materials is critical to a sustainable future.

However, the United States is in the midst of a recycling crisis. This crisis is self-inflicted. For decades, the U.S. relied on other countries, mainly China, to process and recycle (or burn or landfill[4]) its municipal solid waste.[5] China no longer buys this waste.[6] Now, more than 111 million tons of plastic waste alone needs a new disposal method over the next decade.[7] Many states are trying to solve this crisis by increasing recycling through novel legislation.

“We the People” Demand Transparency: Covid-19 and the Governmental Duty to Inform America

Ricardo “Rico” J.J. Edwards Jr.

Have you seen the movie 2012?[1] What took place in January 2020, when President Trump was informed about the danger of Covid-19, tells a similar plot. Many audiences can observe the 2012 administration’s silence about Earth’s catastrophic changes, which led to unnecessary deaths. In 2012, the President’s Chief of Staff failed to inform the public about an imminent global disaster despite pleas from the President’s chief science advisor.[2] The 2012 administration’s nondisclosure to the public was disastrous. American people were uninformed and unable to evacuate, causing a tremendous loss of life.[3] Millions of impoverished persons died though the wealthy knew about the Earth’s coming reconfiguration (i.e., deadly volcanic eruptions, shifting tectonic plates, and rising seas) for years.[4] 

If President Trump informed the public about Covid-19’s arrival, restrictions such as social distancing[5] might be a relic of the past. It is debatable if President Trump’s inaction led to more fatalities. Whether receiving little or no information is enough to blame one person is perplexing. Did he underestimate Covid-19’s vigor before spreading misinformation to the Nation and turning away from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)[6], the Nation’s leading public health institution?[7] The Executive Office of the President (EOP) was created under President Franklin in 1939.[8] It intends to communicate a U.S. President’s message “to the American people and promot[e] . . . trade interests abroad.”[9] EOP also houses several advisors traditionally close to the Nation’s President, such as the National Security Council.[10]

Denying Incarcerated People Medical Cannabis Violates the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause

Sawyer Burton

Although medical cannabis is now legal in many places, it is routinely prohibited in correctional facilities even if an inmate possesses a valid medical cannabis card.[1] No one has ever succeeded in requesting medical cannabis in a correctional facility under the Eighth Amendment. Even when the legislature explicitly authorizes incarcerated persons to apply for a medical cannabis card, they are denied.[2]

Peoples’ cannabis use can differ, and while some people may use cannabis more medicinally than others, many people need cannabis much like they would any other serious prescription medication.[3] In acute cases, discontinuing someone’s cannabis use could result in death or serious injury.[4] Prison officials should not decide whether one person needs cannabis more than the next. If a doctor recommends medical marijuana for an inmate through a state sponsored system, prison officials should not have authority to decide whether that inmate’s medical needs are legitimate.

Hot Potato: How Cities Can Tackle Climate Change Through Zoning

Mariah Harrod

In the early hours of August 21, 2020, a blackened plume billowed across the skyline of Corpus Christi, Texas.[1] Helicopters wove through the haze to rescue those injured by the “Refinery Row” explosion.[2] Earlier that day, a dredging barge had collided with a submerged natural gas pipeline, igniting the highly volatile methane inside.[3] Four people died, and eight were injured.[4] Traumatic events like these serve as poignant reminders of the latent dangers of fossil fuel infrastructure. Yet the innocuous, everyday impacts from these commonplace facilities are no less perilous.

Much of the natural gas in the United comes from hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a process that shatters the rock formations containing fossil fuels.[5] This process uses several million gallons of pressurized water with added chemical agents later discharged into local reservoirs.[6] Fracking facilities contribute to air and water contamination, earthquakes, and climate impacts from fugitive emissions.[7] Proximity to these sites also correlates with birth defects and premature births.[8]

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