Thursday, September 30, 2010
I've blogged before about an informal "2nd Friday Symposium" held by the River Basin Center here at UGA. I wasn't able to attend the most recent event, so I asked Land Use Clinic student Greg Raburn to report. Here's his summary (and accompanying culinary notes):
The convivial meeting started at 4:00 p.m., but, by the time I was able to get out of class, burn the roof of my mouth on a hastily-heated corn dog, and drive to the River Basin Center, the discussion had already begun The room, which had the appearance of some type of student lounge, was nearly full, and the speaker, who must have been Professor Chuck Hopkinson of Marine Sciences and Director of the Georgia Sea Grant, with beer in hand, was describing the statistics and findings displayed on the projection screen.
He noted that while Savannah, as befitting one of the top U.S. seaports, was being monitored for contamination, Georgia’s southeast coast was not. The oil, if or when it appeared on Georgia’s beaches, he stated, would probably look like tar-balls (which were essentially asphalt, he explained) or micro-droplets, and he and his group had made recommendations to Congressional staffers for detecting the presence of the oil and monitoring it. He said much of the Gulf data was being collected by robotic “Seagliders,” manufactured by iRobot (the makers of the “Roomba” robotic home vacuum cleaner). The gliders were designed to “glide” to the bottom of the ocean, collecting data from their surroundings, and then rise to the surface and transmit the data. In addition to recommending using Seagliders off the Georgia coast, his group additionally recommended using fluorescent sensors, doing tar-ball counts, monitoring “sentinel” organisms, and utilizing satellite monitoring to collect additional data.The next part of the discussion centered on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s leaked press release which had stated that 74% of the released oil was “gone.” The report naturally raised the question: if 74% of the oil was truly gone, where did it go? The press release claimed that 25% of the oil had dissolved or evaporated, 16% had been naturally dispersed, 8% had been chemically dispersed, 17% had never entered the water (captured at the surface), 5% had been burned, and the cleanup efforts had captured 3%, and therefore only 26% of the oil remained in the ocean.
Professor Hopkinson’s group decided to evaluate the data themselves. The first thing they did was discard the figure for the 17% of oil that never entered the water; if some oil never entered the water, they felt it was misleading to include it on a report about the status of the oil in the water. Professor Hopkinson’s group also figured in “degradation,” which, based from data from the Ixtoc oil spill off the coast of Mexico in 1979, was estimated at about 4%-8%. His group ultimately concluded that the oil was not “gone,” but that most of it had simply changed into a form that rendered it uncollectable.
The University of Georgia and the Georgia Sea Grant testified before a [Georgia] Senate subcommittee regarding Georgia’s vulnerability to the oil spill. The Senate subcommittee charged the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to develop an oil sampling plan. Three things were to be sampled: water columns, hard bottom, and fish. If oil were found in these things, then two additional things would then be sampled: sediment and hydrodynamics. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide further details on this part of the discussion, as it went well beyond my limited knowledge of marine science and ecology.
As a side note, Professor Hopkinson also observed that British Petroleum (BP) is selling or has sold off its terrestrial U.S. wells, put its shallow water wells up for sale, and is currently expanding its deepwater drilling in areas with little regulation, such as Africa and Brazil. He suggested this could have been a counterproductive consequence of the recent U.S. sanctions on BP and the restrictions on deepwater drilling. He pointed out that the well currently being drilled in Brazil, will be at almost twice the depth of the Deepwater Horizon.
Professor Hopkinson closed by saying that the University of Georgia Sea Grant website on the oil spill could be found at oilspill.uga.edu, with additional information at www.southatlanticseagrant.org, www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com, and www.restorethegulf.gov.
In conclusion, I found the science and statistics of the discussion to be rather interesting. I had to glean the meaning of much of the technical language from the context in which it was used. The symposium was definitely geared toward someone with more of a background in environmental and marine science than myself, but the group was open and friendly, and a small variety of refreshments were available – including a bowl of dried, multicolored, tubular things that, in size and shape, resembled McDonald’s French Fries. I had to try one. It tasted kind of like a pretzel. I still have no idea what it was.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold (Louisville) has posted Fourth-Generation Environmental Law: Integrationist and Multimodal. The abstract:
Daniel H. Cole (Indiana-Indianapolis) has posted what looks like another interesting article, Property Creation by Regulation: Rights to Clean Air and Rights to Pollute. The abstract:
Friday, September 24, 2010
Robert W. Adler (Utah) has posted Resilience, Restoration, and Sustainability: Revisiting the Fundamental Principles of the Clean Water Act, Washington U. Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 32, p. 139 (2010). The abstract:
Thursday, September 16, 2010
From Dr Rajiv Shah of USAID:
Global demand for freshwater is doubling every 20 years, yet water is becoming increasingly scarce in a number of countries, including many in the developing world. As you all know well, water is central to the success of our sustainable development efforts. Whether for domestic use, agriculture, industry, energy, or the environment, the availability of adequate supplies of good quality freshwater underpins the hopes and expectations of billions of people for improved well-being and affluence.In his inaugural address, President Obama pledged to help the developing world address its water challenges. And last March, Secretary Clinton challenged USAID and the State Department to elevate our freshwater access efforts and to ensure that we look at these challenges in an integrated manner. Climate change, food security and global health issues are three of our top priorities, and water is integrally linked to each challenge. In order to maximize the impact from our development investments we must enhance integrated programming, utilize smart science and innovation, build strategic partnerships, and learn from experience.
