Tuesday, November 18, 2014

State of Plains - by Jessica A. Shoemaker

On this theme of public participation in land use planning and creating community-driven solutions to ecosystem-level challenges, I want to take this post to share a bit more about a particular tool that I have been working on developing called Plainsopoly.  Plainsopoly is a land use simulation “game.”  Participants engage around a large game board made up of an image of a hypothetical landscape that looks similar to, but is not exactly, a real space within the Great Plains region.  We call the hypothetical space of the game the “State of Plains.”  The State of Plains is depicted on the board by an amalgamation of aerial images including the edge of a large city, several small towns, both irrigated and dryland farming areas, the foothills of a larger mountain range, sensitive sandhills habitat, a winding river, and a recognized federal Indian reservation. Participants play the game in small, randomly assigned groups of four to six people and are assisted by a table facilitator.  Players roll the dice, move the game piece to a correspondingly numbered geographic square on the game board, and then answer and discuss an open-ended question that poses a specific land use challenge for that particular space. 

Game Board

The questions are intentionally wide-ranging.  I developed the question set last year with invaluable input and feedback from a great and generous interdisciplinary group of law students, graduate students, professors, and other experts from across the University and beyond.  We incorporated a range of disciplines, including law, planning, natural resources, applied ecology, business, and economics, and as a group, we worked hard to make sure the most difficult and provocative current land use challenges in the Great Plains are incorporated into the game.  (Two of my students, Jerry Jefferson and Preston Peterson, were particularly instrumental in this process.)  In the current question set, there are questions and challenges relating to urban growth; rural depopulation; infrastructure needs; drought and other climate issues; tourism; new energy siting, including fracking, renewables, and transmission line expansion; invasive species control; water quality and quantity; jurisdictional conflicts; and many other topics. 

Game play up closeIn addition to covering a wide spectrum of substantive issues, the questions are designed to touch on four bigger themes: (1) Values (values choices as reflected in land use), (2) Making Connections (who should make decisions about land use and land use planning and at what level), (3) Ecosystem Services (how public benefits from private land, especially environmental benefits, are valued and accounted for in land use ordering and landowner decision-making), and (4) Temporal Perspectives (which timeframe land use planners and landowners should consider in assessing the consequences of any land use decision). These four themes are not explicitly addressed during game play; however, the questions are designed implicitly to provoke thinking and dialogue around these larger issues.

This Plainsopoly project came about only because of Professor Alister Scott and his group’s original idea for a land use planning, decision-making, and visioning game that they call Rufopoly.  Rufopoly is a game focused on the unique landscapes of the rural-urban fringe spaces of Europe, and the themes of our questions grew out of Professor Scott’s work with stakeholders in this context.  In developing Plainsopoly, we collaborated closely with Professor Scott of the Birmingham School of the Built Environment in the United Kingdom and Professor Richard Wakeford, who is currently directing the Kazan Centre in Russia and was previously the Chair of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Rural Working Party.

As many readers of this blog may know, the use of games or other simulation exercises is an area of increasing scholarly interest in a range of disciplines, including public engagement and political science studies, natural resource management and applied ecology, psychology, business, and behavioral economics.  (For a few brief examples, particularly in the natural resources sector, you might look here and even here.)  Although our Plainsopoly tool has been used purely for informal discussion facilitating at invited events to date, it may also have broader potential.  My sense is that the game could be used to speed participants’ learning about complex land use interactions and may provoke a valuable period of self-reflection regarding resource and planning challenges across the region.  As one participant in one of the Plainsopoly games at the Rural Futures Conference last year said, the game forced him to think not only about his “little piece of land” but also about everyone else’s lands around him:  “I was forced to give opinions on what somebody else should do with their little piece of land. You have to challenge yourself at that point and say, if it’s good for them, maybe I have to relook at my opinion about others giving opinions about my land. It’s a very interesting way of taking a landowner and suddenly forcing me to reevaluate my position regarding my piece of ground.” Lower platte game

I have also found that the experience of engaging in a shared, civil dialogue around the game table on hypothetical (but still very realistic) topics that are otherwise highly charged and sometimes difficult to discuss (like private property rights, community planning, and actual land use conflicts) may have significant value in and of itself.  There is something very provocative about talking about these actual resources issues in the context of just a slightly modified hypothetical game setting that seems to really liberate people to have a much more open and comfortable conversation on these issues.  If we could effectively shape and harness this, I think games like Plainsopoly and Rufopoly could have very useful applications in assisting particular groups in solving real-world problems or developing consensus around specific planning challenges, and in an action-research model, these games might be used to help inform future policy making.

Second game play

I’ve noticed two big themes in the few times we have played Plainsopoly to date.  First, overwhelmingly, participants envision a land use future focused on a very long-term view of sustainability and a vast appreciation for the non-economic values of natural resources.  At least in this hypothetical space, a vast majority of participants seem to prefer decisions that are not made based on short-term economic gains and that consider not just one square parcel of property but rather look to an entire region’s interlocking resource dynamics.  Of course, in this game space, immediate things like grocery bills and retirement savings accounts do not exist, and the transaction costs of considering issues at a regional level are dramatically reduced.  But still, how do we, or could we, translate what appear to be relatively broadly shared values like this into more actual community action?  

