Monday, April 25, 2011

Adler on Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Drought

Robert W. Adler (Utah) has posted Balancing Compassion and Risk in Climate Adaptation: U.S. Water, Drought and Agricultural Law, forthcoming in the Florida Law Review.  The abstract:

This article compares risk spreading and risk reduction approaches to climate adaptation. Because of the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from past practices, the world is "committed" to a significant amount of global average warming. This is likely to lead to significant increases in the frequency, severity and geographic extent of drought. Adaptation to these and other problems caused by climate disruption will be essential even if steps are taken now to mitigate that disruption. Water and drought policy provide an example of the significant policy tension between compassion and risk reduction in climate adaptation, and how those tensions affect broader national economic policies. Because water is essential to lives and livelihoods, the compassionate response to drought is to provide financial and other forms of relief. Guaranteed, unconditional drought relief, however, can encourage unsustainable water uses and practices that increase vulnerability to drought in the long-term. Moreover, the agricultural sector is the largest consumptive user of water in drought-prone regions, but longstanding U.S. agricultural policy encourages excess production and water use. Effective adaptation to climate disruption will have to strike a balance between providing essential short-term relief from hardship and promoting longer-term measures to reduce vulnerability through more sustainable water use and other practices. It will also require fundamental reconsideration of laws and policies that drive key economic sectors that will be affected by climate disruption. Although water, drought and agricultural law provide one good example of this tension, the same lessons are likely to apply to other sectors of the economy vulnerable to climate disruption, such as real estate development and energy production.

A significant paper on drought and the increasingly alarming state of U.S. water resource law.

Matt Festa

April 25, 2011 in Agriculture, Climate, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Property, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hudson on Federal Constitutions, Global Governance, and Climate Change

Blake Hudson (Stetson) has posted Federal Constitutions and Global Governance: The Case of Climate Change, forthcoming in the Indiana Law Journal, Vol 87 (2012).  The abstract:

Federal systems of government present more difficulties for international treaty formation than perhaps any other form of governance. Federal constitutions that grant subnational governments exclusive regulatory authority over certain subject matters constrain national governments during international negotiations - a national government that cannot constitutionally bind subnational governments to an international agreement cannot freely arrange its international obligations. At the same time, federal nations that grant subnational governments exclusive control over certain subject matters are seeking to maximize the benefits of decentralization in those regulatory areas. The difficulty lies in striking a balance between global governance and constitutional decentralization in federal systems. For example, recent scholarship demonstrates that U.S. federalism may jeopardize international negotiations seeking to utilize global forest management to combat climate change, since subnational forest management is a constitutional regulatory responsibility reserved for state governments. This article expands that scholarship by undertaking a comparative constitutional analysis of five other federal systems - Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, and Russia. These nations, along with the U.S., are crucial to climate negotiations since they account for 54 percent of the world’s total forest cover. This article reviews the constitutional allocation of forest regulatory authority between national and subnational governments in these nations to better understand potential complications that federal systems present for global climate governance aimed at forests. The article concludes that federal systems that maintain three key elements within their constitutional structure are most capable of agreeing to an international climate agreement that includes forests, successfully implementing that treaty on domestic scales, and doing so in a way that maintains the recognized benefits of decentralized forest management at the local level - 1. national constitutional primacy over forest management, 2. national sharing of constitutional forest management authority, and 3. adequate forest policy institutional enforcement capacity. The article also establishes the foundation for further research assessing how the constitutional structures of federal systems lacking key elements may be adjusted to achieve more effective climate and forest governance.

Prof. Hudson is also part of the group--with Lincoln Davies (Utah), Brigham Daniels (BYU), Lesley McAllister (San Diego), and our guest Hannah Wiseman (Tulsa)--who very recently relaunched the Environmental Law Prof Blog on our Law Professor Blogs Network.  Welcome and congrats to them, and check out Prof. Hudson's paper. 

