Tuesday, December 23, 2008

ExxonMobil pays $ 6 million for spilling 15,000 gallons of diesel into Mystic River

BOSTON, MASS. - DOJ filed a criminal information today in federal court charging a wholly owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corporation with violating the criminal provisions of the Clean Water
Act in connection with a spill of approximately 15,000 gallons of diesel oil and kerosene into the Mystic River from ExxonMobil's oil terminal in Everett, Mass.  The information was filed in connection with a $6.1 million settlement.

     According to the information, ExxonMobil Corporation and its corporate predecessors have owned a marine distribution terminal in Everett, Mass. (the "Everett Terminal") since 1929.  Oil tankers deliver petroleum products that are distributed from the terminal throughout the region.  ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, is a wholly owned subsidiary of, and operates the facility on behalf of, ExxonMobil Corporation.  The Everett Terminal included an inland "tank farm," which was comprised of a tank loading rack and 29 large-scale oil storage tanks in which oil products were stored.  Various above-ground pipes and valves connected those tanks to the Terminal's marine transfer area located at the confluence of the Mystic and Island End Rivers.   ExxonMobil's failure to replace a leaking seal valve and a corroded coupling at the transfer station, known to be faulty, was the cause of the spill.  ExxonMobil also negligently failed to conduct required inspections by which it would have detected the spill while it was still ongoing.

       As part of its plea agreement, ExxonMobil has agreed to pay the maximum possible fine of $359,018 (twice the cost of the clean up), the clean up costs of $179,634, and a community service payment of $5,640,982 to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act fund to be
used to restore wetlands in Massachusetts.   ExxonMobil further agreed that for the next three years, the Everett facility will be monitored by an court-appointed official and will be subject to a rigorous environmental compliance program.

      

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December 23, 2008 in Cases, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Call for Papers: World Water Week Sessions on the Right to Water

 Here is a call for contributions on the World Water Week sessions in Istanbul, August 2009, on the right to water.  This posting is in both French and English (English below).

French

Thème 4.1 : le Droit à l’eau – Cinquième Forum mondial de l’eau, Istanbul 2009

Quatre sessions sont organisées à l’occasion du cinquième Forum mondial de l’eau à Istanbul à propos du Droit à l’eau autour du thème 4 sur la Gouvernance.

Nous invitons les contributions des parties prenantes de toutes les régions pour les sessions suivantes :

Pour savoir comment soumettre vos contributions à l’une des 4 sessions, veuillez consulter le site internet du FAN, d’où vous pourrez aussi télécharger le format des contributions à chacune des sessions :
http://www.freshwateraction.net/web/w/www_171_en.aspx

Session 4.1.1 – Meilleures pratiques de mise en œuvre :
Quelles mesures les pouvoirs publics doivent-ils mettre en place dans la réforme du secteur, la budgétisation et l’élaboration de politiques ?

Session 4.1.2 – Le droit à l’eau et l’assainissement change-t-il vraiment quelque chose pour les communautés pauvres et marginalisées ? Quelles mesures doit-on prendre pour augmenter leur aptitude à se servir du droit à l’eau comme outil pour accéder à l’eau et obliger les pouvoirs publics et autres intervenants à leur rendre des comptes ?

Session 4.1.3 – Que comprend le droit à l’assainissement ?

Session 4.1.4 – Quelle est la valeur ajoutée d’une approche fondée sur les droits face aux urgences, du point de vue des pratiques sur le terrain et des actions de plaidoyer ?

La date limite de dépôt des contributions est le lundi 12 janvier 2009 et, si votre contribution est sélectionnée, vous en serez informé d’ici le 9 février 2009. Les contributions retenues seront regroupées dans le livre des Bonnes pratiques du droit à
l’eau et un nombre limité de parties intéressées seront invitées à présenter leurs causes à l’occasion du Forum mondial de l’eau à Istanbul.

Session 4.1.1 – Contacter :  Thorsten Kiefer, COHRE (thorsten@cohre.org <mailto:thorsten@cohre.org> )
Session 4.1.2 – Contacter : Sanderijn van Beek, FAN (wwf5@freshwateraction.net <mailto:wwf5@freshwateraction.net> )
Session 4.1.3 – Contacter : Oliver Cumming, Water Aid : (olivercumming@wateraid.org <mailto:olivercumming@wateraid.org> )
Session 4.1.4 – Contacter : Julie Aubriot, Action contre la Faim (rechercheEAH@actioncontrelafaim.org <mailto:rechercheEAH@actioncontrelafaim.org> )

   

English


Topic 4.1: The Right to Water: Fifth World Water Forum, Istanbul 2009

Four sessions are being organised for the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul on the subject of the Right to Water under Theme 4: Governance.

We invite contributions from all stakeholders from all regions for the following sessions:

For guidelines on how to contribute for any of the 4 sessions, please visit our website, where you can download the format for contributions for each of the sessions:
http://www.freshwateraction.net/web/w/www_171_en.aspx

Session 4.1.1: Best practices of implementation: What measures need to be put in place by governments in sector reform, budgeting and policy formulation?

Session 4.1.2: Is the right to water and sanitation really making a difference for the poor and marginalised? What steps are needed to improve their ability to use the right as a tool to gain access and to hold governments and other actors to account?

Session 4.1.3: What does the right to sanitation comprise?

Session 4.1.4: What is the added value of a rights-based approach to emergencies, in terms of field and advocacy practices?

The deadline for contributions is Monday January 12 2009, and you will be notified on 9 February 2009 whether your contribution has been accepted. The successful contributions will be included in a book of Good Practices of the Right to Water, as well as a limited number of interested parties being invited to present their cases at the World Water Forum in Istanbul.

Session 4.1.1: Contact: Thorsten Kiefer, COHRE (thorsten@cohre.org <mailto:thorsten@cohre.org> )
Session 4.1.2: Contact: Sanderijn van Beek and Ceridwen Johnson, FAN (wwF5@freshwateraction.net)
Session 4.1.3: Contact: Oliver Cumming, Water Aid: (olivercumming@wateraid.org)
Session 4.1.4: Contact: Julie Aubriot, Action Contre la Faim (rechercheEAH@actioncontrelafaim.org <mailto:rechercheEAH@actioncontrelafaim.org> )

We look forward to hearing from you.

Virginia Roaf
Co-ordinator, Topic 4.1
COHRE Right to Water Programme

December 21, 2008 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haiti's Resurrection

Dear Readers and Friends:

It is so difficult this time of year to decide how to spend one's limited resources in a way consistent with our duty to reduce human suffering and make the world a better place.  It is especially difficult now, when all of us are a bit uncertain about our financial future and have lost a considerable amount of our paper wealth.  But, I am concentrating for now on Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere. Below I post a letter from a friend in Haiti, in the hope that some of you may help in the resurrection of Haiti after this fall's hurricane season. Obviously, my friend is a Christian (as I am), but human need knows no religion.  Be assured that any money sent him through the church will be used to meet profound human need, not the promotion of a creed.  And, if you are reluctant to send money to a faith-based organization, just let me know and I'll be happy to find a secular route for your gift.

