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."

              

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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.

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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)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Christopher Field and Anny Cazenave AAAS reports on rapidly worsening climate change

On Saturday, I noted the AAAS meeting report on climate change by Christopher Brown.Climate change worsens more rapidly than IPCC anticipated   Here's a bit more on Christopher Field's report from MSNBC:

Carbon emissions have been growing at 3.5 percent per year since 2000, up sharply from the 0.9 percent per year in the 1990s..."It is now outside the entire envelope of possibilities" considered in the 2007 report of the International Panel on Climate Change...The largest factor is the widespread adoption of coal as an energy source... "and without aggressive attention societies will continue to focus on the energy sources that are cheapest, and that means coal."  Past projections for declines in the emissions of greenhouse gases were too optimistic, he added. No part of the world had a decline in emissions from 2000 to 2008.

Anny Cazenave of France's National Center for Space Studies [reported] that improved satellite measurements show that sea levels are rising faster than had been expected... Rising oceans can pose a threat to low level areas such as South Florida, New York and other coastal areas as the ocean warms and expands and as water is added from melting ice sheets...And the rise is uneven, with the fastest rising areas at about 1 centimeter — 0.39 inch — per year in parts of the North Atlantic, western Pacific and the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica...

MSNBC link
 

February 15, 2009 in Asia, Australia, Climate Change, Energy, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Peasant Movement of Papaye

Our congregation, 1st Congregational United Church of Christ, is launching our 2009 Drink Water for Life challenge this Lenten season, hoping to collect another $ 8 - 10,000 to help the Peasant Movement of Papaye provide water for three communities that contain about 15,000 people.  Here's some information about the Peasant Movement of Papaye.  If you are interested in contributing, please contact me.

February 14, 2009 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Access to water and sanitation is the largest driver of human development

Here's a BBC article I received today.  It confirms what I've been told by public health experts studying Haiti and others: access to water and sanitation is the largest driver of human development.  Its the key to jump-starting the whole development process.  That makes it far too important to leave in the hands of those who seek to profit from water.

Water - another global 'crisis'?
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website BBC link

If you look at the numbers, it is hard to see how many East African communities made it through the long drought of 2005 and 2006.  Among people who study human development, it is a widely-held view that each person needs about 20 litres of water each day for the basics - to drink, cook and wash sufficiently to avoid disease transmission.  Yet at the height of the East African drought, people were getting by on less than five litres a day - in some cases, less than one litre a day, enough for just three glasses of drinking water and nothing left over.  Some people, perhaps incredibly from a western vantage point, are hardy enough to survive in these conditions; but it is not a recipe for a society that is healthy and developing enough to break out of poverty.

"Obviously there are many drivers of human development," says the UN's Andrew Hudson.  "But water is the most important."

At the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), where Dr Hudson works as principal technical advisor to the water governance programme, he calculated the contribution that various factors make to the Human Development Index, a measure of how societies are doing socially and economically. 
"It was striking. I looked at access to energy, spending on health, spending on education - and by far the strongest driver of the HDI on a global scale was access to water and sanitation." 

Different lives

Two key questions arise, then.  Why do some communities have so little access to water? And how will the current picture change in a world where the human population is growing, where societies are urbanising and industrialising, and where climate change may alter the raw availability of water significantly?

The UNDP is unequivocal about the first question.  "The availability of water is a concern for some countries," says the report.  "But the scarcity at the heart of the global water crisis is rooted in power, poverty and inequality, not in physical availability."

Statistics on water consumption appear to back the UN's case.  Japan and Cambodia experience about the same average rainfall - about 160cm per year.  But whereas the average Japanese person can use nearly 400 litres per day, the average Cambodian must make do with about one-tenth of that.

The picture is improving to some extent.  Across the world, 1.6bn more people have access to clean drinking water than in 1990.  But population growth and climatic changes could change the picture.  In some regions, "the scarcity at the heart of the global water crisis" could become one of physical availability, especially in places where consumption is already unsustainably high.  "There are several rivers that don't reach the sea any more," says Mark Smith, head of the water programme at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  "The Yellow River is one, the Murray-Darling (in Australia) is nearly another - they have to dredge the mouth of the river every year to make sure it doesn't dry up.  "The Aral Sea and Lake Chad have shrunk because the rivers that feed them have been largely dried out; and you can see it on a smaller scale as well, where streams that are important for small communities in Tanzania may go dry for half the year, largely because people are taking more and more water for irrigating crops."

