July 13, 2012
Must Read Energy Books, Redux
Last summer, I commented on Alexis Madrigal's list of "13 Energy Books You Need to Read." Madrigal's list is insightful and interesting, and stands up to the (short) test of time. It's still quite pertinent.
Over the last year, however, I've come upon a number of other energy books that also are worth diving into. Some are old; some are new. Given that there is still time in the summer to tackle some of these, I thought it might be worth adding to last year's list.
In no particular order:
- Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity's Unappeasable Appetite for Energy by Alfred W. Crosby
- Pyramids of Power: The Story of Roosevelt, Inusll and the Utility Wars by M.L. Ramsay
- From Edison to Enron: The Business of Power and What It Means for the Future of Electricity by Richard Munson
- The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World by Jeremy Rifkin
- Energy for Sustainability: Technology, Planning, Policy by John Randolph and Gilbert M. Masters
- The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin
- Ending Dirty Energy Policy: Prelude to Climate Change by Joseph P. Tomain
Do you have more to add?
July 12, 2012
Texas Court Finds the Atmosphere Protected under the Public Trust Doctrine
Earlier this week, Texas trial court judge Gisela Triana ruled that the atmosphere is part of the common law public trust, such that the state bears the responsibility to preserve and protect it for future generations. Several scholars, including Mary Wood at the University of Oregon School of Law, have advocated this theory for some time; until this case, however, courts regularly have dismissed such claims as addressing public policy matters that are solely for consideration and action by the political branches of government.
Judge Triana’s interpretation of the public trust is particularly broad. In the face of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s claim that the public trust doctrine is applicable only to water, Judge Triana wrote that the public trust doctrine “includes all natural resources of the state.” Nevertheless, she found appropriate the state’s “refusal to exercise its authority” to regulate greenhouse gases “a reasonable exercise of its discretion” in light of other ongoing climate litigation, including Texas’ joining multiple sister states in challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rules (which the D.C. Circuit recently upheld).
Nearly a dozen similar suits claiming that the atmosphere is protected under the public trust doctrine are proceeding in other states. Stay tuned to the Environmental Law Prof Blog for any important updates in this developing area of law.
July 11, 2012
CALL FOR PAPERS-PACE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW REVIEW
Please see the below call for papers:
The Pace Environmental Law Review (PELR) will devote its winter journal to pressing issues in the development and regulation of nanotechnology. Jesse Glickstein and Sarah Wegmueller, the acquisition editors of PELR, would like to invite you to submit for publication an article or essay that discusses the intersection between nanotechnology and environmental issues. Based on your expertise, we encourage you to take an interdisciplinary approach to nanotechnology from legal and other perspectives, including technology, science, public health, economics, or policy.
Authors should send an abstract and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions of article proposals is September 30, 2012. Please feel free to email Jesse (email@example.com) and Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
July 10, 2012
Adapting National Parks and Wetlands: Will laws do?
News of floods and news worthy weather events have been abound this summer, from Washington D.C. area to Russia. In Assam, India, floods have reportedly killed around 12 people and displaced over 2 million people. Amidst this tragic devastation, are also reports of floods and animal deaths in Kaziranga National Park. The national park is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to an endangered species, the one-horned rhino. Over 500 animals and about a dozen rhinos have reportedly died in the floods. Since this is not the first incident, albiet it is reportedly the worst since 1998, the government had sufficient time to come up with a plan to manage such floods. Yet, dismal performance by the authorities has led to mismanagement, despite availability of funds. So much so that an inquiry panel has reportedly been established to inquire into the matter.
The devastation in Assam raises another general concern. While the floods have not been attributed to climate change, floods and other catastrophes are predicted to increase with climate change. The best option at this point is to pursue adapation policy and the process has started internationally. But, what Assam's experience shows is that not only people, but a lot of animals and other species will be affected. Even if we take an anthropocentric view, it means that ecosystem imbalances will be created. So, in addition to creating management plans to redress loss to human life and property, a mechanism needs to be established to help animals and species adapt to catastrophic event. The question, of course, is how...
July 9, 2012
New Article - "Strategic Spillovers"
The conventional problem with externalities is well known: Parties often generate harm as an unintended byproduct of using their property. This Article examines situations in which parties may generate harm purposely, in order to extract payments in exchange for desisting. Such “strategic spillovers” have received relatively little attention, but the problem is a perennial one. From the “livery stable scam” in Chicago to “pollution entrepreneurs” in China, parties may engage in externality-generating activities they otherwise would not have undertaken, or increase the level of harm given that they are engaging in such activities, to profit through bargaining or subsidies. This Article investigates the costs of strategic spillovers, the circumstances in which threatening to engage in these spillovers may be credible, and potential solutions for eliminating, or at least mitigating, this form of opportunism through externalities.
The phenomena explored in Kelly's article has a wide range of implications, not the least of which is for forest policies aimed at combating climate change. As I blogged about recently, one of the difficulties in developing Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation climate policies has been the risk that, as highlighted here, "by paying people not to deforest, the system might inadvertently encouraging people to falsely declare their intentions to cut down trees . . . You do that and of course, everybody would have an incentive to say, 'I'm going to deforest next year so please pay me' . . . ." Kelly's article also describes this problem:
A similar phenomenon also has been occurring in densely-populated cities and towns as well as in national forests and parks. Many cities and towns are hoping to expand the amount of land devoted to open space. To this end, municipal governments are seeking to purchase undeveloped parcels of land or the development rights to such parcels. However, realizing the municipality’s interest in acquiring additional open space, landowners may act opportunistically. Specifically, even if a landowner had no intention of building on a particular parcel, the landowner may announce construction plans or commence construction to secure an elevated price, thereby making it much more costly for the municipality that is seeking to preserve the land as open space. Similarly, as the Wall Street Journal has documented, a real-estate broker named Thomas Chapman “has made a controversial career trading scattered parcels of private land that sit inside national forests and national parks.” Mr. Chapman’s strategy is simple: “[H]e talks up plans to develop the parcels,” including the possibility of bulldozing the land, “[e]nvironmentalists sound the alarm,” and “often, the government or conservationists come with money or a land swap to buy him out, saving the cherished parcel from development—and making Mr. Chapman money.”
"Strategic Spillovers" provides important insights into this phenomenon, adding a much needed analysis and refinement of understandings of environmental externalities.
- Blake Hudson
Food Law Symposium Call for Papers
This coming February or March, Maine Law Review is hosting a symposium on food law. Here's the call for papers. If you're interested, I highly recommend participating. The subject matter should be interesting; our students usually do an excellent job running symposiums; and the food in Portland is really, really good.
- Dave Owen
July 8, 2012
In Case You Missed It: The Week of July 1 - 7
- Ninth Circuit upholds $28.8 million award for wildfire damages.
- New poll shows that climate change still seen as a threat, but no longer ranks as top environmental concern.
- U.S. Navy intends to resume using old warships for target practice after two-year moratorium.
- Report declares the Fukushima disaster “a profoundly man-made disaster — that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”
- Study of beached northern fulmars indicate significant plastic pollution levels off coast of Pacific Northwest.