The second major notable point of interest for me, so far, is implicit in how we designed the game, but it also comes up very often in participants’ reactions to the questions.  This relates to the extreme breadth of the range of factors that potentially influence an individual landowner’s decision-making about how he or she uses his or her land.  Often, we might think more simply of land use planning and zoning as the relevant forces; however, the game reminds us that so many different law and policy instruments influence landowners—including, as just a few examples, our crop insurance structures, property tax systems, and energy markets.  A much harder issue is not only how do we develop a shared vision for the future of these shared spaces but, more importantly, how do we execute it?  A persistent theme emerging anecdotally from the game play to date is the way in which top-down strategies have a host of unintended and mix-matched interactions that complicate decision-making and implementation at the ground level.  How do we better coordinate these influences?   

Happily, we have the opportunity to explore the potential of games like Plainsopoly and Rufopoly to address these and other issues in a more concentrated way over the next year or so.  We are just embarking on a new partnership with Professor Scott and several others on a  Knowledge Exchange Opportunities grant that we just recently learned has been approved from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the UK.  The goal of the new grant is to learn from the existing models of Rufopoly and Plainsopoly and another sister game in Sweden and think intentionally about all of the possibilities of this kind of planning, visioning, and decision-making tool.  One end goal is to try to develop a flexible resource kit that maximizes the potential of these tools to assist in planning processes and that hopefully is adaptable to a range of settings. 

As I am entering this new work, I’ve become an eager student of some new areas of scholarship.  For example, I’ve been doing some great reading on critical planning theory as it relates to whether we currently include all of the relevant voices in our typical planning processes and how, if we did achieve greater inclusiveness, such careful collective decision-making about the future of our shared spaces may be powerfully transformative.  I have also been looking at the work of others on effective and innovative new governance models.  This list includes, for example, Professor Beth Noveck and The Governance Lab at NYU; the procedural justice and group engagement work of Professor Tom Tyler; and the thinking on deliberative democracies and the capacity for informed “bottoms up” decision-making by Professor James Fishkin and the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford.  It’s all fascinating stuff, which I also read with a healthy and growing awareness of the potential framing influence of the person who poses the questions – as reflected, for example, in the “nudge” work of Professors Cass Sunstein, Richard Thaler, and others. 

I would more than welcome any other thoughts, comments, or ideas as we embark on further work on this endeavor.  I’m eager to see where it takes us.

GIRLS

(This last picture has nothing to do with the game, per se, but it's my little girls running in a preserved prairie not too far from our house.  One of many special places in the Great Plains worthy of some intentional thinking for its future.)

- Jessica A. Shoemaker

November 18, 2014 in Planning, Sustainability, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Greetings from Nebraska!

Thank you for the chance to guest post here on the Land Use Prof Blog. As Jessie mentioned, my current research agenda is focused primarily on the intersection of property law and federal Indian law. I’m actively exploring how the unique property frameworks that have been applied in a top-down fashion to American Indian lands over the years have disproportionately limited the abilities of Indian landowners and tribal governments to make flexible and efficient uses of their own resources and how this, in turn, is negatively impacting the health and vibrancy of many indigenous communities today. I’m really looking forward to sharing more of my work on these American Indian land tenure issues and how this all relates to the broader land use theme of this blog over the next month.

In the meantime, though, I’m also just this week participating in some real boots-to-the-ground land use planning work here in Nebraska that may also be of interest to this group (and that I would love comments and feedback on as we go). As Jessie also mentioned, in addition to my more traditional law professor responsibilities at Nebraska, I get to participate in some outreach-oriented work with an actively expanding university-wide effort here called the Rural Futures Institute ("RFI" or the “Institute”). This Institute, though new, has done some really interesting things in a short time (see, for example, recent grant awards and conference proceedings) and is working to be a local, state, regional, and even global leader “for increasing community capacity as well as the confidence of rural people to address their challenges and opportunities, resulting in resilient and sustainable rural futures.” You can read more about RFI’s official mission, vision, and core values here. In my own words, though, I see the Institute as charting new territory in really re-committing to the University’s original land grant purpose and working to create a two-way bridge between the resources of the University as a powerful teaching and research institution and the resources of rural communities, with their own invaluable local knowledge and expertise about both challenges in need of innovative solutions and opportunities that may be expanded and from which important learning can come. RFI focuses on being as community-driven as possible and defines community success broadly (i.e., not just economic indicators but also looking to other critical elements of community life, such as art, culture, health, education, and longterm security and sustainability).

