Sunday, September 22, 2013
Nicholas Fromherz (Lewis & Clark) has posted From Consultation to Consent: Community Approval as a Prerequisite to Environmentally Significant Projects, 116 W. Va. L. Rev ___ (2013). Here's the abstract:
Since the United States enacted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969, nations all around the world have adopted similar statutes. What started as a unique response to the American environmental movement grew to become a nearly global standard. Although the details of the regimes vary from country to country, there are two constants: (1) the regimes force the government to consider environmental impacts before conducting or authorizing projects, and (2) they allow some degree of public participation. This article focuses on the latter of these two features.
Public participation in NEPA-style regimes generally means public consultation: information is disseminated and civil society is allowed to comment. Depending on a range of factors — some political and some legal — comments may influence the circumstances under which a project takes place or whether it occurs at all. Though the public’s influence is often limited in practice, the mere fact of public participation at the project level — as opposed to participation at the candidate level through elections or at the issue level through referenda — is exceptional. In the U.S. and many other countries, NEPA and its counterparts represent a break from the normal rule of executive decision-making by encouraging public involvement and deliberative, participatory democracy.
Despite the progress, critics have accused these regimes of falling short. In practice, public consultation under NEPA-style frameworks is severely limited in terms of who participates, how many participate, and the extent to which this participation impacts the decision-making process. This is not surprising. By its very nature, consultation implies limited influence.
In this article, I argue that policy-makers, both domestic and foreign, should replace consultation with consent as the public-participation requirement in certain cases. Although the concerns leading to the inclusion of public consultation in NEPA and its foreign counterparts were many, one of the more important ideas was that those persons affected by environmentally significant projects should have a say in the matter. Unfortunately, the consultation approach has proven increasingly ineffective. If the goal is to match influence with stake, consultation is the wrong mechanism.
Requiring consent, even in a limited number of cases, may seem like an extreme remedy. Not so. It is an attractive way to respond to a situation inherent in many major public works (especially infrastructure and energy projects) and in large-scale private endeavors on public land (especially extractive projects). While the benefits of these projects are often spread around an entire nation or large region, the environmental costs are frequently concentrated within a small, local community (the site community). Requiring the consent of the local site community insures that its interest is adequately accounted for in the decision-making process.
I am always glad to see authors taking on the question of strengthening community control of land resources especially as a response to a particular impact, as Rachel Godsil and I have each written about in the urban context. Fromherz dedicates some important discussion to defining the affected community, a problem made even more interesting in his piece by the overlay of the rights of indigenous inhabitants.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Hannah Wiseman (Florida State) has posted Urban Energy, published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, (invited symposium), 2013. The abstract:
The twenty-first century has seen important changes in the U.S. energy system, and most share a common theme: In some regions of the country, energy infrastructure is now located near human populations. As has always been the case; fuel in the form of oil, gas, sunlight, wind, water, or other energy sources must be extracted wherever it happens to be found; and humans have little control over its location. Energy companies must move to the areas of highest resource abundance and find available surface space from which to capture these fuels. Compounding this challenge is the fact that some of our most abundant remaining energy sources exist in low concentrations and are widely distributed. Sunlight and wind require thousands of acres of technology installations to be efficiently captured, and unconventional oil and gas resources exist at low densities over wide areas in shales or tight sandstone formations. As we tap these sources in ever more numerous locations, energy bumps up against certain human population centers. The city of Fort Worth, Texas, for example, now hosts thousands of natural gas wells, and San Diego has more than 4,500 solar projects. Indeed, with the rise of the Smart Grid; every American consumer could become a small source of electricity; sending electricity back into the grid from a plug-in hybrid vehicle, a solar panel or small wind turbine, a fuel cell, or battery storage. As the extraction of fuels and generation of electricity (“energy production”) become integral parts of certain population centers; the law will have to adjust; responding to land use and environmental disputes, nuisance claims, enhanced demands on local electricity grids, and concerns about equity, in terms of unevenly distributed effects. This Essay explores these new themes in energy law; investigating how certain populated areas have begun to embrace their role as energy centers; by addressing conflicts ex ante, creating systems for permitting and dispute resolution that balance flexibility with predictability, and managing the tradeoff between land-based energy demands and other needs. It also briefly proposes broader lessonsfor improving energy law, based on the piecemeal approaches so far.