Matt Festa

April 11, 2011 in Climate, Comparative Land Use, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Globalism, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Columbia Conference on Sea Level Rise

From Michael Gerrard at Columbia Law:

Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School and The Republic of the Marshall Islands
invite you to attend an international academic conference:

THREATENED ISLAND NATIONS:
LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF RISING SEAS AND A CHANGING CLIMATE

May 23 - 25, 2011
Columbia University
New York, New York

DAY ONE: THE STATUS QUO -- SHIFTING LEGAL OPTIONS IN A CHANGING WORLD

Scientific summary: How much time do we have?
Statehood and statelessness
Preserving marine rights: Fishing and minerals
Legal remedies

DAY TWO: WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP, AND HOW TO DO IT

Resettlement and migration issues
Existing legal structures
A new international convention?

DAY THREE: DOMESTIC OPTIONS FOR SMALL ISLAND STATES       

Engineering for the future
Law and policy choices

[Visit this link for] Further information, and registration to attend conference or to view live webcast.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 6, 2011 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Conferences, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, New York | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Klass on the Public Trust Doctrine and the Siting of Wind and Solar Projects

Alexandra Klass (Minnesota) has posted Renewable Energy and the Public Trust Doctrine, 44 UC Davis L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2011).  Here's the abstract:

This Article explores the role of the public trust doctrine in current efforts to site large-scale wind and solar projects on public and private lands. Notably, both proponents and opponents of such renewable energy projects have looked to the public trust doctrine to advance their goals. Proponents of large-scale renewable energy projects point to the environmental and climate change benefits associated with renewable energy development and argue that the use of public lands and large tracts of private lands to facilitate such projects are both in the public interest and consistent with the public trust doctrine. At the same time, parties opposed to particular renewable energy projects have argued that the land-intensive nature of these projects as well as their potential adverse impacts on endangered species, open space, aesthetic values, and pristine landscapes will result in a violation of the public trust doctrine. Which side is right? How do we balance the benefits and harms of large-scale renewable energy projects and what role should the public trust doctrine play in setting that balance? In addressing these questions, this Article discusses the extent to which the public trust doctrine applies to on-shore and off-shore renewable energy projects on private, state, and federal lands and waters. It then discusses the potential role state and federal legislation can play in codifying or expanding the application of the public trust doctrine with regard to state and federal lands and waters. It concludes by suggesting ways in which existing statutes and new, renewable energy-specific statutes can attempt to build on the public trust doctrine to encourage renewable energy development on public lands without compromising competing public trust values.

Jim K.

March 25, 2011 in Clean Energy, Climate, Environmentalism, Wind Energy, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Osofsky on Diagonal Federalism and Climate Change

Hari M. Osofsky (Minnesota) has posted Diagonal Federalism and Climate Change: Implications for the Obama Administration, Alabama Law Review, vol. 62 (2011).  The abstract:

The Obama Administration’s efforts on climate change continue to face daunting challenges domestically and internationally. This Article makes a novel contribution by exploring how the Obama Administration can meet these challenges more effectively though systematically addressing the multiscalar character of climate change in the areas where it has greater regulatory control. Mitigating and adapting to climate change pose complex choices at individual, community, local, state, national, and international levels. The Article argues that these choices lead to many diagonal regulatory interactions: that is, dynamics among a wide range of public and private actors which simultaneously cut across levels of government (vertical) and involve multiple actors at each level of government that it includes (horizontal).

After assessing the Obama Administration’s progress on climate change and energy issues, this Article develops a theory of diagonal federalism to explore how the Obama Administration might engage in more effective crosscutting regulatory approaches. It proposes a taxonomy for under-standing how these diagonal interactions vary across multiple dimensions over time. Specifically, the taxonomy includes four dimensions: (1) scale (large v. small); (2) axis (vertical v. horizontal); (3) hierarchy (top-down v. bottom-up); and (4) cooperativeness (cooperation v. conflict). The Article then applies this taxonomy to the case example of the Obama Administration’s efforts at reducing motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions to demonstrate how it can be used as a tool in policy-making.

