Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Findlaw environmental case summaries - March 30 - April 3

Table of Contents

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CASES

• Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, Inc.
• New Jersey Dept. of Envtl. Prot. v. US Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n
• Columbia Venture LLC v. S.C. Wildlife Fed.
• Center for Biological Diversity v. Marina Pt. Dev. Co.

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U.S. Supreme Court, April 01, 2009
Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, Inc., No. 07-588
In a petition for review of EPA national performance standards for cooling water intake structures, the grant of the petition is reversed, where the EPA permissibly relied on cost-benefit analysis in setting the national performance standards and in providing for cost-benefit variances from those standards. Read more...

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, March 31, 2009
New Jersey Dept. of Envtl. Prot. v. US Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n, No. 07-2271
Petition for review of an Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision denying NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection request to intervene in relicensing proceedings for the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station is denied where in reviewing the application to relicense the nuclear power facility, the Commission is not required to make an environmental impact analysis of a hypothetical terrorist attack on the facility as the relicensing of Oyster Creek does not have a reasonably close causal relationship with the environmental effects that would be caused by a terrorist attack. The NRC also already addressed the environmental impact of such an attack in its Generic Environmental Impact Statement and site-specific Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Read more...

U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 03, 2009
Columbia Venture LLC v. S.C. Wildlife Fed., No. 05-2398
In a challenge to a FEMA decision regarding certain base flood elevation determinations, the District Court's order vacating those determinations is reversed, where Plaintiffs failed to show that they were prejudiced by FEMA's failure to timely publish notice of the decision in the Federal Register. Read more.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 30, 2009
Center for Biological Diversity v. Marina Pt. Dev. Co., No. 06-56193
In an action under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA), judgment for Plaintiffs is reversed, where: 1) Plaintiffs did not give sufficiently specific notice of intent to sue under the CWA; and 2) the ESA action was moot because the species at issue had been delisted during the pendency of the appeal. Award of attorney's fees to Plaintiffs is affirmed, where the mootness of the ESA action did not affect the fee award. Read more...

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April 28, 2009 in Air Quality, Biodiversity, Cases, Governance/Management, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ocean acidification

According to the Science blog:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked scientists how to revise the Clean Water Act to protect seas against ocean acidification from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Under the current rules, waters are designated as impaired if their pH deviates from naturally occurring levels by 0.2 units. But biologists say that some organisms are affected by smaller changes. A more complex approach would also take into account how organisms or ecosystems are affected differently by changing pH levels.

April 21, 2009 in Climate Change, International, Sustainability, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Watershed Management

Cool new site: US EPA Watershed Central gives you one-stop shopping for anything related to watershed management: Watershed Central link

April 17, 2009 in Governance/Management, Science, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Call for Entries - 4th International Water Film Festival

If you're traveling this summer, you might want to film something about water and submit your masterpiece to the 4th International Water Film Festival.  Entries are due July 31st.  For more info, visit  Drink Water for Life blog - water film festival.


April 17, 2009 in Agriculture, Biodiversity, Current Affairs, Film, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Elizabeth Royte's new blog -- more on bottled water than you'd ever want to know

Go visit Elizabeth Royte's new blog: Water. waste. and whatever   She's got more information on bottled water than anyone else in the world -- remember, she's the author of Bottlemania.

April 11, 2009 in Books, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, Food and Drink, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources, Weblogs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Water News from Water Advocates

New Congressional Legislation: Strong support for drinking water and
sanitation continues on Capitol Hill, where legislation introduced in
the Senate would put the U.S. in the lead among governments in
responding to the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation.
Companion legislation is expected soon in the House. Titled "The Senator
Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009" (S624), the bipartisan bill
introduced by Senators Durbin, Corker and Murray on March 17 seeks to
reach 100 million people with safe water and sanitation by 2015 and to
strengthen the capacity of USAID and the State Department to carry out
the landmark Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005.

USAID: Dozens of USAID missions, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa and
Southeast Asia, are gearing up to utilize increased appropriations to
implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, after years of
lacking the tools to help extend safe, sustainable water, sanitation and
hygiene. USAID this past month announced a number of initiatives
including: new strategic partnerships to extend water and sanitation
access to the urban poor in Africa and the Middle East (with
International Water Association), new multilateral revolving funds (in
the Philippines), new collaborations (with Rotary International) and a
new USAID Water Site http://tinyurl.com/newUSAIDwater.