Very important analysis; Prof. Wiseman (a former guest-blogger here!) has provided some of the most interesting recent scholarship on the new energy boom and land use.
July 19, 2013 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, NIMBY, Oil & Gas, Planning, Property Rights, Scholarship, Sustainability, Texas, Urbanism, Wind Energy, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Amy Hardberger (St. Mary's) has posted World's Worst Game of Telephone: Attempting to Understand the Conversation between Texas's Legislature and Courts on Groundwater, forthcoming in the Texas Environmental Law Review. The abstract:
Groundwater is a critical component of Texas water resources. Currently, groundwater accounts for 60% of all water withdrawn in the state. Historically, the largest groundwater user was the agricultural sector; however, Texas cities are also increasingly reliant on these water sources. State water demands are projected to increase 22% in the next fifty years. Many of these demands will be in the groundwater sector. In addition to increasing demand, periodic and sometimes severe droughts challenge an already stressed system. Texas’s ability to provide sufficient resources depends in large part on their effective management.
This paper evaluates the Day decision through the lens of past court decisions and legislation in an effort to understand why the court ruled as it did. Part II introduces Texas’s groundwater resources, current uses of that water, and present concerns regarding sustainability. Part III chronicles the line of cases that established capture as the common law rule in Texas. Part IV traces the history of groundwater legislation after courts established rule of capture. This legislation created a regulatory overlay on the common law rule of capture through localized groundwater conservation districts and the statewide planning process. Part V describes the process through which the Edwards Aquifer Authority came into existence and why it is different from other groundwater districts in the state in that its strict pumping cap immediately raised property rights concerns. Part VI explains how groundwater litigation shifted from right of capture limitations to questions of when ownership vests. This change was a product of increased pressure on groundwater resources caused by additional regulations and growing population demands.
Finally, Part VII presents three hypotheses regarding why the court came to its decision in the Day case despite the case law history. The first theory is that delineation of property interests is an issue reserved for courts’ authority. Another alternative is that the holding in Day was a result of a statewide shift towards the protection of private property rights above other concerns. The final proposed alternative is that the Day holding was actually an effort to define the property right in such a way as to encourage more regulation or at least limit takings claims through the expansive of correlative rights to groundwater.
Interesting and important--Texas is a huge state with a growing economy and population and an energy boom, and water is going to be a critical issue in the immediate and long-term future.
July 17, 2013 in Caselaw, Environmentalism, Local Government, Oil & Gas, Planning, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Pamela Ko (Sage Colleges) and Patricia Salkin (Touro College) have posted What Every Land Use Lawyer Should Know About the Emerging Use of Health Impact Assessment and Land Use Decision Making, New York Zoning and Planning Law Report, Vol. 16 No. 6 (May/June 2013). The abstract:
The field of Health Impact Assessment is relatively new to the United States, but already a number of state and local governments are incorporating these assessments into land use planning and decision making. In five years, the use of HIA in the U.S. has increased dramatically with more than 100 HIAs completed or in progress in the U.S. from 2007 to 2010. This article provides a brief overview of HIA in the United States, describes how it is being used in other states with respect to land use decision making, and examines how HIA is starting to be incorporated into traditional land use and environmental decision making in New York.
Add public health to the list that makes land use one of the most interdisciplinary fields of legal practice.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Michael Burger (Roger Williams) has posted The Last, Last Frontier, a chapter in Environmental Law and Contrasting Ideas of Nature: A Constructivist Appproach (Keith Hirokawa ed., Cambridge University Press) 2013. The abstract:
Increased temperatures associated with global climate change are opening new Arctic territory to oil and gas exploration and clearing passage for new maritime shipping routes. These changes are provoking a diverse range of legal responses in the international arena, where nations are staking new territorial claims and seeking to revise understandings of the Law of the Sea, and in the domestic environmental and maritime laws of Arctic nations. While these events provide evidence of an international competition over natural resources, they also provide a case study in how environmental law and litigation construct and reify dominant ideas of nature. This book chapter examines the particular ways in which the storylines and tropes that constitute the "imaginary Arctic" factor into litigation surrounding Shell Oil's attempts to drill for oil and gas in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The Shell litigation is exemplary because it pits a number of well-established storylines against each other: the Arctic as classical frontier, the Arctic as spiritualized frontier, the Arctic as neutral space, the Arctic as homeland, and the Arctic as part of the developing world.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
It's time once again for the "Professors' Corner" teleconference sponsored by the ABA's Real Property, Trusts, & Estates section. This month's call features different recent cases to be discussed by John Orth (North Carolina), Tanya Marsh (Wake Forest), and yours truly (South Texas). See the writeup below for details on the call-in and the cases. Also, if you're a property or land use prof who might be interested in participating in future calls (I recommend it), get in touch with Tanya.
