Wednesday, May 30, 2012

China Environmental Experiences #4: Wifi Without Potable Water

This is the fourth in my series of reports from the field about the environmental experiences of an environmental law professor in China. (For the full background on this series, see February’s introductory post, March’s reflections on China and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, and April’s account of air quality issues in China.) 

This month, I peek beneath one of the more surprising, seemingly contradictory stones in China’s path toward increasing prosperity and world power.  China is the world’s fastest-growing major economy—the second largest economy of all nations, the largest exporter, and the second-largest importer in the world.  It is a nation with 500 million Internet users, 100 million cars, and the world’s largest standing army.  It is the third nation on earth to independently launch a successful manned space mission, with plans to send astronauts to the moon in the coming years.  At least in urban areas, China is a thoroughly modern, explosively developing place—with department stores selling Prada, goofy reality TV, and wifi at the local tea house... but you still can’t drink the water.

Xinjiang - Tianshan Tianchi 148Visitors to China are carefully warned that the water is not potable and must be boiled thoroughly before consumption.  Every hotel room has a small water boiler for this purpose, and the more expensive ones provide a nightly bottle of safe drinking water by the bedside.  Water quality problems are traditionally associated with the continuing use of “night soil” (human and animal waste) to fertilize crops—an effective and inexpensive alternative with an inexhaustible supply.  Yet the problem continues even as farmers embrace more modern chemical fertilizers (perhaps too heartily, at the alarming expense of soil health), and as other contaminants enter the water supply.  While visiting the old city of Lijiang in Yunnan Province, for example, I rose for an early morning walk to find cooks cleaning the carcasses of recently killed animals, intestines and all, directly into the Venice-like canals from which others draw their drinking water.

Shortly before our arrival, we were warned by a vaccination nurse familiar with the most dangerous waterborne diseases to only sponge-bathe our 3-year-old, rather than risk his inadvertent exposure to waterborne parasites through his open eyes or mouth in a shower.  Once here, we quickly decided that this level of precaution was unnecessary, at least in urban areas where the municipal water supply receives some level of filtration or disinfection before reaching the tap (especially true in Beijing).  Still, we have learned well the rules of life here in China: drink only boiled or bottled water, no ice that can’t be sourced to boiled or bottled water, no fruits or vegetables that haven’t been cooked or peeled, and brush teeth with tap water at your own risk.  (Some friends do; others, including me, don’t.)  You should also ensure that bottled water is truly factory-sealed, as scandals have occasionally revealed empty bottles refilled with tap water being resold as new.

Without a doubt, adapting to life without potable water was the biggest cultural adjustments for us when we arrived last summer.  The first consequence was minor physical dehydration: without easily accessible clean water to drink, we drank less, and soon found ourselves more easily exhausted, ornery, and sick.  (Indeed, nothing confirms the critical nature of this life-sustaining resource more effectively than losing the taken-for-granted tap.)  Every journey away from our apartment involves water planning, as we take careful stock of how many are traveling, what will be needed, and how best to transport it.  I seem to drink more than my Chinese friends, but I still seem to be always thirsty. 

And there were other puzzling features of our new world.  For example, we struggled to understand at exactly what point our dishes were clean enough to eat off after washing them in tap water.  Were the still damp chopsticks safe to use, or the recently-washed cup still bearing that fine sheen?  And when dealing with my son’s inevitable scraped knees and elbows, was it better to wash with soap and water to disinfect, or was the water itself a source of potential harm?  (For the record, we have decided that dishes must be completely dry to be safe, and that cuts should be washed with soap and water until the dirt is out, but subsequently sterilized with disinfectant whenever possible.)

Chinese culture adapted long ago to the perils of non-potable water.  Chinese people boil all their water before drinking it, but it doesn’t seem like a burden, because they prefer to drink their water hot.  They range from amused to amazed when foreigners request cold water, which to them is as distasteful as drinking plain hot water is those foreigners.  When I invite my students to ask questions of cultural exchange—anything they want to know about American culture, politics, or lifestyle—the most frequent question is always “Why do Americans like to drink cold water? (Yuck!)”  Perhaps as a result, there is no groundswell of popular sentiment to “do something” about the water situation.  From the perspective of most Chinese, there is no problem with the water.  Everything is as it should be.

Urumqi 246Yet China is suffering from increasingly serious water pollution problems that can’t just be boiled away.  Chemical pollutants entering the water supply from industry and agriculture are getting worse, involving toxins oblivious to disinfectants.  The World Health Organization has identified 2221 different pollutants in waters worldwide, and 765 of them in drinking water—but current drinking water standards test for only 35 indicators, and new criteria that will go into effect on July 1st will regulate only 106 pollutants.  (Source: Dr. Yu Ming, water pollution researcher at Ocean University of China.)  Chinese lawmakers and the Ministry of the Environment are struggling to cope with these problems through the PRC Law to Prevent and Control Water Pollution, but the even greater hurdle for environmental law is that of implementation. 

Even where China’s environmental laws are comprehensive, their goals are imperiled by under-enforcement.  Illegal discharging is reportedly very common, because there simply aren’t enough agency personnel to monitor them.  And even when violations are discovered, they may or may not be prosecuted by the relevant government agency—depending, perhaps, on the economic importance of the violators, or their political influence.  When the government fails to act, it can be hard for citizens and NGOs to take up the slack, because most Chinese courts don’t recognize standing for public-interest citizen suits.  And even if traditional standing were established by a directly injured party, the court may or may not decide to hear the case (for my money, one of the most surprising features of the Chinese legal system).  For these reasons and others, enforcement is usually seen as the major weakness in China’s environmental law regime.  Perhaps China’s new experimentation with a handful of specialty environmental courts will help redress these important problems.

In the meanwhile, water quality problems intersect with and exacerbate other environmental problems.  For example, one unfortunate consequence of unreliable tap water is the resulting prevalence of disposables: single-use bottled water, disposable plates and bowls, even the single-use toothbrushes that hotels at every level routinely provide.  I spent the last year spearheading a university sustainability initiative that sought personal pledges to avoid bottled water and other disposables as much as possible, so it was particularly jarring for me to adjust to this new norm—where we are happy to eat at a restaurant that provides disposable bowls, plates, and chopsticks, because we know they won’t make us sick that evening.  (And I was happy to note that, at least at our favorite local restaurant, the plasticware is marked as biodegradable.)  By contrast, at restaurants that provide the reusables I normally seek out at home, we nervously try to sterilize them with hot tea before using them, because they have likely been rinsed in the too-thoroughly recycled dirty dishwater that compounds the problems already coming out of the tap.

So, after religiously toting my reusable aluminum bottle to my every American class last year, I now carry plastic bottles of water everywhere.  And though I reuse the small bottles as long as possible rather than discarding them after a single use, they are usually filled with water that I get at home from the water-cooler bottle that many Chinese families use.  On any given day, you can spot a handful of strong men riding motor-scooters with an improbably number of these strapped to the back, exchanging filled ones for empties at private homes and businesses.  I’m happy to report that at least these large bottles are faithfully recycled.  But I’m unhappy to say that smaller plastic bottles litter the streets, parks, mountains, landfills, beaches, and accordingly, rivers and oceans.