The Article argues that existing diagonal efforts to regulate what cars we drive tend to be predominantly large-scale, vertical, and top-down, in line with their direct impact on automobile companies. In contrast, approaches targeting how we drive those cars, which affect those companies less directly and are grounded in land use planning, are more likely to be small-scale, horizontal, and bottom-up. This divergence creates an opportunity for normative reflection. The Article argues that the Obama Administration should consider whether these skews are appropriate by taking into account the benefits and limitations of such skews in particular contexts. It then proposes ways in which the Administration could create more balance in the dimensions and argues for the value of that balance. Specifically, the Obama Administration could explore additional opportunities for (1) greater smaller-scale governmental involvement in technology-oriented financial incentives programs; (2) federal-level, top-down, vertical initiatives connecting federal approaches to highways, railroads, and gas prices with smaller-scale efforts to have people drive less in their communities; and (3) litigation, which often has a rescaling effect, by interested individuals, non-govermental organizations, corporations, and government.

Matt Festa

March 17, 2011 in Climate, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Financial Crisis, Scholarship, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cleveland's EcoVillage

Dennis Keating (Cleveland State) and Wendy Kellogg (Cleveland State-Urban Affairs) have posted Cleveland's Ecovillage: Green and Affordable Housing Through a Network Alliance.  The article offers a case study of EcoVillage, a transit-oriented affordable housing project in the Detroit Shoreway neigborhood of Cleveland.  Here's the abstract:

This article presents a case study of the inter-organizational network that formed to produce four housing projects in Cleveland's EcoVillage designed to integrate social equity and ecological stewardship as the basis for neighborhood redevelopment. Our paper builds on concepts of community development and housing production through inter-organizational networks spanning nonprofit, public, and private organizations that developed and supported four green and affordable housing projects. We are interested in understanding how development of the housing projects changed and connected traditional neighborhood development and ecologically-oriented organizations and how their interaction changed the practice of housing production and environmental and sustainability advocacy locally and regionally. The results of the study reveal that the marriage of green and affordable housing in Cleveland, despite some challenges, was viewed as important and beneficial by the organizations involved, and resulted in a range of demonstration projects that not only changed the EcoVillage, but affected other neighborhood housing projects in Cleveland as well. The projects resulted in enhanced capacity for green housing production through creation of a new network of organizations spanning the housing and environmental sustainability fields of practice that continues to support sustainable housing and neighborhood development in Cleveland.

Jim K.

 

March 12, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Climate, Community Economic Development, Density, Development, Environmentalism, New Urbanism, Pedestrian, Planning, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Salkin and Nolon on Sustainable Development and Climate Change for Planners and Attorneys

Patricia Salkin (Albany) and John Nolon (Pace) have posted Integrating Sustainable Development Planning and Climate Change Management: A Challenge to Planners and Land Use Attorneys, published in Planning and Environmental Law, Vol. 63, p. 3, March 2011.  The abstract:

This essay is based on our new book, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Law in a Nutshell (West 2011) which describes the close relationship between sustainable development and climate change management. It begins with a discussion of recent discussions and agreements at the international level and it provides a brief history of sustainable development and climate change policy. The article then explores national and local strategies to address sustainable development goals. Local planning and zoning, transit oriented development, energy efficiency and green infrastructure issues are also addressed.

The book, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Law in a Nutshell, is really helpful for lawyers, planners, and students in getting an orientation to this very hot topic.  The article provides some great examples and pushes us to think about the federal/state/local/sublocal legal divides that land users have to face. 

Matt Festa

March 10, 2011 in Books, Clean Energy, Climate, Development, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Property, Scholarship, Smart Growth, State Government, Sustainability, Transportation, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rosser on Carbon Offsets

It was great to have the chance at ALPS to get a preview of a work-in-progress by Ezra Rosser (American).  In his talk, "The Limits of (Progressive) Property," Ezra articulated the reasons for his pessimism about property law as a vehicle for progressive social change, responding to the views expressed by several leading neo-Aristotelian property scholars in a 2009 special issue of the Cornell Law Review.  I am looking forward to seeing Ezra's work in print.

Recently Ezra has posted his forthcoming article, Offsetting and the Consumption of Social Responsibility, 89 Wash. L. Rev. ___ (2011).  Here's the abstract:

This Article examines the relationship between individual consumption and consumption-based harms by focusing on the rise in consumption offsetting. Carbon offsets are but the leading edge of a rise in consumer options for offsetting externalities associated with consumption. Moving from examples of quasi offsetting to environmental offsetting and the possibility of poverty offset institutions, I argue that offsetting provides a valuable mechanism for individuals to correct for the harms associated with consumption. This article makes two major contributions to how we understand the relationship between consumption and social responsibility. First, it identifies an emerging offsetting phenomenon in seemingly discrete market practices and gives suggestions for improving upon them. Second, it suggests that by taking seriously both consumption and externalities, progress can be made on everything from the environment to global poverty. Offsetting, while not getting at all moral or societal obligations, does root such obligations in the shared activity, and perhaps belief, of Americans: consumption.

