Friday, September 29, 2006

SCOTUS to review Commerce Clause challenge to solid waste flow control ordinance

United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, September 26, 2006: Solid Waste - Commerce Clause challenge to requiring delivery of all solid waste to publicly owned local facility--Certiorari Granted.

The United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari in a case in which the Second Circuit held that a municipal scheme requiring that garbage generated by local households and businesses be delivered to facilities that were owned and operated by a public corporation, thereby preventing the trash from being processed at non-local facilities, did not violate the Commerce Clause. The Court of Appeals noted that the non-discriminatory municipal flow control regulation at issue did not place non-local firms at a competitive disadvantage, regulate extraterritorially, or conflict with the regulatory requirements of any other jurisdiction.

The New York counties of Oneida and Herkimer enacted the challenged ordinances in 1990. The flow control regulations collectively required all solid wastes and recyclables generated within those adjoining counties to be delivered to one of several waste processing facilities owned by the Oneida- Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, a municipal corporation.

The Court of Appeals held that, even if the non-discriminatory provisions of the Counties' flow control ordinances burdened interstate commerce by preventing the Counties' waste from being processed by out-of-state facilities, any burden would be substantially outweighed by the ordinances' benefits, and thus the Commerce Clause was not violated. The ordinances regulated only one aspect of waste management within the Counties. The ordinances did not interfere with business competition, and they enabled the Counties to generate income and distribute costs. The ordinances substantially facilitated the Counties' goal of establishing a comprehensive waste management system that encouraged waste volume reduction, recycling, and reuse, and they ensured the Counties' interest in the proper disposal of hazardous waste.

The Court of Appeals further held that the ordinance provisions requiring all waste generated within the Counties to be delivered to publicly-owned facilities for processing did not discriminate against out-of-state interests in violation of the Commerce Clause. No private entity, whether in-state or out-of-state, was disadvantaged by the creation of the counties' processing monopoly.

The petition for certiorari, filed by an association representing the interests of solid waste management companies, stated that the Supreme Court held in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, N.Y., 511 U.S. 383, 114 S.Ct. 1677, 128 L.Ed.2d 399 (1994), that a flow control ordinance requiring all solid waste to be processed at a designated transfer station before leaving a municipality was invalid under the Commerce Clause because it deprived competitors, including out-of-state firms, of access to a local market. The petition posed two questions. The first, which, according to the petition, was the subject of an acknowledged circuit conflict, was whether the virtually per se prohibition against hoarding solid waste recognized in Carbone was inapplicable when the preferred processing facility was owned by a public entity. The second was whether a flow-control ordinance that requires delivery of all solid waste to a publicly owned local facility and thus prohibits its exportation imposes so insubstantial a burden on interstate commerce that the provision satisfies the Commerce Clause if it serves even a minimal local benefit. (Case below: United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, 438 F.3d 150 (C.A.2-N.Y. 2006).)

September 29, 2006 in Cases, Constitutional Law, Law, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Economics of Global Warming

The world would have to give up only one year's economic growth over the next four decades to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently to  stave off the threat of global warming. Consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers offer a "green growth plus" strategy, combining energy efficiency, greater use of renewables and carbon capture to cut emissions by 60% by 2050 from the level reached by doing nothing. Nuclear energy, it says, can play a role, but it is not crucial.

This scenario, which involves little real sacrifice in terms of economic growth, could be achieved only if embarked upon without delay.  "If countries adopt a 'business as usual' approach, the result could be a more than doubling of global carbon emissions by 2050," said John Hawksworth, head of macroeconomics at PwC.  "Our analysis suggests that there are technologically feasible and relatively low cost options for controlling carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Estimates suggest that the level of GDP might be reduced by no more than 2-3% in 2050 if this strategy is followed."

PwC envisages the Group of Seven leading economies taking the initiative, cutting their emissions by about half by 2050, while the fast-growing E7 countries - China, India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey - could still increase their emissions by 30% over the period.   The PwC projections see China overtaking the United States as the world's biggest emitter of CO2 by 2010 while total E7 emissions would be more than double G7 emissions by 2050, with the "big three" - China, the US and India - accounting for just over half, up from 45% today.  The European Union could cut its share of global emissions to under 9% by 2050 from 15% now, while Britain's should fall to 1% from 2%.

A shift to a much less carbon-intensive fuel mix would more than double the current non-fossil fuel primary energy share to about 30% by 2050. That alone would be sufficient to reduce carbon emissions by 25%. PwC's view that renewables could do the job without having to use nuclear technology could undermine Tony Blair's argument that atomic power is crucial.  Increasing energy efficiency gains to 2.6% a year from today's 1.6% would reduce emissions by a third, while carbon capture and storage - pumping power station emissions into disused gas fields underground - could achieve a further 20%.  The report says a combination of all these measures will be necessary to stabilise global CO2 levels at 450 parts per million, the figure scientific opinion judges to be broadly acceptable.