Urumqi 121Neither is the important relationship between water quality and water quantity lost on China, which has one of the lowest per capita rates of fresh water in the world.  Northern China is arid and especially lacking sufficient water, marked by some of the world’s great deserts, like the Gobi and the Taklimakan.  But it rains plentifully in the south and along much of the coasts.  As a result, China has erected the most massive water-delivery infrastructure in world history to shift enormous quantities from south to north, a project already underway for fifty years and scheduled for completion in another forty.  Linking China’s four main rivers together in a network of diversions, it will eventually move almost 50 billion cubic meters of water annually.  Although the project has already caused its fair share of negative environmental consequences and human displacement, most of the Chinese I have spoken to—even those from regions in which water is taken—are comfortable with the need for extreme inter-basin transfers to support northern population centers like Beijing.  And they are proud of the ingenuity and engineering that underwites this aspect of "man-made China."

Like nearly everything else in China, its history of mind-boggling human interventions with water began thousands of years ago.  I had the opportunity to explore a classic example last week while visiting the Turpan Depression near Urumqi in Xinjiang.  Turpan is the lowest and hottest place in China, at 150 meters below sea level and in the middle of China’s most arid province.  Xinjiang - Turpan 143And yet there in the desert was a blooming oasis of vineyards, agriculture, and Uighur community.  How was it possible?  It is because 2,000 years earlier, the people who still live there dug 5,272 kilometers of underground canals with 172,367 vertical well shafts to collect and redistribute the groundwater accumulating from melting snow on the nearby mountains.  At its height, the “Turpan Karez” channeled 858 million cubic meters of water into 1,784 lines to distribute it to all parts of the region.  (You can’t even imagine what this looks like—best to see it, so try this aerial photo and this diagram).  Xinjiang - Turpan 179It is a staggering feat of civilization—a celebration of creativity, environmentally sustainable terrascaping, and the human ability to thrive against all odds.

Modern-day Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, relies on similarly creative water technology.  During my visit, I saw acres of recently planted, spindly young trees in the desert outskirts of the city, lined up like toothpicks piercing the mostly barren earth.  I would often ask my hosts, “How will these trees take root?  With what water?”, and I was always told, “Oh, there is enough water here in Urumqi.”  Urumqi 281I knew that the trees had been planted for environmentally sound reasons—to help stabilize the soil, moderate ground temperature, and trap airborne dust—but I still couldn’t understand how they would survive in such arid ground, only occasionally studded with dwarflike sagebrush scrub.  In my broken Chinese, I would persist, “but if there were really enough water to grow trees, wouldn’t there already be trees here?”  And they would quietly insist, “no, no—there will be enough water,” though I could never understand from them why. 

Then on my last day, I visited a popular public park in the middle of the city, where the temperature was ten degrees cooler thanks to the canopy of the many mature trees that ringed its central hill and the banks of the creek flowing around it.  I followed my idle curiosity to the crown of the hill, where I was astonished to find a complex terrascaping system for just this park.  There was a small, swimming-pool like reservoir at the top, supplied by a large pipe snaking up the hill (it wasn’t clear to me from where), and a network of canals extending radially outward down the hill in all directions.  Indeed, the park’s oasis was created in the same manner as the Turpan Karez: decades earlier, the now lush trees had been planted in rings around the hill, and the reservoir fed them a steady supply of water through the canals at their base.  Xinjiang - Tianshan Tianchi 141I was awed by the success of the project, and the clear joy it gave the city residents who collected there en masse to enjoy its peace and beauty.  And I suddenly understood what mechanisms were likely helping those new trees take root in the desert surrounding the city.

With such scarcity at hand, China is trying harder and harder to avoid squandering its precious water resources with regulatory efforts targeting both quantity and quality.  Wherever there are flush-toilets, they are almost always low-flush toilets, with separate levers for the two types of waste they will encounter (one of which needs a stronger flush than the other).  Solar-powered water heaters effectively reduce consumption by limiting hot water to what can be stored on the roof at any given time (although the more expensive ones have a gas or electric backup).  Greater efforts are being made to reduce use and recycle water wherever possible.  Hopefully, China will find a way to enact and enforce more effective water pollution laws to avoid further industrial and agricultural degradation of its water resources. 

But for what it’s worth, I’m told there are no great plans on the horizon to achieve potability from the tap, because potability is just not a cultural priority in China.  So the mantra will continue: boiled or bottled, cooked or peeled, rinse at your own risk…

 January - New Year and Yunnan 639



--Erin Ryan

May 30, 2012 in Asia, Forests/Timber, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, Travel, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Series: Environmental Adventures in China

I’m delighted to be joining the Environmental Law Prof Blog as a contributing editor. This year, I’ll be blogging about my environmental experiences in China, where I’m spending 2011-12 as a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at Zhongguo Haiyang Daxue (Ocean University of China). I am teaching a full schedule of American law courses while researching Chinese environmental governance, joined by my husband, 4-year old son, and 73-year-old mother. In our small two-bedroom apartment, we live like a typical Chinese family, with three generations and an only child.

ELPB 1 QingDaYiLuTo be sure, the living is not always easy—but perhaps our most important lesson of all will be to learn what it means to downsize from American consumption levels and live a little more like the rest of the world. (And this is a sobering lesson indeed.)

In light of our rich reservoir of experience here, my blogging will be less academic and more experiential—less about the fact that Beijing will finally begin monitoring air pollution at the 2.5 micron level, and more about how life changes when you are immersed in those particulates day after day. (For more academic reporting, see the excellent Chinese blog, China Environmental Law.) To summarize the overall sentiment of the series, anyone complaining about excessive environmental regulation in the U.S. really ought to spend a year living in China.

Better still, they should bring their young children or aging parents.

This first post provides some context for my series of through-the-looking-glass observations about what it’s like to plunge into China’s modern industrial revolution as an American environmental law professor. No amount of legal research could have prepared me for the differences in environmental perspective that I would encounter here (and even my undergraduate degree in Chinese language and culture falls short). So I hope that sharing these stories will help illuminate some of the cultural gaps we will inevitably encounter as Chinese and American partners work together to solve our global environmental challenges.

China Sept 2011 385I thought I'd start by explaining a little bit about where many of these stories come from. We are fortunate to be living in the beautiful city of Qingdao, Shandong Province, which is on the coast of northeastern China across the Yellow Sea from South Korea. Qingdao is home to about seven million people—a small (!) city by Chinese standards. It is a wonderful place of disarmingly friendly people, complete with weather-worn mountains overlooking a peaceful sea. Home to several of China’s biggest brands and among the ten busiest commercial shipping ports in the world, Qingdao has won several awards for green development. And yes, it is where the famous Chinese beer comes from (“Tsingtao” is just a different Romanization for “Qingdao”!)

