Friday, January 12, 2007

What is environmental law?

    Fred Cheever and Celia Campbell-Mohn have provided Encyclopaedia Brittanica's cut at that question.  Link: environmental law  See their article below.

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January 12, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Real Climate commentary on arctic sea ice

Real Climate published a guest commentary today by Cecilia Bitz, one of the authors on the paper suggesting that the Arctic sea ice may disappear by 2040. 1-12-07 Real Climate Post  Arctic Sea Ice in the 21st Century  Bitz answers a number of the questions that she was asked by the media in greater detail than the media was able to report.  She offers hope that we haven't reached the point of no return -- especially if we can stabilize emissions at 2000 levels by 2020.

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January 12, 2007 in Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

25th Annual ABA SEER Water Law Conference


American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources

25th Annual Water Law Conference:

Changing Values, Changing Conflicts

February 22-23, 2007
  San Diego, CA
  Hotel del Coronado

The 25th Anniversary Water Law Conference will focus on the changing values for water use and the resulting changes in legal conflicts over water. The conference includes speakers and panels reflecting the broad diversity of issues and perspectives on the most challenging issues now facing the water law community. Speakers will discuss past, present and anticipated future changes and trends in water law, and how those changes will affect your practice.

The conference will open with perspectives on the changing nature of water conflicts and the most significant trends over the last 25 years, from water law luminaries of the last quarter century. After a rousing debate about changes in how courts defer to agency determinations, particularly in light of the 2006 Rapanos decision, panels will examine more closely certain critical issues now facing the water law community – from instream use and conflicting sovereigns to international conflicts and conservation. Friday morning will address emerging issues that will change the nature of water law practice in the next quarter century, including water quality issues arising out of inter-basin transfers, resolution of water rights conflicts, and the dynamic relationship between water law and science. The conference will close with a special “Hot Topics” lunch on climate change and how it may affect water law practice, including a presentation on California’s recent efforts to assess how its water policy may need to change to address global warming.

This year’s conference also offers two early morning panels – one on water law fundamentals to help those new to the water law field, and one on the ethics of ex parte contacts in a world where water conflicts are now often resolved outside formal adjudications.

Click here to Register

January 12, 2007 in Governance/Management, Law, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ABA SEER Quick Teleconference on 9th Circuit Cases Revisiting Mobile-Sierra Public Interest Review of Unilateral Modifications of Power Contracts

Energy Contracts in Context: The Ninth Circuit Revisits Mobile-Sierra Review in Light of the Western Energy Crisis   Wednesday, January 24, 2007     12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time / 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Central Time / 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Mountain Time / 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time


Program Overview:
The Federal Power Act requires FERC to ensure that all rates, terms and conditions for the sale of power are “just and reasonable.” Since 1956, the Supreme Court has recognized a stringent standard of review, known as the Mobile-Sierra doctrine, which under certain circumstances forbad attempts to modify contracts unilaterally unless such modifications are required by the “public interest.” For decades, this standard has been regarded by many as “practically insurmountable.” That era may now have come to a close.

On December 19, 2006, the Ninth Circuit published a pair of decisions arising from the Western Energy Crisis of 2000-2001 that revisit the application of Mobile-Standard review in the modern context of market-based rates. In Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County Washington v. FERC, and its companion case, Public Utilities Commission of the State of California v. FERC, the Ninth Circuit determined that the Mobile-Sierra public interest standard of review should apply only when: “ (1) the contract by its own terms must not preclude the limited Mobile-Sierra review; (2) the regulatory scheme in which the contracts are formed must provide FERC with an opportunity for effective, timely review of the contracted rates; and (3) where . . . FERC is relying on a market-based rate-setting system to produce just and reasonable rates, this review must permit consideration of all factors relevant to the propriety of the contract’s formation.”


Moderator and Panelist:
                Russ Campbell, Balch & Bingham LLP, Birmingham, AL Panelists:
    Jared des Rosiers, Pierce Atwood LLP, Portland, ME
    John Estes, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Washington, DC
    Melissa Lauderdale, Director, Industry Legal Affairs, Edison Electric Institute, Washington, DC

Click Here to Register

January 12, 2007 in Cases, Economics, Energy, Law, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

NYT names NOAA's attempt to gag Dr. James Hansen as a top Ten story

The NY Times published its list of the top Ten stories of 2006.  One of them had been featured prominantly on this blog -- the attempt of NOAA's political management to gag Dr. James Hansen, whose public discussions of global warming deeply embarrassed the Bush Administration.  That story, written by Andrew Rivkin, in some ways was a shot heard round the world.  For a full color version of the story, visit the Times.  The printer-friendly version is quoted below.