[We] are writing you all with a great mix of emotions – sadness and frustration, great doubts, fear, but also some sense of hope. Many of you already know that in the past five weeks, Haiti was affected by four hurricanes – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, resulting in profound destruction throughout the entire country. Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay–Farmer’s Movement of Papay) noted this past Monday that the situation is without precedent.  MPP along with other national and international organizations are beginning to get a grasp of the level of havoc and devastation, but it seems impossible that anyone will ever be able to make a full accounting of the loss of life and property.


Many of the root causes of the poverty in Haiti–weak government, inadequate communication, lack of roads and other infrastructure, virtually non-existent social services–have always kept Haitind other countries with similar conditions, open to the full effects of disasters such as this. These same conditions now make it difficult and in some cases impossible for a quick response to those who need help the most. It is even nearly impossible to know who needs the help the most. In the last two days, I have received reports via e-mail of whole communities without food and water, with no help in sight. Lack of real roads have always been part of the isolation of many of these communities. Now, the serious damage to bridges and other weak points along the roads that do exist has increased the number of people who are isolated from any easy access, as well as deepening the level of isolation for those who have always lived at the limits.


Given all this, [our] sense of sadness is easy to understand. We live along side people who carry on their daily lives with grace, great generosity and wonderful senses of humor, despite the profound limitations. Now, these same people, some of whom are close personal friends, have lost homes and possessions and we know they have no real resources, or hope, for recuperating their losses. We have a great need to help, but we ourselves do not have the ability to provide any help that seems significant, even at the local level. Not even for just the families who are part of MPP – at least 52 families whose homes were flooded last week. Multiply the needs of the folks in Hinche by all of communities in nearly every part of Haiti, you can easily understand our frustration. What can we do? Within the sadness and frustration I also feel some guilt, because we ourselves are safe and suffered no damage at all to our home or even to the project where I work.


We also wonder whether the kind of help that is starting to come could possibly be adequate, given the enormous need. And will the assistance that comes be directed to address some of the root causes of poverty in  Haiti?  Will the funds help rebuild roads and bridges so that they are better than they were, or will the be used to make the highways and byways merely passable, subject as always to rapid degradation by even normal use? And will the international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, encourage the Haitian government to create “safety nets” that can help families and communities recuperate losses? Or will they follow their standard policy, insisting on budgetary stringency, regardless of the needs of the most vulnerable–the poor in general, and women, children and the aged in particular?


It is impossible to write about the current catastrophe without mentioning as well the ongoing global wide crises of food prices which are spiraling out of US control. In the project that I help coordinate – the crew prepares and shares two meals a day. We produce all of the vegetables for these meals ourselves, but for the items we can’t produce (corn, rice, coffee, oil etc), we paid a total of around  $100 in  May.  In August, we spent around $135 for the same supplies and in September we spent $175. In a country where over half the population earns less than $US 1.00 a day, the situation was devastating, before the flooding will now die from hunger, giving in at last to ongoing deprivation?


And the fear we feel, where does that come from? Haitians have a marvelous way of dealing with difficult situations that I have come to respect a great deal. They sing, they laugh, they joke and suddenly, the load lightens and the way forward opens up again. There is also a great deal of tolerance, or patience, with unjust conditions. But there are limits. The suffering from the food crisis was becoming nearly insufferable before the hurricanes. If there is not a rapid, reliable and comprehensive response to the current situation, especially by the Haitian government, there will almost surely be massive unrest, probably focused, as always, in Port au Prince, the capital of     Haiti.


At the end of such a letter, what could we say about hope that could balance the discouragement I’m sure you can sense in what I write? First and foremost is faith – [our] faith as well as the profound faith of Haitians in general. We do believe in a God who makes a way where there is no way – our God who sent our savior, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, not only to demonstrate God’s profound solidarity with his chosen people, but also to completely and finally put an end to despair. Because we are Christ followers, we hope, and there is nothing that can separate us from that hope, from the constant renewal of that hope. As [we] and several crew members were heading south, into Port au Prince,... we passed through an area just north of the city of    Mirebelais (Mee be lay) where the farmers have access to irrigation. In field after field as we traveled down the road, farmers were out in those fields transplanting rice, hoeing rice, irrigating rice. Just one day after Hurricane Ike had passed through, the fields were already moving from devastation into abundance, farmers moving from being victims to being the agents of their own resurrection. What a miracle. What a God.


Note:

Please be part of Haiti’s resurrection. Contributions for the crisis in Haiti may be sent to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Please write on the check “DR-000064 Haiti Emergency.” Mail it to:

Presbyterian Church (USA)
Individual Remittance Processing
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh PA 15264-3700 

 

December 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 | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

World Water Week: Transboundary Waters and other flowing things

The World Water Week in Stockholm, the leading annual global meeting place for the planet’s water issues, now invites workshop abstracts and proposals for seminars and side events to be submited for the 2009 World Water Week, August 16-22.

The Workshop topics accepting abstract submissions are:

Securing Water in Coastal Zones
Benefit Sharing and Transboundary Waters
Securing Water in Coastal Zones
Access to Green and Blue Water in a Water Scarcity Situation
The Role of Inter-basin Transfers in Accessing Water
Safe Water Services in Post-conflict and Post-disaster Contexts
Securing Access to Water-related Goods through Trade
Water Storage Options for Secured Access
Subsidies and Financial Mechanisms in the Water Sector

The Deadline for abstract submission is: February 1, 2009.

Detailed information on the 2009 World Water Week in Stockholm and guidelines for submitting an abstract for presentation during the workshops is available at www.worldwaterweek.org and in the "First Announcement" available at: http://www.worldwaterweek.org/Downloads/1st_Announcement_09.pdf.

The World Water Week in Stockholm is hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (www.siwi.org). The theme for 2009 is: "Water - Responding to Global Change: Accessing Water for the Common Good  with Special Focus on Transboundary Waters."

December 17, 2008 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

DON’T FORGET TO MARK PIELC IN YOUR 2009 CALENDARS!

The 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

Solidarity! United Action for the Greener Good

 

February 26th – March 1st

University of Oregon School of Law

Eugene, Oregon

www.pielc.org

 

Read on for planning updates and reminders . . .

 

- Last day to submit panel suggestions is January 15th, but the sooner the better, as our timeslots are already starting to fill up.  Go to http://www.pielc.org/pages/panel_suggest.html

- Submit artwork for PIELC 2009 posters and t-shirts now!  Email submissions to aengel@uoregon.edu, or mail them to 1221 University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, OR 97403, attn: LAW

- Coming in mid-January, our website will be updated with more travel, lodging, and childcare options than ever at www.pielc.org.