Ocean University is one of China's key comprehensive universities under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Education. It has about 30,000 students and faculty and ranks among the top 10% of universities nationwide. The law school has an especially dynamic environmental program, offering master's and doctoral degrees and hosting seven research institutes addressing marine law, coastal zone management, sustainable development, and other important topics. (Of note, the Law School is currently inviting applications from both students and faculty for some very intriguing programs of exchange--about which I've posted separately here.)

ELPB 1 UsThe Dean and faculty have been extremely welcoming, and the students are delightful. Teaching them is especially gratifying because they are so hungry for the kind of engaged and participatory teaching that we regularly use in American law schools. Most of them have never before been asked what they themselves think, or to work all the way through a doctrinal problem, or to question their instructors. It is truly a privilege to be part of this cross-cultural exchange, and I will always be grateful to both the China Fulbright Program and my hosts here at Ocean University for the opportunity.

Nevertheless, the challenges of living here—specifically, the environmental challenges—can be harrowing. In the next few months, I’ll blog about the experiences of living without clean air, potable water, or faith that products in the marketplace won’t make us sick. I'll write about the many ways that established environmental problems foster newer ones, like the consequences of poor public water quality on the ever-increasing stream of waste products to cope with it. I'll write about our palpable homesickness for the kind of government oversight we take for granted to protect us in circumstances ranging from pharmaceutical to pedestrian safety. (For all the chest-thumping in some American circles about the perils of socialism, China is a Tea Partier's dream in many respects—as far away from the Nanny State as most would ever wish to venture.)

Yet I’ll also write about the environmental realms in which the Chinese put Americans to shame—for example, the amazing public transportation system in cities like ours, which can be navigated cheaply and conveniently by bus at all hours (and has a subway system in the making). Or the full-scale embrace of alternative sources of energy, with a solar water heater on every roof. Or the national government’s commitment to price carbon on at least some level--a part of the new Five Year Plan beginning experimentation in seven cities. Or the general willingness among most Chinese to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.ELPB Intro sea

But since this is a blog and not a novel, I'll save my first tale for the next post--a story about how Colorado's Rocky Mountain Arsenal led to surprising insights among my Natural Resources Law students about their own experiences in China. Stay tuned!

--Erin Ryan

February 20, 2012 in Air Quality, Asia, Climate Change, Energy, Food and Drink, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Water Quality, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Changing the Way We Think (about Building)

Existing buildings – in their physical presence, design, and operations - challenge the goal of sustainability in the built environment.  Older buildings can be leaky, inefficient, and even unhealthy, and they typically do not perform well against the expectations that we draw from today’s green building techniques and technology.    

There is evidence that green building programs are impacting the existing building stock through retrofit programs offered in LEED and others.   The number of projects certified under LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) surpassed those certified under its new construction counterpart in 2009.  Spending on remodeling and retrofits has been on the rise and is predicted to grow to $10.1 billion-$15.1 billion by 2014.  Recently, the USGBC announced that LEED-certified retrofits have outpaced new construction certifications on a cumulative basis.

We might view green retrofits of existing buildings as significant.  Of course, the past is a major obstacle for achieving sustainability in the built environment, and the provision of alternatives to “business as usual” in existing structures is itself a victory.  In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the growth in green retrofits suggests that sustainability may involve changes in people as well as buildings. 

- Keith Hirokawa

February 15, 2012 in Climate Change, Energy, Land Use, Law, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Practical and Experiential Learning in Environmental and Energy Law

Increasingly, I find it important to bring the practical into the classroom.  To be upfront, this view is not new for me.  I joined the academy with the presumption that deep theory, legal doctrine, and careful analysis cannot stand alone; the best learning couples heavy doses of those with the real world.  Five years in, consistent feedback from students and the bar have overwhelmingly confirmed what I initially assumed.  At least some professors also seem to agree.

5724838372_6096736e42_o
Injecting the practical is comparatively easy in some courses.  In my civil procedure class, for instance, I am constantly trying to find ways to help students see that the rules are not just principles; they are tools that you can only truly understand if you pick them up and use them repeatedly.  In the litigation context, avenues for making this clear are both discrete and fairly digestible, even in the first semester.  Students in my class attend two court proceedings.  They draft a complaint or an answer.  They write a set of discovery.  They complete a CALI exercise that tries to replicate the discovery process of a case.  It is not uncommon on my exams for students to be asked to draft a motion, complete the next entry in a deposition transcript, or create a notice of appeal.  Certainly, I have no illusions that any first-year student will leave my class a master of any of these tasks.  But the hope is that by being exposed to some of them, students not only begin to gain an understanding of what litigators do on a daily basis, but also learn the material more deeply while laying a foundation of skills they will actually need in practice.

The question, then, is whether this kind of hybrid learning is also useful for more specialized, upper level law classes, particularly those in the environment, energy, and natural resource fields.  More and more, I have become convinced that it is.  Conceptually, this makes sense.  Lawyers in any field have specific, practical skills they cannot be effective without.  There is no reason this is not also true for the areas in which we teach.  Having practiced for seven years, I know that's the case.  The environmental lawyer is always translator:  To handle a pollution case, you have to comprehend risk analysis and toxicology.  To grapple with energy rates or mergers, a grasp of economics is essential.  To do endangered species, biology is fundamental.  In all these, an understanding of the industry the lawyer represents, or that the law at issue regulates, cannot be foregone.

The problem for the classroom, however, is twofold.  First, there is a chicken-and-egg dilemma.  Students cannot really dive into the details of many topics on a practical basis until they have the basics of the law under control.  But getting to how that law really works is tough without practical exercises.  Second, there is an allocation quandary.  Every minute spent on a practical exercise deepens students’ understanding of that topic but does so at the expense of another subject area that could be covered instead.  In courses that present as many fascinating issues as ours do, making this choice is often more painful—for me at least—than deciding, for example, whether to do another day on summary judgment or covering standards of review in civil procedure.  At some point, moreover, too much of the practical in the classroom converts the substantive topic to a clinical one; there is a balance to find.

Nevertheless, I believe we owe it to our students to add this dimension to their understanding of the field.  To that end, here are a few things we are doing in my energy law class this semester.

  • Field trips to various energy sites, including to PacifiCorp’s Gadsby Power Plant earlier this week.

  • Mock cost-of-service ratemaking exercises, using a hypothetical utility’s rate base, debt structure, and production costs.

  • Guest lectures and case studies on actual energy controversies.

I’d be thrilled to hear what others are doing in their energy, environmental, or natural resources classes to add practical or experiential learning to the classroom.

-Lincoln Davies

(photo credit: S.P. Hansen)

February 10, 2012 in Africa, Economics, Energy, Land Use, Law, Science, Social Science, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Exactions and the Doctrine of Waiver

An earlier post on this blog raised the issue of whether the stringent takings standards of Nollan and Dolan are applicable at the point in time when the government, in a pre-decisional negotiating session, merely proposes a permit condition to counter environmental and infrastructural impacts of new development. A recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court in the matter of St. John’s River Water Management District v. Koontz concludes that the answer is no, though there are select opinions to the contrary in other jurisdictions. A related, or corresponding, temporal issue involves the doctrine of waiver: does a landowner, after acquiescing to a conditional permit, maintain the right to challenge the condition therein as a compensable taking? Several decisions out of California seem to suggest the answer is no. For instance, in Rossco Holdings, Inc. v. State of California, a state appellate court indicated that a landowner cannot challenge a condition attached to an issued permit after “specifically agreeing to the condition.”