My own view is that land use—and all the complex factors that influence how individual landowners make decisions about using their land and natural resources—is at the crux of a lot of the issues around how we create positive futures for rural landscapes and rural communities. This week I will be exploring that theme directly as I moderate a plenary panel at the Lower Platte River Summit, an event sponsored biannually by the Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance, on Thursday. The theme this year is “Urban Grown – Rural Resiliency.” I’m looking forward to talking to a variety of experts about balancing growth and sustainability along the Lower Platte, with its unique resource issues and mix of urban and rural places. The panel includes local landowners, a water quality and public health professor, a real estate developer, agricultural producers, and a National Park Service program director who helps communities develop recreational trails in places like the Lower Platte River Corridor. I'm also looking forward to the Summit's afternoon bus tour of real properties along the Corridor that raise interesting land use issues, including a farm with a unique set of conservation easements in place and a small town doing its best to bridge its historical traditions with modern development in light of some encroachment pressure from the Omaha metro.

I expect it will all be fantastic fodder for further work and thought, and I look forward to sharing some observations and reactions to the discussions around land use at the Summit this week. However, I also plan to tell you about one other project that I’ve been doing with RFI and that I’ll be using as a discussion tool and interactive exercise at the Summit: a land use simulation “game” we’ve developed called Plainsopoly. Plainsopoly is experienced truly as a game in which participants engage around a large game board image of a hypothetical landscape and roll dice to answer a series of real-world (but still hypothetical) land use visioning challenges. An interdisciplinary group of students and professors from across the University, including from law, natural resources, applied ecology, business, and agricultural economics, helped me develop this as a discussion tool last year, and we worked in conjunction with a group from Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom to adapt Professor Alister Scott's original idea for this kind of planning game (what they call RUFopoly for its focus on the Rural Urban Fringe (i.e., RUF) space in Europe). So far, I’ve only piloted Plainsopoly for the purpose it will be used again this Thursday: as a discussion facilitator at conference-type events. However, it has gotten very positive feedback for its potential to improve stakeholders’ engagement around land use issues, open civil dialogue, and speed participants’ learning around land use management challenges and opportunities. Like my colleagues in the UK, I'm interested in thinking further about whether this kind of tool may have future applications for conflict resolution, consensus building, or even real-world planning and policy development.

I’ll look forward to telling you more about the Summit and about this Plainsopoly exercise over the next week or so and then also to turning to the Indian land tenure issues later in the month.

- Jessica A. Shoemaker

November 4, 2014 in Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Comparative Land Use, Development, Planning, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mayors Clean Drinking Water Summit

In early August, microcystin from toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie forced officials to issue a “do not drink” order for all municipal water users in Toledo.  The drinking-and-cooking ban affected nearly 400,000 people and lasted for two days, leaving residents scrambling for bottled water.  Given that some 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, Toledo’s experience was something of a wake-up call for leaders throughout the region.

Last week, mayors and officials from cities throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence watersheds met  at the Mayors Drinking Water Summit in Chicago to discuss measures needed to prevent the kind of pollution that poisoned the water in Toledo.  A biggest culprit in polluting the water is excess phosphorus loads in runoff, which feeds toxic algal blooms.  The mayors called for concrete steps to address both agricultural and urban sources of runoff:

  • For the EPA to establish a common limit and an emergency response protocol for microcystin in drinking water for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region; 
  • For Great Lakes states to establish a phosphorus open lake water quality standard;
  • For agriculture to further reduce the runoff from farms into Lake Erie, including better nutrient management and application of the ‘4R Nutrient Stewardship’ program; 
  • For municipalities to further reduce phosphorus loadings through more green infrastructure, better treatment plant operations, and pollution prevention measures.

One aggravating factor in the spikes the increasing prevalence of high-precipitation rain storms occasioned by climate change.  Heavy storms strip fertilizer from fields and cause municipal sewer systems to overflow, causing large spikes of excess phosphorus to flow into the Great Lakes.  Cities sorely need upgrades to antiquated sewer systems that overflow during heavy rain events.  In the meantime, cities can better prepare for these intense storms by working to increase the amount of green infrastructure—green roofs, wetlands, and vegetation—to capture rainfall as it occurs and filter runoff.

Last week municipal leaders and environmental groups stood together in calling for swift and sensible action.  What happens from here remains to be seen, but if there is one environmental issue that pretty much everyone can get behind quickly it’s that the water that flows from the tap should be safe enough to drink.

On another note: this is my last guest post here at Land Use Prof Blog.  Many thanks to Jess Owley and Stephen Miller for inviting me into the conversation.

~Celeste B. Pagano, DePaul University College of Law

October 1, 2014 in Agriculture, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Local Government, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Resilience, Smart Growth and Equitable Development on Long Island

Check out EPA's Greening The Apple blog, which reported today on a collaboration between Touro Law Center's Land Use & Sustainable Development Institute and the Long Island Smart Growth and Resiliency Partnership (LISGRP):  Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Resilience, Smart Growth and Equitable Development on Long Island | Greening The Apple. LISGRP is partnership of EPA, FEMA, New York State Department of State, Suffolk County, Nassau County and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) formed shortly after Super Storm Sandy to help Long Island rebuild in a smarter, stronger and more resilient fashion. 