Jim K.

March 9, 2011 in Clean Energy, Climate, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Green Building, Property, Property Theory, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Teaching Outside the Box

We're now entering week 4 of the spring semester at Buffalo. I'm very excited about my classes this e. Both of which are firsts for me.

I am teaching Natural Resources Law. This is a fun course and I have a great group of students. I was a bit taken aback when I learned how many of my students are from Buffalo. Place matters for many reasons, but it is especially strange feeling to teach a public lands class without one person in the room from west of the Mississippi.

I am also teaching a distributed graduate seminar called Land Conservation in a Changing Climate. "A distributed what?" you say? Yep, a distributed graduate seminar. I believe it is the first seminar of its type in the legal academy. A group of eight professors at six different schools (Buffalo, Denver, Indiana,South Carolina, Stanford, Wisconsin) are all teaching a course with roughly the same title at the same time. We have similar but not identical syllabi and take slightly different approaches to our classes. Although law students probably dominate the classes, we have opened up our classes to graduate students in other departments. All students are examining case studies, collecting data, and inputting results of interviews and research into a joint system. At the end of the semester, both the faculty and students will have access to the collected data. I am excited about this project for many reasons. First, our students are learning how to work with social scientists and understand scientific reports and papers. Second, students are actually collecting data and interviewing people who are conserving land. Third, the data collection will enable us to think both about our own states and do comparative work. Studying conservation easements is often challenged by the lack of available data. We are specifically examining how conservation easements will react (or not) to climate change. I think this project will be good for the students of course, but I also hope they learn things that will help others.

I will be speaking more about this project in May at Pace's Practically Grounded Conference (and elsewhere). If any of you are engaged in (or know of) similar projects, please let me know!

- Jessica Owley

 

February 27, 2011 in California, Charleston, Climate, Conferences, Conservation Easements, Environmentalism, Land Trust, Lectures, New York, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Purdy on American Natures: The Shape of Conflict in Environmental Law

Jedediah Purdy (Duke) has posted American Natures: The Shape of Conflict in Environmental Law.  The abstract:

There is a firestorm of political and cultural conflict around environmental issues, including but running well beyond climate change. Legal scholarship is in a bad position to make sense of this conflict because the field has concentrated on making sound policy recommendations to an idealized lawmaker, ignoring the deeply held and sharply clashing values that drive, or block, environmental lawmaking. This Article sets out a framework for understanding and engaging the clash of values in environmental law and, by extension, approaching the field more generally. Americans have held, and legislated based upon, four distinct ideas about why the natural world matters and how we should govern it. Each of these conceptions persists in a body of environmental law, a network of interest and advocacy groups, the attitudes and even identities of ordinary citizens, and even the American landscape. The first, Providential Republicanism, treats nature as intended for productive human use, and gives high status to its users: this idea justified the European claim to North America, defined public debates about nature in the Early Republic and persists in important aspects of private and public land-use law. The second conception, Progressive Management, arose in the later nineteenth century as part of a broader legal reform movement, and gave its shape to much of federal lands policy, notably creation of the national forests and national parks. In this idea, nature’s productive use requires extensive management by public-spirited experts, whom reformers imagined as steering the environmental policy of the administrative state. The third conception, Romantic Epiphany, concentrates on the aesthetic and spiritual value of nature, and has defined both national parks policy and the creation of the national wilderness system, and lent essential support to the Endangered Species Act. This idea entered environmental politics at the turn of the last century, with the efforts of the Sierra Club and other innovators. The most recent conception of nature, Ecological Interdependence, arose in the middle of the twentieth century and shaped much of the environmental law of the 1970s and thereafter. This conception treats nature as an intensely inter-permeable web, which humans are unavoidably part of, to our benefit and hazard. Because all these ideas persist today in environmental law and politics, they provide a map of our existing statutes and doctrines and the conflicts around those laws and emerging issues such as climate change.

