10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium

10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium
More than 250 environmental experts from 35 countries gather at the University of Maryland for the 10th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in July 2012

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel
Maryland students vist Israel's first solar power plant in the Negev desert as part of a spring break field trip to study environmental issues in the Middle East

Workshop with All China Environment Federation

Workshop with All China Environment Federation
Participants in March 12 Workshop with All China Environment Federation in Beijing

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition
Jordanian Justice Minister Aymen Odah presents trophy to Noura Saleh & Niveen Abdel Rahman from Al Al Bait University along with US AID Mission Director Jay Knott & ABA's Maha Shomali

Monday, October 20, 2014

ACOEL Annual Meeting, Islanders Protest Australian Coal, India Ends Diesel Subsidy as Global Oil Prices Plummet, Exxon & Shell Increase Carbon Footprint Despite Production Drop, Beijing Marathon (by Bob Percival)

On Thursday October 16 I flew to Austin, Texas to participate in the annual meeting of the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL).  The group is an organization of environmental lawyers whose membership is elected and capped at 250.  The vast majority of the members work for law firms, but there are some academics and lawyers for government agencies or NGOs as well.  On Friday October 17 EPA General Counsel Avi Garbow gave the keynote address to the group.  He noted that he had recently visited China where he had the honor of presenting a medal to the U.S. Foreign Service officer in the Beijing Embassy who had been responsible for creating a Twitter feed providing real time data on levels of particulate matter (PM).  The public interest generated by this development helped spur the Chinese government to establish an air quality standard for PM 2.5. Garbow also stated that he had visited Ma Jun whose Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs has launched an app that allows the Chinese public to obtain pollution data on their smart phones.  Garbow noted that EPA’s has a “My Green Apps” webpage (http://www.epa.gov/mygreenapps/), though a quick visit to it indicates that EPA is no longer updating the page to list new environmental information apps.

On Saturday October 18 John Cruden, the president of ELI, and I gave a presentation to ACOEL on “Cases of the Year: Environmental Law in the Supreme Court.”  We reviewed the Court’s three major environmental decisions last year: EME Homer City, which upheld EPA’s air transport rule to control interstate air pollution, Utility Air Regulatory Group, which largely upheld EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases for sources that require PSD permits, and CTS v. Waldburger, which held that CERCLA § 309 imposes a federal discovery rule that tolls only state statutes of limitations and not statutes of repose.  The Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear any significant environmental cases this Term, but we discussed four cases the Court will hear that may have some implications for environmental law.  We also reviewed some cert petitions that are before the Court and agreed that EPA’s mercury and air toxics (MATS) rule is the most likely candidate for Supreme Court review this Term.

On October 17 a group of protesters from South Pacific islands blocked the port of Newcastle, Australia to protest coal exports that contribute to climate change.  The protest, organized by the group 350.org, targeted Austrlian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s efforts to expand Australian coal exports. The Australian government has repealed coal and carbon taxes while approving new ports for coal exports.  Last week the Australian government criticized a decision by Australian National University to divest assets held in fossil fuel companies.  The Australian think tank Australian Institute responded with an open letter signed by prominent Australians, including former conservative prime minister Malcolm Fraser defending the university.   Jamie Smyth, Green Groups Take Aim at Champions of Australia’s Burgeoning Coal Industry, Financial Times, Oct. 18-19, 2014, at 4.

During the past month there has been a sharp decline in oil prices from over $100 per barrel to nearly $80.  Taking advantage of this surprising drop, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just ordered an end to government subsidies on the price of diesel fuel, while raising the regulated price of natural gas by one-third. The diesel oil subsidies cost the Indian government $23 billion last year. James Crabtree, Modi Ends Diesel Subsidy and Continues Reform Drive, Financial Times, Oct. 20, 2014, at 4. Another benefit from the plunge in global oil prices is that it has intensified the economic pain of sanctions on the Russian government.  Thomas Friedman, A Pump War, New York Times, Oct. 15, 2014. A critic of green energy who has a regular column on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal expressed glee that lower oil prices would reduce investments in renewable energy. Holman Jenkins, Cheap Oil Pops the Green Policy Bubble, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2014.  

The Carbon Disclosure Project reported last week that both Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell increased their greenhouse gas emissions last year despite producing less oil. Daniel Gilbert, Wall Street Journal.  The carbon intensity of their oil production (GHG emissions per barrel of oil produced) has increased ten percent since 2011. The increased carbon intensity of their production is attributed to the increasing difficulty of extracting oil from more remote sources. By contrast, Chevron and BP have slightly reduced the carbon intensity of their production since 2011.