If both Koontz and Rossco Holdings are correct, there arguably is never an opportunity to apply Nollan and Dolan. However, this obviously cannot be the case, for the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously preserved the Nollan and Dolan standards in 2005 in the course of clarifying components of its regulatory takings jurisprudence in Lingle v. Chevron, Inc.

So where does this leave the state of exaction takings law? My inclination is to say that Koontz is justifiable and Rossco Holdings — at least the above interpretation of Rossco Holdings — is suspect. Despite the many criticisms of and uncertainties surrounding exaction takings doctrine and the closely related unconstitutional conditions doctrine, the premise of these doctrines is evident: to protect people from being in the hopeless position of having no recourse but to submit to a manipulative, unconscionable state. Assuming this premise is both accurate and sound, it would seem that a landowner should be considered to have waived the right to challenge an exaction as a taking under Nollan and Dolan only after he or she has commenced the conditionally permitted construction or otherwise taken advantage of the permit.

-Tim Mulvaney

February 9, 2012 in Constitutional Law, Land Use | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Electric Power in a Carbon Constrained World

UntitledThere are enough conferences every year that, if one attended them all, no other work would get done. That said, there is a particularly well put together conference coming up on Thursday, February 9. Electric Power in a Carbon Constrained World will feature some of the leading energy and environmental law scholars today. It is organized around four panels:
Registration is available here. If you cannot attend in person, the program will also be streamed live here.

-Lincoln Davies

January 27, 2012 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, Land Use, Law, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 13, 2012

ABA's 41st Annual Conference on Environmental Law

The ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) will host its 41st Annual Conference on Environmental Law this March 22-24 in Salt Lake City.  If you have not been before, this is one of, if not the, premier environmental law conferences in the nation.  (If the weather turns right, there could also be really great skiing.)  The conference used to be known as the "Keystone Conference."

As usual, there is a fantastic line-up.  Just a few samples include:

  • Environmental Protection on the Chopping Block? How Environmental Law and Enforcement Will Respond to Funding Cuts and Other Restrictions

  • Hydraulic Fracturing on Trial: Possibilities, Pollution, and Preemption

  • Federal Air Regulation of the Energy Sector: What to Expect for Oil, Natural Gas, and Coal

  • Time and Scale: Emerging Challenges to NEPA and the ESA Getting Real About “Growing Communities”—How New Laws and Regulations Are Changing the Game of Urban Expansion

Of particular note, this year's conference has a number of opportunities for students, including panels designed to help acclimate students to emerging issues in the field and scholarships for students to attend (deadline: February 14, 2012).

To register, go to the conference website.

-Lincoln Davies

January 13, 2012 in Current Affairs, Energy, Land Use, Law, North America, Sustainability, Travel, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Position Announcement - Environmental ADR Program Director

The Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources, and the Environment at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law has posted a job opening for a new alternative dispute resolution program focused on environmental, natural resources, and energy issues.  The position is for the director of the program.

Here is the announcement.  Note the link at the end for online applications:

The Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law is establishing a new Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program focused on environmental, public lands, and natural resource issues and is currently accepting applications for the ADR Program Director. The Director will play a major role in initiating, designing, and developing the new ADR program. Specific responsibilities include identifying issues of local, regional, and national importance and proactively investigating ADR opportunities; public education about the benefits of mediation, collaboration, and other ADR options; providing ADR services to government agencies, corporations, environmental organizations, and other entities; fundraising to support the program; and research on ADR processes and opportunities. Requirements include a Juris Doctor or equivalent degree, along with a minimum of five (5) years of experience in alternative dispute resolution. Experience with environmental, natural resources, or energy law and policy, and especially experience with these issues in the western United States, is strongly preferred. For additional information and to apply, please go to http://utah.peopleadmin.com/postings/11104.

-Lincoln Davies

November 2, 2011 in Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Mining, North America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When the Decline of an Endangered Species Hits Close to Home

  Dusky Gopher Frog 1   Dusky Gopher Frog 2
      

 

 

 

 

 

 

When in college (1997-2002) I was introduced to the Gopher Frog (Rana Capito). A biology professor of mine at the University of Montevallo, Dr. Malcolm Braid, performed research on the frog, including an innovative captive breeding and relocation program. The frog was rapidly disappearing from Alabama due to both urban sprawl in areas of critical habitat as well as the destruction of the longleaf pine ecosystem. The gopher frog has a cousin, the Dusky (Mississippi) Gopher Frog (Rana Sevosa), which had previously been considered a subspecies but was elevated to species status in 2001. Only one small population of the dusky gopher frog now survives in a small area in southern Mississippi (picture above) and the frog only numbers around 100 individuals in the wild (though 1500 live in captivity in a successful breeding program). For more information on the frogs see here and here.

The longleaf pine ecosystem upon which the gopher frogs depend once stretched over 90 million acres across the entire southeastern U.S., but now only around 3-4% of it remains. Fire suppression, urban development, and forestry practices that replaced longleaf with monoculture pine plantations are primarily to blame for the loss of the ecosystem. Not only does the longleaf ecosystem provide critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog, but it also supports a variety of other unique species also listed under the ESA, such as the Gopher Tortoise (about which I have previously written) and the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, among others (in fact, my pioneering grandfather, in an early effort to engage in the complex task of scientific tracking of species on our forestland in Alabama, spray painted, in red, "Toby" on the back of one unsuspecting - or perhaps suspecting, but slow - gopher tortoise. He would see Toby from time to time and know that he was doing well - except perhaps for the lead potentially leaching into his shell. But that is neither here nor there). The gopher frogs actually get their name because they survive in the burrows of gopher tortoises, which act as a "keystone species" for a variety of other species.

So when I learned of the federal government's plans to triple the area proposed as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog I was encouraged, even though the proposal only gives the frog "a shot at survival." But at the same time, the news was a bit troublesome - not actually the news, but the memories it dredged up of my lack of understanding of the value of biodiversity when first introduced to the frogs. The gopher frogs of Alabama were some of the first natural resources I ever thought about in a critical manner as I began my college education. To see their habitat continue to be imperiled and to know that other populations of frogs are hanging only by a thread, really hits close to home - in more ways than one. I have previously posted about how global society is not even doing a good job of protecting charismatic megafauna (see Lions, Tigers, and Bears...All Gone?). How much more difficult will it be to preserve these southern treasures reliant on an ecosystem - and a piece of southern history - that we have already almost entirely eradicated? Hopefully the federal government's efforts will be a step in the right direction, and can make a difference before the sun goes down on the dusky gopher frog's time in the south and on the earth.

