On Wednesday May 15 the eight nations that are members of the Arctic Council (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) agreed to grant observer status to six other nations -- China, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. The strong interest in the Arctic Council is a reflection of the growing interest in exploiting resources there as climate change renders the polar ice cap less of an obstacle to development. The Council, which had been largely a symbolic organization when created in 1996, has now begun to play an important role in coordinating regulation of resource extraction in the Arctic. Meeting in Sweden’s northernmost city of Kiruna, the Council reached a legally-binding agreement on preventing and responding to spills of oil and gas in Arctic regions. Steven Lee Myers, Arctic Council Adds 6 Nations as Observer States, Including China, N.Y. Times, May 15, 2013.
On Friday May 17 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management proposed regulations to control the use of hydraulic fracturing on 700 million acres of federal land and 56 million acres of tribal land. Most of the estimated 13,000 wells on which fracking occurs are on private land, where regulation is left to the states, but the proposed federal rules will apply to the approximately 3,000 fracking wells that are located on federal land. The proposed rules are somewhat weaker than environmentalists had hoped. They require disclosure of the contents of fracking fluids only after drilling has been completed. Industry groups criticized the rules by arguing that the federal government should not regulate fracking.
On May 16 hundred of residents of Kunming, China took to the streets to protest plans by China National Petroleum Co. to build a chemical plant to produce the chemical paraxylene (PX) from crude oil piped in from Myanmar. Kiming’s mayor Li Wenrong met with the protesters and opened an online account on Sina Weibo to hear public opinion. Approximately 4,000 comments from the public were posted online. Li Chengpeng, a prominent Chinese social critic, has helped encourage the demonstrations, which are part of a growing trend by China’s middle class to oppose projects that may increase pollution in their neighborhoods. Brian Spegele, Behind Chinese Protests, Growing Dismay at Pollution, Wall St. J., May 18-19. The protesters are not opposed to building the plant per se. They simply argue that it should be relocated to a less populated area and be subjected to advance environmental review.
On May 15 the government of Indonesia announced that it was extending for two years its moratorium on logging virgin forests. The moratorium initially was imposed two years ago as part of a $1 billion conservation plan arranged with the government of Norway. Some industry groups criticized the extension as prolonging a measure that hurt the Indonesian economy. Greenpeace argued that the Indonesian government should have gone further and strengthened the existing moratorium.
On May 17 the University of Maryland Carey School of Law graduation ceremonies were held for 300 students in the Class of 2013. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin was the commencement speaker. On May 16 the University of Maryland Environmental Law Program hosted a party in honor of the 24 students in the graduating class who qualified for the certificate of concentration in Environmental Law.
On Saturday my son and I made our first road trip in my new all-electric Tesla S. We traveled to Atlantic City where we attended the Lamont Peterson/Lucas Mathysse boxing match at Boardwalk Hall. We had no problem recharging the car during the 400-mile roundtrip, stopping at Tesla’s supercharger at the Delaware Welcome Center in Newark, Delaware. In 45 minutes the car was fully charged. While attending the fight, which was won by Argentinian Matthysse on a third-round knockout, we charged the car at a nearby municipal parking lot. On the return trip today it took only 25 minutes to recharge at the Delaware supercharger. I’ve now driven 900 miles in the ten days that I’ve had the car with absolutely no problems.