Friday, June 15, 2012

Call for Papers: Washington and Lee's "Climate Change in the Former Colonies: Challenges of Property and History"

From the CFP:

Washington and Lee University School of Law’s Law and History Center, in partnership with Virginia Sea Grant, will host a symposium on Climate Change in the Former Colonies: Challenges of Property and History. Recognizing the unique impact that the colonial legal experience continues to have on Eastern states, the symposium will focus on the application of legal historical research to contemporary problems and opportunities in the areas of policy-making, property rights, and hazard resilience in coastal communities. Panel presentations and potential topics include:

- How the colonial legal experience affects modern property rights and our responsiveness to climate change

- Historical and modern property doctrines—particularly nuisance, zoning, and eminent domain—and their relation to current climate change challenges and policies

- Changing notions of acceptable land use and natural resources

- Environmental hazard resilience policies and opportunities for their enhancement via legal strategies

We are open to suggestions of other related topics.

You can download the full CFP here:

Download Call for Papers

June 15, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Renewable Energy Scorecard - What's Your Country's Grade?

In anticipation of Earth Summit 2012, the NRDC recently released a global scorecard grading G20 countries on their performance in deploying renewable energy.  The scorecard paints an interesting picture, showing where renewables are most used and where they are growing the most.  NRDC argues that as a planet, we can reach 15% renewable energy by 2020 -- something the report contends would double current predictions.

Here are a few highlights from the scorecard:

  • Germany produces the most electricity from renewables, followed by the EU as a whole, then Italy, then Indonesia.

  • South Korea, then China, then Brazil have had the most growth in renewables since 2002.

  • The U.S. ranks 7th of G20 countries in electricity production from renewables.

  • Last out of the G20 countries is Russia.

  • There was $160 billion invested in new clean energy developments in 2011 in G20 countries.


Image credit: NRDC

-Lincoln Davies

June 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Jersey Supreme Court Grants Certiorari in Oceanfront Takings Case

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted certiorari in an important takings case that could indirectly determine the fate of public beach replenishment projects in the Garden State moving forward.

For decades, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has pumped millions of cubic feet of sand onto New Jersey’s beaches in an effort to protect the state’s highly developed and highly populated beachfront.  Generally, the federal government funds approximately 75% of the cost of these multi-million dollar projects, with the state and relevant local governmental entities paying the remainder.  Under this arrangement, however, it is the local governments that bear the responsibility to acquire any necessary property interests to allow the project to move forward.  In many instances, New Jersey municipalities have acquired voluntary construction and public access easements from private beachfront landowners who overwhelmingly welcome the shore protection provided by beach replenishment.  However, select landowners recently have refused to confer such easements without compensation, creating a significant “hold out” issue that has stalled several large projects. 

At least one town along the 18-mile long, narrow spit of sand known as Long Beach Island—the Borough of Harvey Cedars—chose to exercise its eminent domain authority to secure easements from these holdouts in the face of particularly monumental beach erosion.  However, certain landowners were displeased with the Borough’s offered price of $300.  And, as reported on this blog two months ago, an appellate panel in Borough of Harvey Cedars v. Karan affirmed a jury verdict awarding one of these oceanfront landowners $375,000 in (additional) takings compensation, based on the fact that the project included raising the height of a sand dune by up to three feet in a manner that reduced the property owner’s view of the ocean.  Touting the shore protection value of sand dunes, the Borough’s Mayor, Jonathan Oldham, admitted that the increase in the height of the dune affected the view from the landowner’s first-floor dining room, but asked, “What do you want, the view or the house?”

Property scholars have long debated whether and how courts should consider the reciprocal individualized benefits that the government’s use of condemned land imparts on the condemnee as an offset to the condemnation award (as opposed to the general benefits the project provides for the public at large, which most agree should not be considered an offset).  Identifying and evaluating offsetting benefits can be quite difficult, and judicial efforts to do so have proven quite varied.  Some courts have held that benefits must include only those directly conferred from the government’s action; others have considered a far wider range of benefits.  (In this way, the issue mirrors one in the regulatory takings context, where evidence that a landowner receives an “average reciprocity of advantage” from the regulatory act at issue can serve as a bar to any recovery at all.) 

