Saturday, February 4, 2012

Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law Call for Submissions

Please see the below call for submissions:

The Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law is soliciting articles on a range of topics related to environmental and administrative law for our upcoming volume.  Our journal’s focus on both environmental law and administrative law provides a unique specialty journal for those interested in the cross-cutting currents of these two fields, or for those simply seeking a more tailored fit for environmental or administrative law scholarship.

Our first volume, being published in late winter 2012, features scholarly work by pre-eminent leaders in our subject fields, including Rena Steinzor, Lisa Heinzerling, Dan Tarlock, Paul Verkuil, Tom McGarity and others. Now entering our second year of provisional status at the University of Michigan Law School, we are seeking to build upon the momentum established with our first volume. We are presently seeking article submissions, and would be thrilled to receive work—either an article or an essay—addressing any environmental and/or administrative law and policy matter. We will accept submissions throughout the spring and into the early part of the summer. Please submit articles directly to Editor-in-Chief Susie Shutts ( or Managing Articles Editor, Brian Connolly (, and feel free to contact Susie or Brian with any questions about the journal or our selection process.  We look forward to receiving your submission!

February 4, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Minnesota Senate's Ouster of its PUC Chair Ellen Anderson: Partisanship that Fails to Recognize Potential for Bipartisan Agreement on Energy

Earlier this week, Minnesota Senate Republicans voted to oust Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chair Ellen Anderson.  Despite the fact that she had voted with the rest of PUC in almost every vote (of 221 votes in which she participated, the Dayton administration reported that 204 were unanimous and she was in the minority on only 6 votes), she was characterized as biased against some forms of energy due to her earlier leadership in the MInnesota state senate on its renewable energy legislations.  Governor Dayton expressed his dismay with this decision and offered her a senior role in energy policy in his administration, which she accepted.

Beyond setting a fractious tone for the spring, this action by the Minnesota Senate Republicans reflects exactly what is wrong with dialogue over energy in this country.  There are so many win-wins if people would only work together.  Ellen Anderson was making such an effort during her tenure at the PUC, working collaboratively with that bi-partisan group, and clearly recognized and took seriously the fact that her quasi-judicial role was different than her Senate one. Her voting record on the PUC reflects that bi-partisanship.

Most people in this country agree that energy should be affordable, reliable, and as clean as possible without sacrificing affordability and reliability.  People also agree that the United States should decrease its reliance on foreign sources.  A University of Texas poll last fall confirms this: "Of more than 3,400 consumers surveyed, 84 percent were worried about U.S. consumption of oil from foreign sources and 76 percent about a lack of progress in developing better ways to use energy efficiently and develop renewable sources." 

Within Minnesota, a number of mayors from both Democratic and Republican leaning cities are helping their cities save money by conserving energy and using it more efficiently.  Our regional transmission organization is increasingly integrating wind onto the grid because the middle of the country has the highest onshore wind capacity in the United States and wind provides a cheap source of energy. 

Especially in these tough economic times, even in a Presidential election year, we need to look beyond what divides us and find sensible common ground.  The public interest demands that.  Ellen Anderson's ouster is a discouraging sign about politicians willingness to do so.

Hari Osofsky

February 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Yucca Mountain: Whose Voice?

The story of Yucca Mountain, Nevada—designated as the nation’s repository for commercial nuclear waste—is of central importance in the enduringly contentious nuclear power debate. 

If you’ve been following the Yucca Mountain controversy, you’ll know that both the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have essentially halted the project.  From an administrative law perspective, it seems pretty clear that neither agency is behaving as Congress intended.  (Links to various documents related to those decisions and legal challenges can be found here.)

But that perspective is unsatisfying because it only hints at a much broader, more persistent issue in confronting environmental risks:  whose voice matters?

Consider some of the possibilities:

  • Is it Congress, which designated Yucca Mountain as the sole location for site characterization and, ultimately, disposal?
  • Is it Nevada, whose veto of the project Congress overrode?
  • Is it President Obama, who campaigned on a promise to shut down Yucca Mountain, and has directed the Department of Energy to do just that?
  • Is it Nye County, Nevada, within which Yucca is located, and which supports opening a repository?
  • Is it the generators and owners of nuclear waste that have made payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund for decades?
  • What about the scientists who worked for DOE, NRC, and consulting firms, many of whom dedicated their careers to the repository?
  • And what about the broader public and our collective reliance on nuclear energy for about 20% of our electricity? 

All of these voices matter—and many more could be added to this list.  But whose should prevail? And are there ways to structure our decisionmaking processes going forward to somehow reach outcomes satisfactory to many voices?