- Blake Hudson 

September 27, 2011 in Biodiversity, Current Affairs, Forests/Timber, Land Use | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Case You Missed It -- The Week of August 1-7

* The famine in Somalia continues to worsen.

* Shell received conditional approval from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation to drill in the arctic Beaufort Sea, off the coast of Alaska.

* EPA proposed a rule that would exempt carbon dioxide streams from hazardous waste regulations under certain conditions.  The hope is to spur greater use of carbon capture and sequestration technology.

* A new PAC has formed to promote energy efficiency legislation.

* If you haven't seen it yet, Science has out an impressive set of materials on population trends, their environmental impacts, and prognostications about what it all means for the future of the planet.

* The leopards are not happy.

August 7, 2011 in Africa, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Energy, Land Use, Law, Legislation, North America, Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Can't See the Forest for the People - Southern Forests Threatened By Increasing Population

The U.S. Forest Service recently released a report detailing the projected impacts population growth and urbanization will have on southeastern forests over the next 50 years, reducing Southern Forests them by as much as 23 million acres (or 13%).  The report provided four primary reasons for the decline: population, climate change, timber markets and invasive species.

Southern forests are among the most biodiverse forests in the United States, and a disproportionate number of endangered species are located in the southeast when compared to other regions of the U.S. 

The report indicates that private individuals and companies will be crucial to the effort to curb the destruction, noting that nearly 90% of the forestland in the south is privately owned.  Even so, regulation of land uses such as private forestry and urban development is seen as a role constitutionally reserved for state and local governments.  In turn, the southeastern U.S. maintains some of the most lax forest regulatory standards (not to mention zoning standards) in the world, even less rigorous than many developing countries, according to a study performed by Cashore and McDermott and as seen in the below chart (a "9" denotes the most stringent forest regulatory standards and a "0" the least).

Forest Stringency
Most all southeastern U.S. states maintain "best management practices" that are completely voluntary on the part of the forest manager. These BMP's may suggest to a private forester that he or she leave a buffer zone of trees around watercourses in watersheds in order to prevent erosion, siltation and eutrophication of waterways, among other environmental and economic harms. But foresters can feel free to ignore those "standards" and clear timber to the edge of the stream if they so choose.  The only claim an adjacent landowner might have against the offending party is a common law nuisance claim, if there was damage caused to their property by the erosion, etc., since no regulatory remedies are available.

A co-author of the Forest Service report stated "We're counting on policy-makers...to implement and act on some of the findings...That is our hope."  Hopefully policy-makers at the state and local level will take heed of the report and make much needed changes to the approach and rigor of both southern forest management and urban growth control. As a southern forester myself, I really would prefer not to have 10% fewer trees gracing this beautiful, and environmentally rich, part of the country.

- Blake Hudson

May 23, 2011 in Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Conservation Triage - "Should Conservationists Allow Some Species to Die Out?"

A recent article highlights the controversial concept of "conservation triage," whereby limited conservation resources are directed toward the species with the "best prospects for long-term survival." While the list of endangered and threatened species is growing, the funding for such programs is increasingly tight, and always finite.  

The article highlights the plight of the California condor, the population of which dropped to 22 individuals in 1987. Twenty five years later the condor numbers only 192 living in the wild, while 189 live in captivity.  The program to monitor and maintain condor populations costs more than $4 million a year, while the typical minimum viable population size for long-term species survival is about 5,000 individuals. At least one group of conservationists have asserted that "it is time for the global rescue operation to adopt the mind-set of a battlefield medic: Some endangered species are far more likely to recover than others, so we should identify those and save as many as we can." These conservationists argue that "you could save hundreds of butterfly species with the same investment being put into the condor."

Others, on the other hand, argue that "focusing on the cheapest wins 'may increase the short term tally of species, but we would end up saving only the most convenient ones.'" These conservationists point to the white rhino, the population of which dropped to 20 individuals at one point, but that stands at over 17,000 today.

This controversy demonstrates yet another tough choice faced by those concerned about the environment. It also highlights how approaches to habitat conservation can provide economic efficiency gains that can save both the most species and provide better long-term survival opportunities for those, like the condor, that are in limited numbers in the wild.  

Land development activities are appropriating increasing and copious amounts of habitat/natural capital every day.  It would seem a shift in focus from the costly propping up of single species in quickly developing areas to the prevention of habitat destruction is in order. The internalization of these environmental harms into our economic development costs may seem like triage to development interests and consumers, as they forgo - in the short term - a slight decrease in profit (or developers pass that cost down to the consumer). But in the long run it will be a far less costly triage than that proposed by some conservationists.

- Blake Hudson

May 16, 2011 in Biodiversity, Land Use, Science, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ron Burgundy on Land-use-driven Contamination

Ok, not really. But, let's take the following exchange... Ron_burgundy

Brian Fantana: I think I was in love once. 

Ron Burgundy: Really? What was her name? 

Brian Fantana: I don't remember. 

Ron Burgundy: That's not a good start, but keep going... 

....and put it in the environmental context...

Brian Fantana: I grew up in a bucolic little town in Colorado. 

Ron Burgundy: Really? What is it's name? 

Brian Fantana: Leadville. 

Ron Burgundy: That's not a good start, but keep going... 

I had this strange thought as I passed a sign last week that seemed to indicate an exit for a town called Phosphate, Montana (though after a thorough review of Google Maps, I believe it merely demarks a Phosphate2 road).

Of course, just west of this location is a town called Mineral, Montana, and a bit further north is Arsenic Creek in Augusta, Montana. And I had just driven through Smelterville, Idaho before entering Montana. Then there is Nitrate City, Alabama, Zinc, Arkansas and Molybdenum Mountain in Alaska.  One also has the option to drive down Uranium Drive in Lewistown, Montana or Asbestos Road in Cleveland, Georgia. 

It is apparent that these locations are so connected with past land use activities - even activities damaging to both the environment and human health - that the descripters of those activities live on.  

Particularly interesting is the prospective and retrospective view of the federal/state balance of authority in addressing the ills brought on by mineral mining and other types of contamination associated with land uses.  Much of this contamination is due to land use decisions that are the constitutional purview of state and local governments.  In other words, state government land use laws are responsible for there being, even today, a thick layer of phosphorus on the bottom of Lake Apopka in Florida, a location where I recently fished.  Yet cleanup of these sites, after contamination has occured, is the responsibility of the federal government. 

The Upper Clark Fork River in Montana is the largest Superfund site in the United States, and includes an area stretching from Butte to Anaconda to Missoula, Montana. The mining and smelting activity in Butte Butte Mine resulted in significant contamination of the Butte Hill (pictured right), and contaminated land for a stretch of 120 miles.

One might say these activities, and the subsequent codification of these activities in the names of towns and roads, are from a time before we knew the ills of land use driven contamination. Yet land use activities associated with agriculture, for example, remain regulated (or not regulated) almost solely by state and local governments, and are channeling copious amounts of nitrates and phosphates into the streams and rivers of the Mississippi River basin.  This basin drains 40% of the U.S. land base. In the aggregate, this runoff contributes to a variety of ills, even dead zones in the gulf - the actions of a farmer in Minnesota affects the fishing operations of a Louisiana fisherman.