Professors’ Corner: Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Professors’ Corner is a monthly free teleconference sponsored by the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section's Legal Education and Uniform Laws Group. Each month’s call features a panel of law professors who discuss recent cases or issues of interest to real estate practitioners and scholars. Members of the AALS Property Section are invited to participate in the call (as well as to join and become involved in the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section).
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
12:30 p.m. Eastern time (11:30 a.m. Central, 9:30 a.m. Pacific). Call is ONE HOUR in length.
Call-in number: 866-646-6488
This month’s program involves some recent case developments on issues of interest to both Real Property and Trust and Estate practitioners. Our featured speakers will be Professors John Orth, Tanya Marsh, and Matt Festa.
John Orth is the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill, NC, where he has taught since 1978. He teaches Property, Advanced Property, Trusts and Estates, and Legal History. He has published extensively on the subjects of property, legal history, and state constitutional law. Prof. Orth is a contributing author to the treatise Thompson on Real Property for the subject of concurrent estates, and has served as an Associate Editor and a contributor to the American National Biography series. Prof. Orth will be discussing Reicherter v. McCauley, a Kansas appellate decision addressing whether one joint tenant can effect a “secret severance” of a joint tenancy via a quitclaim deed to himself via a deed executed in anticipation of death. Time permitting, he will also discussBridgeview Bank Group v. Callaghan, a recent Florida appellate decision addressing whether a creditor may introduce evidence to rebut the presumption that a deed to a married couple was intended to create a tenancy by the entirety. Here’s a link to Reicherter: http://www.kscourts.org/cases-and-opinions/Opinions/CtApp/2012/20120713/106622.pdf
And to Callaghan: http://www.flprobatelitigation.com/uploads/file/4D11-631_op.pdf
Tanya Marsh is an Associate Professor of Law at the Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, NC, where she began teaching in 2010, following ten years practicing real estate and corporate law in Indianapolis, Indiana. She teaches Property and Real Estate Transactions, and is a contributing editor to the Property Prof Blog. Prof. Marsh is the incoming Chair of the Real Property Division Legal Education Committee for the ABA Real Property, Trust & Estate Law Section. She will be discussing In re Estate of Whalen, a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision addressing whether Iowa’s Final Disposition Act allows a surviving spouse to disregard the deceased spouse’s written burial instructions. Here’s a link to the Whalen decision: http://www.iowacourts.gov/Supreme_Court/Recent_Opinions/20130222/12-1927.pdf
Matt Festa is a Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, TX, where he has taught since 2007. He teaches and researches in the areas of property law and land use, state & local government, energy & environmental law, trusts & estates, legal history, and national security law. He is the editor of the Land Use Prof blog. Matt will be discussing a Texas Supreme Court decision, Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline — Texas, LLC, in which the Court addressed whether a “common carrier” pipeline company with statutory authority to exercise eminent domain may do so for the construction of a private pipeline. Here’s a link to the decision: http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2012/mar/090901rh.pdf
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The University of Missouri School of Law is hosting a Symposium on February 22, 2013, called Promoting Sustainable Energy through Tax Policy. Sponsored by the Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law and the Missouri Tax Law Society, the event will be introduced by Mizzou profs Michelle Arnopol Cecil and our own guest blogger Troy Rule, and features panels with Alexandra Klass (Minnesota), Steve Gaw (The Wind Coalition), Felix Mormann (Miami), Roberta Mann (Oregon), Robert Peroni (Texas), with a keynote by David Weisbach (Chicago). Here's the info and link:
Renewable energy and sustainable development are valuable means of combatting climate change and of reducing the nation’s reliance on foreign energy sources. Recognizing the importance of sustainable energy, state and federal policymakers have employed aggressive tax incentive programs to stimulate unprecedented growth in wind energy, solar energy, biomass, green building, and related industries in recent years. Unfortunately, shortfalls in many state budgets and growing concerns about the national debt are now creating pressure for governments to extinguish these tax programs — a move that could bring progress in the nation’s fledgling sustainable energy sector to a grinding halt.