As one step on this path, I am pleased to announce the launch of Global Waters – the first newsletter dedicated to the broad portfolio of water-related activities of the United States Agency for International Development. Through this new bi-monthly newsletter, we wish to share with you the many challenges and opportunities, and the approaches and lessons learned that reflect upon USAID programming in the water arena. Each issue will highlight the work of our many implementing partners, as well as some of the more intimate stories of how the Agency’s work directly affects individuals, families, and communities around the globe.
If you wish to receive Global Waters on a regular basis, I encourage you to subscribe today, and to share this with your colleagues and partners who may find this of interest. You can do so by clicking on this link, where you will find the full newsletter and subscription details. I hope you will take time to peruse Global Waters and continue to help us build public support and understanding for these critical development challenges.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
According to a recent story on NPR's Morning Edition, California has recently declared one of the most ambitious targets for renewable energy in the world - 1/3rd of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. (Sadly, Georgia has no currently goal. No Southeastern state has, except North Carolina.) However, like Cape Wind, struggles continue over siting renewable energy projects - like this solar project proposed in Central California.
However, according to a recent story in The New York Times, there are places where the siting of solar projects is popular with pretty much everybody - on abandoned agricultural land.
Thousands of acres of farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley have been removed from agricultural production, largely because the once fertile land is contaminated by salt buildup from years of irrigation.
But large swaths of those dry fields could have a valuable new use in their future — making electricity.
Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide land for what would be one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres. At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.
It's interesting that one environmental problem - saltwater intrusion from overpumping of the coastal aquafers - might contribute to another environmental solution - reduction of dependence on coal-fired power plants. Anyway, it's nice to see a non-controversial renewable energy project, for a change.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Monday, August 16, 2010
Property issues arise in interconnected physical, social, and legal environments. All indications point to interconnections that are complex, far-reaching in scope, multi-scalar, dynamic, and nonlinear. Property institutions must adapt to these complexities and changing conditions. However, it has become apparent that the patterns and practices of our uses of land, water, and the environment are unsustainable ecologically and socially. While both legal and socio-cultural understandings of property are evolving, they remain hampered by the supposedly wealth-maximizing and production-maximizing concept that property is a bundle of rights, often based in a mental image of a “bundle of sticks,” with each stick in the bundle representing a different right or entitlement. An alternative concept of property is that property is a “web of interests,” in which property interests are defined by the particular characteristics of the object of the property (including natural features and environmental carrying capacity) and by the interconnected relationships that people, entities, and institutions form with respect to the particular object. This chapter discusses how the web of interests concept might facilitate a more ecologically and socially sustainable definition of property interests amid the realities of the interconnected environments in which property issues arise. The chapter gives particular attention to issues of land and water, and explores the implications of sustainable webs of interest in water.I still rely heavily on the bundle-of-sticks metaphor for teaching, but I'm coming around to Tony's web-of-interests conceptualization. Looks like a fascinating piece.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Reed D. Benson (New Mexico) has posted New Adventures of the Old Bureau: Modern-Day Reclamation Statutes and Congress' Unfinished Environmental Business, forthcoming in Harvard Journal on Legislation. The abstract:
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
From Oliver Houck:
We will be preparing a series of background lectures on the BP blowout this fall at Tulane Law School, covering basic tech, engineering, science, law and policy issues. They will set a stage for several courses on BP-related issues (environmental, admiralty, energy…), and for research projects for students interested in participating for credit. The lectures may be of interest to you and your students as well, and we will set up a system to “stream” these lectures live to other schools, as you may wish (unfortunately, we cannot do Q and A with you from this classroom). We will also be happy to share ideas for related research topics, if and as you wish.The program, subject to changes but at this point firm, is reflected in the notice that follows:
THE BP OIL SPILL LECTURE SERIES
TULANE LAW SCHOOL
OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC
The purpose of this series is to provide background on technical, scientific and policy aspects of the BP blowout, including deep water drilling; the blowout; the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem; oil, water and cleanup; containment responses; biological impacts; community impacts; legal issues; and policy implications beyond BP. The lectures (with Q and A following) will take place in room 110 of the law school, 6329 Freret Street, New Orleans, on Monday afternoons, from 4 – 5:15 pm, with exceptions noted. While Tulane law students may participate in this series for academic credit with the satisfactory completion of additional work, it is intended equally for all students and the interested general public. There is, of course, no admission. For further inquiry, please contact Professor Houck at email@example.com (after August 5) or Forest Wootten, 2L, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
We don't do a whole lot of fish-blogging over here, because, well, it is the Land Use Prof Blog. But land use law and practice is becoming more and more entwined with water, wetlands, environmental, and ecosystem law and policy at all levels. So some of you might be interested to hear about the impending Carp-Pocalypse: The Great Asian Carp Invasion Begins? from Time.
