ELI at 50: Building on the Past to Secure the Future

ELI 50th logoDecember 22, 2019, marks the official 50th Anniversary of the Environmental Law Institute, but we are celebrating it throughout the entire year! We are reflecting back on our important work in shaping environmental law and governance in the United States and across the globe and imagining an even more impactful future.

See what ELI Founders Jim Moorman and Craig Matthews have to say as they reflect on ELI’s past.

Also check out an interview with David Sive, an Environmental Pioneer!

The Celebration

In celebration of our 50th Anniversary, ELI will be holding special events, programs, and publications throughout the year to look back at the last 50 years and look forward to the next. Each month will have its own "theme," beginning the year with one that has strongly animated ELI’s work through the years – pollution control – and ending in December with a focus on NEPA, the same month ELI and NEPA were formed.

January – Pollution Prevention and Rethinking “Waste”

Pollution control is an area that has strongly animated ELI’s work since our founding. Read more.

Anniversary Events:

Circular Economy: Extracting Value Through New Business Models and Technologies (Jan. 24) Pollution Prevention and Rethinking "Waste" (Jan. 31)

February – Environmental Compliance: A Foundational Objective

Despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades, weak enforcement is a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats. Read more.

Anniversary Events:

CERCLA and the U.S. Department of Defense (Feb. 13) Using Whistleblower Laws to Promote Environmental Enforcement (Feb. 26)


Anniversary Blog: Reflections of an Unabashed Enforcer, by Leslie Carothers

March – Re-Imagining Environmental Governance

Improving environmental governance at the international, federal, state, and local levels has been at the core of ELI’s work for nearly 50 years. Read more.

Anniversary Events:

The Global Pact for the Environment (March 8) Citizen Enforcement in the Forestry Sector (March 21)


Anniversary Blogs:

Environmental Law Futures, by Jonathan Cannon Re-Imagining Environmental Governance: The Future of Environmetnal Law, by Robert "Buzz" Hines


April – The Role of Law in Climate Response & Energy Transformation

Our air, water, and lands are much cleaner and healthier than they were on April 20, 1970, the first nationwide celebration of Earth Day (organized with the help of original ELI Board Member Sydney Howe). But major environmental challenges, including climate change, continue to this day. Read more here.

Anniversary Events:

Natural Gas & Pipeline Issues (ELI Master Class) (April 4) An Action Agenda for Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States (April 25)


Anniversary Blog: States Taking the Lead on Developing Clean Energy Policies, by Carrie Jenkins


May – Wetlands Protection & Hydrologic Cycle

May is American Wetlands Month, a time to celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to our nation's ecological, economic, and social health and to educate people about the value of wetlands as a natural resource. ELI’s Wetlands Program works year-round to provide professionals and the public with timely, balanced information on wetlands law, policy, science, and management. Read more.

Anniversary Event: Rapanos v. United States: Implications for the Future of Wetlands Protection

Anniversary Blog: A “Sticky” Situation: Addressing PFAS Risk in Corporate Transactions, by Loyti Cheng & Michael Comstock

June – Gender & the Environment

Women have been integral to environmental protection and to the development of environmental law. Yet, women environmental leaders continue to face inequities and obstacles. Stay tuned for special programming!

Anniversary Event: Women and Environmental Law

Anniversary Event: Leadership of Women in Developing U.S. Environmental Law & Policy: What They Did, What It Meant, and Where It Is Going

July – Environmental Justice & Vulnerable Communities

Stay tuned!

August – The Courts & Rule of Law

Stay tuned!

September – Technology as an Emerging Driver

Stay tuned!

October – Stewarding Natural Resources for Intergenerational Well-being

Stay tuned!

November – Protecting the Ocean

Stay tuned!

December – NEPA 50 Years Later

Stay tuned!


ELI's Founding

Arlie House

ELI traces its origins to a national conference on the emerging field of environmental law held at the Airlie House in Virginia in September 1969 attended by 50 lawyers, practitioners, and academics from across the country. The conference itself had a significant impact on the legal profession by initiating fertile exchange among many lawyers who were breaking new ground. Importantly, the gathering endorsed creating ELI and the Environmental Law Reporter (ELR) to collect environmental statutes, regulations, court decisions, and to analyze developments in the field. Guided by its founders, the Conservation Foundation and the Public Law Education Institute, ELI was incorporated on December 22, 1969, as a 501(c)(3) organization, the very same day that NEPA was passed. ELI held its first education program in October 1970. In January 1971, the first issue of ELR was released--the first publication to address broadly the legal questions of environmental management. In 1973, ELI became an independent organization.

ELI Today

The Institute has grown to become a major research, education, and publication center for the full range of environmental professionals. ELI is a one-of-a kind environmental law think-and-do tank. ELI offers a non-partisan, objective forum; convening capacity and in-house technical strength; and first-rate research, educational programs and publications.


Be on the lookout for new blogs, events, and more throughout the year!