Appropriations: Through the recently passed Omnibus legislation,
Congress appropriated $300 million for Fiscal Year 2009, for "water and
sanitation supply projects pursuant to the Senator Paul Simon Water for
the Poor Act of 2005." As with last year's appropriations, forty percent
of the funds are targeted for Sub-Saharan Africa. Priority will remain
on drinking water and sanitation in the countries of greatest need.
Report language suggests increased hiring of Mission staff with
expertise in water and sanitation. It also recommends that $20 million
of the appropriation be available to USAID's Global Development Alliance
to increase its partnerships for water and sanitation, particularly with
NGOs.

In Fiscal Year 2010, a broad spectrum of U.S. nonprofit organizations,
corporations and religious organizations are urging $500 million to
implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, as part of an
overall increase of foreign development assistance, a level also called
for by InterAction and the "Transition to Green" Report.

For more water news, visit Drink Water for Life.


April 2, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Oil Spill along Australia's Sunshine Coast

Reuter's reported tomorrow -- the joys of the international dateline -- that Queensland premier Anna Bligh declared Moreton Island, Bribie Island and southern parts of the Sunshine Coast to be disaster zones after an oil spill from a cargo ship spread over 60 kilometers of beach.  The cargo ship carries 100 tons of oil and the spill from the ship is far larger than initial reports indicated.  The cargo ship's hull was pierced by a container swept overboard in heavy seas caused by a cyclone near the area.  The clean-up of the spill will be difficult due to the heavy seas and high tides from the cyclone and the spill is being carried into rivers in the area.  The Queensland EPA reports that the spill has already affected seabirds and turtles.

By the standards of major oil spills, the Australian spill is unremarkable.  The Exxon Valdez spill involved nearly 11 million gallons or 5500 tons of crude oil.  But, like the Exxon Valdez, this spill occurred in an ecologically sensitive area and an area dependent in part on a large tourist industry.  When we weigh the small probabilities of large spills associated with various activities, such as offshore oil drilling, with the possible benefits of that activity, we need to carefully examine how close any spill might be to ecologically sensitive areas and areas dependent on tourism.  The lesson of the Exxon Valdez is that even the most expensive cleanups cannot fully recover many of the living resources that are destroyed by oil spills close to shore.

For those of you who were not alive or may have forgotten, the Exxon Valdez spill was one of the most destructive oil spills in history.  Here's an account of that spill that I recently wrote:

EXXON VALDEZ OIL SPILL

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker owned by Exxon Corporation, went aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  The oil tanker had just departed the Valdez terminal with over 53 million gallons of crude oil, transported from Prudhoe Bay Oilfields through the Alaskan pipeline bound for Exxon’s West Coast refineries.  The vessel spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, and the oil eventually covered 11,000 square miles of ocean and 1300 miles of shoreline.  The oil spill immediately killed between 250,000 to 500,000 seabirds, more than 1,000 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, 22 orca whales, and billions of herring and salmon eggs. 

Today, twenty years after the spill, 26,000 gallons of oil remain contaminating roughly six kilometers of shoreline.  Of the thirty-one natural resources identified by the Natural Resources Trustee as affected by the spill, ten have recovered during the last 20 years, fourteen are still recovering, two have made no progress toward recovery (herring and pigeon guillemot), and five lack sufficient data to determine the extent of recovery. 

The Exxon Valdez oil spill is still considered the most environmentally damaging oil spill to date, even though it is no longer in the top 50 oil spills in terms of the size of the spill.  As the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council has indicated, “[t]he timing of the spill, the remote and spectacular location, the thousands of miles of rugged and wild shoreline, and the abundance of wildlife in the region combined to make it an environmental disaster well beyond the scope of other spills.”

The Accident

After a harbor pilot successfully navigated the Exxon Valdez through the Valdez Narrows, he returned control of the ship to Captain Joseph Hazelwood.  To avoid icebergs in the outbound shipping lane, Hazelwood maneuvered the ship into the inbound shipping lane.  Hazelwood then put the ship on autopilot and left a third mate in charge of the wheelhouse and an able seaman at the helm.  The crew failed to reenter the outbound shipping lane.  While Hazelwood was relaxing in his stateroom, the Exxon Valdez went aground on Bligh Reef, rupturing eight of her eleven cargo holds. 

