Saturday, August 13, 2011

DOE Advisory Board Recommends Shale Gas Production Changes

This week, the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board released a ninety-day report that proposes ways to "reduce the environmental impact and improve the safety of shale gas production"--a process that includes the use of hydraulic fracturing.  The report recommends that companies drilling and fracturing for natural gas in shale formations reduce the use of diesel fuel in fracturing (and to do this by, among other measures, substituting electric or natural gas engines for diesel engines); reduce methane and other air emissions; disclose the "flow and composition of water at every stage of the shale gas production process" and take other measures to protect water quality; and disclose "all chemicals in fracturing fluids" to the public.  One of the most important recommendations is for improved communication among state and federal regulators.  States have core regulatory responsibilities over drilling and fracturing, and some of their regulations differ substantially when compared across states.  In some cases, these differences may be justified by geographic and climatic variation, but a closer assessment of the reasons behind these differences could help to achieve the stated goals of the report.

-Hannah Wiseman

August 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Should We Require Scrubbers for the Republican Presidential Candidates' Positions on Pollution and EPA?

During last night’s Republican Debate, Jon Huntsman called for EPA’s “regulatory reign of terror” to be brought to an end.  And, I had to remind myself that this was coming from the moderate in the debate.  To be clear, he is just the latest of the Republican candidates to condemn EPA and not the most extreme.

Of course in the last debate, Michele Bachmann called for EPA to be abolished and labeled it the “job-killing organization of America.”  More recently, she also pledged that if elected, she would have EPA’s “doors locked and lights turned off.”  Seemingly, she has tried to make this one of her major issues, but others are not so willing to keep this position to herself.

Newt Gingrich has called EPa a“fundamental threat to freedom in this country” and accused it of being “anti-American jobs, anti-American business, anti-state government, anti-local control.”

In his first major speech, in which he laid out his domestic agenda, Tim Pawlenty has said, “We need less EPA monitoring of our economy. And more monitoring of EPA’s affects on our freedom.”

Ron Paul has said that we do not need EPA and has alleged that it uses an “intrusive approach and it favors those who have political connections.”  He has also said, however, that abolishing it is not one of his higher priorities, though he is not opposed to it.

Herman Cain has promised if elected that he would “create a panel of oil and gas officials to instruct the agency in overhauling its permitting program” and says that eliminating its permitting programs “would be an option.”

While to my knowledge Mitt Romney has avoided such fiery language/positions, he has criticized EPA for attempting to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  In the same interaction, however, he did support other aspects of EPA’s mission.

Soon-to-announce candidate, Rick Perry has said that he prays for the President every day and also prays that “his EPA back down these regulations that are causing businesses to hesitate to spend money.”  So it seems, once he is in the race, we will be hearing more from him on this topic.

Perhaps, these positions are more about trying to win votes from those who make their voices heard in state caucuses and primaries or those who donate to candidates.  Perhaps, this is just cheap talk. 

Granted, some candidates have taken more extreme positions than others.  However, it turns out that one of these candidates becomes President, let’s hope that he or she is just blowing smoke about EPA and the regulation of pollution.  If not, we should prepare ourselves for air filled with smoke and other pollutants if these candidates get their way.

-- Brigham Daniels

August 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Public Parks and Private Property

In the semi-wilds of northern Maine, a land management controversy is highlighting some interesting tensions in conservative conceptions of property rights.

Roxanne Quimby, a well-heeled philanthropist with substantial landholdings in northern Maine, recenty announced her interest in donating a new national park.  The park would contain 70,000 acres of land adjacent to Baxter State Park, the crown jewel of the Maine state parks system and the northern terminus of the Appalachian trail.  Ms. Quimby also plans to donate and raise money for a management endowment, and to donate an additional area to the state.

The reaction of locals have been mixed, and Maine's Senators have already voiced their opposition to the proposal.  They have raised several arguments (summarized in more detail here): that the deal would remove land from state tax rolls; that it "would cause a region of the state to be governed by decisions dictated from Washington," (Senator Snowe, quoted in the Bangor Daily News); and that it "would most likely spell the end to the working forest that has provided thousands of good jobs to the area’s families for generations" (Senator Collins, also in today's Bangor Daily News story).

The latter two arguments echo the sorts of claims often made when the federal government proposes some sort of land preservation, but here there's an interesting twist: Ms. Quimby owns all of the land.  It's all private property.  So the Senators and the local opponents in effect are saying that anti-federal preferences and public economic interests ought to trump the ability of a private landowner to do as she pleases with her land.  That is an interesting thing for conservatives to say.

