Friday, September 12, 2008

Findlaw Environmental Law Case Summaries

   

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CASES

                  

• Kentucky Waterways Alliance v. Johnson
• Geerston Seed Farms v. Monsato Co.
• Wong v. Bush
• Sierra Club v. Johnson
• Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. California Fish and Game Comm'n.

   
To view the full-text of cases you must sign in to FindLaw.com.
   
                           
             

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, September 03, 2008
Kentucky Waterways Alliance v. Johnson, No. 065614
In a matter brought under the Clean Water Act (CWA), judgment of district court in favor of defendant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part and remanded where: 1) with respect to plaintiffs' challenge to the EPA's approval of Kentucky's categorical exemption of six types of pollution discharges from Tier II review, though the EPA's decision document details the tests conducted to measure each exemption's impact, the document often fails to include the resulting measurements; 2) court cannot review this legal conclusion's reasonableness without the EPA first discussing its assimilative-capacity loss estimates and explaining why it deems them insignificant; 3) EPA's approval of Kentucky's classification of certain waters as eligible for Tier I protection rather than Tier II protection was not arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. Case is remanded to EPA so that it may address the deficiencies in its consideration of ! state's de minimis exemptions. Read more...

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, September 02, 2008
Geerston Seed Farms v. Monsato Co., No. 07-16458
In a National Environmental Policy Act case, grant of permanent injunction against planting disputed genetically engineered alfalfa seed pending completion by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of an Environmental Impact Statement and deregulation decision, is affirmed despite the lack of an evidentiary hearing because the district court performed the traditional balancing test and the injunction would last only until completion of APHIS analysis. Read more...

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, September 05, 2008
Wong v. Bush, No. 07-16799
In a case alleging First Amendment and National Environmental Protection Act violations by the U.S. Coast Guard in establishing safety zones insulating a private super-ferry from blockade by local protesters, denial of declaratory judgment is affirmed despite plaintiff's standing to sue where: 1) the safety zones established by the Coast Guard did not violate the First Amendment; and 2) the Coast Guard need not consider the secondary environmental effects of the super-ferry itself in the decision to establish safety zones. Read more...

U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, September 02, 2008
Sierra Club v. Johnson, No. 0711537
In a Clean Air Act case involving a dispute over what triggers the Environmental Protection Agency's statutory duty to object to the issuance of a Title V operating permit, petition to review EPA decision is denied where: 1) EPA Administrator's actions fell within the bounds of his discretion; and 2) a violation notice and civil complaint are merely initial steps in an enforcement action and do not, by themselves, inevitably trigger the EPA Administrator's duty to object under 42 U.S.C. section 7661d(b)(2). Read more...

California Appellate Districts, September 02, 2008
Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. California Fish and Game Comm'n., No. C055059
Judgment overturning rejection of petition is affirmed where the California Fish and Game Commission erred in rejecting at the threshold a petition to add the California tiger salamander to the Commission's list of endangered species, under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Read more...

 

September 12, 2008 in Air Quality, Biodiversity, Cases, Environmental Assessment, Law, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 29, 2008

ExxonMobil agrees to pay most of the reduced Exxon Valdez damage award - about 3 % of its most recent quarterly profits

 
           