Among other projects that focus on the intersection of climate resiliency and smart growth, LISGRP is working with Touro Law Center to place law students with the City of Long Beach to support sustainable rebuilding. Consistent with priorities identified in the City's recently completed NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan, the City is implementing recommendations from a Global Green Technical Assistance project (funded through a grant from EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program) and a New York University study on green infrastructure and storm water management.

Thus, according EPA Greening the Apple bloggers Joe Siegel and Rabi Kieber, LISGRP and its collaborators are "turning lemons into lemonade" in the wake of the devestation of Super Storm Sandy.

...Long Island Smart Growth Resiliency Partnership has turned lemons into lemonade by incorporating not only climate change resilience but smart growth and equitable development into long term planning on Long Island. The groundbreaking work of the Partnership will no doubt serve as a model for other recovery efforts in Region 2 and beyond.

Posted by Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (sadams-schoen@tourolaw.edu, (631)761-7137).

September 26, 2014 in Beaches, Climate, Coastal Regulation, Community Economic Development, Federal Government, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Smart Growth, State Government, Sustainability, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 22, 2014

New York Governor Signs Climate Change Resiliency Legislation Into Law

And the New York climate change news keeps rolling in…. Today, in conjunction with Climate Week 2014 in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into state law the Community Risk and Resiliency Act.

In today's press release, the Governor described the Act as "a comprehensive package of actions that help strengthen and reimagine our infrastructure with the next storm in mind." The legislation implements some of the recommendations made by Governor Cuomo’s NYS 2100 Commission, established following Superstorm Sandy. The Governor also proclaimed the week of Sept. 22-28, 2014 "Climate Week," finding among other things that

"New York State will not allow the national paralysis over climate change to stop us from pursuing the necessary path for the future."

You can read the executive proclamation here.  

The Community Risk and Resiliency Act (A06558/ S06617-B)  requires New York State agencies to consider future physical climate risks caused by storm surges, sea level rise or flooding in certain permitting, funding and regulatory decisions. The standards would apply to smart growth assessments; siting of wastewater treatment plants and hazardous waste transportation, storage and disposal facilities; design and construction regulations for petroleum and chemical bulk storage facilities and oil and gas drilling permits; and properties listed in the state’s Open Space Plan, as well as other projects. The Act also requires the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to adopt sea level rise projections by January 1, 2016, and update the projections every five years.  

But, of particular note to land use scholars and practitioners, the Act also:

  • Requires the NY DEC and NY Department of State to prepare model local laws to help communities incorporate measures related to physical climate risks into local laws, and provide guidance on the implementation of the Act, including the use of resiliency measures that utilize natural resources and natural processes to reduce risk.
  • Provides funding, subject to appropriation, to municipalities for local waterfront revitalization planning projects that mitigate future climate risks. Projects may include preparation of new local laws, plans, and studies, and construction projects.
  • Provides funding on a competitive basis, subject to appropriation, to municipalities or not-for-profits toward the cost of coastal rehabilitation projects that consider future climate risks.
  • Allows the Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to enter into maintenance and operation agreements for open space land conservation projects in urban areas or metropolitan park projects with municipalities, not-for-profits, and unincorporated associations, if the project demonstrates consideration of climate-change risks.

According to today’s press release,

"Scientists have confirmed a sea level rise of approximately 13 inches since 1900 along New York's coast, and have also measured a significant increase in the proportion of total precipitation that arrives in heavy rainfall events. These climate changes, coupled with land-use planning, zoning and investment that allow and sometimes encourage development in at-risk areas, have resulted in more people, businesses and public infrastructure existing in vulnerable areas."  

The legislation was approved in both houses by wide margins, and had support from a diverse group of stakeholders including: The Nature Conservancy in New York, The New York League of Conservation Voters, The Business Council of New York State, the General Contractors Association, The Reinsurance Association of America, The American Institute of Architects New York State, The Municipal Arts Society of New York, Audubon New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Advocates of New York, and The Adirondack Council. 

Click here to read the full text of the Community Risk and Resiliency Act. Click here for the bill history and sponsors

Posted by Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (sadams-schoen@tourolaw.edu, (631)761-7137).  

 

 

September 22, 2014 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Environmentalism, Local Government, New York, Smart Growth, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Does New Plan to Protect Long Island Sound Sufficiently Prioritize Land Use?

Today, 20 years after approval of the original Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, the Long Island Sound Study released a draft updated CCMP. The Long Island Sound Study, co-sponsored by the EPA and the states of Connecticut and New York, is a partnership of federal, state, and local agencies, universities, businesses, and environmental and community groups. According to an EPA press release, the draft Plan emphasizes the principles of sustainability, climate change resiliency, environmental justice and ecosystem-based management.

Recognizing the significance of land use to wetland and watershed protection, the draft Plan highlights the need for

  • Integration of transportation planning, conservation of energy and water, resiliency to climate change, and pollution control policies;
  • Smart growth and low impact development to minimize the environmental impacts of new and existing development;
  • Meeting numerous ecosystem-level targets such as increasing riparian buffers and open spaces; and,
  • Fully involving and responding to the needs of underserved communities.

