On February 24 President Obama fulfilled his promise to veto legislation that would have required approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the U.S. The veto was only the third President Obama has issued in the six years of his presidency. Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress, it is likely that Obama will be vetoing many more bills in the last two years of his presidency. Although nine Senate Democrats and 29 Democratic members of the House had voted in favor of the bill, this falls short of the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override the president’s veto. In a very brief veto message, Obama noted that the legislation “attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.”
The February issue of EcoAmericas is now available. It reports that Panama’s National Environmental Authority temporarily has halted the construction of the Barro Blanco Dam along the Tabasara River because of a series of environmental violations by Genisa, the Honduran company building the dam. The dam was a major priority of the Martinelli government that left office last year. The new administration of President Juan Carlos Varela has been much more sympathetic to environmental concerns. President Varela recently signed legislation protecting more than 200,000 acres of wetlands on the west coast of Panama extending from Panama City to the Darien. EcoAmericas also reports that commencement of hydraulic fracturing in Brazil has been delayed because of environmental injunctions and a dispute over whether fracking will be licensed by state or national environmental authorities.
On Monday and Tuesday I appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court to move the admission of seven of my former students to the Supreme Court Bar. The seven are Catherine Faint ’93, Jomar Maldonado ’03, Karyn Marsh ’03, Jaclyn Ford ’04, Amber Widmayer ’07, Jeremy Scholtes ’08, and Rachel Shapiro ’10. Lawyers may become members of the Supreme Court Bar after they have been admitted to practice before the highest court of a state for at least three years. Their admission must be moved by an existing member of the Supreme Court Bar.
No decisions were announced by the Court on Monday, but on Tuesday Justice Kagan announced the Court’s decision in Kansas v. Nebraska, a water dispute. The Court approved the special master’s findings that Nebraska had “knowingly failed” to comply with its obligations under the Republican River Compact by taking more water from the river than it was entitled to take. The Court also approved the master’s recommendation that Nebraska be forced to disgorge some of its gains from the violations even though they exceeded actual losses suffered by Kansas.
On Wednesday the Court announced its decision in Yates v. U.S., reversing the conviction of a fishing boat captain for destroying evidence that he had taken undersized fish in violation of federal fisheries regulations. By a 5-4 vote the Court held that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s provisions prohibiting destruction of a “tangible object” to obstruct an investigation did not cover the act of destroying undersized fish after they had been viewed by an enforcement official. The decision featured an unusual lineup of the Justices with Justice Ginsburg writing the plurality opinion joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Breyer and Sotomayor with Justice Alito concurring in the judgment. Justice Kagan wrote an excellent dissent joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas.
On Wednesday February 25 I gave another lecture on “Environmental Law in the ‘Last Place on Earth’” to the Maryland Environmental Law Society. I was really pleased by the large turnout of for a lecture inspired by my trip to Antarctica in January.
Today Julie Weisman and I and the eight-student multidisciplinary team that we will be taking to the Middle East in two weeks met with Dr. Clive Lipchin, Director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute in Israel. Clive is in town for the annual AIPAC meeting where Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu will speak tomorrow. The students from the law, business, nursing, and dental schools will be researching greywater recycling projects in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories.
On Tuesday I will fly to Salt Lake City where I will be delivering the annual Wallace Stegner Lecture at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney School of Law. My lecture is entitled “Against All Odds: Why America’s Century-Old Quest for Clean Air May Usher in a New Era of Global Environmental Coopertion.” It will review the amazing history of U.S. efforts to control air pollution and their influence on global environmental law. See http://www.law.utah.edu/event/wallace-stegner-lecture-4/