On January 26, 2012, the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future released its final report (press release and final report available here.)  Tasked with conducting a comprehensive analysis of policies related to the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, the BRC’s report recommends using a consent-based, adaptive approach to siting future nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities. 

Exactly what that approach will look like remains to be seen.  The good news is that there has been a lot of experimentation already in stakeholder engagement, providing a nice supply of lessons for the future.  I’ll be spotlighting some of those in the coming months, and hope readers will share others in the comments.   

 - Emily Meazell 

February 3, 2012 in Current Affairs, Energy | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Don’t We Teach?

Lately, criticizing the alleged inadequacies of contemporary legal education is all the rage.  Judges, law professors, and, perhaps most notoriously, the New York Times all have abundant opinions on what’s wrong with or missing from legal education.  I think, for reasons exhaustively documented elsewhere in the legal blogosphere, that many of the critiques are overblown.  But the debate undeniably is important, and it has me wondering: what important pieces are missing from contemporary environmental law education?  And how well do the standard critiques apply to the education of environmental lawyers?

Before I suggest some possible answers, a few caveats are in order.  First, I have only attended one law school, have only taught at one school, and, prior to teaching, held just one environmental law job (as well as working on regulatory issues as an environmental consultant before going to law school).  I can’t offer definitive answers.  Second, this post considers the education of an environmental law specialist, rather than a generalist whose practice includes some environmental law.  Perhaps our primary focus should be on educating the latter rather than the former, but that’s a question for another day.

Those reservation aside, here are some things I found important, that law school didn’t teach me, and that I suspect law schools elsewhere don’t really cover:

-  Understanding environmental reports written by scientists, engineers, and other non-lawyers.  Reviewing these reports is a big part of what environmental lawyers do, but it isn’t easy to teach in the classroom.  I had spent my years before law school reading and writing such reports, but they weren’t part of my law school experience.

- Understanding how to bring in clients.  The most valuable person in any law firm is the biggest rainmaker.  But other than trying to teach good lawyering skills, which, of course, are relevant to bringing in and retaining clients, rainmaking isn’t a major part of environmental law education, or of legal education generally.

- Understanding law firm recordkeeping, finance, and office management.  I worked at a tiny firm, and if I had stayed and become a partner, I would have needed these skills.  But nothing in my legal education helped me develop them.

Those are important skills, but still, it's not a very impressive list.  Its brevity reflects my view that  law school actually did a pretty good job of preparing me for practice.  But I’m curious what our readers think.  What do you wish your law school had taught you?

-Dave Owen


February 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Teaching Sustainability by Example

The idea of fostering environmental literacy among students is important to human well-being.  As such, it is promising to learn that public and private schools across the nation have been busy greening both the curriculum and educational facilities.  States now commonly adopt and follow environmental literacy standards in public schools or participate in sustainability programs (such as, for example, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, and Wisconsin).   EPA’s recent issuance of the voluntary School Siting Guidelines promotes sincere consideration of environmental factors in siting decisions.  Reporting on innovative sustainability educational programs and tools has been increasingly active and grown with the development of reporting tools by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and others.  

This post focuses on efforts to provide healthy and low-impact school buildings and recognizes that green school buildings lead to healthier students that can learn by the examples set by educators.  As recently reported by the National Education Association, “Green schools cost $3 more per square foot, but generated $74 per square foot in benefits from energy savings, increased attendance, and teacher retention.” The U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Center for Green Schools released its first annual Best of Green Schools list.  The List recognizes significant accomplishments in creating sustainable learning environments in 10 categories.  Relevant factors include efforts to occupy green-certified buildings, create collaborative sustainability programs, increase the sustainability in school infrastructure, improve departmental efficiency and inter-departmental interaction, and engage in energy conservation and other cost savings.  The categories and recipients are as follows:

1)      Best Moment for the Movement

The U.S. Department of Education has been recognized in the Moment for the Movement category for its Green Ribbon Schools program.  On the blog of the Department of Education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan encourages educators, parents, and administrators to engage in the process of identifying the schools that will “have no environmental impact, make a positive effect on students’ health, and enable students to become environmentally literate citizens who are well prepared for the 21st Century economy.”  The Green Ribbon awards program recognizes schools for their combined achievement (or progress) in three areas: 1) energy efficiency; 2) student and environmental health; and 3) high quality education in environmental literacy.  At least 33 states, Washington D.C. and the Bureau of Indian Education have announced plans to participate in the program.  (See Michigan’s recent announcement here)

2)      Best Region

Sacramento’s Mayor Kevin Johnson has organized the Sacramento region, recipient of the Region award, to pursue a shared vision “to transform the Sacramento region into the Emerald Valley – the greenest region in the country and a hub for clean technology.”  The effort has included schools as a focus for improvement, both in the content of education and educational facilities.  The Greenwise Regional Action Plan includes a policy to create a $100 million revolving loan fund for green school retrofits across the region.    