- Our confirmed keynote speakers are:

Katherine Redford – Co-Founder and US Office Director of Earth Rights International, is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights and Public Service. She is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar and served as counsel to plaintiffs in ERI's landmark case Doe v. Unocal. Katie received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1995 to establish ERI, and since that time has split her time between ERI's Thailand and US offices. In addition to working on ERI's litigation and teaching at the EarthRights Schools, Katie currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at both UVA and the Washington College of Law at American University. She has published on various issues associated with human rights and corporate accountability, in addition to co-authoring ERI reports such as In Our Court, Shock and Law, and Total Denial Continues. In 2006, Katie was selected as an Ashoka Global Fellow.

Riki Ott – Experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill—and chose to do something about it. She retired from fishing, founded three nonprofit organizations to deal with lingering social, economic, and harm, and wrote two books about the spill. Sound Truth and Corporate Myths focuses on the hard science-ecotoxicology, and the new understanding (paradigm shift) that oil is more toxic than previously thought. Not One Drop describes the soft science--the sociology of disaster trauma, and the new understanding that our legal system does not work in cases involving wealthy corporations, complex science, and class-action. Ott draws on her academic training and experience to educate, empower, and motivate students and the general public to address the climate crisis and our energy future through local solutions. Ott lives Cordova, Alaska, the fishing community most affected by the disaster.

Stephen Stec – Adjunct Professor at Central European University (HU) and Associate Scholar at Leiden University (NL).  As well as the former head of the Environmental Law Program of the Regional Environmental Center (REC), Stec is one of the authors of The Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide and main editor for the Access to Justice Handbook under the Aarhus Convention. The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement; it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness.  The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice.

Fernando Ochoa – Legal Advisor for Pronatura Noroeste a Mexican non-profit organization and the Waterkeeper Program for the Baja California Peninsula, and founding member and Executive Director for Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN), an environmental advocacy organization. Mr. Ochoa has helped establish more than 60 conservation contracts to protect more than 150 thousand acres of land in Northwest Mexico.  As the Executive Director of DAN, Mr. Ochoa has successfully opposed several development and industrial projects that threatened ecosystems in the Sea of Cortes and the Baja California Peninsula, having saved critical habitat for Gray Whales, Whale Sharks and other endangered species.  His work has set important legal precedents on environmental law in order for local communities to gain participation in decision making processes, transparency and access to justice.

Claudia Polsky – Deputy Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Green Technology (P2 Office) in California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).  The P2 Office is central to the implementation of  new (2008) legal authority that gives California expansive ability to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products.  Instead of focusing on cleanup of past pollution -- the historic emphasis of DTSC -- the P2  Office looks to the future by preventing the use of toxic materials in consumer products and industrial operations.  Ms. Polsky's duties include implementing California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, overseeing hazardous waste source-reduction programs, and working with staff engineers to evaluate and deploy new environmental technologies that reduce the need for toxic chemicals. The Office's work involves interaction with stakeholders as diverse as electronics manufacturers, breast cancer activists, analytical chemists, and venture capitalists.  Before joining DTSC, Ms. Polsky worked for the California Department of Justice, Earthjustice, Public Citizen Litigation Group, and The Nature Conservancy. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, where she was Editor in Chief of Ecology Law Quarterly. She is also a former Fulbright Scholar to New Zealand, receiving a Masters of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management.

Gail Small – The director of Native Action, an environmental justice organization in Lame Deer, Montana. Small's political engagement in energy issues began in the early 1970s, when she and other high school students were sent by the tribal government to visit coal extraction sites on the Navajo Reservation and in Wyoming, after the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed leases opening the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to strip-mining. Small later served on a tribal committee that successfully fought for the cancellation of the BIA coal leases. She received her law degree from the University of Oregon and formed Native Action in 1984. Her work at Native Action includes litigation, drafting tribal statutes, and creating informational resources for tribal members.

Derrick Jenson – bio coming soon

SEE YOU THERE!

The Conference Co-Directors

Cadence Whiteley

Erin Farris

Jasmine Hites

Andy Engel

Teresa Jacobs


Questions? Suggestions? Comments?  email askpielc@uoregon.edu

December 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)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CGD Contribution to Development Index - Environment

 
Go check out the Center for Global Development's 2007 Commitment to Development Index page.  Its got some great graphics that you have to see to appreciate.  Unsurprisingly, EU countries lead the way on the Center for Global Development's index of commitment to environmentally sustainable development and the US trails the pack, scoring under 3 on a 10 point scale, while EU countries tend to score 6 or above with Norway near 9.  Center for Global Development Commitment to Development Index   

CGD reports:

Norway tops this year’s environment standings. Its net greenhouse gas emissions fell during 1995–2005, the last ten years for which data are available, thanks to steady expansion in its forests, which absorb carbon dioxide. Also high is Ireland, whose economy grew 6.6 percent per year faster in the same period than its greenhouse gas emissions; and the U.K., which has steadily increased gasoline taxes and supported wind and other renewable energy sources. Spain finishes low as a heavy subsidizer of its fishing industry while Japan is hurt by its high tropical timber imports. The U.S. has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the most serious international effort yet to deal with climate change. That gap, along with high greenhouse emissions and low gas taxes, puts the U.S. last. Two notches up, Australia cuts a similar profile, with the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the group.      

 

The environment component of the CDI compares rich countries on policies that affect shared global resources such as the atmosphere and oceans. Rich countries use these resources disproportionately while poor ones are less equipped to adapt to the consequences, such as global warming. Countries do well if their greenhouse gas emissions are falling, if their gas taxes are high, if they do not subsidize the fishing industry, and if they control imports of illegally cut tropical timber.

A healthy environment is sometimes dismissed as a luxury for the rich. But people cannot live without a healthy environment. And poor nations have weaker infrastructures and fewer social services than rich countries, making the results of climate change all the more damaging. A study co-authored by CGD senior fellow David Wheeler predicts that a two-meter sea level rise would flood 90 million people out of their homes, many of them in the river deltas of Bangladesh, Egypt, and Vietnam.

The environment component looks at what rich countries are doing to reduce their disproportionate exploitation of the global commons. Are they reining in greenhouse gas emissions? How complicit are they in environmental destruction in developing countries, for example by importing commodities such as tropical timber? Do they subsidize fishing fleets that deplete fisheries off the coasts of such countries as Senegal and India?

December 2, 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)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bush Administration Land Mines the Interior Department, EPA, and Other Environmental Agencies

The Washington Post reports that the Solicitor of the Interior Department has shifted half a dozen key political appointees – including Robert Comer known for his opposition to the roadless rule and a questionable grazing agreement as well as Matthew McKeown, a mining industry darling – into senior civil service posts. These transfers, called "burrowing," allows political appointees to stay in the government and create obstacles to changing policy direction.  Perhaps the practice should be called "land-mining," given its potential for derailing the peaceful transfer of power:

Between March 1 and Nov. 3, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the Bush administration allowed 20 political appointees to become career civil servants. Six political appointees to the Senior Executive Service, the government's most prestigious and highly paid employees, have received approval to take career jobs at the same level. Fourteen other political, or "Schedule C," appointees have also been approved to take career jobs. One candidate was turned down by OPM and two were withdrawn by the submitting agency. The personnel moves come as Bush administration officials are scrambling to cement in place policy and regulatory initiatives that touch on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits.