This week ExxonMobil and plaintiffs' lawyers in the Exxon Valdez case concluded a settlement to pay out most of the $507.5 million maximum damages award set by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. August 26, 2008 AK Daily news Exxon will pay $383.4 million to be distributed to 33,000 commercial fishermen and others who sued after the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled almost 11 million gallons of oil in Prince William Sound in 1989.  Exxon continues to battle with plaintiffs over another $70 million and potential interest of $488 million on the Supreme Court judgment. The figures don't add up because ExxonMobil will reimburse itself $54 million -- the largest single payout -- under terms of a side agreement Exxon made in 1991with seven Seattle-based fish-processing companies.  The $ 383.4 million payment represents roughly 3 % of $11.7 BILLION profits ExxonMobil garnered last quarter, the largest corporate profit ever gained in history. 7/31/08 AP report on ExxonMobil 2d quarter profits  At this profit rate, ExxonMobil will pay roughly 8/10th of 1% of its annual profits.  Oh, I'm sure that ExxonMobil is quaking in their boots about ever being so negligent again. The average American family would pay a larger fine (as a percentage of their take home income or even their total income) for tossing a gum wrapper out the window of a car.  Litter fines What's the take home message of the Supreme Court....maybe litter fines are unconstitutionally excessive?  They might actually deter littering by the likes of ExxonMobil! If ExxonMobil had been fined at the rate of $1000 per cubic foot (the Washington State fine for littering more than a cubic foot of litter), ExxonMobil would have owed $ 1.47 BILLION.  Forgive me.  I'm still a bit irritated by the Supreme Court's sense of justice in the damages case.

August 29, 2008 in Cases, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (3)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Important step forward for carbon capture and sequestration: EPA proposes UIC rule

Given the supplies of coal available to the US and China, it is critical that effective carbon capture and sequestration technologies be developed and that effective environmental protections be put in place to regulate those technologies.  While some have suggested ocean sequestration of CO2, the preferred type of carbon capture and sequestration is geologic sequestration.  With geological sequestration, CO2 is captured from flue gas produced by fossil-fueled power plants or industrial facilities, compressed to convert it from a gaseous state to a supercritical fluid, and transported to the sequestration site, usually by pipeline. The  fluid CO2 is then injected into deep subsurface rock formations through one or more wells, likely at depths greater than approximately 800 meters where pressure and temperature are sufficient to keep the CO2 in a supercritical state.  When injected, CO2 is sequestered by a combination of physical and geochemical trapping processes. Physical trapping occurs when the relatively buoyant CO2 rises in the formation until it reaches a low-permeability layer that inhibits further upward migration, or when residual CO2 is immobilized in formation pore spaces. Geochemical trapping occurs when chemical reactions between the dissolved CO2 and minerals in the formation lead to the precipitation of solid carbonate minerals. Similarly, naturally-occurring CO2 deposits have been physically and geochemically trapped in geologic formations for millions of years.

Injection of any substance into a well is regulated under the Underground Injection Control regulations promulgated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  EPA believes that the relative buoyancy of CO2, its corrosivity in the presence of water, the potential presence of impurities in captured CO2, its mobility within subsurface formations, and large injection volumes anticipated at full scale deployment warrant specific requirements tailored to this new practice.  So, EPA has proposed a new class of UIC well for GS, a Class VI well, and requirements for such wells.  Proposed UIC CO2 Rule

July 16, 2008 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Science reports on new hurricane model

ScienceDaily (July 9, 2008) — A new mathematical model indicates that dust devils, water spouts, tornadoes, hurricanes and cyclones are all born of the same mechanism and will intensify as climate change warms the Earth's surface.  HT Eric, Climate Change Group

University of Michigan professor Nilton Renno and UM research scientist Natalia Andronova have created a generalization of Bernoulli's equation to address all spiralling storms.  It more accurate calculates the maximum expected intensity of spiraling storms based on the depth of the troposphere and the temperature and humidity of the air in the storm's path. The model improves upon current thermodynamic models by using actual measurements of the energy feeding a storm system and friction slowing it down rather than make simplifying assumptions about those variables.

    "This model allows us to relate changes in storms' intensity to
    environmental conditions," Renno said. "It shows us that climate
    change could lead to increases in how efficient convective vortices
    are and how much energy they transform into wind. Fueled by warmer
    and moister air, there will be stronger and deeper storms in the
    future that reach higher into the atmosphere."

The model predicts that each increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit will increase storm intensity by at least several percent.  The destruction power of intense storms could increase by 10%.  This prediction provides theoretical support for the empirical observations of scientists who suggest that hurricance intensity has increased as sea surface temperatures have risen.