Hazelwood, who Exxon knew was an alcohol abuser who had not completed treatment and had stopped attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, had drunk five double shots of vodka, amounting to 15 ounces of 80 proof alcohol, shortly before leaving Valdez.  In addition, neither of the crewmen Hazelwood placed in charge of the tanker had their mandatory rest period before beginning duty.  The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the accident identified five factors that contributed to the grounding of the Exxon Valdez: the third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue and an excessive workload; the captain failed to provide navigation watch, possibly due to impairment from alcohol; Exxon failed to supervise the captain and provide a rested and sufficient crew for the vessel; the U.S. Coast Guard failed to provide an effective vessel traffic system; and lack of effective pilot and escort services from the Valdez terminal through Prince William Sound.

Litigation

Five separate sets of lawsuits arose out of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. 

First, Exxon Shipping pled guilty to negligent discharge of pollutants under Clean Water Act (CWA) section 309 as well as criminal violations of the Refuse Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  Exxon pled guilty to criminal violations of the MBTA. Exxon was fined $150 million, the largest fine ever imposed for an environmental crime. The court forgave $125 million of that fine in recognition of Exxon’s cooperation in cleaning up the spill and paying certain private claims. Of the remaining $25 million, $12 million went to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund and $13 million went to the national Victims of Crime Fund.   As criminal restitution for the injuries caused to the fish, wildlife, and lands of the spill region, Exxon agreed to pay $100 million, evenly divided between the federal and state governments.

Second, the federal and state governments sue Exxon Shipping and Exxon under CWA section 311 and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act section 107, to recover damages to natural resources for which the governments are trustees.  In settlement of those civil claims, Exxon agreed to pay $900 million with annual payments stretched over a 10-year period. The settlement also contained a $100 million reopener for funds to restore resources that suffered a substantial loss or decline as a result of the oil spill, the injuries to which could not have been known or anticipated by the trustees at the time of the settlement.  The United States demanded the full $100 million under the reopener provision in 2006.

Third, within two or three years of the accident, Exxon settled the claims of various fishermen and property owners for $ 303 million. 

Fourth, a class action involving tort claims against Exxon, Hazelwood, and others by commercial fishermen, Native Americans, and property owners resulted in a $ 5 billion jury verdict against Exxon.  That jury verdict was reduced by the 9th Circuit to $ 2.5 billion and the U.S. Supreme Court in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker vacated the 9th Circuit award, limiting punitive damages against Exxon to $ 507.5 million, the same amount of compensatory damages, in addition to the compensatory damages due to plaintiffs. 

Finally, Captain Hazelwood was prosecuted by the State of Alaska for operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol and negligent discharge of oil.  Despite evidence that Hazelwood had consumed numerous alcoholic beverages before departing Valdez and still had alcohol in his blood many hours after the accident, an Alaskan jury found him not guilty of the operating under the influence charge. The jury did find him guilty of negligent discharge of oil.  Hazelwood was fined $50,000 and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service in Alaska. 

Resulting Legislation

Frequently environmental legislation is the result of a dramatic event or environmental accident.  In the case of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Congress reacted by enacting the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which created a fund to finance oil spill cleanup when parties do not voluntarily clean up oil spills for which they are responsible, set up a broad liability scheme to provide a federal cause of action for cleanup and other damages arising out of oil spills, set standards for oil tankers and oil storage facilities to avoid future spills and improve spill response, and sought to improve emergency responses to oil spills through regional contingency planning. 

For more information about the environmental impacts of the spill and the clean-up that was undertaken under the auspices of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, visit the Council's website.   http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/



 

March 15, 2009 in Australia, Biodiversity, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Columbia Basin Bulletin e-book on Columbia River salmon lititation

I'm not a big fan of paying for PDFs, but here's a resource that students of the Columbia River salmon litigation should be aware of. CBB link If you're not familiar with CBB, go take a look.  You can sign up for their free weekly newsletter and you can subscribe to their archives.