There are intriguing parallels between the conception of property rights contained in these statements and some of the views of legal academics traditionally associated with more environmentalist views of property.  Eric Freyfogle, for example, has written several works (examples here and here) arguing that property rights and values necessarily flow from and are embedded in communities, and that some community right of access and governance should therefore be--and traditionally has been--a key part of property law.  In this instance, at least, Collins and Snowe seem to have wholeheartedly adopted Freyfogle's view, but in opposition to, not support of, environmental preservation.

- Dave Owen

August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

ClimateWatch Magazine (

For those of you not aware of this resource, ClimateWatch Magazine, part of NOAA's website ( is, according to NOAA, an "online magazine for the science-interested public covering topics in climate science, adaptation, and mitigation. ClimateWatch publishes stories and other articles, along with pictures, data visualizations, and videos about the work NOAA and its partners do to understand, predict, and plan for climate variability and change."

- Blake Hudson

Climate Watch Magazine

August 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ABA’s Standing Committee on Environmental Law Reincarnated as a Task Force

After 36 years, the ABA’s Standing Committee on Environmental (SCEL) was dissolved yesterday (see my previous post on this issue).  As a result of hard negotiation by SCEL members and supporters, however, many of its activities will continue through a newly-created Task Force on Environmental Law within the ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER).  While details are still being worked out, the idea is that the task force will focus on the core missions of SCEL, namely coordination, policymaking, and looking out for up-and-coming environmental law issues.  For at least another year, the composition and funding of the task force will be the same as it was for the standing committee.

Time will tell if the change is really just one of bodily form, or also one of spirit.

- Lesley McAllister


August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Nixon Administration and Climate Change

Last week, I spent some time in the Nixon Library reviewing documents produced by the Nixon Administration relevant to the beginnings of the EPA and the passage of the Clean Air Act.  In doing so, I found many interesting documents that relate to my research.  I ran across one document, however, that I did not expect to find: a memo from White House Counsel (and later Senator) Daniel Patrick Moynihan discussing climate change.  The memo was addressed to John Ehrlichman, Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs.  The memo in part reads as follows:

As with so many of the more interesting environmental questions, we really don't have very satisfactory measurements of the carbon dioxide problem.  On the other hand, this very clearly is a problem, and, perhaps most particularly, is one that can seize the imagination of persons normally indifferent to projects of apocalyptic change.

The process is a simple one. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has the effect of a pane of glass in a greenhouse. The CO2 content is normally in a stable cycle, but recently man has begun to introduce instability through the burning of fossil fuels. At the turn of the century several persons raised the question whether this would change the temperature of the atmosphere. Over the years the hypothesis has been refined, and more evidence has come along to support it. It is now pretty clearly agreed that the CO2 content will rise 25% by 2000. This could increase the average temperature near the earth's surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit. This in turn could raise the level of the sea by I0 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter. We have no data on Seattle.

It is entirely possible that there will be countervailing effects, for example, an increase of dust in the atmosphere would tend to lower temperatures, and might offset the CO2 effect. Similarly, it is possible to conceive fairly mammoth man-made efforts to countervail the CO2 rise. (E.g., stop burning fossil fuels.)

In any event, I would think this is a subject that the Administration ought to get involved with...

I often had wondered what might have happened had the Nixon Administration identified climate change as a problem.  (Or as the bumper stickers sold in the Presidential Library ask "WWND--What Would Nixon Do?")  After all, during the Nixon Administration, Congress and the President worked dilligently to address a wide array of environmental issues.  To my surprise, climate change was at least recognized as a problem by those working on environmental policy within the administration.  Unfortunately, not so much unlike the Administrations that followed, for the Nixon Administration it was a problem that was acknowledged by some but left unaddressed.

If anyone is interested in getting a pdf of the memo, feel free to contact me.

-- Brigham Daniels

August 8, 2011 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Case You Missed It -- The Week of August 1-7

* The famine in Somalia continues to worsen.

* Shell received conditional approval from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation to drill in the arctic Beaufort Sea, off the coast of Alaska.

* EPA proposed a rule that would exempt carbon dioxide streams from hazardous waste regulations under certain conditions.  The hope is to spur greater use of carbon capture and sequestration technology.

* A new PAC has formed to promote energy efficiency legislation.

* If you haven't seen it yet, Science has out an impressive set of materials on population trends, their environmental impacts, and prognostications about what it all means for the future of the planet.

* The leopards are not happy.

August 7, 2011 in Africa, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Energy, Land Use, Law, Legislation, North America, Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)