Ultimately, it would be far more efficient to have greater inputs representing the interests of the nation as a whole into decisions which pollute our environment, rather than national taxpayers later paying to cleanup sites contaminated due to the apathy of local authorities. These inputs do not have to be prescriptive, though that may be one approach, but can be horizontal between state and local governments or bilateral with cooperative federalism or incentives provided by the federal government.  

In the end, Clearwater, Florida, Clearlake, California, and Greenville, Alabama sound like far more appealing destinations than Leadville, Colorado or Arsenic Creek in Montana.  Perhaps going forward the former names will be the descripters of choice for the natural environment that makes up our towns, streams and mountains. That would be, as Ron Burgandy would say, a "great story. Compelling, and rich." 

- Blake Hudson

May 2, 2011 in Energy, Land Use, Mining, North America, Physical Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Dirt on Climate Change

Discover recently highlighted a new (and old) tool to combat climate change - dirt. The article, titled "Could Dirt Help Heal the Climate?," details new research demonstrating that better stewardship of agricultural soils "would have the potential to soak up 13 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today - the equivalent of scrubbing every ounce of CO2 released into the atmosphere since 1980."

The research is focused on the benefits of "regenerative agriculture," which boosts soil fertility and moisture retention by increased use of composting, keeping fields planted year round and increasing plant diversity.  Not only do these methods have the potential to combat climate change, but they also can rejuvinate farmlands upon which a variety of developing societies depend for subsistence.

Agriculture has been one of the most disruptive forces interfering with the planet's carbon soil building process, both with respect to the planting of crops and grazing of animals. Land use changes associated with agriculture have "stripped 70 billion to 100 billion tons of carbon from the world's soils and pumped it into the earth's atmosphere, oceans, and lakes since the dawn of agriculture."

In one case study, the researchers determined that by adjusting agricultural methods to achieve 1.5 additional tons of carbon dioxide absorption a year - a task certainly within reach of agricultural practices - 28 million acres of California grazing lands could absorb nearly 40 percent of the state's total yearly carbon emissions from electricity generation.

This research further demonstrates the important role that land use practices play in combatting climate change. States and private actrors could certainly be more proactive in guiding agricultural practices on the nation's farmlands. Given that states are the primary arbiters of land use, however, the federal government and states should also be more proactive in seeking cooperative approaches to adjust land uses associated with agricultural soil retention and enhancement. When a few modifications to such a simple resource as dirt could have such profound impacts on carbon sequestration capabilities, failure to act should leave our governments and private actors feeling, well, down right dirty.  

- Blake Hudson

April 25, 2011 in Climate Change, Land Use, Physical Science, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Roy Gardner on "Lawyers, Swamps, and Money - U.S. Wetland Law, Policy, and Politics" (New Book)

Wetlands expert Roy GardnerStetson University College of Law, has recently published a fascinating book on U.S. wetland law and policy.  The book, Lawyers, Swamps, and Money, U.S. Wetland Law, Policy, and Politics has recently become available for purchase (Island Press), and you may purchase a copy here. You can read the press release for the book below.

Professor Gardner is one of the nation's leading experts on wetland law and policy. His book reflects not only his expertise, but also his special ability to make the details of wetland law and policy accessible to all - even despite the complex web of constitutional, administrative, and environmental questions raised.  I recommend this book to anyone interested in wetlands, and think it would be great supplementary reading for Natural Resources Law and Policy or related courses.

Professor Gardner is the director of Stetson's Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy, and was instrumental in Stetson University College of Law becoming the first school in the country to gain membership to the US National Ramsar Committee, which supports the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in the United States.  Stetson students worked with the site manager of Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to seek its designation as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, and it was successfully designated as such in the spring of 2010.

Gardner book cover

 

PRESS RELEASE     

Lawyers, Swamps, and Money

U.S. Wetland Law, Policy, and Politics

By Royal C. Gardner

Washington, D.C. (April 2011) — A leading expert on wetlands law and policy has written an engaging guide to the complex set of laws governing these critical natural areas.  

Lawyers, Swamps, and Money explains the importance of America’s wetlands and the threats they face, and examines the evolution of federal law, principally the Clean Water Act, designed to protect them.  Royal Gardner’s writing is simultaneously substantive and accessible to a wide audience — from policy makers to students to citizen activists.

Readers will first learn the basics of administrative law: how agencies receive and exercise their authority, how they actually make laws, and how stakeholders can influence their behavior through the Executive Branch, Congress, the courts, and the media. These core concepts provide a base of knowledge for successive discussions of:

• the geographic scope and activities covered by the Clean Water Act

• the curious relationship between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency

• the goal of no net loss of wetlands

• the role of entrepreneurial wetland mitigation banking

• the tension between wetland mitigation bankers and in-lieu fee mitigation programs

• wetland regulation and private property rights.The book concludes with insightful policy recommendations to make wetlands law less ambiguous and more effective.

The book concludes with insightful policy recommendations to make wetlands law less ambiguous and more effective.

- Blake Hudson

April 11, 2011 in Biodiversity, Constitutional Law, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Physical Science, Science, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hari Osofsky on Diagonal Federalism and Climate Change

Hari Osofsky, Minnesota Law School, has posted a thoughtful and engaging article titled "Diagonal Federalism and Climate Change: Implications for the Obama Administration" on SSRN.  The article is forthcoming in the Alabama Law Review and can be downloaded here. The abstract can be read at the bottom of this post. 

Osofsky provides a clear view of the complexity of crafting climate change solutions, specifically noting that:

"The complex interactions between and among governments around the world at an international level, other branches of government at a national level, and multiple governmental entities at subnational levels—all of which also interact with nongovernmental organizations, corporations, international organizations, and private individuals—pose an ongoing governance challenge for the Obama Administration."

Osofsky describes how these complexities in the U.S. manifest through a "diagonal federalism" framework, which incorporates public and private actors vertically at all levels of government (local, state, national and international) and horizontally within specific levels of government.  Her article targets how the Obama administration can approach diagonal federalism in a way that "leads to the most effective climate policy," and how to structure the above-described complex interactions in a way that most effectively addresses climate change.

All too often, discussions of climate change response are focused on forging political will for regulatory action on climate or fleshing out what types of climate change responses would be most effective to curb carbon emissions (regulatory v. market-based, top-down v. bottom-up, e.g.).  Osofsky's article highlights an often overlooked aspect of climate change response; that is, how to navigate complex domestic legal structures to effectively implement climate change policy if and when it is forged. It is easy to say that "nations should enter into an international agreement on climate" or "nations should establish markets to foster unilateral nation-state initiatives to reduce carbon emissions." It is another thing altogether to assess the much more difficult questions of how to achieve those policy goals on the ground. Osofsky's article takes an important and much-needed step toward tackling the latter, and often more difficult, question.