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November 18, 2008 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Law, Mining, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Special Guest Contribution: Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children? -- Dr. Chris McGrath

Dr Chris McGrath is an Australian lawyer and researcher on laws protecting the GBR from climate change. This article is based on a previously published research paper, McGrath (2008).  Submitted 30 October 2008.

 

Amidst the current policy debate in Australia and internationally on climate change is a surreal argument that policies that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBR) and other coral reefs around the globe are acceptable and economically rational.

Nicolas Stern (2007: 330) concluded that “coral reef ecosystems [will be] extensively and eventually irreversibly damaged” by temperature change relative to pre-industrial levels of 0.5-2°C. He found that at 2°C warming “coral reefs are expected to bleach annually in many areas, with most never recovering, affecting tens of millions of people that rely on coral reefs for their livelihood or food supply” (Stern 2007: 94).

Yet for what were clearly reasons of pragmatism and feasibility he recommended the global stabilisation goal should lie within the range of 450-550 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalents (ppm CO2-eq), thereby implicitly accepting a likely warming of 2-3°C and loss of coral reefs, including the GBR.

Ross Garnaut, the Australian Government’s handpicked economic advisor on responding to climate change, followed Stern’s approach and was alive to the damage to the GBR. He recommended that Australia should initially aim for a global consensus next year at COP-15 in Copenhagen to stabilise greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 550 ppm CO2-eq and hope that global consensus can be reached later for lower stabilisation.

Garnaut (2008a: 38) was brutally frank in his supplementary draft report: “The 550 strategy would be expected to lead to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs.” His final report does not shy away from this conclusion (Garnaut 2008b). 

The new Australian Government has silently avoided the issue of the expected impacts to the GBR when explaining the costs and benefits of its climate policies. It does not yet have a stabilisation target for the rise in global temperatures or greenhouse gases but recent modelling of economic impacts of mitigating climate change considered only three stabilisation targets.

The Australian Treasury (2008) considers only stabilisation at 450, 510 and 550 ppm CO2-eq, aiming to stabilise mean global temperature rises between 2-3°C. The only reference to impacts on the GBR is to a “very high risk [of] loss of complete ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef [if] the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rises to over 1,500 ppm CO2-eq by 2100 [giving an] increase in global average temperature of 5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100” (Australian Treasury 2008: 35).

In fact, as Stern recognised, the current science indicates that the GBR will be devastated long before such levels are reached and within the lower stabilisation range the Australian Government appears to be aiming for.

Stern and Garnaut’s frank admissions of the expected impacts to the GBR reflect research findings since mass coral bleaching occurred globally in 1998 and 2002. Rising sea temperatures and increasing acidity of the oceans due to our use of fossil fuels are now well-recognized as major threats to coral reefs and the marine ecosystem generally in coming decades.   

In relation to coral bleaching the IPCC (2007b: 12) found that:

“Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have low adaptive capacity. Increases in sea surface temperature of about 1 to 3°C are projected to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals.”

The findings of the IPCC suggest that a rise of 1°C in mean global temperatures and, correspondingly, sea surface temperatures above pre-industrial levels is the maximum that should be aimed for if the global community wishes to protect coral reefs. The range of 1-3°C is the danger zone and 2°C is not safe. Supporting this conclusion Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and his colleagues concluded in a review of the likely impacts of climate change to the GBR edited by Johnson and Marshall (2007: 295):

“Successive studies of the potential impacts of thermal stress on coral reefs have supported the notion that coral dominated reefs are likely to largely disappear with a 2°C rise in sea temperature over the next 100 years. This, coupled with the additional vulnerability of coral reefs to high levels of acidification once the atmosphere reaches 500 parts per million [CO2], suggests that coral dominated reefs will be rare or non-existent in the near future.”

The IPCC’s (2007a: 826) best estimate of climate sensitivity found that stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols at 350 ppm CO2-eq would be expected to lead to a rise in mean global temperatures of 1°C, stabilising at 450 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 2°C, and stabilising at 550 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 3°C.

Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols have already passed 350 ppm CO2-eq making stabilisation at that level extremely difficult if not impossible in practice, particularly in the context of current global growth and energy use patterns. Atmospheric CO2 reached 379 ppm in 2005 and was increasing by around 2 ppm per year (IPCC 2007c: 102). Including the effect of other greenhouse gases such as methane, the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases was around 455 ppm CO2-eq in 2005 (IPCC 2007c: 102). However, the cooling effects of aerosols and landuse changes reduce radiative forcing so that the net forcing of human activities was about 375 ppm CO2‑eq for 2005 (IPCC 2007c: 102).

Global emissions of carbon dioxide, the major anthropogenic greenhouse gas, are growing at approximately 3% per annum, which exceeds even the “worst case” IPCC projections (Raupach et al 2007). This places global greenhouse gas emissions on a trajectory to rise by 150% between 2000 and 2050 on “business as usual”.

When the conclusions of the IPCC are synthesised, it is clear that reductions of greenhouse emissions of 60% by 2050, such as proposed by the Australian Government (2008), even if they can be achieved, are not likely to prevent serious damage to the GBR and other coral reefs. A 60% reduction in global emissions by 2050 is likely to lead to a mean global temperature rise around 2.4°C (IPCC 2007d: 67), which is likely to severely degrade coral reefs globally. Stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols around 350 ppm CO2-eq and allowing a rise in mean global temperature of 1°C appear to be the highest targets that should be set if coral reefs are to be protected from serious degradation.

This brings us back to the current policy debate – Stern and Garnaut’s frankness in recognizing the likely damage to the GBR and coral reefs from the targets they recommend is welcome but their conclusions leave us to wonder: is this the best we can do? Should we be prepared to write-off the GBR and other coral reefs and their economic, social environmental values?

As a young boy growing up in Australia’s Whitsundays Islands in the 1970s I did not dream that the GBR that I swam and fished on would be severely damaged by human activity within my own lifetime. Much less would I have dreamt that we would choose to allow these impacts to occur, as we are currently doing.

Stern and Garnaut’s targets are not ambitious enough and we should not accept them.

We should judge our climate change policies by this simple test: will we leave the GBR and other coral reefs around the world for our children? At present the answer we are giving to this question is “no”. We are all responsible for changing the answer to “yes”.

We should demand targets based on what we as a society want to achieve. We should not accept targets that will produce unacceptable outcomes.

The current science indicates our aim should be stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gases at 350 ppm if we want to protect the GBR and other coral reefs, but this is rarely even mentioned as a potential target.