Salmon and Hydro

An Account of Litigation over Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinions for Salmon and Steelhead, 1991-2009

First Edition, February 2009

A NOAA Fisheries "biological opinion" is the federal government's primary guide for recovering13 species of Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act . A "BiOp" must insure that these ESA-listed fish survive and thrive in the Columbia/Snake River Basin hydropower system . Yet, since the first salmon ESA-listings in 1991, these biological opinions have been the subject of continual litigation. It is in federal court where one sees most clearly the divisions and difficulties of Columbia Basin salmon recovery. This issue summary offers a historical account of this continual litigation since the first ESA listings and summarizes the major issues that have dominated Columbia Basin Salmon recovery since 1991.

Salmon and Hydro: An Account of Litigation over Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinions for Salmon and Steelhead, 1991-2009, a 77-page document in an easy-to-read Adobe PDF format, is available for digital download through our secure payment system. Price: $19.95

 


Salmon and Hydro book
 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

For Excerpts Click These Links:

INTRODUCTION

 

I. 1991-1995: Three ESA Listings, Four Biological Opinions, Five Court Challenges

II. 1995-1998: Reasonable And Prudent Alternatives, Spread The Risk, Long-Term Configuration, Adaptive Management; River Governance; Regional Parties Stake Their Positions; A BiOp Finally Passes Legal Muster

 

III. 1998-1999: More ESA Listings; A Supplemental Steelhead BiOp Guiding River Operations; Independent Science Advisory Board Weighs In On Smolt Transportation; Appeals Court Upholds 1995 BiOp; Supplemental BiOps On New Listings, Snake Water

IV. 1999-2004: Not Just Hydro, But All The ‘Hs’; Recovery In 48 years?; Mitigation Must Be Certain To Occur; Another BiOp Bites The Dust; A Remand; Corps Rules On Snake River Dam Removal

V. 2004-2008: A New BiOp Says No Jeopardy From Hydro Operations; A New ‘Environmental Baseline’; Redden Says No Again; Discretionary Actions vs. Non-Discretionary (Dams’ Existence); Court Runs The River; Upper Snake River Gets Own BiOp

VI. 2008-2009: A ‘Collaborative’ BiOp; New Fish Funding Agreements, New BiOp Support; Montana Finally Likes The Reservoir Plan; Earthjustice Says New Approach Inadequate; Oregon Left As Only State Opposed To BiOp; Should Independent Scientists Evaluate BiOp?; Parties To Litigation Grows; Clean Water Act Now An Issue; A New Round Of Briefings

VII. Conclusion: Rushing To Redden’s Finish Line

March 3, 2009 in Biodiversity, Cases, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 2, 2009

The New Subsistence Society

Sometimes its a good idea to stand back and contemplate the universe.  Today's early news that the Dow Jones Industrial Index took another header because of AIG's $60+ billion loss prompts me to do that. 
Dow_3209
What is the vector of our society?  What will it look like after all the dust has settled?  It is not just the financial crisis that prompts me to contemplate this.  Although the phrase is over-used, we are in the midst of a perfect storm -- a global economy that creates and distributes goods and services through the internet, computerized machines and cheap labor virtual collapse of the financial system, the advent of peak oil, and the climate crisis.  How will all of these things cumulatively affect our future?

We've lived with the first problem for decades now -- what do people do as they  become less and less important to production of goods and services.  The science fiction of our times: what happens when people and their primary asset, labor, becomes virtually superfluous.  Certainly countries with high labor costs relative to Asia and South America already are beginning to experience the problem.  Computerized machines can plant, water, and harvest the fields; robots can make the cars and prefabricated housing; department stores, bank branches, car dealers, even retail grocery stores can be replaced by internet marketing; 100 law professors lecturing to law students and 1000 college professors lecturing to college students is more than enough -- creating the prospect of a British or continental education system, with those professors raised to unseemly heights and the remainder left to do the grunge work of tutors; even more radically, 100 K-12 teachers can teach a nation of students with computer graded exams, if we believe that convergent answers are the goal of education; priests and ministers can be replaced by TV showmen and megachurch performers. 

So what do the other 6.95 billion of us do?  Now, we consume.  Voraciously.  If we don't, then the basics can be provided by a very few and the rest of us become unwanted baggage.  A non-consumer is a drag on the system.  We depend on the velocity of money, excess consumption, and inefficiency to provide each of us with a job and to maintain the current economy.

And what happens when money moves at a crawl, when people stop consuming, when production becomes life-threatening to the planet, and when a key resource for production, oil, reaches the point of no return???  The answer is a new subsistence economy.  A new world where a few are need to produce, a few more can consume, and the remainder have no economic role and are left to subsist as best they can.

