Friday, March 2, 2007

It's Too Damned Hot!

Forest Service LRMPs Do Not Require ESA Consultation

Forest Guardians v. Forsgren, (C.A.10 (N.M.)) March 1, 2007: Endangered Species - Forest Service had no duty under Endangered Species Act to consult with Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Land and Resource Management Plan.

The Forest Service had no duty under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the question of whether the Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) for national forests could jeopardize the continued existence of Canada Lynx, which had been listed as a "distinct population segment" under the ESA. The environmental groups, which sought to compel consultation, did not allege any activity, project, or program authorized, funded, or carried out by the Forest Service that might constitute "action" within meaning of the ESA.

March 2, 2007 in Biodiversity, Cases, Environmental Assessment, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

As the ice they depend on for their way of life melts away around them, indigenous people of the Arctic are taking a crack at Washington in international court

New Standard reports:

Climate-Change Victims Chip Away U.S. Procrastination
Inuit cite global warming as human-rights violation
by Megan Tady, The NewStandard

While the rest of the world debated global warming, Roy Nageak watched the ice melt and recede in his Arctic backyard. Nageak, an Inuit, lives in the northernmost settlement in Alaska. Growing up, he recalls that there was "always ice." There were great pads of ice that were solid and many feet thick" ... But Nageak and other Inuit, who live a world away from burning smokestacks and traffic jams are among the first victims of global warming. And human rights groups say the Inuit case mirrors the plight of other populations around the globe who are expected to face the ramifications of climate change sooner, and more harshly, than the countries most responsible for the gases linked to global warming."Now, we are lucky to get four feet of ice because of what is happening outside our region," Nageak said. "It's a lifestyle that is prevalent in another society that is so far away from us, and it's affecting our way of life."

A 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment by international scientists found that "climate changes are being experienced particularly intensely in the Arctic " and that the "Inuit face major threats to their food security and hunting cultures."

Nageak joined 62 other Inuit in Alaska and Canada in 2005 to hold the world's most-notorious polluter accountable. They filed a petition against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – one of the bodies set up to promote and protect human rights in the Americas. The petition argues that the impacts of climate change caused by the US violate the human rights of the Inuit.. The Inuit say their livelihoods, their spiritual life and their cultural identity are threatened because of the greenhouse-gas emissions of the United States and the government's failure to curb the damage.  Today, the Commission is holding a one-hour hearing to investigate the relationship between human rights and climate change in North and South America.

In a letter to the Commission, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former director of the Inuit Circumpolar Council leading the Inuit charge, listed many of the ways climate change has jeopardized the Inuit way of life: "Because of the loss of ice and snow, communities have become isolated from one another; hunting, travel and other subsistence activities have become more dangerous or impossible; drinking-water sources have been jeopardized; [and] many coastal communities are already threatened or being forced to relocate." In a statement to the press yesterday, Watt-Cloutier said, "We offer our testimony as a warning to humanity that, while global warming has hit Arctic peoples first, changes are coming for everyone."

Although the Inuit are the first indigenous population to make such a formal claim, human-rights activists say that as the impacts of climate change increase, so too will its toll on human life. And with it, they warn, will come populations seeking redress from the world's big polluters. I don't think there's any doubt we'll see more of this," said David Hunter, a senior advisor of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). "As the causal link becomes clearer… between climate change and specific injuries, we're going to see people that are injured looking for justice somewhere." CIEL, along with the law firm Earthjustice, worked with the Inuit to submit the petition. 

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March 1, 2007 in Cases, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court vacates Exxon punitive damages award

Based on the Phillips Morris case Findlaw link , the Supreme Court has vacated a substantial punitive damages award against Exxon.  In this Louisiana case, the jury awarded $ 1 billion punitive damages, which the trial court upheld based on Exxon's "reprehensible conduct" in failing to notify workers and community members exposed to health risks from naturally occurring radioactive materials deposited from pipe scaling operations.  The plaintiffs had not alleged physical injury, but only economic harm, for which the jury awarded $ 56 million in remediation costs.  The punitive damages award had been reduced to $ 112 million because of due process concerns about its size.  But Exxon sought a new trial because the jury was allowed to consider evidence about health risks and Exxon's failure to notify.  It seems Exxon is certainly deriving a lot of benefit (more than $ 3.5 billion in the last 3 months) from the Supreme Court's new substantive due process jurisprudence.

2007 WL 559870 (U.S.La.)

No. 05-1670.
Feb. 26, 2007.
The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of Philip Morris USA v. Williams, 549 U. S. ___ (2007). Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.

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March 1, 2007 in Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bad Biop Kills Incidental Take Statement

Oregon Natural Resources Council v. Allen (9th Cir.) February 23, 2007:

Withdrawal of a portion of a favorable biological opinion (BiOp), which initially approved timber sales impacting suitable habitat for the northern spotted owl, rendered the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) incidental take statement authorizing the taking of "all" northern spotted owls associated with full timber harvest invalid under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The incidental take statement was broader than the project and allowed for the take of more spotted owls than were affected by the remaining portions of the BiOp.

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February 28, 2007 in Biodiversity | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Spirit of the Eagle

This blog is devoted principally to the professional or academic aspects of environmental law, policy, science, and ethics.  But like any blogger, I do have a life.  Anyone interested in the slightly less academic side of me is welcome to visit Spirit of the Eagle, my personal blog.

February 26, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)