On Sunday October 19 the 34th Beijing International Marathon was run despite severe air pollution in China’s capital.  Chinese authorities rated Beijing’s air as “heavily polluted,” a level that comes with a warning to avoid outdoor activity.  Many runners wore masks or used wet sponges in the race.  Girmay Birhanu Gebru of Ethiopia won the men’s race, while his fellow countryman Fatuma Sado won the women’s.

The midterm elections are rapidly approaching in the U.S. with control of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance.  One candidate who currently is leading in the polls in my home state of Iowa wants to abolish the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an issue that was front and center during a candidates’ debate on Oct. 11.  Republican candidate Joni Ernst argued that the state of Iowa could do a better job of protecting the environment if EPA were abolished.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Modi and Obama Agree on Climate Initiatives, Half of Planet's Wildlife Lost in 40 Years, ELI Program on Supreme Court and the Environment, China Presentation (by Bob Percival)

Among the many issues discussed last week at the first meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the importance of working together to combat global warming and climate change.  Following their meeting at the White House on September 30, Premier Modi stated that climate change was a priority for both the U.S. and Indian governments. In a joint statement released by the leaders after their meetings,they announced agreement “a new and enhanced strategic partnership on energy security, clean energy, and climate change.”  This agreement includes expanding the U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE) through “a new Energy Smart Cities Partnership to promote efficient urban energy infrastructure, a new program to scale-up renewable energy integration into India’s power grid, cooperation to support India’s efforts to upgrade its alternative energy institutes and to develop new innovation centers, an expansion of the Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy (PEACE) program to unlock additional private sector investment and accelerate the deployment of cost-effective, super-efficient appliances, and the formation of a new Clean Energy Finance Forum to promote investment and trade in clean energy projects.“ They agreed to work together toward reducing production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gases, under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The leaders also expressed their commitment to concluding a successful new global agreement on climate change at the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention in Paris in December 2015.

In its 2014 Living Planet Report released on September 30, the World Wildlife Fund estimated that the total population of vertebrates on the planet has declined by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010.  Two years ago WWF reported a 28 percent decline in the numbers of these animals had occurred between 1970 and 2008.  The new numbers in the report, which is available online at http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/, are based in part on a recalculation of the previous data.  The WWF report also estimates that current resource consumption by humans exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet by approximately 50 percent so that it would take one and one-half earth’s to make current human consumption patterns sustainable.

On October 1 I was a panelist on a “Supreme Court Review and Preview” program at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington.  The other panelist was former EPA general counsel E. Donald Elliott, a private practitioner who teaches environmental law at Yale Law School.  We reviewed the three major environmental decisions by the Supreme Court last term - EME Homer City (upholding EPA’s transport rule for controlling interstate air pollution), Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (upholding a major part of EPA’s program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions), and CTS v. Waldburger (holding that §309 of CERCLA’s preemption of state statutes of limitations does not preempt state statutes of repose).  We then discussed the upcoming Supreme Court Term, which officially opened today.  As I predicted during the program, the Court announced today that it will not hear a challenge to EPA’s national ambient air quality standard for ozone.  The Court has not yet agreed to hear any major environmental cases during its OT 2014 Term.  Don and I agreed that the most likely candidate for such a case is a challenge to EPA’s mercury and air toxics (MATS) regulation.

A tape of the program can be downloaded by ELI Associates at: http://www.eli.org/events/supreme-court-review-preview

On October 2 I gave a presentation on “China and Climate Change” as part of a new campus-wide "Be Informed" series on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus where our law school is located.  I discussed China’s statement at the recent UN Climate Summit that it would agree to an eventual cap on its greenhouse gas emissions and the country’s efforts to expand its pilot cap-and-trade programs for carbon to a national scale.

Monday, September 29, 2014

China Tells U.N. Climate Summit it Will Cap GHG Emissions ASAP, U.S. GHG Emissions Rise, Rockefeller Family to Divest Fossil Fuel Investments, India Supreme Court Revokes Coal Leases (by Bob Percival)

At the UN Climate Summit on September 23, Chinese Vice Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli announced that China would try to stop the rise of its carbon emissions “as early as possible.” Minister Zhang stated that “as a responsible major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our national conditions.” Zhang spoke after President Obama, who had declared that the U.S. and China bear a “special responsibility to lead,” Mr. Obama said, “That’s what big nations have to do.”  According to the Global Carbon Atlas, China is now the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) accounting for 27.6% of global emissions.  The U.S. is the second largest emitter.  However, the U.S.still  emits considerably more GHGs per person, 16 tons per persons compared to China’s 7.2.