Admittedly, it will be subsistence at a higher level -- through the internet, computerization, and technology, each of us will have the capacity to do things for ourselves that are beyond the imagination of today's impoverished subsistence farmers.  But, relative to those who own all of the means of production, a few entertainers (be they basketball players, lecturers, moviestars, or mega-church leaders), and a few laborers (building the machines, computers, the information infrastructure and doing basic and applied research), we will all be poor.  Perhaps only relatively and perhaps only in material terms.  But poor, living at a subsistence level, consuming food from our own gardens, building our own houses, wearing clothes for function not fashion, educating our own children through the internet, capturing essential power through distributed energy, and buying very little of goods that are bound to be too expensive for most -- probably just computers.  It won't necessarily be bad.  Perhaps we can refocus on relationships, family, community, art, music, literature, and life, rather than define ourselves in terms of our job and our things.  Perhaps we can refocus on spirituality instead of materialism. Who knows?  Maybe the new society won't be such a bad thing after all -- at least if we insist that the few who have the privilege of production have a responsibility to share the wealth with the many.

March 2, 2009 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)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Gives Willamette University’s Dempsey Environmental Lecture

Prominent environmental activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will address “Our Environmental Destiny” Friday, March 6, at 8 p.m. at the Salem Conference Center as part of the Willamette University Dempsey Lecture Series on Environmental Issues.

Kennedy advocates an aggressive approach against entities whose policies accelerate pollution and maintain the status quo, and he has used numerous media outlets, including his 2004 book Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy, to call into question the environmental policies of the United States. 

Kennedy, who serves as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success in helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River.

He is a clinical professor and supervising attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace University School of Law, and he is co-host of Ring of Fire on Air America Radio.

In addition to Crimes Against Nature, Kennedy’s books include The Riverkeepers (1997) and Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr.: A Biography (1977). His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and Atlantic Monthly.

The event is sponsored by the Dempsey Foundation and the Center for Sustainable Communities at Willamette University.

February 26, 2009 in Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama gains nothing on tar sands in Canada

President Obama appears to have made no progress with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the Canadian tar sands issue.  Harper has requested that tar sands production be excluded from any global climate treaty -- which would be disasterous in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with tar sands development.  Obama appears to have been overly diplomatic in his discussions with Harper -- perhaps in hopes of softening Harper up over time.  I trust that he isn't really prepared to concede on the tar sands issue.

Muckracker posted this analysis on Grist (Grist link) about Obama's visit north with respect to tar sands and clean energy:

President Obama ventured north to Canada on Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but environmentalists looking for any indication that the two leaders would issue unequivocal calls for action on global warming or a curtailing of America's dependence on Canada's vast oil deposits were left disappointed. The two leaders, instead, promised a "clean energy dialog" that commits senior officials from both countries to collaborate on technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change, said Harper. That will include a monetary partnership on the development of carbon capture and storage technologies -- the holy grail for many oil and coal boosters who insist that renewable energies can't replace fossil fuels. The United States already committed to using the $3.4 billion in the newly enacted economic stimulus package for carbon capture and storage demonstrations, while Canada has committed $1 billion to a Clean Energy Fund in the government's Economic Action Plan. The two leaders also agreed to partner on the development of smart grid technologies.

"How we produce and use energy is fundamental to our economic recovery, but also our security and our planet, and we know we can't afford to tackle these issues in isolation," said Obama during a joint news conference.

Beyond dialog and promised investments in technology, there weren't a whole lot of answers from either leader on how their governments will deal with energy and climate in the short term. A major issue between the two nations has been oil from Canada's tar sands. The United States imports a lot of Canadian oil - 1.9 million barrels a day in 2008, to be exact. That's more than the U.S. imported from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and all those other nations that are so often targeted in complaints about U.S. energy "dependence."

Harper's government wants any climate pact to exempt the vast tar sands of Alberta from regulation. The tar sands contain up to 173 billion barrels of oil, but their extraction is an environmental nightmare (not to mention the problem of burning it). Thousands of acres of forests have to be destroyed to get to the oil. Separating the oil from the sand and clay is extremely energy intensive, and the waste material drenches waterways in toxic sludge. 