July 14, 2008 in Climate Change, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Quality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

SCOTUS grants cert -- June 27, 2008

Coeur Alaska Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation, No. 07-984, consolidated with Alaska v. Southeast Alaska Conservation, No. 07-990. Are process wastewater discharges from mining operations governed by the drege-and-fill permit scheme operated by the Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act or are they covered by effluent limitations under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which are within the Environmental Protection Agency's jurisdiction? 

June 28, 2008 in Governance/Management, Mining, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Zg Plater, Pat Parenteau and others to appear at 30th Anniversary Symposium of TVA v. Hill

Here is the announcement:

“A Symposium on TVA v. Hill:
A 30-Year Retrospective on the Legendary Snail Darter Case”

at The University of Tennessee College of Law, Knoxville, Friday, April 18.
The Symposium will start at noon EDST, and you are welcome to join via Webcast.  The Symposium website has a variety of intersting materials.Symposium Website link   The WEBCAST itself can be accessed at Webcast Link   The different sections of the webcast (which will have to be individually cued, starting at noon), are

Welcome
The Little T Valley:  Home of the Snail Darter
The Saga of How a Citizen Suit Goes National
The TVA History of the Darter Case
The Snail Darter Case in a National Perspective
Overview Wrap-Up Panel

Exactly 30 years before this coming Friday the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments in Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hiram Hill, et al., perhaps the most dramatic national legal story to come out of Tennessee in the past 75 years. Developing over the course of most of a decade, the Tennessee lawsuit— the little endangered snail darter fish versus TVA’s Tellico Dam — became a cultural icon, famous or infamous around the world.

The University of Tennessee College of Law’s thirty-year darter-versus-dam symposium offers a beneficial opportunity finally to put the case into an academic forum and accurate perspective, free of the spins, disinformation, and politicking that graced its years of notoriety, 1973-1980. Thirty years later the elements of the controversy have become broadly clear — the dam project was never a hydro project, but a recreational and land development scheme that was found to be economically dysfunctional from the start, in a unanimous decision  by the world’s first “God Committee” session under the ESA. Within a year, however, an appropriations rider nevertheless ended the case and the river. The merits of this saga will be addressed objectively in an academic forum, and lessons drawn.

Presenters include Dr. David Etnier who discovered the endangered species, several farmers who were displaced by Kelo-like condemnations, Zygmunt Plater who spent six years on the judicial, agency, and congressional battles in the case, Hank Hill & Peter Alliman who shaped the litigation effort as students at UT College of Law, Patrick Parenteau who provided sage support for the citizens’ efforts in Washington D.C. over three years of the case, Prof. Bruce Wheeler who co-authored an intensive internal history of TVA’s campaign to build the dam, and LSU Prof. Ken Murchison who wrote a recent book on the legal history of the case.

A bar journal cover story on the case can be accessed at Tennesee Bar Assn

Please join us electronically if you cannot be with us in person!

April 15, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Supreme Court Grants Cert to Consider Whether to Reverse the Second Circuit's Decision that CWA Cooling Water Intake Structure Technology-Based Rules Cannot be Based on Cost-Benefit Analysis

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the Riverkeeper v. US EPA (Riverkeeper II), 475 F.3d 83 (2d Cir. 2007), which remanded EPA rules on power plant cooling water intake structures that included a number of utility-friendly provisions.  Even so, the industry has estimated that implementation of the rules will cost $ 1 billion.  According to Jim May, the Solicitor General argued against cert.  E & E reports that the US opposes the 2d Circuit decision on the merits.  Petitioners naturally expressed enthusiasm about the Court's grant of cert.  EE quoted the Entergy spokesman as saying: 

The high court "recognizes the national importance of EPA's authority and responsibility to balance the extra cost of regulations ... with the benefits that might be provided,"..."The Supreme Court should take the opportunity to establish rationality in this analysis ... and re-establish EPA's authority to draw a line in the sand about costs that are significantly greater than the benefit they create for the environment"