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February 5, 2009 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Global water scarcity: the blue gold rush....

Frank Rijsberman, Program Director at Google.org and formerly Director General of the International Water Management Institute, investigates the global water scarcity problem in an essay published on Boston Review. Global water scarcity  A rapidly growing population means that we need rethink the world's water resources –  both use and distribution. Rijsberman analyzes causes for the impending crisis, and addresses possible solutions, which he believes must include both technological and political innovation. The problems are serious, but Rijsberman remains optimistic: "We can avoid a full-blown global disaster. Unfortunately, the water crisis is complicated, often misunderstood, rarely grasped holistically, accelerated by climate change that melts glaciers and icecaps, and exacerbated by biofuel expansion that further stresses scarce water supplies. Forestalling it will require a mix of sustained technological innovation and institutional reform, all guided by deeper understanding and some new thinking."

February 5, 2009 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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)

Monday, January 26, 2009

The War on Bottled Water

People are starting to get it: tap water was named one of the top 10 food trends of 2008 (Time article), one of the top 10 green stories by Grist (Grist article), and Zagat says tap water is in and designer water is out.  I recently asked our administration to eliminate the purchasing of bottled water for law school functions -- although there wasn't immediate affirmation, at least I didn't get laughed out of the office.  Willamette University President Lee Pelton is considering having a University-wide ban on University purchasing of bottle water.

Photodisc / Getty

Time article:

In 1992's The Player, Tim Robbins' character, the consummate Hollywood insider, showed his sophistication at restaurants through his ability to differentiate among various kinds of bottled water. But today, that same Hollywood macher would never ask for anything but tap. Because of the environmental costs of producing and shipping bottled waters, more and more chefs are offering only filtered tap water to customers. Mario Batali and his business partner Joseph Bastianich stopped selling bottled water at their New York City restaurants Del Posto and Otto earlier this year, and eateries in Florida and Massachusetts are also serving only tap. The U.S. Conference of Mayors voted in June to recommend that City Halls stop serving bottled water even at special functions. Once hip, bottled water is now unforgivably '90s.



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January 26, 2009 in Water Resources | 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)

Visitors from Mozambique and Inaugural Awe

Today I had the pleasure as Director of our law school's Certificate Program in Law and Government to host two visitors from Mozambique through the International Leadership Visitor Program funded by the State Department.  This program focuses on bringing emerging leaders from developing countries concerned with good governance to the United States, to expose them first-hand to various aspects of American governance.  Last year, we hosted 16 visitors from more than a dozen African countries.  Today's session was more informal and a bit more manageable.

Our visitors were the Governor of a northern province and the second in command of a major department within the national government.  They were interested in learning how the United States trains its graduate or advanced students in law and government.  We were able to share some aspects of our program, including attending and speaking with my first year Lawmaking Process class.  They were also fascinated by how the United States is evolving with its election of President Obama. 

The treat, of course, for me was to learn first-hand something about Mozambique, its politics and policy, and role in Africa.  Certainly, its thorough integration of woman into the power structure and into all aspects of administration is a lesson for Americans as well as other Africans.  This is beginning to happen here, witness Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, the corps of talented Governors through the US and the league of women joining the Obama administration.  But, until a woman stands where President Obama stood today, we still lag behind virtually every developed country in the world -- and many, such as Mozambique, in the developed world.  Women took their place in the struggle for independence in Mozambique -- even on the battlefield.  They have continued to serve in Parliament and throughout government, with stature and an assured equality that American woman still lack.

Their challenge is to solidify their independence and their emerging democracy -- and to solve the problem of poverty.  There, President Obama gave them reason to hope: "To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.  And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our boders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect.  For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

As you who read this blog regularly no doubt realize, these words, especially about providing clean water and reducing our consumption of resources, were music to my ears.  And perhaps to yours.