Asked about the issue today, Obama compared the tar sands problem with the coal problem in the United States (a comparison many Canadians have also made). While he was clear that carbon capture technologies are not cost effective at this point, he implicitly endorsed efforts to spend billions more on researching them. "In the United States, we have issues around coal, for example, which is extraordinarily plentiful and runs a lot of our power plants and if we can figure out how to capture the carbon, that would make an enormous difference in how we operate," said Obama. "Right now, the technologies are at least not cost effective. So my expectation is is that this clean energy dialog will move us in the right direction."

In an interview with the CBC on Tuesday, Obama acknowledged that tar-sands oil "creates a big carbon footprint," but was optimistic that the both the tar sands and coal problems "can be solved by technology."

              

Continue reading

February 25, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

President Obama's "State of the Union" Speech

The White House has published the "Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Address to Joint Session of Congress" as prepared for delivery on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009. White House link   The President called for Congress to send him a cap and trade bill to address climate change and stressed investments in clean energy as the path to America's future.  What a difference from last year!

As the President says about the long term investments that are absolutely critical to our economic future:

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century.  And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.  We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it.  New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.  We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country.  And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.  So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.  And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink.  We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices.  But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win.  Millions of jobs depend on it.  Scores of communities depend on it.  And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy.  But this is America.  We don’t do what’s easy.  We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

Continue reading

February 25, 2009 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)

Creating a Sustainable Society - the Role of Social Entrepreneurs and Volunteers

Today, the House Committee on Education and Labor had a Congressional hearing on volunteerism. Both Van Jones and Cheryl Dorsey testified to the value of volunteerism for the future of the green movement and social entrepreneurship.  Cheryl Dorsey’s video testimony can be found here Dorsey video link  and her written testimony is here. Dorsey written link  Van Jones’ video testimony is here Jones video link  and his written testimony is here.Jones' written link   Although we frequently focus on using regulation to control traditional profit-oriented business endeavors, it's good to remind ourselves that social entrepreneurs and volunteers can make a real difference in the quality of life in our communities as well as the quality of the environment.

February 25, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Legislation, North America, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition

Congratulations to all of the participants in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition held at Pace University during the last few days.  Roughly 70 law schools participated in the competition, which featured a difficult and oft-times confusing problem about salvage of a Spanish shipwreck.  The law covered by the problem included admiralty law, administrative law, international law such as the UNESCO treaty and the Law of the Sea, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and for good measure, the Submerged Military Craft Act.  Just typing that list makes me tired!

The learning is in participating, but the honors for Best Briefs go to University of Houston, Georgetown, and University of California at Davis, with Houston winning overall Best Brief.  The Best Oralist Honor goes to Louisiana State University.  The final round of the competition featured Lewis & Clark law school, University of Utah, and Louisiana State. Lewis & Clark prevailed, winning the overall competition for the 2d time in a row.  If I recall correctly, that may be the first back to back win.  Congratulations to everyone!

The students of Pace University deserve special mention for sacrificing their ability to compete and for running a flawless competition.  More details can be found at the NELMCC site.

February 25, 2009 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)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Will Obama say "NO" to tar sands?

The environmental community is mobilizing to get Obama to reject imports of oil produced from tar sands.  While the campaign primarily focuses on the climate change impacts, the most pernicious effects of tar sands production are on water, both in terms of water quality and water allocation.  Tar sands production requires huge amounts of water and the water becomes polluted to the point where it is largely uneconomic to clean it: essentially permanently polluting freshwater resources, which are already limited.  On these grounds alone, we should not encourage development of tar sands.  In addition, tar sands and other "secondary" forms of oil production, all contribute more to global warming than conventional oil.  We must be prepared for Canada's response: the U.S. is being hypocritical unless it also discourages production of oil shale in the Mountain West -- another secondary recovery source of oil.  And the answer to that needs to be -- yes, we need to get our own house in order and develop a marketable carbon rights program or carbon tax that forces energy corporations to realize that development of such resources is both socially undesirable and economically infeasible.

February 16, 2009
By Earth's Newsdesk, a project of Ecological Internet http://www.ecoearth.info/newsdesk/
CONTACT: Dr. Glen Barry, glenbarry@ecologicalinternet.org

(Seattle, WA) -- On February 19, President Barack Obama
travels to Canada on his first international trip as
President, where he will face pressure from the
Government of Canada to support production of Alberta's
filthy tar sands oil. An international network of
environmental groups has launched the "Obama2Canada"
campaign[1] urging President Obama to stand strong on his
new energy economy agenda and reject entreaties from
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to shelter the
dirtiest oil on earth from global warming regulation.