The draft Plan describes the benefits of these investments in economic terms, explaining that they will provide substantial returns for the regional economy. 

"The financial value of goods and services provided to the region's economy by Long Island Sound Basin's natural systems ranges between $17 billion and $36.6 billion annually. Treated as a capital asset, the value of these natural systems, calculated using a standard 4% discount rate with a lifespan of 100 years, is $690 billion to $1.3 trillion (Kocian et.al., 2014). Unlike built systems that depreciate, however, natural assets often accumulate value over time, particularly if they are protected and restored. In addition, an estimated 191,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region result from that the healthy function of these natural systems, and the associated stewardship work."

With respect to implementation and land use, the draft Plan identifies as "Implementation Actions"

  • Providing technical guidance for incorporating Low Impact Development/Green Infrastructure into development and redevelopment projects and through zoning and planning changes;
  • Reducing the amount of impervious cover that discharges directly into waterbodies;
  • Remediating brownfields;
  • Tracking implementation and effectiveness of approved watershed plans by local municipalities;
  • Promoting establishment and protection of riparian corridors and wetland buffers at the municipal level through development of local ordinances and promoting permanent land protection; and,
  • Increasing land protection efforts by municipalities and land protection organizations that permanently protect wetlands and riparian areas and buffers.

Notably, however, these Implementation Actions are not identified as "Priority Implementation Actions." Of course, prioritizing of implementation actions is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Given that EPA and the LISS are currently accepting comments on the draft updated Plan, those of us concerned with NE region watershed management should take a close look at the draft Plan, with particular attention to the Implementation Actions and their designation -- or lack thereof -- as "Priority." A copy of the draft Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan is available at the Long Island Sound Study website at http://longislandsoundstudy.net/Planupdate.

Public meetings on the draft plan will be held

  • September 16, 1:00 to 3:00pm, in Westbury, NY at the Yes Community Center
  • September 16, 6:00 to 8:00pm, in the Bronx, NY at Rocking The Boat
  • September 17, 2:30 to 4:30pm, in New Haven, CT at Southern Connecticut State University

Public comments on the plan will be accepted via email and post until Saturday, November 8, 2014. Emailed comments should be sent to contact@watervisionllc.com. Mailed comments should be sent to:

EPA Long Island Sound Office

Stamford Government Center

888 Washington Blvd.

Stamford, CT 06904-2152

Posted by Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (sadams-schoen@tourolaw.edu, (631)761-7137).

September 8, 2014 in Beaches, Climate, Coastal Regulation, Environmental Justice, New York, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Water, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Big Box" Costco agrees to cut greenhouse gas refrigerant emissions nationwide

EPA describes this week's settlement between the United States and Costco as indicative of a more aggressive policy by the federal government to use the Clean Air Act to prosecute the largest GHG emitters, including grocery stores -- a continuing shift in federal priorities that will be of interest to state and local government law practitioners and scholars, as well as those of us who focus on the intersection of local land use law and climate change.

In a settlement announced on Wednesday by the DOJ and EPA, Costco agreed to cut its emissions of GHGs from refrigeration equipment at more than half of its stores nationwide. Costco will also pay $335,000 in penalties for CAA violations and improve refrigerant management at 274 stores at an estimated cost of $2 million over the next three years.

Sam Hirsch, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, responded to the settlement, saying

"Industry needs to lead the way in abandoning harmful chemicals in favor of using and developing greener, environmentally friendly alternatives to protect our health and our climate."

EPA and DOJ announced that the measures required by the settlement are expected to reduce Costco’s GHG emissions by the equivalent of approximately 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The GHG at issue in the settlement is actually hydrochlorofluorocarbon (from leaks of the refrigerant R-22), which is a more potent GHG than carbon dioxide.

Some may question whether the settlement requires enough of Costco, the nation's second largest retailer, given annual revenues of over $100 billion (in 2013, as reported by EPA).  

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Read the proposed settlement and related documents here.

By Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (sadams-schoen@tourolaw.edu, (631)761-7137).

September 6, 2014 in Climate, Environmental Law, Federal Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blumm & Paulsen on the Public Trust in Wildlife

Michael C. Blum (Lewis & Clark) and Aurora Paulsen (Lewis & Clark) have posted The Public Trust in Wildlife, Utah Law Review (2013).  The abstract:

The public trust doctrine, derived from ancient property principles, is thought to mostly apply to navigable waters and related land resources. The doctrine supplies a mediating force to claims of both private ownership and unfettered government discretion over these resources, vesting the state with trust responsibility to ensure that the use of these resources promotes long-term sustainability. A related doctrine — sovereign ownership of wildlife — is also an ancient public property doctrine inherited from England. State ownership of wildlife has long defeated private ownership claims and enabled states to enact and implement wildlife conservation regulations. This paper claims that these two doctrines should be merged, and that state sovereign ownership of wildlife means that wildlife — like navigable waters — is held in trust for the public and must be managed for long-term sustainable use by future generations. Merging the doctrines would mean that state ownership would not only give states with the authority to manage their wildlife populations but also the duty to do so and would equip members of the public with standing to enforce the states’ trust duties in court. This paper shows that the public trust in wildlife has already been employed in California and in several other states, and suggests that it deserves more widespread judicial recognition, particularly — as we demonstrate — in view of the fact that no fewer than forty-seven states use trust or trust-like language in describing state authority to manage wildlife. We include an appendix citing the sources of the wildlife trust in all forty-seven states for reference.

