Monday, February 18, 2008

ExxonMobil Deliberately Misled Blogosphere About Funding Global Warming Denialists

Yesterday's post on ExxonMobil (2/17/08)  highlighted that it had funded the Frontiers of Freedom and its Center for Science and Public Policy (CSPP link ) during 2006, contrary to its claim that it was not funding global warming denialists.  You may wonder about the context in which ExxonMobil made this claim.

Remember last year when the IPCC 4th Assessment report came out – the Guardian wrote a story about American Enterprise Institute soliciting result-oriented denialist analyses of the IPCC report and that report included information about ExxonMobil’s funding of AEI. Guardian 2/2/07 Report.  During conversations in late January and early February, 2007 with me and other bloggers, Maria Surma Manka from Green Options [Giant Part I Post; Giant Part II Post], Jesse Jenkins from Watthead [ExxonMobil Posts], Tom Yulsman from Prometheus [Post on earlier conversations -- I can't recall whether Tom participated in the February call, but I believe he did], Stuart Staniford from The Oil Drum [ExxonMobil AEI Post], Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil’s Vice President for Public Affairs had assured us that ExxonMobil was no longer funding controversial denialist groups like Competitive Enterprise Institute and it did not fund AEI with the intent that they engage in denialist analyses.  The first conference call occurred in late January and the second on the same day that the Guardian story and the IPCC report came out.


Cohen spent considerable time before the IPCC report came out in January 2007 trying to convince us that ExxonMobil was changing its Neanderthal stripes, truly accepted that anthropogenic global warming was a serious problem, and was ready to take a responsible role in the future discussions of how to reduce GHG emissions. Admittedly Cohen did that in the truly diplomatic way of saying that ExxonMobil had not effectively communicated its position that anthropogenic global warming is real and that GHG emissions need to be reduced.


During the February call, Cohen knew that the Guardian’s report about ExxonMobil’s funding of AEI and AEI’s alleged solicitation of result-oriented denialist analyses threatened to undercut public perception of ExxonMobil as a responsible actor. Indeed, those reports ended up on CNN. So, Cohen went out of his way to schedule this call about the Guardian’s allegations.


As Maria recounted that discussion:

“We had no knowledge that this was going on,” insisted Cohen. He explained that Exxon funds a lot of different groups, and “when we fund them, we want good analysis." Exxon does not condone what AEI did, but Cohen confirmed that it does continues to fund AEI, although other groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute are not funded by them anymore.

Cohen assured us that Exxon is “trying to be a constructive player in the policy discussion and not associate [themselves] with those that are marginalized and are not welcome in that discussion.” The IPCC report “is what it is,” and Exxon does not believe in engaging in scientific research that preordains an answer. Cohen:

…that's the issue with AEI: Are they preordaining an answer?…I can understand taking a market approach or a government interventionist approach, but this is not a question of trying to find who’s right or who’s wrong. Let’s let the process work.

But, I asked, how can you grant AEI nearly two million dollars (n.b. slsmith -over the entirety of AEI operations, not annually) and not know what they’re doing with the money? Turns out that Exxon conveniently funds the “general operations” of AEI, not specific programs that would allow them to track how the money is being used. Perhaps Exxon needs to think hard next time before it funds an organization so clearly disinterested in constructive solutions.

Cohen was consistently explicit in Exxon's position that global warming is happening and mainly caused by human activities. If that is true, then how will Exxon fight the huge misperception that it’s still the planet's largest naysayer? Cohen conceded that the company needed to do a better job of communicating its position on global warming, rather than allowing a fact sheet or news release on their website to do the work.


Cohen kept telling us that the 2006 contribution report was coming out, but declined to give us any specifics about ExxonMobil’s contributions to AEI or other groups, but he said Competitive Enterprise Institute was no longer funded.  Cohen continued to defend AEI as a responsible, albeit very conservative, think tank doing legitimate policy research. And frankly, I supported him on that score during the calls because at least some of the work done by AEI is just that. And I was not nearly as skeptical as others about ExxonMobil's protestations of innocence.  See my post on the AEI matter ELP Blog Post on AEI


Here’s why yesterday I called ExxonMobil’s behavior in early 2007 deliberately misleading. Initial Post on 2006 Funding Report  


As the quoted material above indicates, Cohen in early February 2007 led us to believe that ExxonMobil was no longer in the denialist camp and did not condone AEI soliciting denialist analysis (if indeed that’s what they had done). He claimed that ExxonMobil no longer associated with marginalized denialist groups. He suggested that the 2006 report would indicate that ExxonMobily had disassociated itself from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which brought us the classic, sadly humorous “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution, we call it life!” TV commercials. You tube link to CEI Energy commercial.