"Tar sands oil is the dirtiest form of energy in the
world. It has no place in President Obama's plans for a
clean energy economy," said Sierra Club Dirty Fuels
Campaign Coordinator Pat Gallagher. "Tar sands oil
accelerates global warming. It destroys forests. It
endangers public health. Instead of importing this
expensive, dirty oil, we can invest in clean energy that
will create millions of much-needed, sustainable jobs."

Called oil sands by proponents, tar sands are the very
dirtiest of fossil fuels. Producing oil from tar sands
emits three times the global warming pollution as
conventional oil, requires excessive amounts of energy
and fresh water, and destroys huge swaths of ancient
boreal forest. Given its massive carbon footprint, tar
sands would almost certainly prove unviable under any
reasonable climate change regulations. Along with ending
the use of coal and old growth forest destruction,
stopping tar sands is essential global climate policy
required to maintain an operable atmosphere.

Continue reading

February 16, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New 6th Circuit Rapanos decision

A frequent reader who practices in the Sixth Circuit saw this 6th Circuit application of the Rapanos case and passed some comments along:

U.S. v. Cundiff
Cundiff decision 

The Court (Judges Martin, McKeague, and a District Judge Collier, with Martin writing for a unanimous panel (that lineup and the unanimity is interesting alone to me and I would guess other Sixth watchers)) held that, under Rapanos, the government had jurisdiction over the defendant's wetlands in Kentucky. The Court discussed the Marks-Rapanos problem at length (some fascinating discussion, along with a sharp rebuke of the Pacific Legal Foundation's view that the plurality test controls in a footnote), but did not make a final decision because it decided that jurisdiction was proper under both the plurality and Kennedy tests. The application of the plurality and Kennedy tests was also lengthy and interesting.

Also interesting was this footnote, describing the status of the property in Muhlenberg County, KY. (If you've ever been there, this is pretty accurate.)

"1 Singer-songwriter John Prine has colorfully recounted Muhlenberg County’s sordid ecological history: 

"And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County / Down by the Green River where Paradise lay / Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking / Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away . . . . / Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel / And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land / Well, they dug for their coal ‘til the land was forsaken / Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man . . . .

"JOHN PRINE, Paradise, on JOHN PRINE (Atlantic Records 1971)."

Thanks again -- I grew up singing to Paradise.

February 5, 2009 in Cases, Law, Mining, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chartering Sustainable Transnational Corporations

This link connects to a paper I just posted on SSRN.  I presented the paper at the 6th Colloquium of the IUCN International Academy of Environmental Law in Mexico City in November 2008.  I am submitting a short version of the paper for possible publication in a book incorporating papers presented at the conference on the theme of Alleviating Poverty and Environmental Protection.  And I am preparing a more complete and elaborate version for possible law review publication.  I would deeply appreciate your comments on the subject of how we ensure that transnational corporations act in a sustainable manner and the obstacles or concerns with the approach I suggest.  SSRN link

Abstract:    
Using a recent innovative Oregon sustainable corporation law as a springboard, this article argues for requiring all transnational corporations to be chartered as sustainable corporations. Given the far-reaching effects of their operations and their uniquely powerful role, the global wealth that has been accumulated in these organizations must be fundamentally redirected toward creating a sustainable world. As a privilege of doing transnational business, transnational corporations should be required to incorporate environmental and social responsibility into their corporate charters-the document that sets forth the prime mission of the corporation and its directors, essentially baking sustainability into the corporate DNA of transnational corporations.

To be both effective and to harness the entrepreneurial creativity of these organizations, the sustainable corporation charter must be implemented per provisions that require transnational corporations to develop corporate sustainability strategies in accordance with the guidance provided by the implementing provisions. The implementing provisions should also require that the transnational corporations monitor and report in a standardized manner compliance with the corporate sustainability strategy, with sustainability-related laws, and with nonbinding environmental, labor, human rights, corruption, and other sustainability-related standards.

