Sustainability

In Murr v. Wisconsin the Supreme Court will decide whether merger provisions in state law and local ordinances, where nonconforming, adjacent lots under common ownership are combined for zoning purposes, may result in the unconstitutional taking of property. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that these very common provisions are constitutional. 

The Murrs owned contiguous lots E and F which together are .98 acres. Lot F contained a cabin and lot E was undeveloped. A St. Croix County merger ordinance prohibits the individual development or sale of adjacent lots under common ownership that are less than one acre total. But the ordinance treats commonly owned adjacent lots of less than an acre as a single, buildable lot.

The Murrs sought and were denied a variance to separately use or sell lots E and F. They claim the ordinance resulted in an unconstitutional uncompensated taking.        

In 2014, Vermont became the first state to pass a law requiring the labeling of genetically modified, or GMO, foods, which is set to take effect on July 1. But, until recently it was unknown whether Vermont, or other states considering similar measures, would be able to move forward with implementing such legislation.

As more and more states have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medical use, there have been increasing complications and uncertainties between federal and state law in the regulation of cannabis. This has included issues such as banking, employment discrimination, federal income taxes, and now organic certification and labeling.

In Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States the Court will decide who owns an abandoned federally granted railroad right-of-way:  the United States or the land owner whose property the right-of-way runs through.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case supporting the United States.  State and local governments typically convert abandoned railroad rights-of-way into “Rails-to-Trails.”     

Yesterday's Greenwire featured a story profiling the use of a municipal solid waste (MSW) facility in Alexandria, Virginia that turns roughly 5,000 tons of trash generated by staff, members, and visitors at legislative buildings of the House of Representatives into enough electric power for 250 homes. The decision to switch from an on-site composting facility and use of corn-based utensils, to a MSW facility has some observers guessing that it could rekindle an interest in expanding the growth of the "energy recovery" industry - perhaps even in state renewable programs and rules.

The U.S.Forest Service has ruled that funds generated in 2012 from timber sales and distributed to states will be subject to the Budget Control Act. States stand to lose almost $18 million in funding for projects in rural areas, including schools, public safety and transportation needs.

America's largest supermarket chain, Cincinnati-based Kroger, recently announced it would install 225 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at 125 stores across California and Arizona according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

On July 1st, provisions banning the disposal of electronic waste like TVs, computers, DVD players, and other devices will go into effect under Colorado's "Electronic Recycling Jobs Act." For consumers in the state looking for solutions to get rid of their unwanted gadgets, the Colorado Department of Public Health has created a website with information on the nearest recycling centers or retail stores like Best Buy or Staples that may also offer free recycling programs.

On a party line vote of 58-39, the Wisconsin General Assembly sent a high-profile bill to Governor Scott Walker's desk for consideration yesterday which would make substantial changes to existing permitting and environmental regulation to open a large iron mine near Lake Superior. Despite the objections of environmental groups and Native American tribes, the Governor is expected to sign the bill and in a statement he praised lawmakers for streamlining the regulatory review process in order to help create needed new high-skilled jobs.

A story appeared in today's FuelFix, which is run by the Houston Chronicle, highlighting the large amounts of hazardous waste generated by the solar industry in California. According to a study conducted by the AP that used data from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, 17 of the state's largest 41 solar manufacturers generated over 46 million pounds of sludge and contaminated water from 2007 to 2011.

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