There's an underwater war underway in the Midwest – an offensive to keep the ravenous Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. On Wednesday, it became clear: The carp are winning.
Late Wednesday night, the Associated Press reported that federal officials have, for the first time ever, discovered a carp swimming beyond the multiple electric barriers that were erected along the Chicago waterways to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes system. A 20-pound bighead carp was caught by a fisherman in Illinois's Lake Calumet, on the South Side of Chicago.
That's beyond the electric fence, and only six miles from Lake Michigan.
For decades, the carp have been making their way up the Mississippi, and then through Illinois rivers and canals that form an artificial link between the Mississippi Basin and the Great Lakes. The problems with this migration stem from the fact that the carp can grow into 4-foot-long, 100-pound monsters who devour 40 percent of their body weight daily. They destroy ecosystems by gorging themselves, and starving out other species.
I've always been interested in the history of canals, commerce, and the human endeavor to connect watersheds across the continent, but it seems there were some unintended downsides.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Earlier this month I was in Baltimore for the AALS Clinicians' Conference. The conference itself was a really fantastic opportunity to learn and be with my fellow clinicians. This year the setting was also quite spectacular - we were at the Renaissance Hotel right in the Inner Harbor.
While walking in the area I've happened upon a little gem, previously unknown to me. The Baltimore Public Works Museum is a fantastic historic building that is still part of the city's water and sewer system. Unfortunately the museum is currently closed to the public, due to budget cuts. I hope to visit it on a future trip to Baltimore, because I'm sure it's quite fascinating (at least to a land use geek like me).
Jamie Baker Roskie
Monday, May 17, 2010
Carolina A. Dehring (Georgia--Dept. of Insurance, Real Estate, Legal Studies) and Craig A. Depken (North Carolina--Charlotte, Business Admin/Economics) have posted Sharing the Burden of Water Supply Protection, in
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Victor Flatt recently wrote an editorial for the Houston Chronicle entitled "Did a single week reverse energy fortunes forever?" in which he contrasts the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the approval of Cape Wind.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Monday, May 10, 2010
From my colleagues at GreenLaw
On May 10, 2010, attorneys from GreenLaw working with eight partner groups, filed petitions for hearings challenging permits for two major proposed coal-fired power plants in Georgia. In response to an unprecedented wave of permits issued by the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in April, the groups are fighting back with important claims against the water and air pollution permits proposed for Plant Washington, to be built in Sandersville, and against the air pollution permit for Longleaf Energy Station, to be built in Early County.
Longleaf, which is being contested by Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club of Georgia, with representation from GreenLaw, is a project of New Jersey-based LS Power, which anticipates selling power to the highest bidders it can find.
In the 1200 mega-watt Longleaf permit, EPD classifies Longleaf as a minor source of pollution, while the 850 mega-watt Plant Washington (in a permit issued the day before) is classified as a major source. Listing Longleaf as a minor source allows the power plant to avoid critical requirements that would ensure that the plant operated in compliance with the law. EPD also failed to allow the public to comment on this decision. Attorneys objected on both grounds. EPD also granted Longleaf an extension on when it must begin construction. This extension will allow the plant to be built with outdated technology. Challengers are asking that EPD ensure that the permit is up-to-date.
Plant Washington, which is being contested by the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE) and Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter, as well as Altamaha Riverkeeper (for the water permit only), and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and Ogeechee Riverkeeper (both organizations for the air permit only), is a project of Power4Georgians, a company composed of Cobb EMC and four other EMCs. The Southern Environmental Law Center is co-counseling on the Plant Washington petitions.
The Plant Washington air permit fails to set safe limits on harmful air pollutants that would be emitted by Plant Washington, including sulfuric acid mist and particulate matter. Particulate matter is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease and even premature death.