The sustainable corporation charter requirement should be imposed as a matter of international law, through an international convention and administered by an international commission. The requirements should be directly applicable to transnational corporations as a condition of doing transnational business. The commission should be authorized to take enforcement action directly against the corporation. In addition, both home and host nations to transnational corporations should agree to compel the corporations - either incorporated in that nation or doing business in that nation-to comply with the sustainable corporation charter requirement as a condition of doing any business. Nations that fail to join the international convention, or that fail to enforce the international convention, should be subject to mandatory trade and other economic sanctions by all signatories to the international agreement.

We can no longer allow transnational corporations to aggregate the bulk of societal wealth and then operate in an environmentally and socially irresponsible manner. The proposals in this article are one step toward turning transnational corporations into sustainable corporations.

Keywords: transnational corporations, corporate charters, multi-national corporations, sustainability, environmental, international convention, environmental assessment, voluntary compliance, environmental standards, alien tort, corporate social responsibility, human rights, international law, enforcement

February 1, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Energy and Environment Investments in Obama's Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

Here are the items in Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that directly affect energy and environment: renewable energy; smart electricity grid; weatherizing homes; clean energy private sector finance; highway and bridge infrastructure replacement projects and mass transit projects; water supply, water treatment, wastewater treatment and sewage system projects. Energy and environment projects in recovery plan  I wonder how Obama plans to deal with NEPA and permitting issues.

From the report on specifics:

  • Doubling renewable energy generating capacity over three years. It took 30 years for our nation to reach its current level of renewable generating capacity – the recovery and reinvestment plan will double that level over the next three years. That increase in capacity is enough to power 6 million American homes.
  • Jump-starting the transformation to a bigger, better, smarter grid. The upfront investments and reforms in modernizing our nation’s electricity grid will result in more than 3,000 miles of new or modernized transmission lines and 40 million “Smart Meters” in American homes.
  • Weatherizing at least two million homes to save low-income families on average $350 per year and modernizing more than 75% of federal building space, saving taxpayers $2 billion per year in lower federal energy bills. Today, the federal government is the world’s largest consumer of energy. The recovery and reinvestment plan will make an historic investment in upgrading the federal building stock that will save taxpayer dollars and help catalyze a green building industry.
  • Launching a Clean Energy Finance Initiative to leverage $100 billion in private sector clean energy investments over three years. The finance authority will provide loan guarantees and other financial support to help ease credit constraints for renewable energy investors and catalyze new private sector investment over the next three years.
  • Enacting the largest investment increase in our nation’s roads, bridges and mass transits systems since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950s. The plan will repair and modernize thousands of miles of roadways in the U.S. and providing new mass transit options for millions of Americans.
  • Modernizing our nation’s water systems with funding to support 1,300 new wastewater projects, 380 new drinking water projects and construction of 1000 rural water and sewer systems, ensuring that 1.5 million people have new or improved service.

January 24, 2009 in Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Let Clean Water Flow

Here's my church's video to launch our 2009 Drink Water for Life lenten challenge.  If you benefit from the work I do on this blog, please, please, please......take the challenge or find another way to contribute to organizations that do community-based water projects.  Church World Service or Global Ministries are great faith-based organizations.  Water for Life and Water for People are great secular groups. Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water borne disease like cholera or dysentery from lack of clean water and sanitation.  Together, we can change this.  Village by village. 

Let Clean Water Flow 

January 23, 2009 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)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Most of the green team confirmed today: Jackson, Sutley, and Clinton remain

E & E News reported:

The Senate unanimously confirmed seven of President Barack Obama's Cabinet picks today, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, but postponed debate on his nominees to lead the State Department, U.S. EPA and White House Council on Environmental Quality...In a post-inauguration session, the Senate quickly approved Chu, Salazar, Vilsack, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also scheduled a 3 p.m. roll call vote for tomorrow on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama's nominee to be secretary of the State Department.... The Senate did not take up two other Obama nominations: Lisa Jackson to be the next EPA administrator and Nancy Sutley to be the chairwoman of the White House CEQ. Both nominees did not face significant scrutiny during their confirmation hearings last week, leaving several Senate Republican and Democratic leadership aides today searching for answers about who was holding up the two Obama environmental picks....Andrew Wheeler, Republican staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) supports both nominees and isn't sure who raised the objection to Jackson and Sutley's confirmations, though he said the objection to Sutley being confirmed today was because her position is not Cabinet-level.

January 20, 2009 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, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)