We do not yet know if we can stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases as 350, 450 or 550 ppm CO2-eq but think of it this way: if we want to build a bridge across a river that is 1 kilometre wide we would not ask our engineers to build us a bridge that is 500 metres long. We should apply the same logic to climate change policy and set targets for our engineers and scientists to achieve that produce results that we want to achieve.

We need vision, ambition, and hard work to solve the climate crisis. Stern and Garnaut’s approaches lacks the vision and ambition that is needed. We need to add these ingredients to the global community’s many hard workers to solve the climate crisis.

References

Australian Government (2008), Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper (Department of Climate Change), http://www.climatechange.gov.au/greenpaper/index.html.

Australian Treasury (2008), Australia’s Low Pollution Future: The Economics of Climate Change Mitigation (Australian Government Treasury), http://www.treasury.gov.au/lowpollutionfuture/.

Garnaut R (2008a), Garnaut Review Supplementary Draft Report: Targets and trajectories (Garnaut Review, Canberra, 5 September 2008), p 38, available at http://www.garnautreport.org.au/.

Garnaut R (2008b), Garnaut Climate Change Review Final Report (Cambridge University Press), http://www.garnautreview.org.au/index.htm.

Hoegh-Guldberg et al, “Vulnerability of reef-building corals on the Great Barrier Reef to climate change”, Ch 10 in Johnson JE and Marshall PA (eds), Climate Change and the GBR: A Vulnerability Assessment (GBRMPA, 2007), p 295, http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/22598/chapter10-reef-building-corals.pdf

IPCC (2007a), Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of WGI to the AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm.

IPCC (2007b), Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. WGII Contribution to the IPCC AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg2.htm.

IPCC (2007c), Climate change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of WGIII to the AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg3.htm.

IPCC (2007d), Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report (IPCC), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-syr.htm

McGrath C (2008) “Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children?” (IUCN), http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/cel_op_mcgrath.pdf.

Raupach MR, Marland G, Ciais P, Le Quéré C, Canadell JG, Klepper G, and Field CB, (2007) “Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions” 104(24) PNAS 10288-10293, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/104/24/10288.

Stern N (2007), The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, http://www.occ.gov.uk/activities/stern.htm.

 

November 7, 2008 in Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cabinet Speculation

 Here are some predictions/picks on the Cabinet positions of most significance to environmental matters according to Politico's semi-official leaks.  My picks and comments are in green.

Attorney general: Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine; Eric Holder, who was deputy AG under Clinton and is now with Covington & Burling and led Obama’s vice presidential search; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. Odds on favorite is Holder

Supreme Court nominee: Washington superlawyer Robert Barnett; legal scholar Cass Sunstein; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York; Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School. Consensus is it would most likely be a woman. First nominee has got to be a woman - Kagan is smart and has credibility, but this is a much shorter list than Obama will look at.

Secretary of State: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.); Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind)  State is too important to give to a Republican, Kerry's too valuable in the Senate, and Richardson was UN Ambassador so he knows  international diplomacy

Environmental Protection Agency administrator: Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.); Kathleen McGinty, former head of the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency Again, McGinty is an odds on favorite who knows her stuff

Commerce secretary: Penny Pritzker, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)  Need some Republicans and Olympia Snowe is a liberal one; although she's more valuable in the Senate.  So maybe one of the non-environmental positions will go to a Republican and Obama will stick with a Democrat.  I'd take Sebelius -- she's articulate and mid-Western.

Secretary of the Interior: Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  This is the position most likely to go to someone who hasn't been in the running.

Secretary of Energy: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.); My pick would be Lincoln Chafee, a liberal Republican who understands environmental issues as well as energy issues.  Again, Bingaman's too valuable in the Senate. 

Secretary of Agriculture: Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)  Vilsack is odds on favorite.

 

 


 

 

 

November 4, 2008 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Mining, North America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Microcosm of Biodiversity Loss from Global Warming

Stanford's article by Dan Stober in the Stanford Report reported on a study made available on the  PNAS website this week.  The study by Stanford graduate student Sarah McMenamin and Professor Elizabeth Hadly concluded that Yellowstone National Park frogs and salamanders are being killed by global warming at a devastating rate.

Lauren Palumbi frog

A Columbia spotted frog is one of several species of amphibians found in Yellowstone National Park.

Sarah McMenamin frogs lamar

Lamar Valley, in northern Yellowstone, holds dozens of small fishless ponds where the habitat has been ideal for the breeding and larval development of blotched tiger salamanders, boreal chorus frogs and other amphibians. Researchers say the creatures' numbers are shrinking as global warming causes the ponds to dry up.

Yu-Jun Lee frogs mcmenamin

Sarah McMenamin, a graduate student in biology, has spent three summers in a remote area of Yellowstone Park searching for frogs and salamanders in ponds that were surveyed 15 years ago.

Frogs and salamanders, those amphibious bellwethers of environmental danger, are being killed in Yellowstone National Park. The predator, Stanford researchers say, is global warming.

Biology graduate student Sarah McMenamin spent three summers in a remote area of the park searching for frogs and salamanders in ponds that had been surveyed 15 years ago. Almost everywhere she looked, she found a catastrophic decrease in the population.

The amphibians need the ponds for their young to hatch, but high temperatures and drought are drying up the water. The frogs and salamanders lay eggs that have a gelatinous outer layer—basically "jelly eggs," McMenamin says—that leaves them completely unsuitable for gestation on land. If the ponds dry up, so do the eggs. "If there isn't any water, then the animals simply don't breed," she said.

Biology Associate Professor Elizabeth Hadly, McMenamin's graduate adviser and co-author of a research paper published this week on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has worked in Yellowstone since 1981 and has witnessed the ponds going dry. "They're just blinking off," she said. "It's depressing."

"Precipitous declines of purportedly unthreatened amphibians in the world's oldest nature reserve indicate that the ecological effects of global warming are even more profound and are happening more rapidly than previously anticipated," the researchers wrote.

The disappearing ponds lie in picturesque northern Yellowstone, specifically the lower Lamar Valley, which holds dozens of small fishless ponds where the habitat has been ideal for the breeding and larval development of blotched tiger salamanders, boreal chorus frogs and Colombia spotted frogs. As the world's first national park, it is one of the most environmentally protected areas in the world.

The researchers studied climate and water records going back a century, ranging from handwritten logs of water flow in the Lamar River to satellite imagery, and could find no cause for the drying ponds other than a persistent change in temperature and precipitation. "It's the cumulative effects of climate," Hadly said.

During the summers of 2006 through 2008, McMenamin, wearing hip waders and carrying a dip net, cataloged the amphibian life—or lack thereof—in and around 42 ponds that had been surveyed in 1992-1993. In that earlier survey, involving 46 ponds, 43 supported amphibian populations for at least one of the two years. But in the recent inspection, only 38 of those same ponds even contained water in summer.