In Riverkeeper II, 2d Cir opinion pdf the Second Circuit held that CWA 316(b) mandated use of "best technology available" for cooling water intake structures at power plants and did not permit use of cost-benefit analysis, although cost could be considered to determine benchmark technology or to engage in cost-effectiveness analysis.  The court concluded that EPA must explain how the technology selected by EPA “approached” the performance of closed cycle cooling.  The court also held that  EPA exceeded its authority by (1) permitting existing plants to meet national performance standards via use of restoration measures and (2) including a site-specific “cost-benefit” variance.  The court sustained EPA regulation of existing as well as new power plants. Finally, the court held that two provisions, the inclusion of a site-specific “cost-cost” variance and the categorical inclusion in “existing facilities” of new units that are part of same industrial operation, violated the APA notice and comment requirements.

April 14, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Drink Water for Life

This article is written by Denise Olivera, Columbia School of Journalism, about the Drink Water for Life Challenge originated by 1st Congregational Church, U.C.C. of Salem, Oregon.  The article was covered by the Great Reporter newsservice link The congregation pledges to give up some of its lattes, sodas, etc. during Lent and give the money to our Pure Water Fund.  In celebration of Lent, spring, or World Water Day, please chose to follow this lead.

March 17, 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)

Chinese Environmental Law Blog

Here's a new blog to keep track of, if you're interested in environmental law in China: China Environmental Law   This spring break I'll be renovating the site and will provide full lists of blogs, environmental programs, etc. for your reading pleasure.

March 17, 2008 in Asia, Governance/Management, International, Law, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Plug in to NRDC's Blog

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pulitzer Prize Anyone??? Only if you write by March 12th

Well, no prize, but...You can become a Pulitzer Center Citizen Journalist!!! 

 

  • Read the corresponding coverage at Pulitzer’s website. Your article should draw on information from the Pulitzer Center articles; but you may also include include original reporting of your own or firsthand experiences. The goal is to provide fresh insight in a compellingly written article.
  • Share your perspective on the issue and write your best article at Helium by March 12th.

March 5, 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)

Monday, March 3, 2008

SCOTUS commentary on Exxon Valdez argument

The SCOTUS blog commentary seems to track my view that SCOTUS will limit punitives. SCOTUS blog  The context in which the Supreme Court is deciding the case, maritime law, is interesting.  The court is acting as a common law court and developing common law rules.  So, in theory, it could write any rule, including one that follows State Farm.  But, if I understand the context correctly, due process still applies.  So even its common law rule will have to comport with State Farm.  Right? 

March 3, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 29, 2008

More expert commentary on Exxon Valdez -- Sturley on vicarious liability

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog posted comments by Michael Sturley who helped prepare ExxonMobil's brief.WSJ Law Blog   He didn't make predictions, but did highlight the vicarious liability argument that EM should not be held liable for Hazelwood's actions because they were against policy and he was not high enough in the corporation.  I find this fascinating.  In the criminal context, federal criminal statutes have been interpreted to hold corporations vicariously liable for actions of all employees within the scope of employment and that having a policy against the action does not insulate the corporation.  Why, pray tell, would we apply a different test in a punitive damages context?

February 29, 2008 in Cases, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Exxon Valdez argument -- what's law got to do with it, got to do with it?

At least for our result-oriented friend Justice Scalia, its all about the money.  Yesterday when the Exxon Valdez punitive damages case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, plaintiffs' counsel Jeffrey Fisher suggested hopefully that the justices had agreed to hear the case because of an unsettled aspect of maritime law, Scalia said sharply: "That," the justice said, "and $3.5 billion."  SCOTUS argument transcript for Exxon Valdez

So count the votes.