Looks like an interesting and important historical perspective on contemporary environmental policy. 

Matt Festa

February 24, 2011 in Climate, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, History, Politics, Property Theory, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gonzalez on Climate Change and Community-Based Food Production

Carmen Gonzalez (Seattle) has posted Climate Change, Food Security, and Agrobiodiversity: Toward a Just, Resilient, and Sustainable Food System.  Here's the abstract:

The global food production system is in a state of profound crisis. Decades of misguided aid, trade and production policies have resulted in an unprecedented erosion of agrobiodiversity that renders the world’s food supply vulnerable to catastrophic crop failure in the event of drought, heavy rains, and outbreaks of pests and disease. Climate change threatens to wreak additional havoc on food production by increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, depressing agricultural yields, reducing the productivity of the world’s fisheries, and placing pressure on scarce water resources. Furthermore, the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are occurring at a time of rising global food insecurity. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 1.05 billion people currently suffer from chronic hunger – a figure that represents one sixth of humanity.

This article examines the underlying causes of the crises in the global food system, and recommends specific measures that might be adopted to address the distinct but related problems of food insecurity, loss of agrobiodiversity, and climate change. The article concludes that the root cause of the crises confronting the global food system is corporate domination of the food supply and the systemic destruction of local food systems that are healthy, ecologically sustainable, and socially just. The article argues that small-scale sustainable agriculture has the potential to address the interrelated climate, food, and agrobiodiversity crises, and suggests specific measures that the international community might take through law and regulation to promote sustainable agricultural production.

Jim K.

February 15, 2011 in Climate, Community Economic Development, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Food, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recent Article Highlights Need to Think Comprehensively About Land Conservation

A new article in the journal Conservation Biology, highlights the need to shift our way of thinking about preservation sites. As I (and many others) have noted elsewhere, climatic changes are likely to disrupt current land protection schemes. Many of our current land conservation strategies (including establishment of reserves and most uses of conservation easements) assume environmental stability. This assumption if inappropriate when studies increasingly demonstrate there will be large shifts in ecosystems and species habitat. The authors of Toward a Management Framework for Networks of Protected Areas in the Face of Climate Change demonstrate that there is a need to increase the resilience and robustness of our conservation areas and reassess our decisions regarding where protected lands should be and what the rules governing those areas should be. Although the study examines birds in sub-Saharan Africa, the ideas and cautions easily apply to decisions regarding land conservation in the United States and elsewhere.

Below is the authors’ abstract:

Networks of sites of high importance for conservation of biological diversity are a cornerstone of current conservation strategies but are fixed in space and time. As climate change progresses, substantial shifts in species’ ranges may transform the ecological community that can be supported at a given site. Thus, some species in an existing network may not be protected in the future or may be protected only if they can move to sites that in future provide suitable conditions. We developed an approach to determine appropriate climate change adaptation strategies for individual sites within a network that was based on projections of future changes in the relative proportions of emigrants (species for which a site becomes climatically unsuitable), colonists (species for which a site becomes climatically suitable), and persistent species (species able to remain within a site despite the climatic change). Our approach also identifies key regions where additions to a network could enhance its future effectiveness. Using the sub-Saharan African Important Bird Area (IBA) network as a case study, we found that appropriate conservation strategies for individual sites varied widely across sub-Saharan Africa, and key regions where new sites could help increase network robustness varied in space and time. Although these results highlight the potential difficulties within any planning framework that seeks to address climate-change adaptation needs, they demonstrate that such planning frameworks are necessary, if current conservation strategies are to be adapted effectively, and feasible, if applied judiciously.

 HOLE, D. G., HUNTLEY, B., ARINAITWE, J., BUTCHART, S. H. M., COLLINGHAM, Y. C., FISHPOOL, L. D. C., PAIN, D. J. and WILLIS, S. G. , Toward a Management Framework for Networks of Protected Areas in the Face of Climate Change. Conservation Biology, no. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01633.x

- Jessica Owley

February 8, 2011 in Climate, Comprehensive Plans, Conservation Easements, Development, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Smart Growth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fracking Conference

We've got a lot of exciting things going on here in Buffalo these days. At the end of March, we'll be holding a symposium and community forum on fracking. I hope to see some of you there!