This year’s Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law symposium is being sponsored jointly with the University of Missouri Tax Law Society. The symposium explores questions about the long-term role of tax policy as a tool for promoting renewable energy and sustainability in the United States.
Cost and Registration
The symposium is free and open to the public.
Registration is suggested by Friday, February 15.
To register, please contact:
Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law
University of Missouri School of Law
12E Hulston Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
February 13, 2013 in Clean Energy, Climate, Conferences, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Local Government, Oil & Gas, Politics, Scholarship, State Government, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, January 4, 2013
Living in Pennsylvania (as I now do) I feel compelled to see the new Matt Damon movie "Promised Land," which opened in local theaters yesterday. The movie is about fracking, and the trailers look very intriguing. (I saw the trailer while seeing Tom Cruise's new movie "Jack Reacher" which, while most notable for multiple visceral fight sceens and car chases, also has a land use angle - SPOILER ALERT the villians are developers trying to get an advantage in a development project in downtown Pittsburgh.)
Today I was searching for a review of Promised Land and I stumbled across this article on NPR.org, which had an interesting critique of a scene where local citizens vote on whether fracking would happen in their town.
The film remains in the realm of fiction as the town debates an upcoming vote on whether drilling and fracking should be allowed. In the real world, there's almost never a vote.
"In Pennsylvania, where this film was made, municipalities have very little authority over what happens," says Kate Sinding, senior attorney and deputy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "They certainly don't get an up-and-down vote."
Still, I think this movie is a "don't miss" for land use afficianados, and I plan to see it soon.
Jamie Baker Roskie
January 4, 2013 in Clean Energy, Community Economic Development, Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Local Government, Oil & Gas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Robin Kundis Craig (Utah) has posted Treating Offshore Submerged Lands as Public Lands: An Historical Perspective, forthcoming in Public Land & Resources Review (2013). The abstract:
When President Harry Truman proclaimed federal control over the United States’s continental shelf in 1945, he did so primarily to secure the energy resources — oil and gas — embedded in those submerged lands. Nevertheless, the mineral wealth of the continental shelf spurred two critical legal battles over their control and disposition: First, whether the federal government had any interest in the first three miles of continental shelf; and second, if so, whether the federal government had authority to regulate the continental shelf under traditional federal public land laws, such as the Minerals Leasing Act. Congress’s reactions to federal courts’ resolutions of these questions, embodied in 1953 in the Submerged Lands Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, continue to provide the foundations for state and federal management of the nation’s continental shelf and its energy resources.
Nevertheless, the Outer Continental Shelf’s status as federal public lands remains ambiguous. This
Article takes an historical approach to assessing that issue, reviewing the traditional definition of federal “public lands” and the historical context of the public lands issues that arose for the Outer Continental Shelf. It concludes that the Outer Continental Shelf, from a natural resources perspective, qualifies as the newest of the federal public lands, but it also acknowledges that — unlike for many other public lands — federal statutes repeatedly and consistently exclude the states from gaining ownership of those submerged lands.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Yesterday, Case Western Reserve University School of Law hosted a symposium called The Law and Policy of Hydraulic Fracturing: Addressing the Issues of the Natural Gas Boom. As Steve noted on Property Prof, Professor Thomas Merrill (Columbia) was slated to give the keynote. Case Western's Jonathan Adler was part of the event, and he posted an extensive commentary on Merrill's remarks over on the Volokh Conspiracy. Looks like it was a fascinating talk with lots of observations on how to deal with the potential environmental impacts of fracking, and a perhaps counterintuitive suggestion on the possible upside of the gas boom with respect to climate change. But here, I'll focus on some of Merrill's observations on why fracking developed in the U.S., because it may have a lot to do with property law and land use regulation. As Adler describes:
Why did fracking arise in the United States? Contrary to some analysts, Professor Merrill does not believe it is attributable to federally funded research and development. . . .