The state water withdrawal permit fails to set necessary limits on the amount of water the plant can take from the Oconee River for use at the proposed plant located in the Ogeechee River watershed. Without adequate limits, communities such as Dublin, area farms and other downstream users along the Oconee River would be left without sufficient water resources.
The state water discharge permit fails to limit the temperature of heated wastewater discharged by the proposed plant into the Oconee River, changing the river’s ecology, depleting available oxygen in its waters, and harming fish and other wildlife that depend on the river system.
Georgia already has 10 coal-fired power plants, one of which, just north of Macon, is Plant Scherer, often cited as the most polluting coal-fired plant in the nation. The EPD has seven days to send the cases to the Office of State Administrative Hearings, where they will be assigned to administrative law judges. Court dates are expected later this summer. Links to the petitions are at www.green-law.org.
Jamie Baker Roskie
From Robin Craig at Florida State:
universities are putting together what should become a very helpful one-stop web
site for information on the Gulf spill, hosted (so far, at least) on Florida
State's web site. Soon there will be links to specific information on
ecological impacts, economic costs, the scope and path of the spill, underwater
and surface photos, data sets, and a legal page (I authored the draft of that
today), all with links to further information.
The site was officially launched this afternoon and will be growing
quickly. If you're interested in following events, I'd recommend bookmarking
the page and checking back frequently as the site develops.
See the Oil Spill Academic Task Force website here.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Monday, May 3, 2010
Christine A. Klein (Florida) has posted The Dormant Commerce Clause and Water Export: Toward a New Analytical Paradigm, forthcoming in the Harvard Environmental Law Review, Vol. 35 (2011). The abstract:
Facing water shortages, states struggle with competing impulses, desiring to restrict water exports to other states, while simultaneously importing water from neighboring jurisdictions. In 1982, the Supreme Court weighed in on this issue through its seminal decision, Sporhase v. Nebraska. Determining that groundwater is an article of commerce, the Court held invalid under the dormant commerce clause a provision of a Nebraska statute limiting water export. The issue has again come into the national spotlight, as the Tarrant Regional Water District of Texas challenged Oklahoma legislation limiting water exports, and as Wind River LLC of Nevada contested the denial of its application for a permit to acquire water from Arizona.
This article examines the Dormant Commerce Clause as it applies to water export, identifying factors that have influenced the courts’ legal opinions. It argues that Sporhase asked the wrong question, transplanting a relevant issue from the context of the affirmative Commerce Clause – whether water is an article of commerce – into the context of the Clause’s dormant aspect. Observing that the U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed the issue of water export regulation directly for more than twenty five years, this paper argues that courts should no longer rely upon Sporhase’s water-as-article-of-commerce mantra. Instead, this article suggests a new analytical paradigm, the “water continuum.” More broadly, this article examines evidence from the Court’s Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence involving other natural resources – specifically, landfill space – that suggests the Court may be poised to make a radical shift, abandoning the Dormant Commerce Clause entirely.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Last Friday was UGA's annual Red Clay Conference. This student-organized conference is always a blast, and I often have the honor of moderating a panel. The conference gets its name from the red Georgia clay, and the theme is always environmental. This year's theme was "Three States, One River: Exploring the Tri-State Water Dispute." The three states are Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and the river is actually a river system, the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, Flint.
I wasn't able to stay for the whole day, but in the morning I sat in on a fascinating presentation by participants in a stakeholder negotiation process that is happening alongside the (inevitable, it seems, for these types of water resource disputes) litigation.
Then I moderated a panel called "Is Atlanta Really the 800 Pound Gorilla?" As you might imagine, this is a loaded question. There is much controversy in the region about how to allocate water resources to provide drinking water for Atlanta, water for power generation for Alabama, and sufficient water supply to protect the ecosystem (and fishing industry) in Florida. Our distinguished panelists included the lawyers who represent Atlanta and the State of Georgia in current litigation over Lake Lanier (which until a recent court decision was a primary water source for several counties and municipalities in North Georgia.) Needless to say, it was a lively discussion. My friend and colleague Gil Rogers from Southern Environmental Law Center was an audience favorite, and not just because he does comedy improv in his off hours. SELC has done some great work on the tri-state dispute over the years. At any rate, all the panelists were incredibly articulate, passionate, and interesting.
The keynote speaker was Joseph Dellapenna of Villanova University School of Law who spoke about potential ways forward in the dispute. The most interesting, and least practical, option he discussion was that the US Supreme Court could settle the dispute if it was asked to exercise original jurisdiction over a dispute between states. (Blast to Civil Procedure past, anyone?) However, since they've been litigating that case since the 1920s, that's probably not the most expedient solution.
Jamie Baker Roskie