"Diagonal Federalism and Climate Change: Implications for the Obama Administration"

ABSTRACT:

The Obama Administration’s efforts on climate change continue to face daunting challenges domestically and internationally. This Article makes a novel contribution by exploring how the Obama Administration can meet these challenges more effectively though systematically addressing the multiscalar character of climate change in the areas where it has greater regulatory control. Mitigating and adapting to climate change pose complex choices at individual, community, local, state, national, and international levels. The Article argues that these choices lead to many diagonal regulatory interactions: that is, dynamics among a wide range of public and private actors which simultaneously cut across levels of government (vertical) and involve multiple actors at each level of government that it includes (horizontal). After assessing the Obama Administration’s progress on climate change and energy issues, this Article develops a theory of diagonal federalism to explore how the Obama Administration might engage in more effective crosscutting regulatory approaches. It proposes a taxonomy for understanding how these diagonal interactions vary across multiple dimensions over time. Specifically, the taxonomy includes four dimensions: (1) scale (large v. small); (2) axis (vertical v. horizontal); (3) hierarchy (top-down v. bottom-up); and (4) cooperativeness (cooperation v. conflict). The Article then applies this taxonomy to the case example of the Obama Administration’s efforts at reducing motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions to demonstrate how it can be used as a tool in policymaking. The Article argues that existing diagonal efforts to regulate what cars we drive tend to be predominantly large-scale, vertical, and top-down, in line with their direct impact on automobile companies. In contrast, approaches targeting how we drive those cars, which affect those companies less directly and are grounded in land use planning, are more likely to be small-scale, horizontal, and bottom-up. This divergence creates an opportunity for normative reflection. The Article argues that the Obama Administration should consider whether these skews are appropriate by taking into account the benefits and limitations of such skews in particular contexts. It then proposes ways in which the Administration could create more balance in the dimensions and argues for the value of that balance. Specifically, the Obama Administration could explore additional opportunities for (1) greater smaller-scale governmental involvement in technology-oriented financial incentives programs; (2) federal-level, top-down, vertical initiatives connecting federal approaches to highways, railroads, and gas prices with smaller-scale efforts to have people drive less in their communities; and (3) litigation, which often has a rescaling effect, by interested individuals, nongovermental organizations, corporations, and government.

- Blake Hudson

March 28, 2011 in Climate Change, International, Land Use, North America, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Here's something to aspire to:

Green Buildings: Is Your City in the Top Ten?

The U.S. Green Building Council ranked cities across the country with the most LEED certified green buildings. A total of 88 green buildings makes Chicago number one. Portland and Seattle follow with 73 and 63 green buildings respectively.

This list, however, is not comprised of just major cities. Grand Rapids, MI made the top ten with 44 LEED certified buildngs, surpassing both Los Angeles and Boston.


Following are the top 10 U.S. cities, ranked by LEED certified buildings:

1. Chicago--88.

2. Portland, Or.--73. 

3. Seattle--63.

4. Washington, D.C.--57.

5. Atlanta--53.

6. San Francisco--50.

7. New York City--46.

8. Grand Rapids, Mich.--44.

9. Los Angeles--40.

10. Boston--38.

September 23, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Land Use, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

World Council of Churches Statement on Eco-Justice and Ecological Debt

Many of us attempt to bring ethical perspectives to bear on issues raised by our classes in addition to ecological and economic perspectives.  Although it may be a bit late for those of you who have already started class, here is the most recent statement by the World Council of Churches on eco-justice and ecological debt.  In a related, but fascinating, note, the WCC as part of its current  programme work on poverty, wealth and ecology is attempting to articulate a consumption and greed line -- in addition to the more typical poverty line.  This would provide practical spiritual guidance on when, in Christian terms, too much is too much.  Check it out!!!


WCC Statement on eco-justice and ecological debt

02.09.09

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee adopted a "Statement on eco-justice and ecological debt" on Wednesday, 2 Sept. The statement proposes that Christians have a deep moral obligation to promote ecological justice by addressing our debts to peoples most affected by ecological destruction and to the earth itself. The statement addresses ecological debt and includes hard economic calculations as well as biblical, spiritual, cultural and social dimensions of indebtedness.

 The statement identifies the current unprecedented ecological crises as being created by humans, caused especially by the agro-industrial-economic complex and the culture of the North, characterized by the consumerist lifestyle and the view of development as commensurate with exploitation of the earth's so-called "natural resources". Churches are being called upon to oppose with their prophetic voices such labeling of the holy creation as mere "natural resources".

 The statement points out that it is a debt owed primarily by industrialized countries in the North to countries of the South on account of historical and current resource-plundering, environmental degradation and the dumping of greenhouse gases and toxic wastes.

In its call for action the statement urges WCC member churches to intervene with their governments to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adopt a fair and binding deal at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, in order to bring the CO2 levels down to less than 350 parts per million (ppm).

 Additionally the statement calls upon the international community to ensure the transfer of financial resources to countries of the south to refrain from oil drilling in fragile environments. Further on, the statement demands the cancellation of the illegitimate financial debts of the southern countries, especially for the poorest nations as part of social and ecological compensation.

In a 31 August hearing on "ecological debt" during the WCC Central Committee meeting in Geneva, Dr Maria Sumire Conde from the Quechua community of Peru shared some ways that the global South has been victimized by greed und unfair use of its resources. In the case of Peru, Sumire said mining has had particularly devastating effects, such as relocation, illness, polluted water,and decreasing biodiversity.

 The concept of ecological debt has been shaped to measure the real cost that policies of expansion and globalization have had on developing nations, a debt that some say industrialized nations should repay. Dr Joan Martinez Alier, a professor at the Universidad Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain, said climate change, unequal trade, "bio-piracy", exports of toxic waste and other factors have added to the imbalance, which he called "a kind of war against people around the world, a kind of aggression."

 Martinez went on saying: "I know these are strong words, but this is true." He beseeched those present, at the very least not to increase the existing ecological debt any further.

 The WCC president from Latin America, Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega of Cuba, said ecological debt was a spiritual issue, not just a moral one. "The Bible is an ecological treatise" from beginning to end, Ortega said. She described care for creation as an "axis" that runs through the word of God. "Our pastoral work in our churches must be radically ecological," she said.

 Full text of the statement

 More on the 31 August hearing on ecological debt

 WCC countdown to climate justice

WCC programme work on poverty, wealth and ecology

More information on the 26 August - 2 September 2009 Central Committee meeting

 

September 3, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Religion, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Findlaw environmental case summaries March 2009

Table of Contents - March 16-29th

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CASES

• Trout Unlimited v. Lohn
• Natural Resources Def. Coun. v. EPA

FindLaw's case summaries are copyrighted material and are not intended for republication without prior approval. You may, however, freely redistribute this e-mail in its entirety.
To view the full-text of cases you must sign in to FindLaw.com. [Findlaw registration is free.]

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 16, 2009
Trout Unlimited v. Lohn, No. 07-35623
In a challenge to a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regulation distinguishing between natural and hatchery-spawned salmon and steelhead when determining the level of protection each species should receive under the Endangered Species Act, the majority of District Court's rulings are affirmed where NMFS decisions were not arbitrary, but reversed where summary judgment to Plaintiff was erroneous. Read more...