From this discussion, it seems clear that Cohen knew precisely which “public information and policy research” organizations that were funded by ExxonMobil during 2006. Yet, while he perhaps sat with the 2006 report in front of him and refused to release its contents, the 2006 contribution report later showed that in 2006 ExxonMobil provided $ 180,000 to Frontiers of Freedom and the CSPP, the policy center it created with ExxonMobil's funding several years ago. P.S. Cohen denied funding CSPP in an e-mail today, but unless my sight is failing: CSPP is reported as the Science and Policy Center under Frontiers of Freedom Download 2006 ExxonMobil's "public information and policy research" contributions If that’s not supporting denialists and associating with marginalized denialist groups, I don’t know what is!

Take a good look at the high quality analysis of global warming that CSPP provides:


(1) the amicus curiae brief filed in Mass. v. EPA by lawyers from the Competitive Enterprise Institute

(2) Dr. Ball's The Science Isn't Settled powerpoint presentation - Dr. Ball is the Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project which describes its first project on understanding climate change as "a proactive grassroots campaign to counter the Kyoto Protocol and other greenhouse gas reduction schemes." NRSP describes Dr. Ball as the "lead participant in a number of recent made-for-TV climate change videos, The Great Global Warming Swindle."

(3) Joe Daleo's Congressional Seminar on global warming in March 2007 devoted to disputing the IPCC's report and arguing that anthropogenic global warming from greenhouse gas emissions are not a real problem.

(4) CSPP's May 2007 rebuttal of Al Gore's testimony, which suggests there is no scientific consensus that CO2 emissions are causing global warming

(5) a nonsensical piece on "Gore's Guru," positing that because Dr. Revelle, who died in 1991, had cautioned in 1988 and 1991 against drawing rash conclusions about global warming might still take that position.  I call it nonsensical because Dr. Revelle suggested that we wait 10-20 years to see if the trends continued.  We've waited and now we've answered that question: between 1998 and 2008 we witnessed incredibly dramatic global warming and the scientific community has spent the last 10-20 years studying whether indeed human-caused GHG emissions are responsible for much of that warming.  We and ExxonMobil know its answer to that question.

Obviously, the blogosphere is not the only group worried about ExxonMobil's funding choices.  Britain's national academy of scientists, The Royal Society,  in September 2006 took ExxonMobil to task about its funding of denialist groups.  Royal Society letter

Well, maybe ExxonMobil finally pulled the plug on FF and its “Science and Policy” center in 2007 (and so Cohen was just tap-dancing around the embarrassing, but not on-going, reality of funding denialists). Although, FF's CSPP might survive: it apparently does have funding from two major tobacco companies!

Maybe ExxonMobil has rethought its policy on funding organizations whose primary contribution to the climate change discussion is to distribute continued attacks on those who conclude that the current state of climate science supports an effective policy to reduce GHG emissions.  I’d like to think so – but we won’t know until ExxonMobil releases its 2007 contributions report. I requested that Cohen release it to me; he declined.

However, even if it had defunded FF and CSPP (and other denialist groups), I’m not sure I’d believe that ExxonMobil hadn’t found new denialist outlets to fund.


If the Guardian and other media or the blogosphere produce a big enough stir on this story, perhaps it will. But I am astonished that, just as it was selling itself as a responsible player on global warming, ExxonMobil would act so irresponsibly and so deceptively. And I am deeply embarrassed at my naievete in believing what Ken Cohen and ExxonMobil were selling about ExxonMobil’s born again conversion to a responsible position on anthropogenic global warming.


Watch out, though, ExxonMobil knows that the question is no longer whether global warming is real, but what to do about it. You can bet it is smart enough and devious enough to fund a lot of “public information and policy research” that will muddle policy discussions about global warming legislation and may assure that not much is done to regulate GHG emissions from oil and gas and that what is done doesn’t cut hardly at all into ExxonMobil’s astounding profits: $41 billion for 2007 and almost $ 12 billion in the 4th quarter of 2007 alone. ExxonMobil profits post

I have a modest suggestion for ExxonMobil: do not fund organizations whose published information, analysis, and research on global warming or climate change has primarily sought to undercut the conclusions reached by the joint statement published in 2005 by 11 national academies of science, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil and China .  That statement is linked here:   Joint Science Academies' Statement: Global Response to Climate Change

Unless and until ExxonMobil stops funding the sort of stuff that Center for Science and Public Policy is peddling, I hope that the new President and Congress will not believe a single word that is said about global warming policy by ExxonMobil or any of denialist and anti-regulatory "public information and policy research" organizations it funds.