We have a President who in the midst of the raging storms of the failure of our economy and two wars, understands that "each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."  That the work to be done includes the promise that "[w]e will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."  That "we will work tirelessly...to roll back the specter of a warming planet."

As my new friends from Mozambique realize, President Obama has not become just an American president, but he is today the most important leader of the whole world.  Not just by virtue of our relative prosperity and military power, but by virtue of our willingness to turn the page of history and to pledge to live up to our responsibilities to people seeking peace and justice and equality and means to enjoy their full measure of happiness throughout the world.

Today, my friends, let us celebrate with all of our new friends...and pledge ourselves to making this vision become a reality, in law, in policy, and in how we conduct our obscure, everyday lives.

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, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 19, 2009

ELI Endangered Laws Writing Competition

FOURTH ANNUAL ENDANGERED ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
STUDENT WRITING COMPETITION (2008-09)

Co-sponsored by
The Environmental Law Institute
The American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
The National Association of Environmental Law Societies

The Constitution has long been interpreted by the courts and understood by most Americans to
support comprehensive environmental protections. However, arguments targeting the
constitutional legitimacy of environmental laws continue to gain traction in the federal courts. To
inform the debate, we invite law students to submit papers exploring current issues of
constitutional environmental law.

AWARD: $2000 cash prize and an offer of publication in the Environmental Law Reporter.

TOPIC: Any topic addressing recent developments or trends in U.S. environmental law that
have a significant constitutional or “federalism” component. (See sample topics below.)

ELIGIBILITY: Students currently enrolled in law school (in the U.S. or abroad) are eligible,
including students who will graduate in the spring or summer of 2009. Any relevant article, case
comment, note, or essay may be submitted, including writing submitted for academic credit.
Jointly authored pieces are eligible only if all authors are students and consent to submit.
Previously published pieces, or pieces that are already slated for publication, are ineligible.

DEADLINE: Entries must be received no later than 5:00 PM ET on April 6, 2009. Email essays
(and questions) to Lisa Goldman at goldman@eli.org. You will receive a confirmation by email.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS:
Cover page. This page must include the following information:
• Title;
• Author’s name, year in law school, and expected graduation date (to facilitate impartial
judging, the author’s name and law school must NOT appear anywhere in the essay, other
than on the cover page);
• Law school name and address;
• Author’s permanent and school mailing address, email address, and phone number
(IMPORTANT: indicate effective dates for all addresses);
• Abstract (limited to 100 words) describing the piece;
• Certification that the article has not been published and is not slated for future publication
(while authors may submit their articles to other competitions, publication elsewhere will
disqualify an entry from further consideration); and
• Statement as to where the author(s) learned about this competition

Format. Submissions may be of any length up to a maximum of 50 pages (including footnotes),
in a double-spaced, 8.5 x 11-inch page format with 12-point font (10-point for footnotes).
Citation style must conform to the Bluebook. Submissions must be made by email attachment in
Microsoft Word format, with the cover page as a separate attachment.

CRITERIA AND PUBLICATION: The prize will be awarded to the student work that, in the
judgment of ELI, ABA-SEER, and NAELS, best informs the debate on a current topic of
constitutional environmental law and advances the state of scholarship. ELI reserves the right to
determine that no submission will receive the prize. While only one cash prize is available, ELI
may decide to extend multiple offers of publication in the Environmental Law Reporter.

For more about ELI and its Endangered Environmental Laws Program, including past writing
competitions, please visit www.eli.org and www.endangeredlaws.org. Information about
ABA/SEER may be found at www.abanet.org/environ/. Information about NAELS may be found
at www.naels.org.