U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, March 20, 2009
Natural Resources Def. Coun. v. EPA, No. 07-1151
Petitioner's petition for review of EPA air quality regulations is denied, where: 1) Petitioner failed to object to the EPA's definition of "natural event" during the rulemaking process; and 2) the preamble to the regulations was not a final agency action, and thus was not reviewable under the Clean Air Act. Read more...

Table of Contents - March 9 - 15th

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CASES

• Am. Bird Conservancy v. Kempthorne
• Dallas v. Hall
• Hempstead County Hunting Club v. Southwestern Electric Power
• Washington v. Chu
• Delaware Dept. of Natural Res. & Envt'l. Ctrl. v. FERC
• Eastern Niagara Pub. Pwr. Alliance & Pub. Pwr. Coal. v. FERC
• State of California v. Allstate Ins. Co.
• People v. Tri-Union Seafoods, LLC

FindLaw's case summaries are copyrighted material and are not intended for republication without prior approval. You may, however, freely redistribute this e-mail in its entirety.
To view the full-text of cases you must sign in to FindLaw.com.[Findlaw registration is free}

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, March 11, 2009
Am. Bird Conservancy v. Kempthorne, No. 07-4609
In an action involving environmental rulemaking, dismissal of plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is affirmed where the challenge to the denial by the Fish and Wildlife Service to undertake an emergency rulemaking listing the red knot species of bird endangered, is rendered moot by the publication of the warranted but precluded by higher priority listing in the periodic Candidate Notice of Review. Read more...

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 12, 2009
Dallas v. Hall, No. 08-10890
In an action by a city against the Fish & Wildlife Service based on the agency's establishment of a conservation easement on the city's land, summary judgment for Defendant is affirmed, where the FWS considered a reasonable range of alternatives before creating the easement, and was not required to consider the impact on a potential water source. Read more...

U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 12, 2009
Hempstead County Hunting Club v. Southwestern Electric Power , No. 08-2613
In an environmental action, appeal of a denial of a preliminary injunction to halt preconstruction activities for defendant's failure to obtain the permit required by the Clean Air Act is dismissed as moot where defendant has since received the Clean Air Act permit and lawfully begun construction at the site. Read more...

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 10, 2009
Washington v. Chu, No. 06-35227
In an action by the state of Washington against the Department of Energy for violation of hazardous waste management regulations, summary judgment for Plaintiff is affirmed, where the Washington Hazardous Waste Management Act plainly exempts designated nuclear waste from the storage and land-disposal prohibitions "with respect to WIPP" only. Read more...

U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, March 13, 2009
Delaware Dept. of Natural Res. & Envt'l. Ctrl. v. FERC, No. 07-1007
Petitioner state agency's petition for review of FERC's approval of an application to operate a natural gas site is dismissed, where Petitioner lacked standing to challenge the order because it was expressly conditioned on Petitioner's approval. Read more...

U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, March 13, 2009
Eastern Niagara Pub. Pwr. Alliance & Pub. Pwr. Coal. v. FERC, No. 07-1472
Petitioner's petition for review of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) approval of a state agency's license to operate a power project is denied, where FERC's decision to issue the license was reasonable and reasonably explained. Read more...

Supreme Court of California, March 09, 2009
State of California v. Allstate Ins. Co. , No. S149988
In an action arising from efforts to obtain insurance coverage for property damage liability imposed in a federal lawsuit as a result of discharges from a hazardous waste disposal facility, grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment is reversed where: 1) triable issues of fact exist as to whether the 1969 overflow fell within the meaning of the absolute pollution exclusion for watercourses contained in the insurance policy; 2) evidence the State should have known flooding was likely is insufficient to prove as an undisputed fact that the waste discharge in 1978 due to flooding was expected and therefore nonaccidental; and 3) there is a triable issue as to whether the cost of repairing the property damage from the 1969 and 1978 discharges can be quantitatively divided among the various causes of contamination. Read more...

California Appellate Districts, March 11, 2009
People v. Tri-Union Seafoods, LLC, No. A116792
In an action involving food warnings, trial court's ruling for the defendant is affirmed where substantial evidence supports the trial courts finding that methylmercury is naturally occurring in canned tuna and thus defendants and other tuna companies are exempt from the warning requirements of Proposition 65. Read more...

Table of Contents - March 2 - 8th

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CASES

• Summers v. Earth Island Inst.
• Martex Farms, S.E. v. US EPA
• Izaak Walton League of Am., Inc. v. Kimball
• Latino Issues Forum v. EPA

FindLaw's case summaries are copyrighted material and are not intended for republication without prior approval. You may, however, freely redistribute this e-mail in its entirety.
To view the full-text of cases you must sign in to FindLaw.com.

U.S. Supreme Court, March 03, 2009

Summers v. Earth Island Inst., No. 07-463
In an action challenging Forest Service regulations exempting certain land management activities from the agency's review process, an injunction against the regulations is reversed where Plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the regulations absent a live dispute over a concrete application of those regulations. Read more...

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, March 05, 2009
Martex Farms, S.E. v. US EPA, No. 08-1311
Final decision and order of the Environmental Appeals Board holding plaintiff liable for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act is affirmed where: 1) there is no legal basis for plaintiff's argument that the EPA's enforcement action amounted to selective prosecution; 2) plaintiff's claim that it was deprived of a full and fair opportunity to present its case fails as the denial of its motion to depose four witnesses was justified; and 3) there is no evidence that there is any basis for reversal as to the substantive violations committed by plaintiff. Read more...

U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 06, 2009
Izaak Walton League of Am., Inc. v. Kimball , No. 07-3689
In an action involving the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act, district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment is affirmed where: 1) plaintiff's claims that the Forest Service violated the Act are time barred by the six year statute of limitations in the Act; and 2) there is no appellate jurisdiction over the appeal of the district court's order remanding the matter to the Forest Service to prepare an environmental impact statement assessing the sound impact of the proposed snowmobile trail. Read more...

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 05, 2009
Latino Issues Forum v. EPA, No. 06-71907
In a petition for review of the EPA's approval of a state air-pollutant reduction program, the petition is denied where the EPA acted lawfully under 42 U.S.C. section 7509(d)(2) by not requiring implementation of "all feasible measures" into the program. Read more...

Feedback
We value your comments! Please take a moment to tell us what you think by sending us an e-mail.
Subscription Information
Click here to subscribe to a FindLaw Newsletter. To unsubscribe, click here.
Advertising Information
For more information about advertising in FindLaw Newsletters, click here.

April 28, 2009 in Air Quality, Cases, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Call for Entries - 4th International Water Film Festival

If you're traveling this summer, you might want to film something about water and submit your masterpiece to the 4th International Water Film Festival.  Entries are due July 31st.  For more info, visit  Drink Water for Life blog - water film festival.


April 17, 2009 in Agriculture, Biodiversity, Current Affairs, Film, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)