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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy produces a high quality biannual journal on cutting-edge environmental legal and policy matters.  JELP is entirely run and produced by students at UCLA School of Law.  Articles in JELP are written by leading scholars throughout the country and often the world, and by students focusing on environmental law at UCLA.

Volume 37, Issue 1, 2019

Issue cover


CRISPR's Creatures: Protecting Wildlife in the Age of Genomic Editing

Recent advances in genome editing technology have opened the door for scientists to explore beneficial applications of genome editing for wildlife biodiversity and public health.  These advances, referred to as the CRISPR toolkit in this Article, can be combined with gene drives to repair damaged ecosystems, enhance conservation efforts, save endangered species, address climate change, prevent diseases, and promote public health.  However, the introduction of edited creatures could also negatively impact the original species and disrupt the surrounding ecosystem.  Moreover, humanity’s power to manipulate wildlife genes and essentially create evolution by artificial selection also poses significant moral, ethical, and social concerns.

Existing statutes and regulations do not sufficiently address the application of this novel genome editing technology to wildlife.  First, the federal regulatory regime for biotechnology is outdated, incohesive, and does not efficiently address concerns stemming from use of the CRISPR toolkit.  Second, statutory and regulatory language related to predecessor gene editing technologies’ is too narrow to cover the CRISPR toolkit.  Third, the CRISPR toolkit and wildlife editing technology are not regulated under environmental statutes and regulations.

Given this regulatory gap, this Article argues that the United States should join the Convention on Biological Diversity and use the treaty’s implementing legislation to identify appropriate limitations on the use of the CRISPR toolkit and gene drives.  States governments and industry leaders can also prevent negative impacts of wildlife editing by incorporating the ideals expressed in the Convention on Biological Diversity into their regulations and bylaws.  Ultimately, the Convention on Biological Diversity provides the best, most forward-looking framework through which to regulate gene editing to protect wildlife during the continued rise of the CRISPR toolkit.


Purifying Water: Responding to Public Opposition to the Implementation of Direct Potable Reuse in California

Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) is a method of recycling wastewater to create a potable water source.  DPR is a particularly useful technology in arid, drought-prone regions, including California, because it is a self-sustaining water source.  Despite being safe, efficient, and useful, potable reuse methods, including DPR, have faced intense public opposition.  Such opposition has stopped several projects in California.

In January 2018, California State Assembly Bill 574 (AB 574) took effect.  AB 574 requires California’s State Water Resources Control Board to adopt regulations for DPR by 2023, so long as the regulations are found to adequately protect public health.  Once adopted, California would become the first state to have uniform regulations for DPR.  But while uniform regulations will be an important step toward the realization of DPR technology, California’s success in implementing DPR will ultimately depend on public acceptance of DPR as a legitimate source of water.

This Comment seeks to provide California’s state and local governments with strategies to garner public support for DPR projects.  First, this Comment provides a framework for gaining public acceptance of DPR.  Second, this Comment explains why California is well-suited to the adoption of DPR technology, and describes California’s history with potable reuse.  Third, this Comment illustrates the main obstacle to DPR—public opposition—through a series of case studies.  Fourth and finally, this Comment applies the framework for gaining public acceptance to the case studies to illustrate a holistic approach to legitimizing DPR. “When was sewage ever classified as being pure?” asked the Revolting Grandmas, a San Diego grassroots group.[1]

The Grandmas were revolting against recycling wastewater for potable use, also known as ‘potable reuse.’ They feared waterborne illness, distrusted the purification technology, and were simply disgusted by the idea of drinking water that once went down someone’s toilet.[2] And they were not alone in their concerns.  Public opposition to recycled wastewater has stopped several potable reuse projects in California.

Public concerns about recycled wastewater derive, in part, from an ancient human fear of waterborne disease that has complicated mankind’s relationship with water: “[t]here is no life without water.  Indeed, we use its presence as an indicator for the possibility of life beyond the earth.  But drinking water can kill, and always has.”[3]

[1].        See Cal. Dep’t of Water Res., Water Recycling 2030: Recommendations of California’s Recycled Water Task Force app. at G-52 (2003), [].

[2].        Seeid. app. at G-58.

[3].        James Salzman, Drinking Water: A History 21 (2012).