Matt Festa

August 13, 2013 in California, Environmentalism, History, Property Theory, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Unusual Reading in Buffalo: From John Birch to Glenn Beck

In summer, I like to put aside an hour or so each work day to read various articles and books that I have stumbled across during the busy semester but lacked time to review. Today, the top of my stacks were an article from The New American and a book by Glenn Beck. It was really just coincidence that these two hit the top of my piles today,  but it has made for a surreal afternoon.

First up is an article from The New American (the publication of the John Birch Society) by Tom DeWeese, entitled Conservation Easements and the Urge to Rule. You know an article is gonna be good when the first sentence mentions the Green Mafia. DeWeese's piece argues that conservation easements are the biggest threat to small family farmers out there. I don't want to spend too much time on his article, because it is just so chock full of problems and errors that it would take too long. He conflates conservation easements and zoning law and seems to rest everything on one case study whose facts are unclear in his piece. My favorite line though is where he compares land trusts to commodity traders buying and selling conservation easements at a significant profit. That sentence on page 2 is where he really lost any credibility he might have had with me. While not an adherent of the John BIrch Society, I have been a vocal critic of the uses of conservation easements. It is always surprising to me when I see them attacked from the right. In many ways, they embody fundamental conservative ideals of promoting and protecting private property rights. Instead of saying landowners can freely enter into any contract regarding their land that they like (a clear libertarian approach), DeWeese seems to be suggesting that any limitation on property rights (even voluntary ones) should not be permitted. Without giving too much credence to DeWeese's writing on this, I am just generally befuddled by the lack of consistency in the property rights movement.

I wish I could also share an interview with Becky Norton Dunlop of the Heritage Foundation on Fox News from February 2010 where she amusingly asserts conservation easements are akin to eminent domain, but the clip no longer appears available.

After zooming through that little article, I picked up Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck. Wow is this a crazy book. Now I don't have cable tv (and would unlikely be tuning into FoxNews if I did), so I have a general understanding of who Glenn Beck is but haven't really seen much more than clips. This may explain why I had no idea what I was in for. I was looking for a book to give me the conservative take on Agenda 21 conspiracy. I gave a talk at the Western New York Land Conservancy earlier this summer, and the Conservancy chose not to advertise the talk in the Buffalo News for fear of Agenda 21 protesters. I am super a bit embarrassed to admit that I was unfamiliar with the conservative Agenda 21 battle cry. My take on Agenda 21 thus far is that it is pretty toothless. Lots of big ideas with little action. So I was pretty surprised to hear that some radical right groups appear afraid of it. Clearly they must fear what it symbolizes rather than what it actually does. Enter Glenn Beck. Someone told me that Glenn Beck wrote a book about Agenda 21 and it is a fast read. What that person failed to mention is that it is a 1984-esque sci fi novel set in a future where Agenda 21 has led to a dystopia. Wanna hear my secret? I kinda love it. It is completely ridiculous, of course, but a great beach read ... if you were willing to let people see you reading it in public.

Jessica Owley

 

 

 

 

August 6, 2013 in Beaches, Books, Conservation Easements, Eminent Domain, Land Trust, Planning, Property Rights, Sustainability, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wiseman on Urban Energy

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.  

Matt Festa

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

Hardberger on Groundwater in Texas Courts & Legislature

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.  

Matt Festa

July 17, 2013 in Caselaw, Environmentalism, Local Government, Oil & Gas, Planning, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Schindler on Banning Lawns

Sarah Schindler (Maine) has posted Banning Lawns, forthcoming in the George Washington Law Review (2014).  The abstract:

Recognizing their role in sustainability efforts, many local governments are enacting climate change plans, mandatory green building ordinances, and sustainable procurement policies. But thus far, local governments have largely ignored one of the most pervasive threats to sustainability — lawns. This Article examines the trend toward sustainability mandates by considering the implications of a ban on lawns, the single largest irrigated crop in the United States.

Green yards are deeply seated in the American ethos of the sanctity of the single-family home. However, this psychological attachment to lawns results in significant environmental harms: conventional turfgrass is a non-native monocrop that contributes to a loss of biodiversity and typically requires vast amounts of water, pesticides, and gas-powered mowing.

In this Article, I consider municipal authority to ban or substantially limit pre-existing lawns and mandate their replacement with native plantings or productive fruit- or vegetable-bearing plants. Although this proposal would no doubt prove politically contentious, local governments — especially those in drought-prone areas — might be forced to consider such a mandate in the future. Furthering this practical reality, I address the legitimate zoning, police power, and nuisance rationales for the passage of lawn bans, as well as the likely challenges they would face. I also consider more nuanced regulatory approaches that a municipality could use to limit lawns and their attendant environmental harms, including norm change, market-based mechanisms such as progressive block pricing for water, and incentivizing the removal of lawns.