Continue reading

February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Foreign Affairs - The Candidates in Their Own Words --

During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008  I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change.  I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe. 

I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewing is Barack Obama.  I chose Obama first in part because I am torn between Clinton and Obama.  Although I respect John McCain's leadership on climate change, I could not vote for a Republican after the 1994 - 2006 Republican congressional legacy and the debacle of Bush's presidency for virtually every freedom and human need.  I also disagree with McCain's position on Iraq.

In his own words, Barack Obama primarily addresses climate change as a matter of global policy.  He ties the US response to global warming to his overall foreign policy in this way:

Strengthened institutions and invigorated alliances and partnerships are especially crucial if we are to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world, including much of the eastern seaboard. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world.

As the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, America has the responsibility to lead. While many of our industrial partners are working hard to reduce their emissions, we are increasing ours at a steady clip -- by more than ten percent per decade. As president, I intend to enact a cap-and-trade system that will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. And I will work to finally free America of its dependence on foreign oil -- by using energy more efficiently in our cars, factories, and homes, relying more on renewable sources of electricity, and harnessing the potential of biofuels.

Getting our own house in order is only a first step. China will soon replace America as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. I will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries leapfrog the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia. This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.

February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 8, 2008

D.C. Circuit vacates the delisting and mercury rules

The D.C. Circuit just vacated the Delisting and Clean Air Mercury Rules.  New Jersey v. EPA decision
I have not read the whole decision.  But one of the implication I am most interested in is the court's vacating the delisting rule.  It seems to me that this decision opens the door for carbon dioxide from power plants to be regulated under section 112 of the Clean Air Act.  Section 112, with its Maximum Achievable Control Technology T-based standard, might be an attractive way to use the existing Clean Air Act provisions to regulate carbon dioxide.

February 8, 2008 in Air Quality, Cases, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Law, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Candidates Compete for Green Title

After the Bush administration legacy, it is refreshing to see both Democratic and some Republican candidates competing for the title of Mr. or Ms. Green. See the comparison in Grist.

February 6, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 26, 2007

British Petroleum agrees to pay $70 million USD for environmental crimes

Acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler announced yesterday that the energy company British Petroleum (BP) has agreed to pay approximately 70 million dollars in fines and restitution for environmental crimes. This includes a criminal fine of $50 million for Clean Air Act violations resulting from an explosion at BP's Texas City refinery in 2005.

"This is the largest fine ever assessed to a single entity under the Clean Air Act. And this is the first criminal prosecution under a section of the Act specifically created to prevent accidental releases that result in death of serious injury," said Keisler.

BP has also agreed to pay a $12 million criminal fine, $4 million in community service payments, and $4 million in criminal restitution for Clean Water Act violations associated with pipeline leaks of crude oil in Alaska. Additionally, BP agreed to three years of probation for the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act violations.

"BP committed serious environmental crimes in our two largest states, with terrible consequences for people and the environment" said Granta Nakayama, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today's agreement sends a message that these types of crimes will be prosecuted."

The fines are part of BP's plea agreement to pay more than $373 million for environmental crimes, fraud and market manipulation. BP and several of its employees were charged by an indictment issued by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois with conspiracy to manipulate the price of propane in 2004, wire fraud, and several violations of the Commodity Exchange Act. BP will pay $303 million in restitution and criminal and civil fines for these crimes under the terms of a  deferred prosecution agreement.

Read the Department of Justice's press release.

October 26, 2007 in Air Quality, Cases, Energy, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ruth Norton Smith (Nov 27, 1921 - Oct 14, 2007)

Ruth Norton Smith died peacefully in Boulder, Colorado  on Sunday, October 14, 2007 after enjoying her full measure of life. 

Ruth was born in Oklahoma on November 27, 1921 in a tent in Oklahoma.  She was raised during the Depression years, moving frequently as her family farmed and followed the tunneling, mining, and other work available to her father.  Ultimately, her family settled in southern California.  There Ruth met the love of her life, Herbert Frank Smith, a carpenter and union organizer, whom she married on June 4, 1941. 

In WW II, while her husband served in the Navy in the South Pacific, Ruth became a Rosie the Riveter, building bombers, and then joined the Women’s Army Corps, serving as a nurse.  After the war, they settled in the Los Angeles area, where she became a real estate broker and the mom of two children, Greg in 1948 and Susan in 1953.