Professor Merrill also doubts industry structure has much to do with fracking’s rise either. . . .
A more likely factor is the way U.S. law treats subsurface rights. The U.S. is something of an outlier in that subsurface minerals are the property of the landowner, and not the government. This results in decentralized ownership and control over subsurface rights facilitates experimentation and innovation in figuring out how to exploit and manage subsurface resources.
Further decentralization, and experimentation, results from the federalist regulatory structure. Different states have different regulatory approaches than others, creating opportunities for further innovation and the opportunity for jurisdictions to learn from one another. The existence of a few jurisdictions that will allow a new technology to be tried provides a laboratory from which others may learn, whereas under a more centralized regulatory structure such innovation is unlikely to get off the ground.
The existence of a relatively open infrastructure network – a pipeline system that is subject to common-carrier rules – also plays a role in facilitating entry into the market. These factors have a common theme: decentralization. Taken together, Merrill suggests, they are the most likely source of fracking’s rise in the United States.
Looks like another fascinating event, with participation from a number of land use, environmental, and energy scholars on the subsequent panels. I look forward to the symposium isse in the Case Western Law Review.
November 17, 2012 in Clean Energy, Climate, Comparative Land Use, Conferences, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Lectures, Oil & Gas, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, Water | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, September 24, 2012
Alexandra B. Klass (Minnesota) has posted Takings and Transmission, forthcoming in the North Carolina Law Review. The abstract:
Ever since the Supreme Court’s controversial 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, courts, state legislatures, and the public have scrutinized eminent domain actions like never before. Such scrutiny has focused, for the most part, on the now-controversial “economic development” or “public purpose” takings involved in the Kelo case itself, where government takes private property for a redevelopment project that will benefit another private party as well as increase the tax base, create new jobs, assist in urban renewal, or otherwise provide economic or social benefits to the public. By contrast, until recently, there has been little change in law or public opinion with regard to takings involving publicly-owned projects such as hospitals or post offices or “use by the public” takings that involve condemnation for railroad lines, electric transmission lines, or other infrastructure projects. However, recent changes in electricity markets and the development of the country’s electric transmission system have raised new questions about the validity of “use by the public” takings in the context of electric transmission lines. With some transmission lines now being built by private, “merchant” companies rather than by publicly-regulated utilities, and with the push to build more interstate transmission lines to transport renewable energy to meet state renewable portfolio standards, what was once a classic public use is now subject to new statutory and constitutional challenges. This Article explores the potential impact of these developments on the use of eminent domain for electric transmission lines. Ultimately, it suggests that states should ensure that their eminent domain laws governing transmission lines are consistent with their policy preferences surrounding energy development in the state, and it outlines some ways for states to accomplish this goal.
I think you could make some analogous analysis about the newly-hot issue of eminent domain and pipelines, for example the controversy over the acquisition of rights of way for the Keystone Pipeline. Interesting issues.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
I recently came across several studies that answer a long-running question of mine: what is the carbon footprint of goods traveling from China to that big box store down the road? The answer also planted a more perplexing question: could it be possible that the carbon footprint of goods in China, if built and assembled in China (or some other distant country) and shipped in a particular eco-sensitive way, could be less than goods "made in the USA"?
The issue of goods transportation and carbon footprints seems to me one of the most important, but potentially counter-intuitive, aspects of land use policy. Independent of economic concerns, which of course is a huge issue of its own, we might presume that a consumer good "made in the USA" has a lower carbon footprint than one made in China. But what if the "American" good is made from parts manufacturers around the world and simply assembled in the United States? For instance, just 40% of the Ford Focus in made in the USA, and just 15% of that car is made in Mexico, with the remainder coming from non-North American parts suppliers. Most "American" cars are really smorgasbords of parts suppliers shipped from the world over to a factory in the US. At the very least, that provides factory assemply jobs for US workers. But if we just consider the environmental impact for a minute, would the carbon footprints of those cars be lower if all the parts were made in one place in China, assembled in China, and then those cars were shipped to their US destinations?