Prof. Schindler has been working on this project and presented it at ALPS previously-- it will serve as a foundational article on the debate that is going to happen (whether or not you knew it) on the future of the American Lawn!

Matt Festa

July 17, 2013 in Climate, Environmentalism, History, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Burger on the Last, Last Frontier

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.

Matt Festa 

July 15, 2013 in Climate, Comparative Land Use, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, History, Oil & Gas, Politics, Scholarship, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Professor's Corner on Koontz

This month's ABA Real Property "Professors' Corner" teleconference will focus on Koontz, the end-of-Term exactions that is one of the most significant Supreme Court property-rights cases in recent years.  (Jessie Owley has discussed it here, and Tim Mulvaney and others have weighed in around the net).  This Professor's Corner session should be a good one with several leading scholars participating.  Here's the announcement:

Professors’ Corner:  Wednesday, July 10, 2013:  Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District:  A Significant Victory for Property Rights?

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, July 10, 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

Passcode: 5577419753

This program will feature a roundtable discussion breaking down the Supreme Court’s important June 25 decision in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District. If “monetary exactions” have always seemed a little untamed to you, you’re not alone. The 5-4 decision in Koontz leaves a lot of room for analysis, and this month’s panel is prepared to guide you through it by parsing the decision and the dissent.  Our distinguished panel will include Professor Jonathan H. Adler, who is the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law; John D. Echeverria, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School; and David L. Callies, who is the Benjamin A. Kudo Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i. 

For those that haven’t already seen it, here’s a link to the opinion:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-1447_4e46.pdf

Please join us Wednesday for this great program!

Matt Festa

July 9, 2013 in Caselaw, Conferences, Conservation Easements, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Federal Government, Property Rights, Scholarship, Supreme Court, Sustainability, Takings, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ruhl on Ecosystem Services and Federal Public Lands

J.B. Ruhl (Vanderbilt) has posted Ecosystem Services and Federal Public Lands: Start-Up Policy Questions and Research Needs, Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum, 2010.  The abstract: 

This Essay, based on a presentation at Duke Law School’s 2009 symposium, Next Generation Conservation: The Government's Role in Emerging Ecosystem Service Markets, briefly examines the emerging policy front of ecosystem services and federal public lands and proposes a set of key policy questions, research needs, and options for building on what policy work has been done to date. Part I outlines the basic context for thinking about the role federal public lands might play in the management of ecosystem services and why it is worth considering using the ecosystem services concept in public land policy. Part II proposes several key research paths that must be addressed before federal lands can be effectively managed for ecosystem service flows. Part III bears down on the different roles federal lands might play in promoting or participating in markets for ecosystem services.

Matt Festa

June 10, 2013 in Environmental Law, Federal Government, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Talking Energy at GW

Greetings from George Washington Law School where the 2013 J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Conference is wrapping up. Entitled Laying the Foundation for a Sustainable Energy Future: Legal and Policy Challenges, there has been an impressive array of panelists from industry, governements, NGOs, and academia.

My co-athour Amy Morris (of Aspen Environmental Group) and I presented some of our work on the land use tradeoffs involved in renewable energy projects. We have been looking at these issues through the lens of solar projects in California, but the issues come up in many contexts. To give you some broad strokes of the project: In California, we see development of main types of projects--utility scale and distrbuted generation. The large utility-scale solar facilities in the California desert have been under heavy scrutiny and criticized for their potential impacts on environmental and cultural values. In an effort to avoid pristine desert ecosystems, agencies and environmental groups have been championed the use of distrubed lands. Such lands are not completely controversy-free either. As a threshold question, we have to figure out what lands should qualify as "distrurbed." In some cases, it may be that we are too quick to label something as disturbed. Generally though the big categories are brownfields, former landfills and mines, hardscapes (parking lots and rooftops), and marginal agricultural lands. I won't get into here, but trust me each of those categories has a host of issues surrounding its use.

I've been feeling a little out of my league as the land use lawyer in the midst of the energy experts but have learned a lot and have been impressed with GW's organization of the conference. I also really enjoy attending conferences in Washington DC where the audience is always filled with a great mix of people from agencies and nonprofits.

