Tuesday, May 23, 2006
NPR reported two interesting stories this morning about controversies on the edges of land use law. The first report was about renewed plans to squeeze oil out of shale in the deserts of Utah, made economically feasible once again with high oil prices. Environmentalists deplore the prospect of the destructive mining, pollution, and water use that oil shale mining would bring. As someone who loves the solitudes of Utah's deserts, I too would not be happy over large-scale oil shale business there. But after the public uproar over high gas prices this year, is there any doubt that the majority of Americans prefer cheap gasoline to pristine deserts?
The second story concerned a recent decision of a British court in favor of the Chagossians, the native people of the Indian Ocean's Diego Garcia, who were expelled from the British-owned island in the the 1970s so that the United States could build a military base in the strategic location. The British government acted with cavalier disregard in kicking out the Chagossians, many now argue. Although the D.C. Circuit recently held that the U.S. government's actions were political questions and that the U.S. government owes the people no compensation, British courts are turning in the other direction. Thus the complaints of undue power and racism in eminent domain reach a global level …