While I can't answer that question directly, a really interesting November, 2011 paper, Moving Containers Efficiently with Less Impact: Modeling and Decision-Support Architecture for Clean Port Technologies, by Josh Newell and Mansour Rahimi at USC's School of Policy Planning and Development, traces the important steps in answering carbon footprint issues in the supply chain. In particular, Chapter 2 in the report models the emissions from real container shipments of an undisclosed toy manufacturer from manufacturing destinations in China to various retail destinations across the US.
The report noted that there were three main contributors to carbon footprints, each of which were potential variables:
The first is the land contribution, which is partitioned into China and United States segments, and is further partitioned into truck and rail segments. The second contribution comes from the sea, which is portioned into cruising speed, and slow speed segments. The third contribution comes from port operations for loading and unloading containers.
In general, the report concluded:
For the average container shipped from China to various U.S. destination zip codes, a carbon footprint of 2,821 kilograms per container per trip was determined. Transport by container ship is the most efficient in terms of CO2 burned per mile. So it is possible for a container to travel a greater distance, yet have a smaller carbon footprint than one that uses land transportation (train/truck) for a greater portion of the distance.
So there you have it: 2,821 kilograms per container on average. And the further the container goes by ship, the lower the CO2 emissions. A similar NRDC study studying retail apparel shipments from China to Denver compared air to ship transit and concluded:
[T]he truck-air-truck pathway emits over 5 times more soot (particulates) and 35 times more greenhouse gases than rail-ship-rail, sending an additional 99 tonnes [sic] of greenhouse gases into the air. On the ocean leg alone, a retailer would reduce GHG emissions by 99% sending cargo by ship instead of plane. Using this method, a retailer could send 101 full containers by ship and still emit fewer GHGs than one container sent by plane.
So ships are cleaner than air transit, too. And what if we could make ship transit cleaner, with greener fuels and such?
All of this brings me back to my new question. If ship transport is relatively green (and we could likely make it greener), and we can run ships all around the world and ship things in containers for relatively low costs, would it be better from a carbon emissions perspective to build all the parts near an assembly site for a product in China and ship it here, or build parts around the world and assemble it in the US? This presumes, of course, that we cannot convince manufacturers to both build the parts and assemble them in the US, which seems to be an industrial model that has gone the way of the dodo bird for economic reasons.
The implications seem vast to me for our industrial areas, both for how we conceive of them in economic and environmental terms in this global age. If the shipping container has changed the economics of manufacturing (anyone interested in this must read Marc Levinson's excellent The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger), might it also change the environmental aspects of manufacturing, too? And if so, what might this mean for our city's industrial areas, and in particular, how we contemplate their environmental footprints? I'd be curious if anyone has studied this particular issue.
Stephen R. Miller
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
"Speaking of frac'ing fraking fracking, the University at Buffalo recently created a new Institute to study the issue. The Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) was created back in April and has already been quite busy. It recently issued its first report on the Environmental Impacts of fracking Shale Gas Drilling.
My first reaction to this report was "Wow, I can't believe they put this together in just one month." Others actually spent more time carefully reading the document, however. Generally, the reaction has been a negative one.I think there are many reasons to criticize the fracking report and to question its findings and others have done so admirably. Environmentalists are concerned about the legitimacy of the study, which concluded that "state oversight of oil and gas regulation has been effective" and that there is "a low risk of an environmental event occuring in shale development, and the risks continue to dimish year after year."
There was some small kerfuffles regarding peer review (peers offered feedback but did not do a formal peer review) and folks disputed the data and the conclusions. I have been quite intrigued by the discussions that have popped up about the funding of the study. While people quickly jumped to the conclusion that the study was funded by oil and gas companies, that turned out not to be true. However, many criticize the publishing of what is a "pro-fracking' report from a public institution. Particularly rankling appears to be the report authors' ties to industry and a earlier report some of them had written for a conservative think tank. This is an issue we rarely face in legal academia as so few of us receive extensive outside funding (and I personally don't know anyone who has received industry funding), but I wonder how much we should have to disclose when publishing articles. Should we include a footnote explaining who our former clients are? what organizations we support? Do these requirements change if we work for public institutions?