- Jessica Owley

 Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy

March 28-29, 2011 at University at Buffalo School of Law

Buffalo, New York

On March 28-29, 2011 the University at Buffalo Environmental Law Program and the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy will host the conference: Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy.

Horizontal-gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking or fracking, and its potential effects is an important environmental and energy concern for the nation. This conference provides an opportunity for a scholarly exchange of ideas regarding the issue as well as a forum for community discussion.

We welcome submissions on any related topic, including the following:

  • Hydrofracking and Nuisance Law
  • Impacts on Tribal Lands
  • Administrative law and the EPA Rulemakings
  • Environmental Review Processes    
  • Application of federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act
  • Energy issues, in including the Energy Policy Act and DOE policy
  • Endocrine Disruption and Human Health Impacts

Authors will have an opportunity to publish their work in the Buffalo Environmental Law Journal. You are invited to submit a paper or presentation proposal for of no more than 250 words by Monday, February 21st to jol@buffalo.edu.

For more information, contact Jessica Owley [jol@buffalo.edu or 716-645-8182] or Kim Diana Connolly [kimconno@buffalo.edu or 716-645-2092]

February 7, 2011 in Clean Energy, Climate, Conferences, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Exurbs, Federal Government, Local Government, New York, NIMBY, Nuisance, Oil & Gas, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Days in Texas and Elsewhere

Today I am in my hometown of Albany NY, trudging through waist-high ramparts of plowed snow.  Much of the US has suffered tremendous snowfalls/blizzards in the past week.  Back in my current home of Houston, TX, my family and students are having a "snow day" because they anticipate maybe getting some white stuff.  Since the typical transplanted-yankee reaction is to scoff at the inability of southern cities to deal with snowy weather, I think it's worth editing and reprising this post from last year, where I defend the local government choice to take the occasional shutdown over the necessary land use investment for snow removal:

Snow Day in Texas

Hard to believe, but it might snow today in Houston. Such weather is pretty rare in Houston.  My law school has closed for the day in mere anticipation of snow.

I grew up in upstate New York [where I am today, in Albany], where the average January temperature is 22 F (compared to Houston's 55 F); average winter snowfall was 64" (compared to Houston's < 0.05").  Tennessee, where I lived for about eight years as an adult, is just far enough north to get some decent snowstorms each winter, but overall it has a much warmer, and shorter, winter.  Yet it seemed that in Tennessee the authorities were constantly cancelling school and shutting the city down.  Often the schools had to extend their year to make up for all of the snow days.  In New York we hardly ever lost a day of school due to snow; perhaps 0-2 per year.  Even a 12-inch snowfall was not a problem, while in Tennessee they would preemptively close for a forecast of snow.

Fellow northern transplants and I would snicker at all this.  You call this a snowstorm?  I chalked up the different approaches to the hardiness of our yankee constitutions.  But eventually I think I figured out what might be the biggest factor in the different regional reactions, and it's a land use & local government issue.  Albany County's snow removal budget for supplies alone (salt, fuel) is $1,217,500.  This doesn't include the operating costs for personnel, nor the capital outlays for the equipment; a new snow plow can cost a city around $200,000.  Chicago's total snow removal budget is $17 million

So while these types of expenditures are necessary in northern cities, it wouldn't make sense in warmer climes to purchase and maintain the equipment, supplies, and personnel necessary for snow removal capability.  In Houston a freak storm like today's doesn't happen often enough to remotely justify the expense.  It becomes a more difficult question for places in the latitudinal middle, like Tennessee and Kentucky.  One could measure the economic impact of lost school and work days and business in the area, and compare it to the costs of snow removal.  But even that would still need to make some predictive assumptions based on variance from year to year.  (Besides, why invest in a snow plow when Georgia will soon be underwater due to global warming?) 

Assuming rational actors, one would think we could draw lines between the places where it is more efficient as a matter of municipal policy to do snow removal, and those where it is more efficient to simply ride out the storms as they come.  Obviously there are a lot of other factors for planners in making this decision, including geography, the urban/suburban/rural character of the place, and other unique factors.  Plus there are the politics of snow removal (a blizzard is said to have altered the outcome of Chicago's mayoral primary in 1979). 

