Thursday, January 31, 2013
In a recent article, I argued that certain policies in the electric power sector could further both climate change mitigation and adaptation (Adaptive Mitigation in the Electric Power Sector, 2011 BYU L. Rev 2116). An important example relates to the differential water requirements of power generation technologies: wind and solar PV have low water requirements, while fossil fuel and nuclear generally have very high ones. Astoundingly, about 40% of withdrawals of freshwater in the US are for thermoelectric power plants.
In my research for the article, I was delighted to find that a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 required the Department of Energy (DOE), within 2 years, to produce a report on the nexus between energy and water supply and demand and a set of recommendations for future actions (42 USC 16319). But I soon learned that only an initial report had been produced. “Energy Demands on Water Resources” was publicly released in February 2007. The process of putting together recommendations was dubbed the “Energy-Water Roadmap process,” with the goal of “summarizing the needs, prioritization criteria, major gaps, innovative technical approaches and associated research needs, R&D priorities and strategies, and associated policy, regulatory, and economic assessments.” Now, five years after its due date, the Roadmap has still not been publicly released and, as of 2009, it had reportedly already been rewritten 22 times.
A few days ago, a petition was created asking the White House to compel DOE to complete the Roadmap report. The petition has fewer than 1,000 signatures and it needs 100,000 within 30 days (by February 24) to get a response from the White House. The odds seem long, but perhaps not impossible. You can sign it here (whitehouse.gov).
- Lesley McAllister
That's the feeling one gets reading today's news about northeastern fisheries. This year's story is much like the stories from other recent years, and those stories are quite similar to the twenty-year-old stories in the natural resources casebook I use. Fisheries regulators set limits. Fishermen complain that the limits are unjuustified and will be economically devastating. Regulators and environmental advocates point out that the reason these limits have to be stringent is that the limits of previous years weren't stringent enough (in their public statements, they're usually polite enough to not point out that those limits weren't sufficiently stringent partly because fishermen and their supporters resisted argued that lower limits would be economically devastating). Northeastern politicians ask for disaster relief (only this year, they don't get it).
One hopeful sign is that this isn't the story for all U.S. fisheries. Many are actually stable or improving, and legal innovations like catch share programs are part of that positive story. And another somewhat hopeful sign is that some species in the waters off New England actually are doing well. Unfortunately, it's hard to catch those species without also catching cod, which aren't doing well at all. And that means, as today's news unfortunately reminds us, that the northeastern fisheries remain stuck in the same vicious cycle.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
350.org and the Sierra Club are organizing a “Forward on Climate” rally in DC on Sunday, February 17 (Presidents' Day Weekend). They hope it will be the largest climate rally in history. I hope so too because climate change really needs some popular mobilization. On the first day of my environmental law class this semester, I gave students a list of major federal environmental statutes to provide an overview of the field. We observed just how much of the legal development happened in the 1970s, and discussed why. The incredible surge of popular mobilization that occurred in the late 60s and early 70s is certainly a big part of the answer. Twenty million Americans participated in Earth Day in 1970, a full 10% of the country’s population. Just imagine 10% of today’s population today -- 31 million people -- demonstrating for action on climate change. It might even jolt today's Congress into serious action.
By the way, if you have time, check out this PBS documentary on the history of the environmental movement, Earth Days (2010, 113 mins., part of the American Experience series).
- Lesley McAllister
Monday, January 28, 2013
- Climate change took a prominent place in President Obama's Second Inaugural Address.
- The D.C. Circuit overturned EPA's biofuels mandate.
- The D.C. Circuit also denied rehearing in the cross-state air pollution case.
- And (it was a busy week for air pollution cases) the D.C. Circuit also sided with the Sierra Club in a dispute over an EPA rule that exempted some stationary sources from monitoring requirements for fine particulate matter.
- Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved a route for the Keystone XL Pipeline.
- The United State Court of Federal Claims dismissed a billion-dollar lawsuit brought by Westlands Water District against the United States.