In 1955, her family moved to Colorado where she worked side by side with her husband to build two of the largest home-building companies in Colorado, Happy Homes and Fireside Homes, and a prominent real estate firm.  When she left real estate and home-building in the late 1960s, Ruth became a political and market researcher for Research Services, Inc. and later became a researcher for the U.S. Census Bureau, from which she retired in 1989.

Ruth was a life-long Democratic political activist with a passion for peace, civil rights, and all aspects of social justice.  She served in every capacity: running political campaigns, serving as a precinct committee woman, county, congressional district, and state delegate, pollwatcher, and election judge.  She worked with Metro Denver Fair Housing center as a realtor, helping the first African-American families in Jefferson County to find housing.  She volunteered with youth mentoring programs in Four Points and with Metro Denver Urban Coalition, Another Mother for Peace, Meals on Wheels, and countless other organizations. 

Ruth was too busy with her family, volunteer work and career for many hobbies.  She thrived on the stimulating conversations born by inviting friends and guests from all over the world and from every walk of life to dinner.  She also found great pleasure in reading, traveling and attending theatre and opera performances.

Ruth was a warm, intelligent, extroverted vibrant woman who loved and was loved by virtually everyone she met.   Her loss will be sorely missed by the many friends and family she has left behind, including her sister Lorene, her brother Fred, her son Greg, her daughter Susan, and her grandchildren Clint Smith, Brent Smith, Nathanial Smith-Tripp and Sarah Smith-Tripp.  Her family and friends will gather at Mt. Vernon Country Club on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:30 am for a celebration of her life.  The family requests that no flowers be sent and suggests donations to Meals on Wheel or a charity of your choice.

October 18, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thank you to Read/Write Web

Friday, July 6, 2007

Vote for Children's Safe Drinking Water

Welcome, SusanSmithDrinkWaterforLife
Our Money. Your Ideas. Your Decision.
My Current Vote
Children's Safe Drinking Water
Votes this round: 512  |  Send to a Friend

Project ID: 01250
Date Posted: 7/02

Supporting Organization
US Fund for UNICEF

Project Description:
For Two Cents We Can Change the World. Four thousand children die needlessly every day from drinking contaminated water. It's a tragedy that hundreds of millions of people obtain their drinking water from polluted sources such as muddy rivers, ponds, and streams. This public health crisis can be addressed today through an innovative and low-cost technology that effectively purifies and cleans water while removing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Right now millions of people in Africa, Asia, and the Americas are being reached by a not-for-profit project, but millions more are in need. Help us reach a goal of providing 2 billion liters of safe drinking water. For only two pennies a day a child can have safe drinking water. We'd love to hear your thoughts. In fact, Give Us Your Two Cents Worth. Thank you.

Member: gsallgood

About Me:
My mission is to prevent the sickness and death that occur in the developing world from drinking unsafe water. I'm lucky to spend much of my life building partnerships to provide a low-cost technology to purify water. I never get tired of seeing filthy and highly contaminated water miraculously turn into clear and safe water. And, what's most satisfying is to provide children with their first drink of truly clean and purified water. Now we've developed a way for everyone to get involved. We can make, transport, and deliver the technology on a sustainable basis for only pennies per person. In fact, for just two cents we can provide purified drinking water for a person for a day. Two Cents to Change a Life. Please consider joining our project: "Give Your Two Cents Worth.

Hear From The Fulfilling Organization

1.1 billion people around the world do not have access to clean water. As a result, 5,000 children die needlessly every day. In poor, rural communities, the only source of water is often miles away and the grueling task of collecting it often falls to young girls.

In the mountain village of La Horca, Nicaragua, Rosibel Gonzalez, 12, traveled 7.5 miles each day to fetch water for her parents and five siblings. Waking up before dawn, she walked to the creek before school and carried back a bucket of water on her head. She repeated the task after school and again before bed. But because the water she fetched came from the same source used by village livestock, it was dangerous to drink. When Rosibel's little brother, Wilber, was only eight months old, he and other villagers contracted cholera. That's where UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, came in. UNICEF provided a new solar-powered water pump and filtration system to bring clean water directly into La Horca's 35 homes. Now, Rosibel and her entire village have safe water to drink and Rosibel is left with plenty of time to study and play with her little brother.

With a presence in 156 countries, UNICEF is striving to duplicate this success worldwide. By voting for this project, you can help UNICEF save millions of children's lives. We know what needs to be done, we just need your help to do it. Only 2 cents will purchase one water purification tablet to clean 5 liters of water, $48 can purchase a portable latrine and $5,000 can buy a solar water pump, like the one installed in Rosibel's village. UNICEF partners with communities to provide these and other innovative, low-cost and life-saving solutions for the world's most vulnerable children and their families.