SAMPLE TOPICS FOR THE 2008-09 ELI-ABA-NAELSWRITING COMPETITION
Students may choose a topic from below or develop their own constitutional environmental law topic.
1) Challenges to environmental plaintiffs’ standing to be heard in federal courts–
a) Standing to sue to enforce environmental laws. E.g., Earth Island Institute v. Ruthenbeck, 490
F.3d 687 (9th Cir. 2007), cert. granted, Summers v. Earth Island Institute, 128 S. Ct. 1118 (Jan.
18, 2008); implications of Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), and progeny; Coalition
for a Sustainable Delta v. Carlson, 2008 WL 2899725 (E.D. Cal. July 24, 2008).
b) Standing to sue for “increased risk of harm.” E.g., implications for environmental protection
of an ever-higher bar in the D.C. Circuit for establishing standing in risk-based injury cases. See
Public Citizen v. NHTSA, 513 F.3d 234 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (Sentelle, C.J., concurring) and 489 F.3d
1279 (D.C. Cir. 2007); NRDC v. EPA, 440 F.3d 476 (D.C. Cir.), vacated, 464 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir.
2006).
2) Application to climate-change cases of other constitutional theories, such as statutory and foreign
affairs preemption, political question doctrine, dormant Commerce Clause, and Compact
Clause. E.g., possible challenges to regional cap-and-trade schemes, such as RGGI and the WCI; the
impact of a future federal cap-and-trade law on state and regional climate frameworks; challenges to
California’s tailpipe emissions regulations, as adopted by 16 other states; and efforts by states and
local entities to recover damages from industry for contributions to global climate change.
See Green Mountain Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep v. Crombie, 508 F.Supp.2d 295 (D. Vt. 2007),
appeal filed, No. 07-4342, -4360 (2d Cir.); Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep, Inc. v. Goldstene, 529 F.
Supp. 2d 1151 (E.D. Cal. 2007), aff’d on reh’g, 563 F. Supp. 2d 1158 (E.D. Cal. 2008); Lincoln
Dodge, Inc. v. Sullivan, 2008 WL 5054863 (D.R.I. Nov. 21, 2008); California v. General Motors
Corp., 2007 WL 2726871 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 17, 2007), appeal filed, No. 07-16908 (9th Cir.); Comer v.
Murphy Oil, No. 05-436 (S.D. Miss. Aug. 30, 2007) (granting motion to dismiss), appeal argued, No.
07-60756 (5th Cir. Nov. 3, 2008); Connecticut v. American Electric Power Co., 406 F.Supp.2d 265
(S.D.N.Y. 2005), appeal filed, No. 05-5104 (2d Cir.); and Kivalina v. Exxonmobil Corp., No. 08-
01138 (N.D. Cal. filed Feb. 26, 2008).
3) Legislative developments and potential court challenges to Congress’s authority under the
Commerce Clause and other constitutional provisions (e.g., Spending Power, Property Clause, and
Treaty Power) to afford comprehensive protection to the “waters of the United States.” E.g., Clean
Water Restoration Act (H.R. 2421, S. 1870). In the wake of SWANCC v. U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001), and Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006), and the resulting
confusion for Clean Water Act administration and enforcement, much of the debate over the
constitutional reach of federal water protections has shifted from the federal courts to Congress.
4) Invocation of constitutional due process to cap punitive damages in environmental cases. See Exxon
Shipping Co. v. Baker, 128 S. Ct. 2605 (2008), establishing as an upper limit in maritime cases a 1:1
ratio between compensatory and punitive damages. Justice Ginsburg, writing separately, wondered if
the Court intended to signal that this ratio would eventually become a ceiling imposed by due process.
5) Impact of preemption jurisprudence (including in non-environmental cases) on environmental
protection. See Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc., 128 S. Ct. 999 (2008); Levine v. Wyeth, 944 A.2d 179 (Vt.
2006), cert. granted, Wyeth v. Levine, 128 S. Ct. 1118 (Jan. 18, 2008); Pacific Merchant Shipping
Association v. Goldstene, 517 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir. 2008).

January 19, 2009 in 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)

Cape Wind EIS Completed

According to MarketWatch, Jim Gordon of Cape Wind Associates, the developer of the controversial Cape Wind wind farm off the coast of Nantucket, plans to begin construction as early as 2010 now that the Cape Wind project has cleared a years-long environmental review by the federal government.  The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service has issued a 2800 page final EIS, estimating that the $1.2 billion plan to build 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound would reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change by 880,000 tons per year, create hundreds of jobs and ultimately supply most of the electricity needs for Cape Cod.  The Record of Decision is expected roughly  30 days after issuance of the FEIS.   