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Everyone in New York is talking about fracking. We routinely have folks stopping by our door asking us to sign petitions or donate money to fight fracking. (In fact, NYSPIRG stopped by last night.) I live in the city of Buffalo, which has banned fracking. This is the case in many towns and municipalities around the state and may work because of New Yorks Home Rule law. As there is a moratorium in place pending some additional environmental review, we have some time before courts fully examine the legitimacy of these local bans. The ban in Buffalo is largely sympolic as no one is proposing to drill any gas wells here, but some of these communities are in the heart of the Marcellus shale.
Last week, Vermont became the first state with a state-wide ban. Again this is probably largely symbolic but the public outcry against this technique is worth listening to.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Up until now the Keystone Pipeline issue has been cast mainly as a contest between an economic development imperative and environmental conservation. Legal commentators have analyzed it as an environmental issue. As most people can infer, though, the notion of building an "infrastructure" project from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico will require some land rights. Perhaps only in Texas can we see the underlying tension between two principles that are very often in direct conflict: the exploitation of oil and gas resources, and the property owner's rights to her land. The New York Times last week did a fascinating story on one Texas landowner's fight against the eminent domain authority of the Keystone Pipeline, An Old Texas Tale Retold: The Farmer versus the Oil Company.
Ms. Crawford is worried about the possible contamination of her creek. She pointed out that the Keystone 1, TransCanada’s first pipeline, had a dozen spills in its first year of operation.
“I called my farm insurance agent and asked what happens if there’s a spill, I can’t water my crops, and my corn dies,” she said. “He said my insurance won’t cover that. I’d have to sue TransCanada for damages.”
The Crawfords are the last holdouts in Lamar County. (It is unclear how many are left in Texas; the company says it has 99 percent of the rights of way secured.) TransCanada asserts that it has used eminent domain only as “an absolute last resort” in an estimated 19 out of 1,452 land tracts in Texas. Critics dispute this number. . . .
Asked if she would take TransCanada’s offer now — if it meant the full $21,000, with all of her conditions met — she did not hesitate. “No,” she said. “There’s a $20,000 check sitting in the courthouse waiting for us,” she said. “But if we touch it, game over. We lose the use of our land, and we admit what they’re doing is right.”
This is a longstanding issue, both historically and today, but it often gets overlooked when people conflate Texas stereotypes about both property rights and solicitude for oil and gas. Ilya Somin commented on the article at the Volokh Conspiracy, noting correctly that despite its pro-property rights reputation and cosmetic legislation, Texas law still empowers quite a bit of eminent domain for economic development purposes:
Such efforts are unlikely to succeed in Texas. As I described in this article, Texas is one of many states that have passed post-Kelo reform laws that pretend to constrain economic development takings without actually doing so. They might have a better chance in one of the other states through which the pipeline must pass.
The larger question that he poses is whether and how environmental concerns will play a part in future discussions about eminent domain and the never-ending debate over the essentially contested concepts of property rights and the common good. In the real world of land use, the alignment of stakeholders, interests, policy preferences, and legal interpretations isn't always as easy to predict as the cartoon versions might imply.