3)      Best State

Ohio school planners are no stranger to sustainable initiatives. The State of Ohio received the award in the State category for its outstanding commitment to healthy learning environments.  The USBGC reports that Ohio leads the nation with 315 LEED registered and certified projects.  The effort continues and is encouraging other green school projects. 

4)      Best City

Philadelphia, which oversees the eighth largest school district in the country, is recognized in the City category for its focused efforts to improve the sustainability of the City’s school facilities.  With help from the Delaware Valley Green Building Council’s Green Schools Circle, the School District of Philadelphia has committed to seeking certification at LEED Silver or higher for all new construction projects.  The District has also adopted a plan to green the city’s existing 291 public schools.  The District boasts the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School as the state’s first LEED certified existing building and the Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts, which was recognized as the first public high school in the nation to achieve LEED Platinum certification. 

5)      Best School

The School award was given to Lake Mills Middle School in Lake Mills, Wisconsin.  In March of 2011, Lake Mills Middle School became the nation’s first public school to achieve LEED Platinum certification. The building improvements were completed $700,000 under budget and included a 36,632 square foot renovation and a 59,865 square foot expansion, native landscaping to facilitate studies on biodiversity and ecology, preference for local materials, and efficient heating and cooling systems.

6)      Best Higher Ed Innovator

University of Texas at Dallas was recognized in the Higher Education Innovator category for their LEED Platinum Student Services Building. Occupants of this four-story, 74,000-square-foot building benefit substantially from natural sunlight and views to the outside. The USBGC reports that the building has an annual electrical savings of $60,000.  Rick Dempsey, associate vice president for business affairs and the facilities management and campus sustainability officer, notes that the Student Services Building may serve as a launching point: “[B]y taking into account environmental considerations and future operational costs, the building exceeded our performance goals and has allowed us to envision new ways of creating sustainable new space on campus.”

7)      Best Collaborator

In the Collaborator category, Kentucky is recognized for driving collaborative support for green schools.   Rep. Jim DeCesare (R) and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D) are credited for forming the Kentucky Green Schools Caucus as a catalyst for forward-thinking state legislators to coordination and education on the benefits of green schools and facilitating bipartisan participation in green school resolutions.   

8)      Best Convenor 

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was recognized in the Convenor category for drawing an impressive interdisciplinary crowd of researchers to the Research Summit on Childhood Health and School Buildings.  The attendees at the Summit debated and explored the relationships between school facilities, student health, and academic performance.   The Summit adds to Boston’s wide range of improvements in public and private educational facilities.

9)      Best Policy Maker

The District of Columbia City Council was recognized in the Policy Maker category for its passage of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 and 2011 updates.  The 2011 updates included a commitment to become the first participant in the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program. The District has established itself as a leader by adopting goals and guidance pertaining to student indoor and outdoor health, student access to meals and physical activities, Farm to School programs and health education, and sustainable buildings and premises. 

10)      Best K-12 Innovator

The K-12 Innovator award recognizes the public-private partnership resulting from the Illinois’ General Assembly’s October 2009 adoption of House Joint Resolution 45 (HJR 45).  In March of 2011, the HJR 45 task force issued a report that inventoried the financial and physical resources of the school system, reported on sustainability surveys and case studies in furtherance of best practices among Illinois schools, and envisioned resources and strategies to implement the Environmental Literacy for Illinois 2010 Strategic Plan.   

- Keith Hirokawa

February 1, 2012 in Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ehrlichman and the Environment

This upcoming year, I intend to blog periodically about the political players that oversaw the birth of environmental law in the 1970s.  

John Ehrlichman is mainly remembered for his participation in the Watergate break in.  Of course, Watergate was a political scandal of a generation, and landed Ehrlichman in prison after he was forced from the White House.  

While it is rarely a matter of focus, it should be noted that Ehrlichman had a great hand in much of the environmental legislation that was passed during Nixon's time in the White House.  He served as Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under President, and environmental law found its home in Domestic Affairs.  

While much more could be said about the specific contributions Ehrlichman made, for now, I would just like to make the observation that Nixon's attention to environmental law in many ways can be traced to Ehrlichman's attention to the matter.  While he was a much maligned public figure, some of what he did in the White House could rightly be described as meaningful public service.  

Ehrlichman is a complicated figure.  And, as with most people, a quick inspection of his life often leaves out important details.  