July 6, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Zoellick becomes World Bank president

The Executive Directors of the World Bank yesterday unanimously selected Robert Zoellick as the 11th President of the bank for a five-year term.

The President of the bank is ex-officio President of the International Development Association (IDA) and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the Administrative Council of the International Centre of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

This announcement affects every aspect of environmental, energy, and resources law, of course, due to the Bank's pivotal role in financing development -- and thereby setting development policy throughout the world.  So, who is this masked man?

Here's the Bank's bio:

Professional History of Mr. Robert B. Zoellick

Mr. Zoellick, a U.S. national, is currently Vice Chairman, International, of Goldman Sachs Group, and a Managing Director and Chairman of Goldman Sach’s Board of International Advisors. He has served in a number of senior positions in successive US administrations, including as Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of State, and as U.S. Trade Representative (2001-05). He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Policy, US Department of Treasury, and Undersecretary for Economic and Agricultural Affairs and Counselor in the U.S. State Department. He was Executive Vice President of Fannie Mae (1993-1997), the large U.S. mortgage finance corporation, as well as Vice President and Assistant to the Chairman and CEO. In addition, he served as Olin Visiting Professor, U.S. Naval Academy, as Senior Advisor, Goldman Sachs, as Research Scholar, Belfer Center, Harvard University, and previously on three corporate boards, as well as numerous research and non-profit boards.

Mr. Zoellick has a J.D., magna cum laude, Harvard Law School, and a M.P.P. (in public management and international issues) from the Kennedy School of Government. In addition, Mr. Zoellick has received numerous distinguished service awards.

Read between the lines: Zoellick is a Bush loyalist and true believer in globalization for the benefit of corporate interests and the wealthy.  Wouldn't it be refreshing sometime for the World Bank to be led by someone who is committed to reducing international poverty and who has on the ground development experience -- rather than ideological theorizing and strategizing experience.

Unfortunately, and I say this as an alumna of both, Zoellick's Kennedy School and HLS credentials just mean he's smart, not moral or committed to the public he is supposed to serve.

June 26, 2007 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

CERCLA private cost recovery


The Supreme Court granted certiorari in du Pont v. U.S., 460 F.3d 515 (3rd Cir. 2006),which held that potentially responsible parties (PRPs) did not have an implied cause of action under CERCLA 107(a) or common law to recover voluntarily incurred cleanup cost from other PRPs. The Supreme Court also vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further consideration in light of U.S. v. Atlantic Research Corp., 2007 WL 1661465 (2007). Atlantic Research Corp. held that CERCLA 107(a) provides PRPs with a cause of action to recover such voluntarily incurred costs from other PRPs. (Case below: E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. v. United States, 460 F.3d 515 (C.A.3-N.J. 2006).)

June 23, 2007 in Cases, Law, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Lessons of the Montreal Protocol

I remember sitting about 20 years ago in a conference room of the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment Division in the Justice Department.  As the Department's policy representative, I was listening to representatives of several CFC manufacturers who were trying to prevent US implementation of the Montreal Protocol.  They explained that it was simply infeasible for the CFC manufacturers to comply with the Montreal Protocol.  I am extremely glad that no one believed them:  since that time the US has effectively implemented the Protocol, even to the point of criminally prosecuting car repair shops that mishandled air conditioning refrigerants regulated under the Montreal Protocol. 

Science reports on a new study published in PNAS indicating that the Montreal protocol has limited the growth in global warming as well as helping repair the ozone layer.  Indeed, so far its beneficial effects in limiting global warming outstrip those of Kyoto.  That should really come as no surprise.  First of all, the Montreal Protocol has been fully implemented and in effect far longer.  Second, it regulated some of the most detrimental GHGs because of their effect on the ozone layer -- so essentially the Montreal Protocol picked some of the "low-hanging fruit" --an overworked, but accurate metaphor for the most easily accomplished changes. 

However, most importantly, the Montreal Protocol used an effective regulatory approach.  There is little doubt that the most effective regulatory device is a phased-in ban or stringent cap, particularly one that allows trading during the phase down, which in turn efficiently distributes the costs of phase down to the least cost avoiders.  [In this respect, a cap with marketable rights is far superior to a tax because we have real certainty about the environmental target that will be accomplished through the cap, whereas the amount of a tax to hit the target is guesswork, that may well require multiple adjustments, thus reducing regulatory certainty and industry willingness to commit R & D]. 