President Obama declared that “the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on earth, but we have more to do.”  The latter portion of his statement was emphasized on September 26 when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that U.S. carbon emissions from energy use rose in each of the last two years, largely due to the rebounding economy. The EIA report did note that emissions from the transportation sector were flat because Americans were buying more fuel efficient vehicles, that wind and solar energy sources increased seven percent last year, now accounting for 12 percent of U.S. energy generation.

Last week the heirs of oil baron John D. Rockefeller announced that they would divest their $860 million Rockefeller Brother Fund (RBF) of investments in fossil fuels in light of their contribution to global warming and climate change.  The RBF has long been a major supporter of environmental causes, contributing to many of the projects I worked on at the Environmental Defense Fund during the early 1980s.  But last week’s announcement drew great attention because the fund is the product of a fortune initially made in the oil industry.  The RBF indicated that it would take some time to sell its investments in companies in the fossil fuel industry and subsequent reports suggested that the fund may keep its natural gas investments for a longer period of time.  

Last May Stanford University, where I went to law school, announced that it will no longer include companies who mine coal for electricity generation in the investment portfolio of its endowment.  The university Board of Trustees acted on the recommendation of its Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing.  Harvard University has expressly refused requests that it divest its endowment of companies in the fossil fuel industry, citing concerns that such a move might hurt the fund’s returns and the fact that the university uses fossil fuels to heat and light its buildings.

On September 24 the Supreme Court of India upheld a previous decision to revoke 214 coal leases that the Indian government had awarded between 1993 and 2009.  The Court found that the leases had been granted to steel, cement and power companies at prices billions of dollars below market rates.  The Court not only fined the companies $4.85 per metric ton of coal they had mined under the leases, but it also barred them from receiving future leases. The companies were given six months to wind down their coal operations before turning them back over to a government entity.  While some observers expressed fear that the decision could exacerbate energy shortages in India, the Court noted that the leases account for only 7 percent of the country’s coal production and that they may be reallocated in the future.  Neha Thirani Bagri, India’s Top Court Revokes Coal Leases, N.Y. Times, Sept. 25, 2014.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Demonstrations Precede UN Climate Summit, Great Barrier Reef Plan, China Bans Dirty Coal, Wind and Solar Now Compete with Gas, Exxon Gets More Time to Stop Russian Arctic Drilling (by Bob Percival)

People around the world today staged massive demonstrations to demand action from world leaders who will gather at the United Nations on Tuesday September 23 to discuss climate change. The largest demonstration occurred in New York City where it covered a two-mile route south from Columbus Circle.  The New York Times reported that so many demonstrators turned out that protesters still were waiting to be able to move two hours after the front of the group commenced the march. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced “a sweeping plan to overhaul energy efficiency standards in all state-owned buildings.” Lisa W. Foderaro, At Climate March in New York, A Clarion Call to Action, N.Y. Times, Sept. 21, 2014.

Last week the Australian and Queensland governments announced a 35-year plan for management of the Great Barrier Reef.  The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan was widely reported to be an effort to forestall the UNESCO from classifying this World Heritage site as “in danger” due to climate change and coastal development.  The reef has lost approximately half of its coral. The plan, which is open to public comment until October 27, 2014, is available online at: http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/great-barrier-reef/long-term-sustainability-plan.  Environmentalists had hoped that it would ban the disposal of dredge spoil on the reef, but it does not.  However, the Queensland government has announced a new plan to dispose of 3 million cubic feet of dredged spoil from the Abbot Point port expansion on land, instead of in reef waters, as previously had been planned.

Last week China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) banned the burning of low quality coal near populated areas that are fighting severe air pollution.  The NDRC prohibited the use of coal with an ash content greater than 16 percent or a sulphur content of greater than one percent.  The ban will take effect in 2015.  The NDRC also has banned all mining or importation of particularly dirty coal with an ash content greater than 40 percent or a sulphur content greater than 3 percent.  Lucy Hornby & Jamie Smyth, China Ban on Low-Grade Coal Set to Hit Global Miners, Financial Times, Sept. 15, 2014.