May 16, 2012 in Agriculture, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, History, Houston, Judicial Review, Oil & Gas, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Takings, Texas | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
David L. Markell (Florida State) has posted Climate Change and the Roles of Land Use and Energy Law: An Introduction, Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law, Vol. 27 (2012). It's the intro to a Symposium issue. The abstract:
The challenges posed by climate change are daunting and have spawned an enormous literature, indeed many literatures. The legal regimes that govern our use of land and energy have already been and will continue to be integral to the effort to devise effective responses. My aim in this introductory essay is to identify and review six aspects of climate change in an effort to capture some of the ferment that now exists as policy makers, scholars, and others wrestle with the challenges that climate change poses for extant legal regimes. I then briefly summarize the articles in this symposium volume.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Hannah Wiseman (Florida State) has posted Fracturing Regulation Applied, Duke Environmental & Policy Law Forum (forthcoming). The abstract:
America has a long history of oil and gas extraction, but a relatively new extraction technique called slickwater hydraulic fracturing has captured the attention of the public, academics, agencies, and politicians. The newly-revived focus on domestic oil and gas — and particularly on fracturing — has tended to center around the adequacy of environmental laws as written. A range of interested parties have questioned whether states, which shoulder the core responsibilities for regulating drilling and fracturing, have adequate regulatory regimes to address an array of potential environmental effects. The focus has tended to be on the text of regulations, however, and not on how regulations operate in practice: How states apply regulations by inspecting sites, noting violations, and enforcing violations when they believe that enforcement is justified. This paper expands the small literature that has emerged in this area, providing a preliminary glimpse into state environmental regulations applied to wells that are drilled and fractured. It briefly explores the types of violations that states have noted so far at fractured wells, the enforcement actions that they have issued in response, and the potential reasons for these patterns. Although much more detailed work will be necessary to accurately pinpoint regulatory patterns, the initial picture suggests a wide array of violations and enforcements associated with a range of potential environmental effects—many benign, but some serious. States have noted a number of substantial issues, from spills to improper maintenance of pits for waste, while others have tended to identify less pressing matters, such as operators’ failure to mow weeds around the wellhead. States’ enforcement responses to these violations also have varied substantially, perhaps due to differing policy directives and wills to enforce, budgetary needs, understaffing, or problems of regulatory capture.
Very interesting thoughts on what is fast becoming the critical issue in energy and environmental law and policy. I take pride in mentioning once again that Hannah was one of our outstanding guest-bloggers last year.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Uma Outka (Kansas) has posted an essay called The Energy-Land Use Nexus, forthcoming in the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law, 2012. The abstract:
This Symposium Essay explores the contours of the “energy-land use nexus” – the rich set of interrelationships between land use and energy production and consumption. This underexplored nexus encapsulates barriers and opportunities as the trajectory of U.S. energy policy tilts away from fossil fuels. The Essay argues that the energy-land use nexus provides a useful frame for approaching policy to minimize points of conflict between energy goals on the one hand and land conservation on the other.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Yes, more about "fracking", that is, oil and gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing. Erica Levine Powers (SUNY-Albany-Geography and Planning) has published Home Rule Meets State Regulation: Reflections on High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas, ABA St. & Loc. L. News (Vol. 35, No. 2, p.1). Here's the opening:
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” like all mining, is both a local matter impacting community development and environmental quality and a state matter impacting national energy security and regional economic development. Along with the discovery of new sources of natural gas—and methods for its recovery—have come increasing battles over local control and state interests. States have taken diverse positions on fracking, and, building on the experiences of other states, New York is the latest to wrestle with the issue. In the process, New York is defining the roles of local and state government by including an explicit role for local government in environmental review, by public input in the state review process, and through ongoing litigation that will define the rights of New York’s home-rule municipalities to regulate fracking.
Friday, December 2, 2011
The New York Times today has an excellent investigative piece on oil and gas leases and how they do - and don't - protect landowners. From the article:
Americans have signed millions of leases allowing companies to drill for oil and natural gas on their land in recent years. But some of these landowners — often in rural areas, and eager for quick payouts — are finding out too late what is, and what is not, in the fine print.
Energy company officials say that standard leases include language that protects landowners. But a review of more than 111,000 leases, addenda and related documents by The New York Times suggests otherwise:
¶ Fewer than half the leases require companies to compensate landowners for water contamination after drilling begins. And only about half the documents have language that lawyers suggest should be included to require payment for damages to livestock or crops.
¶ Most leases grant gas companies broad rights to decide where they can cut down trees, store chemicals, build roads and drill. Companies are also permitted to operate generators and spotlights through the night near homes during drilling.
¶ In the leases, drilling companies rarely describe to landowners the potential environmental and other risks that federal laws require them to disclose in filings to investors.
¶ Most leases are for three or five years, but at least two-thirds of those reviewed by The Times allow extensions without additional approval from landowners. If landowners have second thoughts about drilling on their land or want to negotiate for more money, they may be out of luck.
The leases — obtained through open records requests — are mostly from gas-rich areas in Texas, but also in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
I found this personally interesting, as our family holds mineral right on some land in Montana, but with all the natural gas exploration happening in the Eastern U.S. this is a timely story for many.
Jamie Baker Roskie