- Jessie Owley

April 11, 2013 in Agriculture, California, Clean Energy, Climate, Comparative Land Use, Conferences, Planning, Scholarship, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kansas Outlaws Sustainability

I have been very excited about a project that co-blogger Stephen Miller and I have been a part of that looks at sustainability in the context of climate change. In fact, our recent compilation of essays on the subject have just been published by ELR (look for the book on this topic next summer). So I have been thinking a lot about what sustainability means and what we can do to achieve it. Sometimes, I think perhaps sustainability isn't the answer as the phrase as lost meaning when folks seem to use it to just label something they consider to be "good for the environment." One thing I hadn't considered was just passing a law mandating sustainability. Politicians in Kansas, however, seem to have been contemplating the power of law to dictate sustainability rules. House Bill No. 2366 currently before the Kansas state legislature would make it illegal to use “public funds to promote or implement sustainable development." Frankly with the trouble surrounding just trying to define what should be considered "sustainable development," I am not sure how meaningful such a law would be -- put gotta appluad tease Kansas for trying. As a professor at a public school, I find the provision restricting the teaching of sustainability to be especially worrisome [no public funding can be used for "materials prepared or presented as part of a class, course, curriculum or instructional material"].

Next thing you know, states will be outlawing climate change.

- Jessie Owley

h/t Katy Kuh

April 10, 2013 in Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Owen on Taking Groundwater

Dave Owen (Maine) has posted Taking Groundwater.  The abstract:

In February, 2012, in a case called Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day, the Texas Supreme Court held that landowners hold property rights to the groundwater beneath their land, and that a regulatory restriction on groundwater use could constitute a taking of private property. The decision provoked strong reactions, both positive and negative, throughout the world of water law, for it signaled the possibility of severe restrictions on governmental ability to regulate groundwater use.

This Article considers the deeper issue that confronted the Texas Supreme Court, and that has confronted other courts across the country: how should the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and parallel clauses of state constitutions, apply to groundwater use regulation? Initially, this Article explains why this issue is exceedingly and increasingly important. It then reviews all of the groundwater/takings decisions from federal and state courts in the United States. Finally, the Article considers the implications of foundational property theories for the application of takings doctrine to groundwater use.

The analysis supports two key conclusions. First, it undermines arguments against treating water rights as “constitutional property” — that is, property protected by federal and state takings clauses. Proponents of those arguments generally assert that treating water rights as property has uneven support from prior caselaw and that such treatment will be prevent sensible governance. A review of groundwater caselaw demonstrates that the former assertion runs counter to the weight of authority, and that the fears underlying the latter argument are overstated. Second, and more importantly, the analysis undermines arguments for granting groundwater use rights heightened protection against regulatory takings. Recently, litigants and commentators skeptical of government regulatory authority have widely advanced those arguments. But they find no support in past groundwater/takings caselaw, and no property theory justifies adopting such an approach.

An important issue, and a reminder that state supreme courts continue to play a crucial role in shaping modern property law.

Matt Festa

March 7, 2013 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Takings, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Nolon on Shifting Paradigms in Environmental and Land Use Law and Sustainable Development

John R. Nolon (Pace) has posted Shifting Paradigms Transform Environmental and Land Use Law: The Emergence of the Law of Sustainable Development, forthcoming in the Pace Environmental Law Review (2013).  The abstract:

We began these two decades reacting to the market’s interest in developing greenfields and coastal property and end it wondering how to prepare more urbanized places for a growing population of smaller households who seek the amenities of urban living and some protection from the storms ahead. This essay discusses this and nine other fundamental paradigm shifts in environmental and economic conditions that are reshaping the law and changing the way state and local governments control land use and order human settlements.

Prof. Nolon has spearheaded the scholarly movement toward framing land use as an area of law that incorporates local government mechanisms and the imperatives of environmental regulation, which he has led into a broader conception of sustainability. This essay provides a great overview of how our communities depend on land use law.

Matt Festa

February 20, 2013 in Environmental Law, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, Sustainability, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Arnold and Gunderson on Adaptive Law

Tony Arnold (Louisville) sends word that he has co-authored a chapter with Lance Gunderson (Emory--Environmental Studies) called Adaptive Law, forthcoming in the book Resilience and Law, Craig R. Allen & Ahjond S. Garmestani, eds., Columbia University Press, 2013.  The abstract:

This book chapter proposes a bold sweeping set of characteristics of "adaptive law": features of the legal system that promote the resilience and adaptive capacity of both social systems and ecosystems. Law, particularly U.S. law, has been characterized as ill-suited to management of natural resources and the environment for resilience and sustainability. The maladaptive features of U.S. law include narrow systemic goals, mononcentric, unimodal, and fragmented structure, inflexible methods, and rational, linear, legal-centralist processes. This book chapter proposes four fundamental features of an adaptive legal system: 1) multiplicty of articulated goals; 2) polycentric, multimodal, and integrationist structure; 3) adaptive methods based on standards, flexibility, discretion, and regard for context; and 4) iterative legal-pluralist proceses with feedback loops and accountability. It then discusses these four features in the context of several socio-ecological issues and identifies needs for future study and development of adaptive law, particularly in light of panarchy theory about how complex, adaptive, interconnected systems change over time.

As many land use lawyers already know, Prof. Arnold is one of the leading scholars in establishing the emerging area of adaptive law; this collaboration with Prof. Gunderson looks to be a very helpful starting point for comparing ecosystems and social systems with respect to adaptation to changing circumstances.  

Matt Festa

November 23, 2012 in Books, Climate, Environmental Law, Planning, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)