Thursday, February 26, 2009

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Gives Willamette University’s Dempsey Environmental Lecture

Prominent environmental activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will address “Our Environmental Destiny” Friday, March 6, at 8 p.m. at the Salem Conference Center as part of the Willamette University Dempsey Lecture Series on Environmental Issues.

Kennedy advocates an aggressive approach against entities whose policies accelerate pollution and maintain the status quo, and he has used numerous media outlets, including his 2004 book Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy, to call into question the environmental policies of the United States. 

Kennedy, who serves as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success in helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River.

He is a clinical professor and supervising attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace University School of Law, and he is co-host of Ring of Fire on Air America Radio.

In addition to Crimes Against Nature, Kennedy’s books include The Riverkeepers (1997) and Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr.: A Biography (1977). His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and Atlantic Monthly.

The event is sponsored by the Dempsey Foundation and the Center for Sustainable Communities at Willamette University.

February 26, 2009 in Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Outstanding environmental law professors join the green team

Wow.  Obama's talent is awesome!

Professor Jody Freeman LL.M. '91 S.J.D. '95

JODY FREEMAN: COUNSELOR FOR ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE, WHITE HOUSE

Harvard Law School Professor Jody Freeman is serving as a senior advisor to Carol Browner, the White House energy and climate “czar,” as Counselor for Energy and Climate Change.  Freeman was chosen by Harvard to serve as the founding director of the HLS Environmental Law Program and has taught at Harvard since 2005.

Freeman authored an amicus brief on behalf of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in Massachusetts v. EPA, the global warming case decided by the Supreme Court in 2007. Her analysis of the implications of the case, Massachusetts v. EPA: From Politics to Expertise appears in the 2007 Supreme Court Review.


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LISA HEINZERLING, EPA SENIOR POLICY COUNSEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Georgetown Law Professor Lisa Heinzerling has joined Lisa Jackson's team at EPA.  She was lead author of the plaintiffs' briefs in Massachusetts v. EPA, the court case settled by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

Heinzerling is author of a number of outstanding law review articles critiquing the cost-benefit analysis work of John Morrell and John Graham.  She is also the co-author with Frank Ackerman of Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, which rejects the idea that government policy should be based on exclusively on cost-benefit analysis.

Last May Grist published dueling comments by Richard Resverz and Heinzerling on cost-benefit analysis. Heinzerling wrote: "Cost-benefit analysis also produces results that are kin to neither reason nor compassion. Scientists around the world now urge us to act quickly to prevent catastrophic effects from climate change…Many economists soberly advise us to do nothing, or very little, because their calculations demonstrate that the future is worth very little, that people prefer warm weather to cold, and that humans in poor countries are not worth as much as humans in rich ones. These calculations are not the work of the radical fringe in economics; they come from highly regarded cost-benefit practitioners. But they are unreasonable and uncompassionate all the same."


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February 26, 2009 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Saga of Snowbasin - Book Review

Here's a book review I published in American Scientist about Stephen Trimble's recent book.  AmSci link

BARGAINING FOR EDEN: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America. Stephen Trimble. xiv + 319 pp. University of California Press, 2008. $29.95.

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The strikingly beautiful Utah landscapes Stephen Trimble writes about in Bargaining for Eden—the craggy Wasatch mountain range, the desolate desert mesas—change subtly in appearance with each passing moment, as light and shadow dance over them. The same could be said of the book’s evolving perspective—every time I thought I understood Trimble’s position regarding the battles being waged over the precious wild lands that remain in the western United States, his point of view subtly shifted.

The first part of the book, aptly named “Bedrock,” sets the stage and sketches the main characters. The citizens of Ogden, Utah, are fighting billionaire oil magnate Earl Holding, who wants to transform Snowbasin, a community ski area on Mount Ogden, into a posh resort in time for the 2004 Winter Olympics. Trimble avoids the temptation to make this starkly partisan struggle into a morality play, perhaps because the story doesn’t end happily. Although the local environmentalists win a few battles, they lose the war, and the majesty of Mount Ogden is marred by development.

Rather than framing the Snowbasin saga as a tragedy, Trimble deftly uses it as a device for exploring a far more complicated theme, addressing himself directly to those who treasure wild land out West. They yearn for the romance, simplicity, community and connection they draw from open space and wilderness. Yet they also benefit from the roads, rural retreat homes and high-tech ski lifts that development provides. The poles of maximum development and maximum preservation are extremes at the ends of a continuum. Attaching oneself unthinkingly to either extreme creates destructive antagonism that severs ties to people and values on “the other side of the moral mountain.” A better, more sustainable approach to managing the lands of the West is needed.

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February 25, 2009 in Biodiversity, Economics, Environmental Assessment, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Legislation, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Obama gains nothing on tar sands in Canada

President Obama appears to have made no progress with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the Canadian tar sands issue.  Harper has requested that tar sands production be excluded from any global climate treaty -- which would be disasterous in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with tar sands development.  Obama appears to have been overly diplomatic in his discussions with Harper -- perhaps in hopes of softening Harper up over time.  I trust that he isn't really prepared to concede on the tar sands issue.