Last week Lazard Ltd. relesed its annual comparative analysis of the cost of various fuel sources. The report “Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis - Version 8.0,” which is available online at: http://www.lazard.com/PDF/Levelized%20Cost%20of%20Energy%20-%20Version%208.0.pdf, found that the cost of solar and wind energy projects has continued to decline rapidly. In the last five years the cost of wind energy has declined 58 percent while solar photovoltaics have declined 78 percent in cost.  This has occurred because of significant declines in the prices of materials used in these projects along with dramatic improvements in the efficiency with which these projects generate energy. In many parts of the U.S. large wind farms and solar projects now may be cheaper than gas-fired power even without subsidies.

The U.S. Treasury granted ExxonMobil a short-term extension of its previous September 26 deadline to halt its drilling operations in the Kara Sea in the Russian Arctic.  The extension was granted to enable Exxon to safely wind down its drilling operations.  Exxon’s joint venture with Russia’s Rosnoft must be halted because of U.S. sanctions that were tightened due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Previous sanctions imposed in July only prohibited the export of U.S. of U.S. technology.  These sanctions were broadened earlier this month to prohibit U.S. companies from providing services or technology. Ed Crooks, Russia Arctic Drilling on Hold at Exxon, Financial Times, Sept. 20, 2014, at 12.

September 17 was the 227th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.  The University of Maryland Carey School of Law celebrated Constitution Day with a wonderful program on “The Supreme Court Justice as Constitutional Scholar.”  Three former Supreme Court law clerks whose Justices have written books about theories of constitutional interpretation spoke at the law school event. Decades before they clerked, I clerked for Justice Byron White who eschewed such theories and declared that the job of the Supreme Court Justice is “to decide cases”.  I took the clerks to lunch and enjoyed exchanging stories about the life of a law clerk.  

Yesterday I spoke about the Environmental Law Program’s activities and future plans at a meeting of the Maryland Carey Law Board of Visitors who celebrated my Senior Education Award from the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Chile Carbon Tax Enacted (Updated), Peruvian Environmentalist Murdered, U.S. Sanctions Target Exxon Drilling in Russian Arctic, Chinese Incinerator Protests (by Bob Percival)

Last week Chile apparently became the first country in South America to adopt a carbon tax when the Chilean Congress gave final approval to President Michelle Bachelet’s comprehensive tax reform program.  The tax, which is to take effect in 2017, will apply to thermal power generation stations that generate more than 50MW of electricity.  The tax package also applies hefty fees to imports of polluting diesel vehicles.  Some media reported that last May, Michael A. Hammer, the U.S. Ambassador to Chile, had criticized the proposed carbon tax as a measure that would discourage foreign investment in Chile.  See http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/chile/140513/chile-carbon-tax. and “Carbon Tax Bill Gains in Chile to Business’s Dismay,” EcoAmerica, August 2014, at 9.   His remarks came only two months after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry personally had directed all U.S. heads of mission to elevate climate change issues to a major priority.  See http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/03/07/we-need-elevate-environment-everything-we-do

While it would be difficult to understand why the chief representative of the U.S. in Chile would try to undermine the adoption of one of the most progressive environmental measures in the world, the embassy maintains that the ambassador did not in fact criticize the carbon tax.  Gabrielle Guimond, press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago sent me the following email on September 16: “Ambassador Hammer has not made any public comments on the carbon tax, nor has he criticized the Chilean government on the carbon tax. The carbon tax question, as well as the larger tax reform is an internal issue for the Government of Chile and the Chilean people to decide.”  

It is most gratifying to see the U.S. take this position. In a followup email on September 17, the press attache states: It seems the authors of the globalpost.com article are referring to a speech the Ambassador gave to the U.S.-Chilean Chamber of Commerce in Santiago on May 6, 2014. To add clarity, the full quote from the Ambassador’s speech is as follows, ‘As you know well, the new Administration is considering several changes. In order to continue contributing to the economy and providing value to society, U.S. businesses have the same requirements as any other business – political and economic stability, and clear rules.  When there are changes it is important to inquire with all stakeholders and, at the same time, make timely decisions in order for businesses to plan and adapt properly. At the Embassy we seek to promote the development of U.S. businesses in Chile, ensuring equal treatment as all other businesses, foreign and Chilean.’ The Ambassador did not, as has been incorrectly asserted, make any comments relating to the carbon tax."

Last week it was revealed that Peruvian environmental activist Edwin Chota, who had campaigned against illegal logging, has been murdered, along with three other men, including Chota’s deputy Jorge Rios.  Illegal loggers are suspected of the murders, which occurred in a remote region of Peru near the Brazilian border.  For years Chota had campaigned for members of indigenous communities to receive title to the lands where they lived and worked.  Chota long had received death threats from illegal loggers who he regularly confronted with nothing more than a machete even though they had firearms.  Some environmentalists are arguing that this horrendous tragedy could have been prevented if the Peruvian government had responded to Chota’s pleas to crack down on the nefarious activities of the loggers.