-- Brigham Daniels

January 31, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

My European Carbon Footprint

At this nifty website, the per capita carbon footprints of different countries can be compared. It shows that the carbon footprint of the average American (that is, a resident of the USA) is about two-and-a-half times larger than the carbon footprint of the average Spaniard.  As a visiting professor in Granada, Spain, I am experiencing this difference first-hand. I have rented a 3 bedroom/ 2 bath apartment in the center of the city.  It is one of the nicer apartments I saw during a week of apartment hunting – not luxurious but comfortable and relatively well-equipped.  Unlike several others I looked at, it has a dishwasher, a central heating system, and an air-conditioning unit in the living room. But consider what it doesn’t have:

- an elevator (and I’m on the fifth floor!)
- a bathtub
- much space (there are about 800 or 900 sq.ft.)
- a hot-water feed to the washing machine
- a clothes dryer

Also, there is no garage, and street parking is very hard to come by. On the other hand, consider the services I have within three blocks of my apartment (and this isn't even a complete tally): a grocery store; two bread and pastry shops; two fruit and veggie stores; a wine and cheese shop; a frozen foods specialty store; at least ten restaurants; a bank; a hotel; a health clinic; a pharmacy; a taxi stand; an elementary school; a school supplies store; and a public square with a playground.  See the pics below taken from my porch, with the well-constructed clothesline front and center!

What a change from SoCal!

- Lesley McAllister

IMG_0799Campo del principe



January 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 30, 2012

In Case You Missed It - Week of January 22-28

* President Obama's State of the Union Address and reactions to it involved significant discussion of energy and transition to cleaner sources.

* As environmental concerns continue to rise about the recent cruise ship accident off the coast of Italy while rough seas delayed fuel pumping from the ship, two shipping companies are sentenced in district court in Baltimore for enviromental crimes and obstruction of justice.

* British scientists reported that an expanding large pool of fresh water in the Arctic Ocean could decrease temperatures in Europe if winds shift and cause it to enter the North Atlantic.

* The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its first pilot project license for a tidal energy project located in New York City’s East River.

* Houston became the latest city to join the Department of Energy's Better Buildings Challenge, which aims to increase energy efficiency 20 percent by 2020 in commercial, government, and school buildings across the country.

* The Southern Environmental Law Center released its 2012 Top 10 Endangered Places in the Southeast.

January 30, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Climate Change Adaptation - Where the Academy Meets the Real World

State-level climate change adaptation is “on the radar” in Hawai‘i, and like many other academic institutions working in other jurisdictions, the University of Hawai‘i has something to do with it.

Last week, Hawai‘i State Representative Cynthia Thielen introduced House Bill 2330 to the Hawai‘i Legislature proposing that the State Office of Planning and county planning and permitting departments begin preparing for a 1-foot-by-2050 sea-level rise.  This measure, if enacted, would constitute Hawai‘i’s first comprehensive state-level sea-level rise adaptation policy.  Click here for local news coverage.

The University of Hawaii's Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (“ICAP”) recommended a similar statewide planning benchmark (1-foot-by-2050 and 3-feet-by-2100) in its recently released paper, Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Land Use in Hawai‘i:  A Policy Tool Kit for State and Local Governments.  The paper also identifies twenty-four planning, regulatory, spending, and market-based policy tools that state and local decision-makers could use to build resiliency and reduce vulnerability to sea-level rise in Hawai‘i, and perhaps elsewhere.  The tool kit is an adaptation of the Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Tool Kit:  Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Land Use, How Governments Can Use Land Use to Adapt to Sea-Level Rise, released in October 2011, which served as a valuable resource and model. 

The larger study’s three major phases — research, writing, and outreach over the 2011 calendar year — have involved extensive stakeholder engagement through workshops, individual interviews, and peer review.  Through this process, ICAP has strived to fill gaps between science, academia, policy-making, and implementation to ensure that its policy recommendations are well informed, useful, and attentive to community needs.

Concurrently, the Hawai‘i State Office of Planning is proposing legislation this session that would incorporate a climate change priority guideline into the State Plan.  The guideline would address climate change impacts on a variety of sectors including agriculture, coastal and near shore marine areas, water resources, education, energy, health, and the economy. 

 And, last November, the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources released The Rain Follows the Forest, an action plan for replenishing Hawai‘i’s watersheds with an eye to increasing fresh water resilience in the face of drier conditions in the future due to climate change.  ICAP will release a policy study specifically focused on climate change and fresh water resources in the upcoming months.

ICAP is part of a trend worth watching in which scientists, legal scholars, and planners are working together across sectors to make climate adaptation policy a reality in state houses and county councils across the country. Whether decision-makers act on these recommendations will shape our quality of life in years and decades to come.

- Maxine Burkett

January 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)