Votes to overturn the appellate court's decision reducing the verdict to $ 2.5 billion and award no punitive damages: Scalia, Roberts, Thomas.  Roberts would argue the corporation cannot be punished without culpability.  Scalia and Thomas would argue no punitive damage award is ever appropriate.

Votes to reverse and remand for punitive damages to roughly $ 800,000, which would be twice the compensatory damages consistent with the rule of thumb suggested previously in State Farm: Kennedy, Breyer, and Souter.

Votes to affirm: Ginsberg, Stevens.  Ginsberg showed her sympathies.  Stevens limited his questions to those about Exxon's responsibility for the Captain's actions -- phrased in a way that suggests he believes Exxon is liable.

My guess.  6-2 limiting damages to twice the amount, with concurring opinions by scalia and roberts.  Alito is not participating.  Lots of media are talking about the consequences of a 4-4 split, which would affirm.  I don't think there's any chance of that.

February 28, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Judge Redden Approves Steady State Order on the Columbia River dam operations

Judge Redden  signed an order continuing the 2007 FCRPS operations through 2008.  US DOJ proposed the rollover in order to allow National Fisheries to focus on producing a solid final biological opinion.  The order and other information on the federal caucus' work to protect and recovery listed Columbia Basin fish fish at www.salmonrecovery.gov.  


 

February 27, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS hears lengthy argument on Exxon Valdez punitives

The Supreme Court will hear extended arguments in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker (07-219) today, but has refused a request by the state of Alaska to argue.  The case involves Exxon’s challenge to the $2.5 billion punitive damages verdict awarded to businesses and individuals for damages done by the massive oil spill from the tanker, Exxon Valdez, in Alaska’s Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989.

February 27, 2008 in Cases, Constitutional Law, Energy, Law, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Election 2008 -- The Candidates Speak in Their Own Words -- Part II:Hillary Clinton

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 reviewed was Barack Obama. Today's post is Hillary Clinton.

Here's the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton with respect to the environment (especially global warming) in her own words:

The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military....At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism:..Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing....At a moment in history when the world's most pressing problems require unprecedented cooperation, this administration has unilaterally pursued policies that are widely disliked and distrusted....

We need more than vision, however, to achieve the world we want. We must face up to an unprecedented array of challenges in the twenty-first century, threats from states, nonstate actors, and nature itself...Finally, the next president will have to address the looming long-term threats of climate change and a new wave of global health epidemics....

But China's rise is also creating new challenges. The Chinese have finally begun to realize that their rapid economic growth is coming at a tremendous environmental price. The United States should undertake a joint program with China and Japan to develop new clean-energy sources, promote greater energy efficiency, and combat climate change. This program would be part of an overall energy policy that would require a dramatic reduction in U.S. dependence on foreign oil....

We must find additional ways for Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to cooperate on issues of mutual concern, including combating terrorism, cooperating on global climate control, protecting global energy supplies, and deepening global economic development...

As president, I will make the fight against global warming a priority. We cannot solve the climate crisis alone, and the rest of the world cannot solve it without us. The United States must reengage in international climate change negotiations and provide the leadership needed to reach a binding global climate agreement. But we must first restore our own credibility on the issue. Rapidly emerging countries, such as China, will not curb their own carbon emissions until the United States has demonstrated a serious commitment to reducing its own through a market-based cap-and-trade approach.

We must also help developing nations build efficient and environmentally sustainable domestic energy infrastructures. Two-thirds of the growth in energy demand over the next 25 years will come from countries with little existing infrastructure. Many opportunities exist here as well: Mali is electrifying rural communities with solar power, Malawi is developing a biomass energy strategy, and all of Africa can provide carbon credits to the West.

Finally, we must create formal links between the International Energy Agency and China and India and create an "E-8" international forum modeled on the G-8. This group would be comprised of the world's major carbon-emitting nations and hold an annual summit devoted to international ecological and resource issues.

February 23, 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 (2) | TrackBack (0)

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)

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)