Five Unforgettable Moments in Environmental News This Year
As the world prepares to collectively turn the calendar to
2016, it’s worth remembering some of the biggest moments in environmental news
from this year. Here are five the world won’t soon forget:
200 Nations Reach Global Agreement on Climate Change: It seemed
all but impossible just a few short years ago, but in December nearly all of
the world gathered in Paris and reached an international
agreement to combat climate change. Building on years of bilateral work between
the U.S. and major developing countries like India and China, observers said
the agreement was not strong enough by itself to ward off the worst
consequences of climate change, but did establish a framework that would allow
the world to ratchet up its efforts to combat the problem. “The Paris Agreement is a
monumental triumph for people and our planet,” Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations
Secretary General, said.
Administration Finalizes the Clean Power Plan: From the
moment President Obama announced his administration’s plan for tackling
climate change in 2013, getting at carbon pollution from the nation’s fleet of
power plants was key. Those efforts culminated this summer with the release of
the final Clean Power Plan, which aims to curb carbon dioxide emissions from
existing power plants. “This is the right thing to do,” Obama said in August.
More than half the states are now challenging the rule in federal appeals court
with litigation expected to last multiple years.
Nears the Finish Line: The U.S. neared the first major overhaul of
an environmental statute in nearly 25 years with a revamp of the Toxic
Substances Control Act, the nation’s primary chemical statute. The Senate passed a broad
bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century
Act (S. 697), by unanimous consent in December, while the House advanced
narrower legislation in June by a 398-1 vote. Both chambers must resolve
differences between their versions in 2016, but observers are optimistic the
bill will make it across the finish line.
XL Pipeline Rejected: Capping a seven-year review process,
President Obama rejected
the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline in November. “America is now a global
leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change, and
frankly, approving this project would have undercut that leadership,” the
president said. The project became a key test for many in the environmental
community for Obama’s commitment to climate change, while proponents of the
project now say they’ll wait for the next president to revisit the pipeline.
Over the Clean Water Act’s Jurisdiction: In addition to its efforts
on power plants, the EPA also finalized a major regulation attempting to
clarify the scope and jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Known first as the waters of the United
States and then subsequently as the Clean Water Rule, the regulation
immediately drew controversy. Well over half the states challenged the rule in
federal court, the Senate passed a resolution nullifying it, and the EPA was
found to have violated the law in promoting it through social media. A federal
court put the rule on hold nationwide
in October, so its future remains cloudy heading into the new year.