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January 12, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

NRC Trashes OMB's January 2006 Risk Assessment Guidelines

The Bush Administration will rework OMB's controversial risk assessment proposal after the National Research Council expert panel reviewing the proposal called the approach "fundamentally flawed." NRC Report on OMB Risk Assessment Guidelines.  The January 2006 proposed risk assessment technical guidelines  were developed by former OIRA director John Graham to improve federal risk assessments, which OMB criticized in the cases of dioxin, mercury, perchlorate, and mad cow disease.

The proposal generated substantial public comment over the last year.  Industry supported the proposal.  Public health experts and  environmental groups contended that the guidelines would prevent government agencies from regulating health hazards by setting technical risk assessment standards that were difficult -- or even impossible -- to meet. 

OMB submitted the proposal to the National Research Council for review.  According John Ahearne, chair of the NRC review committee, the committee decided that the proposal was broken beyond repair.  It contained a confusing, overly broad definition of risk assessment, omitted crucial aspects of risk assessment such as how to handle absence of adequate information and assumed sufficient data would be readily available.  And, more fundamentally, OMB failed to demonstrate that costly changes in the federal risk assessment process were necessary.  The 18-person NRC committee unanimously agreed that OMB should withdraw the January 2006 proposed guidelines. NRC Executive Summary

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January 12, 2007 in Economics, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Physical Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Generation Next: our incoming crop of students

We are or will soon be teaching students from Generation Next.  Generation Next is made up of 18-25 year-olds (born between 1981 and 1988). Generation X was born between 1966 and 1980 and ranges in age from 26-40. The Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, ranges in age from 41-60. Finally, those over age 60 (born before 1946) are called the Seniors.  Take a look at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, A Portrait of "Generation Next:" How Young People View Their Lives, Futures, and Politics, January 9, 2007. Generation Next full report

As Pew Research Center summarizes its findings:

FigureA new generation has come of age, shaped by an unprecedented revolution in technology and dramatic events both at home and abroad. They are Generation Next, the cohort of young adults who have grown up with personal computers, cell phones and the internet and are now taking their place in a world where the only constant is rapid change.

In reassuring ways, the generation that came of age in the shadow of Sept. 11 shares the characteristics of other generations of young adults. They are generally happy with their lives and optimistic about their futures. Moreover, Gen Nexters feel that educational and job opportunities are better for them today than for the previous generation. At the same time, many of their attitudes and priorities reflect a limited set of life experiences. Marriage, children and an established career remain in the future for most of those in Generation Next.

More than two-thirds see their generation as unique and distinct, yet not all self-evaluations are positive. A majority says that "getting rich" is the main goal of most people in their age group, and large majorities believe that casual sex, binge drinking, illegal drug use and violence are more prevalent among young people today than was the case 20 years ago.

In their political outlook, they are the most tolerant of any generation on social issues such as immigration, race and homosexuality. They are also much more likely to identify with the Democratic Party than was the preceding generation of young people, which could reshape politics in the years ahead. Yet the evidence is mixed as to whether the current generation of young Americans will be any more engaged in the nation's civic life than were young people in the past, potentially blunting their political impact.

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January 12, 2007 in Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Woods Hole Marine Aquaculture Taskforce Recommends Strict Regulation

The Marine Aquaculture Taskforce advocates imposition of strict environmental standards on farming fish in U.S. ocean waters.  The stakeholder panel, formed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with financial support from the Pew Trust, predicts rapid expansion of offshore aquaculture operations. Marine Aquaculture Taskforce report  Current aquaculture operations are not ecologically sustainable because farmed fish are fed fishmeal, using 6.6 kg of wild-caught fish to grow 1 kg of farmed fish and fishmeal supply fisheries are fully or overexploited.


The panel recommends that Congress should put the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in charge and mandate it to evaluate the risks of offshore aquaculture before granting any permits. Major hazards include pollution from excess waste and feed and the risk that escaped fish will harm wild populations.  The panel recommends that non-native fish should not be allowed in coastal or open waters, unless they have been shown to pose no risk. In addition to strict regulations, the panel also suggests market-based incentives to encourage investment in sustainable aquaculture operations.

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January 12, 2007 in Biodiversity, Economics, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bird Flu Blues: Tamiflu Rebound Antiviral Resistance???

Martin Enserink, ScienceNOW Daily News reported yesterday on the conceivable hazards of "pandemic Tamiflu use," which might create antiviral resistance or other unknown hazards.  We don't know how quickly Tamiflu will break down in the environment, but it may be very persistent.   Singer, et al built a model to predict likely concentrations in rivers.  While the levels vary widely by river basin, the model predicted levels that could trigger resistance in influenza-infected birds, leading to a second wave pandemic from  a slightly different pandemic strain. In addition, it could inhibit enzymes in other species, causing broader, more difficult to predict, ecological effects. 