In their fieldwork, the researchers were able to visit 31 of the 38 wet ponds (the remainder were off limits, to protect nesting trumpeter swans). Only 21 of them supported amphibian populations for even one of the three years they were checked, 2006-2008. In 15 years the number of ponds with frogs and salamanders had dropped drastically.

"That's when we really got alarmed, because the data just showed such a huge difference," Hadly said.

Historically, the ponds—as small as backyard fish ponds, as large as small lakes—have been recharged during the summer by the groundwater in the soil. But the water table is dropping, the researchers say, as human-induced climate change produces a deadly combination of higher temperatures and less rain and snow. Moreover, the seasonal wetlands near the ponds, usually ideal amphibian habitat, are evaporating earlier in the spring, the result of an earlier snowmelt.

During the course of their study, the researchers witnessed the loss of four amphibian communities because of pond drying. Each event left hundreds of dried tiger salamander corpses behind. The ponds had dried rapidly, over just a few days, too fast for larvae to metamorphose and adults to migrate.

"Everybody can identify with the loss of glaciers, but in Yellowstone the decrease in lakes and ponds and wetlands has been astounding," John Varley, the former chief scientist for Yellowstone, told New West. "What were considered permanent bodies of water, meaning reference was given to them in the 1850s, '60s and '70s, and bestowed with a name as a lake, are now gone. Some wetlands that were considered permanent ponds are no longer there. Some lakes have become ephemeral."

The problem is not going to go away, McMenamin said. "It's extremely depressing and there aren't any evident solutions that come to mind. It's a symptom of a much, much larger problem."

Stanford Report, October 29, 2008

November 3, 2008 in Biodiversity, Climate Change, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Strategic Trade - An Opening for Sustainability

Yesterday the Guardian published an opinion piece by Kevin Gallagher (Washington Consensus Dead?) on Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman's work on strategic trade policy, pointing out that his Nobel Prize is the nail in the coffin of the free trade "Washington consensus."  Krugman explains why it is rational for governments to engage in strategic use of tariffs and subsidies in order to create a niche industry.  The same sort of strategic trade policy makes it rational for governments to engage in strategic use of tariffs and subsidies to support ecological sustainability and social well-being.  Perhaps the pendulum will swing against the free traders enough so that we can protect the global environment through trade and other economic sanctions against nations unwilling to act in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Gallagher's opinion:
Last Friday the New York Times quoted the World Bank as saying "There's no question the Washington consensus is dead," indeed it "died at the time of the $700bn bail-out." If the bail-out is death, then awarding Paul Krugman the Nobel prize for economics is the nail in the coffin.

Paul Krugman did not win the Nobel for his popular critiques of Bush-era economic policy in his New York Times column, though the column no doubt helped raise his profile outside the economics profession. The Nobel committee cited Krugman's theoretical contributions to the economics of international trade, the policy implications of which fly in the face of the Washington consensus ( where the mantra is to free up trade every chance you get).

Among Krugman's achievements in the field of international trade is "strategic trade policy". In this work Krugman (and others) showed that tariffs and subsidies to domestic industries can divert profits away from highly concentrated foreign firms and increase a nation's income. Though Krugman himself shies away from prescribing such policy, the textbook example of strategic trade theory is the choice by the Brazilian government to subsidise and develop the aircraft company Embraer. The free-trade theories espoused by the Washington consensus would warn Brazil of the high cost of subsidisation. To free traders, Brazil should focus on its advantage in agricultural products and forget about climbing the manufacturing ladder. Strategic trade theory helps explain why Brazil was willing to gamble in the short term to become one of the finest aircraft manufactures over the long term. They squeezed foreign firms out of the market and carved out a global niche for themselves.

In another classic book, Development, Geography, and Economic Theory, Krugman argued that the government should also play a role in connecting beneficiaries of strategic trade policy to the overall economy. Evoking the work of economists such as Albert O Hirschman and Paul Rosenstein Rodan, Krugman argued that developing countries often needed a "big push" of coordinated government investments to help strategic industries get off the ground and to link the growth of such industry to the economy as a whole.

Problem is, today's trading system is out of whack with these frontier issues in economic thought. In a study published by Boston University's Pardee Centre for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, trade lawyer Rachel Denae Thrasher and I examined the extent to which the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, European Union trade agreements, and United States trade agreements bit into a nation's ability to deploy strategic trade and other industrial policies to benefit from the globalisation process.

We find that in general the world's trading system makes it much more difficult for nations to craft strategic trade and industrial policies for growth and development. Indeed, enshrined in virtually all trade agreements is the "national treatment" idea that says a nation may not treat its domestic industries any differently than foreign ones. That may make sense when rich nations compete against each other, but in a world where 57.6% of the population lives on less than $2.50 per day, one size can't fit all. This restriction is accentuated in provisions for foreign investment, intellectual property, and subsidies.

Interestingly however, we find that there is more "policy space" for innovative growth strategies under the WTO than under most regional trade agreements – especially those pushed by the US. In fact, we find that US-style trade agreements are the most severe in constraining the ability of developing countries to deploy such policy. EU agreements, interestingly, tend to have the same policy space as the WTO.

It doesn't make sense that the World Bank and (implicitly) the Nobel committee are declaring the death of the Washington consensus when the US is choking the ability of nations to use policies that are gaining increasing legitimacy in theory and practice. Change is in the air. As we know in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the US has justified – like never before – a strong role for government in economic affairs. And, of the two presidential candidates, Obama has expressed concern over the direction of US trade policy and has pledged to rethink it. Perhaps these events will make strategic trade and industrial policy rise again.

October 15, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Mining, North America, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Community-based Water Development

I just returned from an International Water Training Conference hosted by EDGE Outreach in Indiana. 

It was a bit different from your standard conference: I actually learned to do something.  I can build and install a community water purification system.  I can build and install a community water treatment system.  I can do a community water, sanitation, and hygiene assessment.  I can lead community hygiene education.   I even learned a bit about how to do all of this in a cross-cultural situation!

The training was aimed at people who are actively doing community-based water development work.  The development community itself appears to be broken into three parts: (1) the official development organizations, funding projects through official development aid and international financing from the World Bank, IMF, regional development banks and such; (2) the non-governmental organizations run by professional water management types -- who provide water and sanitation in developed countries and who do charitable work in developing countries -- WaterAid and Water for People; and (3) the missionaries who work on lots of issues throughout the developing world.  This conference was organized and aimed at the third group.

I spent time talking to people who work in Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, Haiti, Costa Rica, and dozens of other places.  The need is immense and unrelenting.   1.5 million people are dying of preventable water borne diseases every year -- a child every 15 seconds.  You really can install a village water purification system for a bit more than $ 1000; you really can develop new water supplies for a village for $ 5000 - $15,000.  You can really make a difference.