But obviously it would never make sense on the Gulf Coast, so we'll just hunker down as we watch the freak snowfall today (my three-year-old [now four, and still talking about last year's snow] has no idea what this stuff is).  But don't feel bad for me-- it will be back up to 74 F by Tuesday. 

So take that, yankees.  As Jessica points out, in Buffalo they make the social land use adjustments that are necessary, but they take a rational approach in Houston too.  I might reconsider this stance tonight after I freeze off my fourth point of contact. 

Matt Festa

UPDATE: No snow in Houston, but everything's frozen.  Contrast the icy fountain in front of my Houston apartment with the snowdrifts piled high in front of my childhood home in NY.  Yet the local government responses are as different as the respective amounts of frozen H2O. 

MJF 2-2011 113 Albany Feb 2011 017

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 4, 2011 in Climate, Georgia, Houston, Local Government, New York, Planning, Politics, Sun Belt, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One of the Many Reasons I Love Buffalo

While the rest of the country is reeling from the huge snow storms, it was just another winter day here in Buffalo. (Most of the schools were closed today, but the consensus seems to be that they shouldn't have bothered because the snow didn't arrive in the amount expected.) Buffalo has already surpassed 60 inches of snowfall this winter, but no one here is fazed by it.

Having grown up in Wisconsin, I am used to snow but I have been impressed with the snow culture here. In particular, I assumed that being a home owner in Buffalo meant buying a snow blower. However, in my neighborhood this doesn't seem to be the case. Only one or two people on each block buy a snowblower snow thrower and then those wonderful souls clear the snow for the entire block. We moved to Buffalo this past summer. When our neighbors told us not to buy a snowblower because someone else already had one, we thought they were kidding. We have two such snowblower owners on our block. One of them even took the time to do our entire driveway. I rushed out to thank our neighborhood snowblower owner one day last week. "Just being a good neighbor!" he said.

Thinking about land use and community here in Buffalo necessarily involves considering weather snow. Locations of public services, uses of public spaces, and protection of natural resources must be approached differently in a place where you can't see the sidewalks for three months. Sure lots of cities are walkable, but how many are cross country skiable? It is always interesting to move to a new city and learn about the different communities, traditions, and landscapes. Although Buffalo is beautiful in the summer (admittedly the best time to visit), you have to be here in the winter to understand how the community comes together.

- Jessica Owley

February 2, 2011 in Climate, Community Design, New York, Pedestrian, Property, Water | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Introducing Jessica Owley

Owley Here at the Land Use Prof Blog we've been incredibly fortunate to have some really bright scholars willing to contribute--from getting Jim Kelly and Tony Arnold join the lineup, to several interesting guest bloggers, including Ken Stahl, McKay Cunningham, and most recently, Antonia Layard.  It's a new month (already!) and I'm pleased to announce a new guest blogger: Jessica Owley of the University at Buffalo Law School.

Jessica teaches environmental law, property, and land conservation at Buffalo.  She holds both a JD and a PhD in environmental science, policy, and management from Berkeley.  Before joining the faculty at Buffalo, Jessica practiced in the land use & environmental law group at a major law firm and taught at Pace Law School.  Her research interests are in land conservation, property rights, and using property tools for conservation in the context of climate change.  She has posted several interesting articles in recent months on the subject of conservation easements, including forthcoming pieces in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal, an ABA book on Greening Local Government, and Law and Contemporary Problems

We're excited to have Jessica join us this month, and we look forward to her thoughts and observations!