January 11, 2007 in International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Surprise, surprise: 2006 warmest year in the US since 1895

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) preliminary forecast released in mid-December forecast 2006 as the third warmest year on record. See December 16 post  However, NOAA reported today that last year was the warmest in the contiguous United States since record keeping began 112 years ago in 1895. The record was set in part because of extremely warm December weather:  no state was colder than average and five states had record warm weather -- Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire.  The average temperature was about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.2 degrees above the average temperature recorded from 1901 to the end of 2000.  NOAA attributed the record warmth to El Nino and overall global warming, but said "It is unclear how much of the recent anomalous warmth was due to greenhouse-gas-induced warming and how much was due to the El Nino-related circulation pattern."  NOAA preliminary annual report 

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How tactful!

January 9, 2007 in Climate Change, Energy, North America, Physical Science, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 8, 2007

ABA SEER Quick Teleconference on Oil and Gas

American Bar Association ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources  
    American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources


Public Lands and Resources and Global Oil and Gas Committees

Present a “Quick Teleconference” program

New and Upcoming Developments in Offshore Oil and Gas Policy and Law

Thursday, January 25, 2007
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time / 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Central Time
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time / 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time

Program Overview:
Panel will describe new agency actions and legislation affecting offshore oil and gas policy, including the new legislation that passed in the final days of the 109th Congress’ lame duck session that opened up over 8 million acres of new lands to oil and gas leasing, lifted leasing moratoria, and set up a system to share royalties with the adjacent states. The panel will also discuss proposed new legislation for the 110th Congress, and the new proposed leasing program for the entire Outer Continental Shelf. (more)

        Moderator and Panelist:
        Kim Harb, National Ocean Industries Association, Washington, DC

        Renee Orr, Minerals Management Service, Herndon, VA
        Peter Schaumberg, Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., Washington, DC

Click Here to Register

January 8, 2007 in Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Another Supreme Court Foray into the ESA

Timothy Sullivan of the ABA SEER Endangered Species Act committee reported on the grant of cert regarding the 9th Circuit ESA case:

On Friday, January 5, 2007, the United States Supreme Court granted petitions for certiorari by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency in the consolidated cases of National Ass'n of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife and United States Environmental Protection Agency v. Defenders of Wildlife (collectively, "Defenders"), 420 F.3d 946 (9th Cir. 2005).

In Defenders, the Ninth Circuit vacated EPA's decision to approve the transfer of permitting authority under Clean Water Act section 402(b), 33 U.S.C. 1342(b), to the State of Arizona.  Defenders, 420 F.3d at 979.  Although EPA's approval may have complied with the agency's obligations under the Clean Water Act, according to the Ninth Circuit, "compliance with a 'complementary' statute cannot relieve relieve the EPA of its independent obligations under [ESA] section 7(a)(2)." Id. at 971.  The Ninth Circuit thus held that ESA section 7 requires EPA to consider the impact on endangered and threatened species and their habitat when the agency decides to transfer this authority to a state.  Id. at 949.  Because EPA did not consider these impacts when it approved EPA's transfer of Clean Water Act permitting authority to Arizona, the Ninth Circuit held that EPA's approval was erroneous and remanded the matter to EPA.  Id. at 979.

In September 2006, NAHB filed a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court in which it asked the Court to determine


Whether a court can append additional criteria to   Section 402(b) of the Clean Water Act that require state NPDES programs to   include protections for endangered species;

Whether Section 7(a)(2) of   the Endangered Species Act constitutes an independent source of authority,   requiring federal agencies to take affirmative action to benefit endangered   species even when an agency's enabling statutes preclude such action; and  

Whether the Ninth Circuit incorrectly applied the holding of Dep't   of Transp. v. Public Citizen, 541 U.S. 752 (2004), in concluding that   EPA's approval of Arizona's NPDES permitting program was the legally relevant   cause of impacts to endangered species resulting from private land use   activities.

In October 2006, EPA filed a petition that asked the Court to determine


Whether Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act   of 1973, 16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2), which requires each federal agency to insure   that its actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed   species or modify its critical habitat, overrides statutory mandates   or constraints placed on an agency's discretion by other Acts of   Congress.

The Supreme Court accepted all of these questions and stated that it will consider the following additional question:


Whether the court of appeals correctly held that the   Environmental Protection Agency's decision to transfer pollution permitting   authority to Arizona under the Clean Water Act, see 33 U.S.C. §1342(b), was   arbitrary and capricious because it was based on inconsistent   interpretations of Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 16   U.S.C. §1536(a)(2); and, if so, whether the court of appeals should have   remanded to the Environmental Protection Agency for further proceedings   without ruling on the interpretation of Section 7(a)(2).

The Court has not yet set a date for oral argument, but it is expected that oral argument will take place in April 2007. 

The cases are Nat. Assn. of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, et al. (06-340), and EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife, et al. (06-549).

January 8, 2007 in Biodiversity | Permalink | TrackBack (2)