One of the best parts of the conference was Bill Deutsch from Auburn discussing watershed management and the need to look upstream to prevent some of the water contamination problems.  The light bulbs going on in people's minds were almost visible -- there will be some sustainable water systems developed throughout the world thanks to the wisdom he shared.  The other concept he shared was that most of the work being done is first and second "generation" development work -- aimed at disasters and individual communities.  The work that isn't being done and needs to be done is third and fourth "generation" development work -- the regional, national, and international policy levels.  That's really my work in the area.  We need to secure the human right to clean drinking water.  We need to assure that the community-based water development work is sustainable in terms of being coordinated with integrated water resources development and with climate change adaptation planning.  We need to find ways to increase the funding available for community-based water development -- beyond official aid and international financial institutions.  This is the challenge.  Let me know if you want to help.


October 13, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

McCain's Freeze on Discretionary Spending Includes all Energy and other R&D

Jeffrey Mervis of ScienceNOW Daily News [link] reported yesterday that next year's federal budget will not contain even one penny more for scientific research, technology development, and science education if McCain is elected, assuming Congress cannot muster enough votes to override a veto.  McCain intends to freeze all discretionary spending for a year to evaluate all programs.  Democratic Senator Barack Obama (IL), on the other hand, proposes doubling the budgets of many U.S. science agencies over the course of the next decade.

McCain had promised support for R & D in August, but his science aide Brannon said yesterday that there's been no talk within the campaign of allowing any flexibility in the proposed freeze. It would be part of McCain's 2010 budget submission next spring to Congress for the fiscal year that begins in October 2009, should he defeat Obama in November. "Senator McCain realizes that it's difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of basic research," Brannon told Science. "But the freeze applies to the entire budget, most of which doesn't relate to science."

September 20, 2008 in Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Legislation, Physical Science, Social Science, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pope says water is a universal inalienable human right

Pope Benedict XVI supported a universal 'right to water' in a message communicated from the Vatican to an international conference on the issue of Water and Sustainable Development, in Zaragoza, Spain this summer.  Profit should not be the only reason to protect water, he declared. The 'right to water' is based on the dignity of the human person, and it is not simply an 'economic good'...Because of the ...pressure of multiple social and economic factors, we must be conscious of the fact" that today "water must be considered "a good that must be especially protected through clear national and international policies, and used according to sensible criteria of solidarity and responsibility.  But, "[t]he use of water, which is regarded as a universal and inalienable right, is related to the growing and urgent needs of people who live in destitution, taking into account the fact that limited access topotable water has repercussions on the wellbeing of an enormous number of people and is often the cause of illnesses, sufferings, conflicts, poverty and even death." 

Pope Benedict also said that water is "a right that is based on the dignity of the human person." It is "from this perspective that positions of those who consider and treat water only as an economic good must be carefully examined," Benedict XVI continued. "Its use must be rational and solidary, fruit of a balanced synergy between the public and private sector."  He stated water is not just a material good, as it also has "religious meanings that believing humanity, especially Christianity, have developed, assigning it great value as a precious immaterial good, which always enriches man's life on this earth...How can one not recall in this circumstance the thought provoking message that has come to us from sacred scriptures, treating water as a symbol of purification."

The Pope concluded: "The full recovery of this spiritual dimension is the guarantee and implication for an adequate approach to the ethical, political and economic problems that affect the complex management of water on the part of so many interested individuals, both in the national and international realm."

September 15, 2008 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Corps Jurisdictional Determinations are not Final Agency Actions under APA

The 9th Circuit ruled on Friday in Fairbanks North Star Borough v. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that a final jurisdictional determination by the Army Corps of Engineers that an entire parcel is subject to CWA 404 jurisdiction is not a final agency action reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act.  Fairbanks North Star Borough opinion   The decision indicates that, even though the Corps does not contemplate additional action regarding jurisdiction, its jurisdictional determinations do not finally fix or deprive the plaintiff of any rights or privileges.  That occurs only in the permitting decision that follows the jurisdictional determination. 

The Corps had created a regulation establishing a procedure for obtaining final jurisdictional determinations in the 1980s after defending a spat of lawsuits challenging its jurisdictional determinations.  On a policy level, the Corps preferred to litigate the question of jurisdiction early.

The 9th Circuit's decision is consistent with the Fourth Circuit's decision in Champion Intl. Paper v. U.S. EPA that EPA assuming jurisdiction to grant a permit under CWA 402(d) is not final agency action, because the agency will be making a permit decision.

September 15, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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)

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)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Boxer releases new, improved Senate global warming bill

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) released a substitute global warming bill (PDF) today with significant changes from the version approved last December in the Environment and Public Works Committee.    It includes an $800 billion tax break to help Americans cope with high energy prices, greater use of international forestry programs and a cost-containment program that allows extra greenhouse gas emission allowances to be auctioned off if the price for carbon credits reaches a certain level.

Some of you may not follow the bouncing ball of global warming legislation, so here's my summary.

  • The bill caps annual US greenhouse emissions at 5775 million tons in 2012, reducing the cap every year until it reaches 1732 in 2050 -- a 70% reduction from projected 2012 emissions.
  • Covered facilities are required to obtain allowances for every carbon dioxide equivalent (CDE) of greenhouse gases that they emit
  • Covered facilities include:
    • (A) any entity using more than 5,000 metric tons of coal in a year;
    • (B) natural gas processing plants (except in Alaska)
    • (C) natural gas producers in Alaska and federal waters within the Alaska OCS;
    • (D) natural gas importers, including liquefied natural gas
    • (e) petroleum or coal-based manufacturers of fuel (i.e. refineries) that causes GHG emissions;
    • (F) importers of oil, coke, coal or petroleum based liquids or fuels that cause GHG emissions;
    • (G) any entity manufacturing  more than 10,000 carbon dioxide equivalents of non‐HFC GHG;
    • (H) importers of more than10,000 carbon dioxide equivalents of non‐HFC greenhouse gas; and
    • (I) manufacturers of HFCs.
  • Allowances may be obtained through several means: allocation, regular auctions, cost-containment auctions, domestic offset projects (up to 15% annual US allowances), international offsets and allowances (up to 5% annual US allowances so long as and to the extent that domestic projects are less than 15%).
  • Covered facilities that fail to secure enough allowances must pay three times (3x) the market value of the allowances that they are short and must provide an equal or greater amount of allowances the next year.  They also are subject to enforcement and citizen suits under the Clean Air Act.
  • An advanced clean fuel efficiency standard is set for fleets at the average 2010 GHG emissions in 2010, reduced to the baseline adjusted for renewable fuels in 2012-2022, reduced to 5% less than baseline by 2023, and finally reduced to 10% less than baseline by 2028.
  • A carbon duty or tariff is placed on covered goods from countries that do not make a comparable effort to the United States.
  • An enormous variety of programs are created that either (1) directly allocate allowances to protect the interests of particular groups affected by the cap and trade program or (2) provide for auctions of allowances to create funds for various carbon mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • State regulations of GHG are protected by a broad savings clause for state regulation of greenhouse gases:   
    (a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection (b), nothing in this Act precludes, diminishes, or abrogates the right of any State to adopt or enforce—
    (1) any standard, limitation, prohibition, or cap relating to emissions of greenhouse gas; or
    (2) any requirement relating to control, abatement, mitigation, or avoidance of emissions of greenhouse gas.
    (b) EXCEPTION.—Notwithstanding subsection (a), no State may adopt a standard, limitation, prohibition, cap, or requirement that is less stringent than the applicable standard, limitation, prohibition, or requirements under this Act.
  • EPA may authorize tribes to be treated as states for purposes of the Act.
  • Enforcement will occur through the enforcement and citizen suit provisions of the Clean Air Act.
  • Judicial review will be largely in accord with the judicial review provisions of the Clean Air Act.
  • The President is given authority to make an emergency proclamation modifying provisions of the Act for up to 6 months where the President determines that a national security, energy security, or economic security emergency exists, and that it is in the paramount interest of the United States to modify any requirement under this Act to minimize the effects of the emergency.