Muckracker posted this analysis on Grist (Grist link) about Obama's visit north with respect to tar sands and clean energy:

President Obama ventured north to Canada on Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but environmentalists looking for any indication that the two leaders would issue unequivocal calls for action on global warming or a curtailing of America's dependence on Canada's vast oil deposits were left disappointed. The two leaders, instead, promised a "clean energy dialog" that commits senior officials from both countries to collaborate on technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change, said Harper. That will include a monetary partnership on the development of carbon capture and storage technologies -- the holy grail for many oil and coal boosters who insist that renewable energies can't replace fossil fuels. The United States already committed to using the $3.4 billion in the newly enacted economic stimulus package for carbon capture and storage demonstrations, while Canada has committed $1 billion to a Clean Energy Fund in the government's Economic Action Plan. The two leaders also agreed to partner on the development of smart grid technologies.

"How we produce and use energy is fundamental to our economic recovery, but also our security and our planet, and we know we can't afford to tackle these issues in isolation," said Obama during a joint news conference.

Beyond dialog and promised investments in technology, there weren't a whole lot of answers from either leader on how their governments will deal with energy and climate in the short term. A major issue between the two nations has been oil from Canada's tar sands. The United States imports a lot of Canadian oil - 1.9 million barrels a day in 2008, to be exact. That's more than the U.S. imported from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and all those other nations that are so often targeted in complaints about U.S. energy "dependence."

Harper's government wants any climate pact to exempt the vast tar sands of Alberta from regulation. The tar sands contain up to 173 billion barrels of oil, but their extraction is an environmental nightmare (not to mention the problem of burning it). Thousands of acres of forests have to be destroyed to get to the oil. Separating the oil from the sand and clay is extremely energy intensive, and the waste material drenches waterways in toxic sludge. 

Asked about the issue today, Obama compared the tar sands problem with the coal problem in the United States (a comparison many Canadians have also made). While he was clear that carbon capture technologies are not cost effective at this point, he implicitly endorsed efforts to spend billions more on researching them. "In the United States, we have issues around coal, for example, which is extraordinarily plentiful and runs a lot of our power plants and if we can figure out how to capture the carbon, that would make an enormous difference in how we operate," said Obama. "Right now, the technologies are at least not cost effective. So my expectation is is that this clean energy dialog will move us in the right direction."

In an interview with the CBC on Tuesday, Obama acknowledged that tar-sands oil "creates a big carbon footprint," but was optimistic that the both the tar sands and coal problems "can be solved by technology."

              

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February 25, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

President Obama's "State of the Union" Speech

The White House has published the "Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Address to Joint Session of Congress" as prepared for delivery on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009. White House link   The President called for Congress to send him a cap and trade bill to address climate change and stressed investments in clean energy as the path to America's future.  What a difference from last year!

As the President says about the long term investments that are absolutely critical to our economic future:

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century.  And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.  We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it.  New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.  We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country.  And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.  So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.  And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink.  We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices.  But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win.  Millions of jobs depend on it.  Scores of communities depend on it.  And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy.  But this is America.  We don’t do what’s easy.  We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

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February 25, 2009 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)

Creating a Sustainable Society - the Role of Social Entrepreneurs and Volunteers

Today, the House Committee on Education and Labor had a Congressional hearing on volunteerism. Both Van Jones and Cheryl Dorsey testified to the value of volunteerism for the future of the green movement and social entrepreneurship.  Cheryl Dorsey’s video testimony can be found here Dorsey video link  and her written testimony is here. Dorsey written link  Van Jones’ video testimony is here Jones video link  and his written testimony is here.Jones' written link   Although we frequently focus on using regulation to control traditional profit-oriented business endeavors, it's good to remind ourselves that social entrepreneurs and volunteers can make a real difference in the quality of life in our communities as well as the quality of the environment.

February 25, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Legislation, North America, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition

Congratulations to all of the participants in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition held at Pace University during the last few days.  Roughly 70 law schools participated in the competition, which featured a difficult and oft-times confusing problem about salvage of a Spanish shipwreck.  The law covered by the problem included admiralty law, administrative law, international law such as the UNESCO treaty and the Law of the Sea, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and for good measure, the Submerged Military Craft Act.  Just typing that list makes me tired!

The learning is in participating, but the honors for Best Briefs go to University of Houston, Georgetown, and University of California at Davis, with Houston winning overall Best Brief.  The Best Oralist Honor goes to Louisiana State University.  The final round of the competition featured Lewis & Clark law school, University of Utah, and Louisiana State. Lewis & Clark prevailed, winning the overall competition for the 2d time in a row.  If I recall correctly, that may be the first back to back win.  Congratulations to everyone!

The students of Pace University deserve special mention for sacrificing their ability to compete and for running a flawless competition.  More details can be found at the NELMCC site.

February 25, 2009 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)