We've verified that theoretical observation with the real life successes of the CAA lead phase down as well as the acid rain program.  The key is a strict schedule for the phasedown and stringent targets.  It gives industry the regulatory certainty necessary to invest in necessary R & D -- and even if industry does not believe it is feasible to hit the target when the target is first established (as indeed the CFC manufacturers claimed at the time), industry is remarkably adept at finding ways to do seeming impossible tasks.   Indeed, that is the genius of free enterprise.

Obviously, Kyoto was intended to be the beginning of a phase-down of carbon emissions.  But it hasn't worked as well as it might have due to the constant uncertainty about post-2012 requirements. 

There is a lesson in this for the world's policymakers if they are willing to learn.  The tripe currently being circulated in policy circles about "maintaining flexibility in the face of improving or changing information" is just that -- tripe.  Regulatory certainty is essential to induce the magnitude of investment necessary to get us out of the carbon trap.  Sometimes we just have to say "no," provide a series of targets and firm deadlines, ease the pain and create flexibility in implementation through well-designed trading programs that first and foremost hit the targets, and use strong enforcement mechanisms to assure compliance.  Then, we can actually accomplish something.

Since reducing carbon emissions is something we really need to accomplish, we need to use the lessons of the past about how to effectively regulate, and refuse to listen to theoretical nonsense about optimal regulation.  We know how to do this.  We just need to do it.  Now.    


.Picture of a graph
So far, the CFC ban has prevented the release of far more greenhouse gases (green and blue lines) than have the CO2 reduction targets imposed by the Kyoto Protocol (red line). See full story from Science News below.

Continue reading

March 6, 2007 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Spirit of the Eagle

This blog is devoted principally to the professional or academic aspects of environmental law, policy, science, and ethics.  But like any blogger, I do have a life.  Anyone interested in the slightly less academic side of me is welcome to visit Spirit of the Eagle, my personal blog.

February 26, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

2007 Drink Water for Life

Drink Water for Life Challenge

As readers know, the royalties of this blog are now devoted to international NGOs providing safe, clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education.

The 7th Millennium Development Goal seeks to cut in half the number of people without those essentials by 2015. Current estimates are that it will cost about $16 billion additional per year until 2015 to accomplish that goal.  I find it unbelievable that we cannot globally achieve that goal, especially when unnecessary deaths from water-borne diseases exceed 2 million, mostly children, each year.  That's one child every 15 seconds.

For those of you who are members of faith-based communities, I suggest that you sponsor a DRINK WATER FOR LIFE challenge associated with your congregation.  Drink water instead of lattes (sodas, bottled water, coffee, alcohol).  Do it for Lent (or your appropriate analogous spiritual break).  Get your friends, your synagogue or church, school or workplace to do the same.  Collect the money you save, gather it together on  Easter (or whatever date makes sense in your faith tradition), put it in a Water Fund, and send it to one of the organizations that do this work.  With just $5000, an entire village of 200 - 500 people can be supplied with safe, clean, sustainable drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education. 

If you need addresses of faith-based organization who do this work, or secular charitable organizations who do this work, let me know.  If you need flyers explaining the problem, let me know.  Together we can make a difference.

February 6, 2007 in Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 12, 2007

25th Annual ABA SEER Water Law Conference


American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources

25th Annual Water Law Conference:

Changing Values, Changing Conflicts

February 22-23, 2007
  San Diego, CA
  Hotel del Coronado

The 25th Anniversary Water Law Conference will focus on the changing values for water use and the resulting changes in legal conflicts over water. The conference includes speakers and panels reflecting the broad diversity of issues and perspectives on the most challenging issues now facing the water law community. Speakers will discuss past, present and anticipated future changes and trends in water law, and how those changes will affect your practice.

The conference will open with perspectives on the changing nature of water conflicts and the most significant trends over the last 25 years, from water law luminaries of the last quarter century. After a rousing debate about changes in how courts defer to agency determinations, particularly in light of the 2006 Rapanos decision, panels will examine more closely certain critical issues now facing the water law community – from instream use and conflicting sovereigns to international conflicts and conservation. Friday morning will address emerging issues that will change the nature of water law practice in the next quarter century, including water quality issues arising out of inter-basin transfers, resolution of water rights conflicts, and the dynamic relationship between water law and science. The conference will close with a special “Hot Topics” lunch on climate change and how it may affect water law practice, including a presentation on California’s recent efforts to assess how its water policy may need to change to address global warming.

This year’s conference also offers two early morning panels – one on water law fundamentals to help those new to the water law field, and one on the ethics of ex parte contacts in a world where water conflicts are now often resolved outside formal adjudications.