September 29, 2006 in Africa, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Governance/Management, International, North America, South America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Nature Reports that NOAA Suppressed Hurricane Statement

This may be another example of the Bush Administration's concerted effort to "spin" environmental science, especially climate science, in favor of the Administration's policies.  I suspect that those involved have little sense of the damage that has been done to appropriate use of science in the policy process by such efforts.

Link: Planet Ark - US Blocked Hurricane Statement - Nature Magazine.

US Blocked Hurricane Statement - Nature Magazine

WASHINGTON - US officials blocked the release of a statement by government climate scientists that explored possible links between global warming and stronger hurricanes, the journal Nature reported on Wednesday.

But a spokesman for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, dismissed the Nature report as "an interesting piece of fiction" and said the statement was not sent out because it was not ready by the start of hurricane season on June 1.

At the heart of the dispute is an exhaustively vetted two-page "fact sheet" meant to explain how climate changes are related to hurricanes. It has not been officially released and a copy obtained by Reuters includes the words "Draft -- Not for Distribution".

Illustrated with charts, the document notes questions about the cause of stronger Atlantic hurricanes, most of which were asked urgently after the catastrophic 2005 hurricane season.

NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John said some 50 scientists worked to craft a document acceptable to all, ranging from those who maintain human-caused global warming can intensify hurricanes to those who contend any changes in hurricane intensity are due to natural cycles.


While noting "a role for global warming" in the increased sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico -- prime hurricane-spawning territory, where growing storms feed on warm water -- the statement also stressed previous periods when the tropical Atlantic was significantly warmer than the global average.

Nature, a British journal, said work on the fact sheet started in February after NOAA researchers accused political appointees at NOAA of "ignoring ... the possibility that global warming could cause hurricanes to be more intense or frequent."

The question of global warming has been a contentious one for the Bush administration, and scientists have complained in the last year of being restricted in talking about it with the media.

President George W. Bush has acknowledged that global warming is a serious problem that is caused in part by human activity, but his administration pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol meant to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that are a prime cause.

Nature also said scientists at NOAA were concerned that climate scientists who published articles on the connection between climate change and increased hurricane intensity were kept away from the media, while those whose research supported the idea of natural cycles were put forward.

They cited e-mails obtained by the environmental group Greenpeace USA that showed "several NOAA scientists told their seniors that the agency was not properly representing hurricane science."

NOAA's St. John denied this in a telephone interview.

St. John said he was considering posting the fact sheet online in response to questions about it and the Nature article. The agency's Web site is

Story by Deborah Zabarenko

Story Date: 28/9/2006

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September 29, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hansen Suggests Earth is at Warmest Point in 1 Million Years

The good news is -- we won't need much energy to heat us in the winter.
Hansen indicates that global warming is warming up El Nino too.  Download hansen_global_temperature_sept_2006.pdf

Link: Planet Ark - Earth May Be at Warmest Point in 1 Million Years.

Earth may be close to the warmest it has been in the last million years, especially in the part of the Pacific Ocean where potentially violent El Nino weather patterns are born, climate scientists reported on Monday.

This doesn't necessarily mean there will be more frequent El Ninos -- which can disrupt normal weather around the world -- but could well mean that these wild patterns will be stronger when they occur, said James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

The El Nino phenomenon is an important factor in monitoring global warming, according to a paper by Hansen and colleagues published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

El Ninos can push temperatures higher than they might ordinarily be. This happened in 1998 when a so-called "super El Nino" helped heat the Earth to a record high.

What is significant, the scientists wrote, is that 2005 was in the same temperature range as 1998, and probably was the warmest year ever, with no sign of the warm surface water in the eastern equatorial Pacific typical of an El Nino.

The waters of the western equatorial Pacific are warmer than in the eastern equatorial Pacific, and the difference in temperature between these two areas could produce greater temperature swings between the normal weather pattern and El Nino, they wrote.

They blamed this phenomenon on global warming that is affecting the surface of the western Pacific before it affects the deeper water.


Overall, Earth is within 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C) of its highest temperature levels in the past million years, Hansen and the others wrote. They noted a recent steep rise in average temperatures, with global surface temperatures increasing about 0.4 degrees F (0.2 degrees C) for each of the last three decades.

Scientists attribute this rise to human activities, notably the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases -- notably carbon dioxide -- which let in sunlight and trap its heat like the glass walls of a greenhouse.

Human-caused global warming influences El Ninos much as it sways tropical storms, the scientists wrote.

"The effect on frequency of either phenomenon is unclear, depending on many factors, but the intensity of the most powerful events is likely to increase as greenhouse gases increase," they wrote. "Slowing the growth rate of greenhouse gases should diminish the probability of both super El Ninos and the most intense tropical storms."

Weak El Nino conditions were present this month in the tropical Pacific, and could strengthen to a moderate event by winter, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors the phenomenon.

In the United States, private forecaster WSI Corp. predicted warmer-than-normal weather over the Northeast and Midwest for the rest of this year, spelling sluggish energy demand for the start of the heating season.

The warm outlook, after the mildest winter on record last year, is due to uncertainty over the El Nino -- a warming of Pacific waters around the equator that can drive weather patterns around the globe, WSI Corp. said.

September 26, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)