Matt Festa

January 31, 2011 in Climate, Conservation Easements, Environmental Law, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Owley on Conservation Easements at the Climate Change Crossroads

Jessica Owley (Buffalo) has posted Conservation Easements at the Climate Change Crossroads, forthcoming in Law and Contemporary Problems.  The abstract:

The essence of a conservation easement as a static perpetual restriction is coming to a head with the understanding that the world is a changing place. This demonstration is nowhere more dramatic than in the context of global climate change. In response to this conflict, users of conservation easements face the decision of either (1) changing conservation easement agreements to fit the landscape or (2) changing the landscape to fit the conservation easements. Both of these options present benefits and challenges in implementation. Where conservation easement holders’ ultimate goal is to keep a maximum number of acres under protection from development, flexible conservation easements may present a viable and attractive method of protection. Where a specific conservation value or habitat is the concern, active management of the land may be more appropriate. As a further complication, both of these options are at odds with the essential nature of conservation easements. These conflicts lead to a third option: making different decisions about where and how to use conservation easements. This would likely lead to the conclusion that conservation easements are only desirable in a narrower category of purposes. This is, of course, dismaying to champions of conservation easements. Unfortunately, ensuring the long-term viability of conservation easements may entail omitting the very features that give conservation easements their strength.

This is another article from Professor Owley that challenges some prevailing views on conservation easements.  On a side note, I can hint that we might be hearing more from her soon in this space!

Matt Festa

January 25, 2011 in Climate, Conservation Easements, Environmental Law, Property Theory, Scholarship, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Six Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy

Don Fullerton (Illinois-Finance) has posted Six Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

While prior literature has identified various effects of environmental policy, this note uses the example of a proposed carbon permit system to illustrate and discuss six different types of distributional effects: (1) higher prices of carbon-intensive products, (2) changes in relative returns to factors like labor, capital, and resources, (3) allocation of scarcity rents from a restricted number of permits, (4) distribution of the benefits from improvements in environmental quality, (5) temporary effects during the transition, and (6) capitalization of all those effects into prices of land, corporate stock, or house values. The note also discusses whether all six effects could be regressive, that is, whether carbon policy could place disproportionate burden on the poor.

Jim K.

January 22, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Architecture, Clean Energy, Climate, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Green Building, Housing, Oil & Gas, Sustainability, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Connecticut vs. American Power

Kermit Lind just alerted me to a case the rest of you are probably already following, Connecticut vs. American Electric Power.  Following is a synopsis from the Climate Change and Clean Technology Blog.

On December 6, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, a federal nuisance case on appeal from the Second Circuit. Plaintiffs -- eight states, the City of New York and three non-profit land trusts -- seek abatement and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from defendants, who include some of the United States’ largest electric utility companies. The Second Circuit ruled that: (1) the case did not present a non-justiciable political question, (2) the plaintiffs have standing, (3) the plaintiffs stated claims under the federal common law of nuisance, (4) the plaintiffs' claims are not displaced by the Clean Air Act ("CAA"), and, finally, (5) the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”), a quasi-governmental defendant, is not immune from the suit. See Connecticut v. American Electric Power Co., 582 F.3d 309 (2nd Cir. 2009).

This is a case to watch out for during this Supreme Court term.

Read more here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 18, 2011 in Climate, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Industrial Regulation, Land Trust, Local Government, New York, Nuisance, Property Rights, State Government, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When it comes to farms, size matters

In the UK, today was the last day for objections to an application for planning permission submitted by Nocton Dairies’ to build a ‘a US-style ‘mega’ dairy farm’ in rural Lincolnshire for a 3,770 cow dairy unit, dwarfing the average herd that has no more than a few hundred cows. An extraordinary 70,000+ objectors have objected to the proposed development, even though the new farm has reduced the number of cows it proposes to keep (the initial application was for 8,100) and despite impressive commitments to reduce carbon emissions in milk production.

While there are many concerns, objectors link two particularly resonant strands of opposition. The first is that a dairy farm of this size is out of place in the English countryside, the second is that keeping the cows inside, without letting them graze in the fresh air, infringes British beliefs in animal welfare. While much milk is imported into the United Kingdom from elsewhere in the EU, consumers have demonstrated a continuing desire for local dairy products and all the major supermarkets have stated that they would not sell Nocton’s milk in their stores. Campaigners and retailers alike have drawn on understandings of rurality, locality and an understanding of British (as opposed to American) farming to suggest that ‘if this proposal goes through it would not only have a disastrous effect on the well-being of the animals, but will potentially allow other factory farms in to change British farming and our countryside forever’.

As one campaign group puts it (drawing on a British love of tea), ‘Would you drink factory milk from battery cows? Not in my cuppa.’

Antonia Layard

January 11, 2011 in Agriculture, Climate, Comparative Land Use, Food, Planning, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)