Click here to Register

January 12, 2007 in Governance/Management, Law, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

NRC Trashes OMB's January 2006 Risk Assessment Guidelines

The Bush Administration will rework OMB's controversial risk assessment proposal after the National Research Council expert panel reviewing the proposal called the approach "fundamentally flawed." NRC Report on OMB Risk Assessment Guidelines.  The January 2006 proposed risk assessment technical guidelines  were developed by former OIRA director John Graham to improve federal risk assessments, which OMB criticized in the cases of dioxin, mercury, perchlorate, and mad cow disease.

The proposal generated substantial public comment over the last year.  Industry supported the proposal.  Public health experts and  environmental groups contended that the guidelines would prevent government agencies from regulating health hazards by setting technical risk assessment standards that were difficult -- or even impossible -- to meet. 

OMB submitted the proposal to the National Research Council for review.  According John Ahearne, chair of the NRC review committee, the committee decided that the proposal was broken beyond repair.  It contained a confusing, overly broad definition of risk assessment, omitted crucial aspects of risk assessment such as how to handle absence of adequate information and assumed sufficient data would be readily available.  And, more fundamentally, OMB failed to demonstrate that costly changes in the federal risk assessment process were necessary.  The 18-person NRC committee unanimously agreed that OMB should withdraw the January 2006 proposed guidelines. NRC Executive Summary

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January 12, 2007 in Economics, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Physical Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

EU reaches with REACH

E.U. Clamps Down on Hazardous Chemicals

By Malin Sandström
ScienceNOW Daily News
14 December 2006

European lawmakers passed a sweeping environmental law yesterday that will regulate nearly a third of the roughly 100,000 chemicals produced in or imported to the European Union (E.U.). Called Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals, or REACH, the bill is 8 years in the making and has been one of the most intensely lobbied pieces of legislation in E.U. history. Industry groups are bracing for the changes while some environmental organizations say the law does not go far enough.

REACH got rolling in 1998 when E.U. environment ministers called for stricter controls on a variety of industry chemicals known to harm human health. Since then, industry and consumer activists have lobbied intensely for changes and amendments.

The main targets of the legislation are flame retardants and other common chemicals, with poorly documented risks, as well as "substances of very high concern," such as solvents and other chemicals that cause cancer, damage genes, or impair fertility. Industries using these chemicals will have to register them with a new E.U. Chemicals Agency set up in Helsinki, Finland. Under the legislation, companies would need to find safer alternatives to any chemicals deemed to be of high concern to human health. Other chemicals could be banned outright.

Some innovation is likely to be triggered by REACH, says Thomas Jostmann, executive director of the European Chemical Industry Council, Cefic. But the European chemical industry fears the bill places an undue burden on smaller companies. A chief complaint is the high cost of meeting REACH's standards, estimated at 2.8 billion to 5.2 billion euros over 11 years. (For its part, the European Commission says that the costs borne by the chemical industry will be offset by health benefits totaling 50 billion euros over 30 years.)

Environmental groups have complaints of their own. Greenpeace and WWF say REACH has several loopholes, such as permitting the continued use of most hazardous chemicals even if a safer alternative is available. All manufacturers need do, they say, is demonstrate that they are exercising "adequate control" of the chemical--a term that is not yet defined. Another criticism--especially from the public--has been the many animal tests that will be necessary. In a statement made last year, Günter Verheugen, the vice president of the European Commission in charge of Enterprise and Industry, said the regulations imposed by REACH could lead to tests on up to 3.9 million extra animals per year.

Still, environmentalists are happy that the "burden of proof" for chemical safety is finally shifted to the producers and importers of chemicals. And Jostmann says the chemical industry will benefit from enforcement of better communication about substances--something that has proved to be difficult without a legal structure.

The E.U. will begin to implement aspects of REACH starting in June. The full law will be phased in gradually for 11 years after that.

December 16, 2006 in Economics, EU, Governance/Management, Law, Toxic and Hazardous Substances | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Electronics Regulation Expands Beyond EU

The EU's RoHS Directive prohibits import of consumer electronics containing lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), hexavalent chromium (Cr6+) or polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) at levels over 0.1%, or cadmium (Cd) at levels over 0.01%. EU's WEEE directive puts the responsibility for the disposal or recycling of consumer electronics back on the manufacturer.   China, Japan, and Korea have joined the European Union in expanding regulation of manufacturers and users of electrical and electronic products.  The U.S. again seems to be acting as a regulatory free-rider -- allowing stringent regulatory standards to be set by other countries -- and benefiting from those standards as multinational companies must respond strategically by international implementation of recycling and reuse programs.  For a description of Asian product-related environmental regulations, see Park Myth, Misunderstanding, Miscommunications and Mistakes - Fact and In-Depth Analysis of Product-Related Environmental Regulations on Electrical and Electronic Equipment in China, Japan and Korea Abstract

August 26, 2006 in Toxic and Hazardous Substances | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Closing the Barn Door After the.....

DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will propose new rules to regulate some low-stress lines in rural areas, including BP's Prudhoe Bay lines.

Link: Planet Ark (Reuters): Pipeline Rules

Current US pipeline regulations exempt from oversight the 22-mile line operated by BP that leaked oil onto the Arctic tundra, spurring a shutdown of half the capacity of the 400,000 barrel-per-day field, the nation's biggest.

That's because low-stress lines like BP's Prudhoe Bay network -- ones that run at less than 20 percent of their rated capacity and are sited away from population centers -- are deemed to be less risky than high-pressure lines.

But the Transportation Department, which oversees the 200,000-mile network of pipelines that criss-cross the nation, is rethinking that equation after a BP pipeline in Prudhoe Bay ruptured in March, spilling at least 200,000 gallons of crude in the North Slope's worst onshore spill.

The pipeline inspection proposal will cover 1,600 miles of roughly 5,000 miles of US low-pressure pipelines.  The rules will require cleaning and inspections of low-stress lines every 5 years in "unusually sensitive" areas, such as endangered species habitats or community drinking supplies. Reportedly, BP's lines had not been cleaned for over 10 years. Environmentalists want all pipelines inspected.  Oil lobbyists argue that inspecting lower risk pipelines would unduly stretch inspection resources.

The head of the federal pipeline agency was quoted as saying:

Prudhoe Bay could have been prevented if BP had paid more attention to its maintenance,...The standard of care up there was well below what we've seen from other companies ... and well below what I would expect from a company like BP.

August 18, 2006 in Biodiversity, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mercury is not healthy for children and other living things

The Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant Mercury issued an Official Conference Declaration last Friday, endorsed by 37 top international experts on mercury pollution and ratified by a large majority of conference participants.  According to the declaration, mercury threatens the health of people, fish and wildlife everywhere, from industrial sites to remote corners of the planet, but reducing mercury use and emissions would lessen those threats.  A significant portion of the mercury deposited near industrial sources comes from those sources, rather than from natural sources.  Evidence of mercury's health risks is strong enough that people, especially children and women of childbearing age, should be careful about how much and which fish they eat.

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August 14, 2006 in Air Quality, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Mining, Physical Science, Social Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 11, 2006

House Committee Plays Dogpile on BP

MSNBC reports that the House Resources Committee will undertake an investigation of BP's decision to shut down production at its Prudhoe Bay field -- questioning whether the shutdown was a "market strategy" to manipulate the oil market.

In a scathing letter sent to Lord Browne, BP chief executive, on Friday, Joe Barton, the powerful chairman of the House energy committee, suggests the Alaska shutdown could be part of a wider strategy by BP to influence the market, particularly in light of recent allegations by US regulators that the company engaged in illegal trading in the propane gas market. The company has denied those allegations.

Mr Barton this week said he would hold a September 7 hearing to examine BP's management of severe corrosion in its oil transit lines. In his letter, Mr Barton says evidence of BP's "chronic neglect" of the pipeline, and the subsequent damage that the shutdown has imposed on American consumers and the US economy is "not excusable".                   

Although Mr Barton, a Texan who is seen traditionally as a staunch defender of the oil industry, has not indicated whether he will call on Lord Browne to testify, the seriousness of the shutdown at a time when Congress wants to be seen as responsive to high petrol prices means that either the BP chief or another senior BP executive will probably have to face Mr Barton's wrath personally.

The lawmaker is understood to be incensed particularly by the shutdown because staff at the energy committee received reassurances from BP just a few months ago that a March oil spill, the result of a corroded pipeline, was "an anomaly".

"Following on the heels of the BP refinery disaster that killed 15 people in Texas City in 2005, and the oil spill . . . this latest incident once again calls into question BP's commitment to safety, reliability, and the responsible stewardship of America's energy resources," Mr Barton said.          

BP said it would assist the committee in its inquiry. The letter represents the latest sign that pressure is growing on the company in the US capital.

Apart from Mr Barton's committee, BP is under investigation by the Department of Justice, Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. The probes and heightened criticism by lawmakers fly in the face of attempts by BP to craft carefully its image in the US as a responsible and eco-friendly oil company, in contrast to US oil giants.

Separately, BP said it would make a decision later in the day on whether to close the western portion of the Prudhoe Bay field after the transportation department found it was not necessary.

August 11, 2006 in Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, North America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)