Opponents of the project include Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and other residents in the area.  Kennedy vowed to continue their fight against the project, arguing that the 400-foot turbines would kill birds, threaten sea life, and hurt tourism and fishing.  "I do not believe that this action by the Interior Department will be sustained," Kennedy said. "By taking this action, the Interior Department has virtually assured years of continued public conflict and contentious litigation."    

January 19, 2009 in Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Seas are Rising

EPA reports sea levels on the United States' mid-Atlantic coast are rising faster than the global average because of global warming, threatening the future of coastal communities.  Coastal waters from New York to North Carolina have crept up by an average of 2.4 to 4.4 millimeters (0.09 to 0.17 inches) a year, compared with an average global increase of 1.7 millimeters (0.07 inches) a year.  As a result, sea levels along the East Coast rose about a foot over the past century.  EPA Sea Level Assessment and Adaptation Report

The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report indicated that the rate of sea level rise has accelerated and, by the end of the century, global sea levels could be seven to 23 inches higher.  Readers should remember that this IPCC estimate excludes the contribution of Antarctic and Greenland ice because of uncertainties about ice stability and dynamics at the time the Working Group I report was drafted.  In the last two years, additional scientific research has begun to identify a more reliable range of sea level rise associated with those areas of ice, dramatically increasing the estimate of likely global sea level rise by 2100.

EPA had focused on the mid-Atlantic region because it "will likely see the greatest impacts due to rising waters, coastal storms, and a high concentration of population along the coastline." Higher sea levels erode beaches and drastically change the habitats of species, often at a pace too fast for species to adapt and survive. Communities in the area are at greater risk of flooding as a "higher sea level provides an elevated base for storm surges to build upon and diminishes the rate at which low-lying areas drain."  Floods will probably cause more damage in the future as higher sea levels gradually erode and wash away dunes, beaches and wetlands that serve as a protective barrier. Consequently, homes and businesses would be closer to the water's edge and more likely to be damaged in extreme storm events that other scientists predict are increasing with global warming.

Rising sea levels have implications beyond the mid-Atlantic region.  Ports challenged by rising waters could slow the transport of goods across the country, and disappearing beaches could hurt resorts and affect tourism revenue, damaging an already fragile U.S. economy.

EPA, NOAA, and USGS recommend:

  • Federal, state and local governments should step in now to prepare for the rising seas
  • Governments should protect residents through policies that preserve public beaches and coastal ecosystems and encourage retrofits of buildings to make them higher
  • Engineering rules for coastal areas be revised because those used today are based on current sea levels
  • Flood insurance rates also could be adjusted to accommodate risk from rising sea levels

January 19, 2009 in Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Land Use, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cape Wind Controversy

Barbara Durkin provided the following correspondence concerning the issues surrounding the Cape Wind controversy.  Those of you interested in following these issues may find this correspondence interesting.

Continue reading

January 4, 2009 in Energy, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More on Ocean Acidification

OCEAN SCIENCE: Winter Carbonate Collapse

H. Jesse Smith

Anthropogenic fossil-fuel burning is increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which in turn is causing more CO2 to dissolve in the ocean, thereby lowering the water's pH. Such ocean acidification in turn decreases the concentration of carbonate ion (CO3)2-, which makes it more difficult for calcifying organisms such as foraminifera, pteropods, and corals to build their skeletons. So far, most of the attention paid to this process has focused on the time-averaged chemistry of the ocean, but organisms actually experience seasonal carbonate and pH variations. McNeil and Matear examine these variations and show that anthropogenic CO2 uptake is likely to induce winter aragonite undersaturation in some regions of the ocean when atmospheric CO2 levels reach 450 parts per million. These findings underscore the importance of understanding the seasonal dynamics of marine carbonate chemistry, as natural variability could hasten the deleterious impacts of future ocean acidification. -- HJS Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 18860 (2008).

January 1, 2009 in Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)