Here are some of the details about the allocation and funding programs created by the bill:

  • Allocation programs include:
    • Carbon intensive manufacturers of iron, steel, pulp, paper, cement, rubber, chemicals,
      glass, ceramics, sulfur hexafluoride, or aluminum and other non‐ferrous metals will be allocated 11% of the annual allowances for the first 10 years, with the allocation reduced by 1% per year until it reaches 0 in 2030. EPA may allocate 10% of these allowances to petroleum refiners.
    • Petroleum refiners also are guaranteed their own allocation of 2% of annual allowances from 2012-2017 and 1% of annual allowances from 2018-2030.
    • Natural gas processing plants (Alaska), natural gas producers, and natural gas importers will receive 3/4 of 1% of the annual allowances through 2050.
    • Power plants will be allocated 18% of the annual allowances in 2012, which will reduce to 2.75% of the annual allowances by 2030.
    • States heavily dependent on coal and manufacturing will receive 3% of the annual allowances initially, increasing gradually to 4% for 2031-2050
    • A Renewable Energy Program will be allocated 4% of annual allowances from 2012-2030 and 1% of allowances from 2031-2050.
    • States that led in reducing emissions, as scored annually according to their historical State investments and achievements in reducing greenhouse‐gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency, will be allocated 4% of the annual allowances in 2012, gradually increasing to 10% for 2032-2050.  However, states that have established their own cap-and-trade program.
    • Celluosic Biofuel producers will allocated 1% of annual allowances in the first 2 years, 3/4 of 1% from 2014-2017, and 1% from 2018-2030.
  • Allowance funded programs include:                
    • A Climate Change Worker Training and Assistance Fund funded with 1% of annual allowances for 2012-2017, rising to 2% for 2018-2027, 3% for 2028-2030, 4% for 2031-2019, and dropping to 3% for 2039-2050.
    • A Consumer Assistance Fund will initially be allocated 3.5% of the annual allowances for auction, increasing gradually to 15% from 2035-2050.
    • A Transportation Emission Reduction Fund will initially be allocated 1% of the annual allowances for auction, increasing to 2.75% between 2022-2050.
    • A Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program will be allocated 2% of the annual allowances for auction.
    • An Efficient Energy Use Program will auction 2.25% of annual allowances to reward efficient buildings, efficient equipment, and efficient manufacturing (divided equally).
    • A Zero or Low Carbon Generation Technology Fund will provide incentives for manufacturers by auctioning 1.75% of annual allowances 2012-2021, 2% 2022-2030, and 1% 2031-2050.  Advanced research into such technologies will be funded from auctions of .25% of annual allowances over the entire period.
    • A Carbon Sequestration and Storage Early Deployment Program will provide financial support for early CSS projects through a "Kick-Start" Program, funded by auctioning 1% of annual allowances from 2012-2025.  Long-term incentives will be created by allocating 3% of allowances to those projects from 2012-2025, 4% from 2026-2030, dropping to 1% from 2031-2050.  Bonus allowances will also be made available, starting at 2% in 2012 and gradually dropping to 1/2 of 1% in 2050.  The legislation sets the following performance standards to qualify for allowances:  (1) Existing units that commence operation of CCS equipment in 2015 or earlier must treat at least the amount of flue gas equivalent to 100 MW of output and meet a 85%  capture and sequester standard; (2) Existing units that commence operation of CCS equipment after 2016 must achieve an average annual emissions rate of not more than 1,200 pounds of CO2/MWH; (3) New units for which construction of the unit commenced prior to July 1, 2018 must achieve an average annual emissions rate of not more than 800 pounds of CO2/MWH; (4) New units commenced on or after July 1, 2018 must achieve an average annual emissions rate of not more than 350 pounds of CO2/MWH; (5) Units at covered facilities that are not electric generation units must achieve a 85% average annual capture standard.

                   The bill also contains a variety of provisions necessary to create sequestration capacity.

    • Commercial fleet owners who purchase clean hybrid vehicles will be rewarded from 2012-2017 through an auction of 1/2 of 1% of annual allowances
    • A Federal Natural Resources program will fund federal lands firefighting efforts and implementation of a Federal Wildlife Adaption Strategy with funds from auctioning 3% of allowances in 2012, 2.5% from 2013-2022, 3% from 2023-2024, 4% from 2025-2031, and 5% from 2032-2050.
    • International efforts will be funded also through 1% for forestry capacity building, 1/2 of 1% for clean development technology deployment, and most significantly 1% in 2012 gradually rising to 7% in 2039-2050 for international climate change adaptation efforts.
    • Last, but decidedly not least, reduction of the federal deficit will be funded by 5.75% of allowances in 2012, rising gradually to 19.75% in 2031, dropping to 17.75% for 2032-33, and stabilizing at 16.75% for 2034-2050.





 

May 21, 2008 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US, 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 7, 2008

Klamath River basin hydrology and ecology

Many of us teach some material concerning the Klamath River basin controversies.  For those who don't, the Klamath River basin in southeastern Oregon and northern California has been a case study in conflict over competing uses for water, complete with federal marshals doing battle with irrigators determined to exercise their water rights even at the risk of prosecution.   BuRec and other resource agencies have been forced to protect threatened and endangered fish species, leaving less water available for irrigation in dry years and heightened tensions among farmers and other stakeholders including commercial fishermen, Native Americans, conservationists, hunters, anglers, and hydropower producers.

National Research Council has a new book, which

"assesses two recent studies that evaluate various aspects of flows in the Klamath basin: (1) the Instream Flow Phase II study (IFS), conducted by Utah State University, and (2) the Natural Flow of the Upper Klamath Basin study (NFS), conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). The book concludes that both studies offer important new information but do not provide enough information for detailed management of flows in the Klamath River, and it offers many suggestions for improving the studies. The report recommends that a comprehensive analysis of the many individual studies of the Klamath river basin be conducted so that a big picture perspective of the entire basin and research and management needs can emerge."

Read this FREE online!
    Full Book | PDF Summary | PDF Report Brief
   

April 7, 2008 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)