In Karan, the appellate court assumed that special benefits can be taken into account in New Jersey condemnation cases, but held that the replenished beach and dunes directly adjacent to Karan’s property did not confer a special benefit in this particular case.  The statement of the issue on appeal prepared by the state’s Office of the Clerk asserts: “Did the public construction of a ... dune to protect against hurricanes and severe storms, for which the municipality condemned an easement on the homeowners' beachfront property and which partially blocks their ocean view, confer a special benefit on the property beyond the general benefit for which the dune was constructed?” However, such statements are neither reviewed nor endorsed by the Court.  It is not entirely likely the state’s highest court granted certiorari simply to assess the fact-intensive application of an acknowledged legal doctrine.  Instead, the Court may have taken the case to provide broader guidance on the range of direct and indirect—and short and long term—benefits that New Jersey’s lower courts are to consider in accord with this doctrine.  As renowned property scholar Hanoch Dagan has noted, “Reciprocity of advantage is a familiar concept in takings jurisprudence. Nonetheless, in law - as well as in life - reciprocity is a contested concept that admits of different conceptions.”

Stay tuned to the Environmental Law Prof Blog for updates on this important takings case.

-Tim Mulvaney

June 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In Memory of Elinor Ostrom

Elinor Ostrom died yesterday after a battle with cancer.  The last time I heard her speak (less than a year ago), a student asked her something like, “Given all the political barriers to dealing with climate change, do you think we adequately address the problem?”  Her response was this simple:  “We can, so we must.”  After a pause, she then went on to describe in some detail what needed to be done in what seemed a to-do list for the ages.  In this interaction, as in her her life, she focused on the possibilities, not the challenges they presented, and then went to work. 

When she graduated as an undergraduate in 1954 from UCLA, it was not an easy thing for a woman to aspire to academia.  She began her career and a personnel manager, and later returned to UCLA for a masters degree and then a PhD.     She started her career at Indiana University, and ultimately succeed in earning tremendous respect within her field of study.  Ultimately, she developed a way of thinking that served--and will continue to serve--as the foundation for scholarly agendas for thousands of other academics.  Her life’s work ultimately earned her a Nobel prize. 

Her best known work focuses on the commons.  This work is rooted in a few optimistic ideas:  ordinary people can overcome extraordinary problems; those that seem uneducated and powerless are often extremely clever and capable; selfishness often loses out to the common good; and human culture can be good at policing itself.  The work she has completed and inspired shows that these optimistic ideas often empirically play out in a diverse range of resources, from fisheries to the radio spectrum.  Furthermore, this literature demonstrates that more success stories are within our grasp if society’s institutions are reshaped correctly.  Her guidance has literally left a lasting mark on resource managers world-over and can and should be credited for successes that have kept food on many communities’ tables.

As someone who cares deeply about her ideas, I am not sure how the study of the commons will survive without the additional insights she had to offer or how the interdisciplinary community that furthers her work will manage without the rallying call from her powerful, yet folksy voice.  However, this much I have learned from Lin: we can, so we must.

-- Brigham Daniels

June 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

"The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources"

Yale Environment 360 has posted a fascinating interview with Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Klare has recently written a book titled "The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources," which "describes how the world economy has entered a period of what he calls 'tough' extraction for energy, minerals, and other commodities, meaning that the easy-to-get resources have been exploited and a rapidly growing population is now turning to resources in the planet’s most remote regions — the Arctic, the deep ocean, and war zones like Afghanistan. The exploitation of 'tough' resources, such as “fracking” for natural gas in underground shale formations, carries with it far greater environmental risk." You can read the full interview here.

- Blake Hudson

June 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

In Case You Missed It: The Week of June 3-9

* A new study by Chinese, British, and U.S. researchers indicates that Chinese carbon emissions may be as much as 20% higher than official estimates, a 1.4 billion ton gap in 2010.

* The Canadian Opposition party introduced hundreds of amendments to Bill C-38, the Conservative government's omnibus budget bill, which makes significant changes--protested by environmental groups--to Canadian environmental law.

* The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service announced that they will delay the sale of natural gas leases on 43,000 acres of the Talladega National Forest to allow for additional engagement of key stakeholders after many raised concerns over hydrofracturing and endangered species.

* The U.S. Department of Energy gave awards to nine universities to support their research on innovation and development of clean goal technologies.

* A Florida administrative law judge rejected a challenge by five environmental groups to the state's water pollution rules (the suit claimed that the rules inadequately controlled nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus).

* The Michigan State Senate passed changes to the state's sand dune protection laws that would make it easier to build in those areas.

June 10, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)