On September 12 the United States and the European Union significantly strengthened sanctions against Russia in response to Russia’s continuing incursion into Ukraine.  Peter Baker & Andrew Higgins, New Round of Sanctions Targets Energy in Russia, New York Times, Sept. 13, 2014, at A4. The new sanctions are expected to put the brakes on ExxonMobil’s joint venture with Russian oil company Rossneft to develop offshore oil resources in the Kara Sea.  American officials anticipate that the American oil company’s lawyers may try to find creative ways to evade the sanctions, but they confirmed that the U.S. “government’s intention was to shut down the company’s operations in the Kara Sea.” Stanley Reed & Clifford Krauss, New Sanctions to Stall Exxon’s Arctic Oil Plans, New York Times, Sept. 13, 2014, at B1.  The Russian government has been seeking foreign help to develop to tap offshore oil resources in the Arctic as its onshore production declines.

Residents in Boluo County in China’s southern Guangdong Province took to the streets to protest government plans to build a garbage incinerator.  Dozens of demonstrators were arrested after they defied government efforts to dissuade them from protesting.  The government estimated that a thousand residents had joined the protests, while the protesters asserted that the number was an order of magnitude greater.  Chris Buckley, In Southern China, Residents Wary of the Government Protest a Plan to Burn Waste, N.Y. Times, Sept. 15, 2014, at A9. This is the latest in a series of incidents where the Chinese public has distrusted government assurances that locally undesirable land uses would not expose them to greater environmental risks.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

BP Held "Grossly Negligent" for Deepwater Horizon Spill, Great Barrier Reef Dumping Plan Dropped, India "Coal Scam," 50th Anniversary of Wilderness Act (by Bob Percival)

In a 153-page ruling issued last week, federal district judge Carl Barbier ruled that “gross negligence” by BP PLC was a major contributing factor to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP repeatedly cut corners to reduce costs, evincing “an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks.” The judge placed particular emphasis on BP’s decision to leave debris in the bottom of the well that clogged a critical valve and the failure of BP workers to believe that a negative pressure test showed gas seeping into the well. BP argues that the evidence does not support the judge's ruling, which it will appeal.

The decision was the product of the first part of a three-part civil trial that is being held in federal district court in New Orleans. Lawsuits brought by the U.S. government, five Gulf coast states, and private parties have been consolidated and are being tried together.  The finding of gross negligence means that civil penalties of $4,300/barrel of oil spilled, or up to approximately $18 billion, could be imposed on BP. Judge Barbier found that BP was responsible for 67% of the liability, Transocean Ltd (the owner of the oil rig) for 30% and Halliburton (which performed the cement work on the well) for 3%.  

Although the finding of gross negligence should not surprise anyone who has followed the case closely, BP’s stock price plunged nearly 6%, apparently because the company has set aside only $3.51 billion for Clean Water Act penalties, an amount that will have to be increased dramatically. Judge Barbier is expected to rule next on the amount of oil that was spilled.  BP claims that it is responsible for only 2.45 million barrels of oil spilled, while the government maintains that it is liable for 4.2 million barrels.  This was the focus of the second phase of the trial, which was concluded last fall.  The third phase of the trial, to set the actual penalty, will commence in January. Just days before Judge Barbier’s ruling, Halliburton agreed to pay the plaintiffs $1.1 billion to settle claims against it.

Last week a plan to dispose of 3 million cubic meters of dredged soil near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was dropped in the face of intense public opposition.  Australian environment minister Greg Hunt instead invited the consortium planning to expand the Abbott Point port to increase coal exports to revise their plan to provide for onshore disposal of the dredged spoil.  Jamie Smyth, Dumping Plan for Barrier Reef Halter, Financial Times, Sept. 3, 2014, at 6.

The government of India has asked the country’s Supreme Court to modify its ruling declaring more than 200 coal mining licenses to be illegal.  The government argued that 40 license holders already producing coal and six that are close to beginning production should not have their licenses cancelled.  This is the latest in a long-running “coal scam” scandal involving coal rights dating back to 1993.

September 3rd marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing into law the Wilderness Act and the legislation creating the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In an editorial the New York Times criticized Congress for enacting only two pieces of wilderness legislation during President Obama’s terms (compared to 43 during President Reagan’s).  The editorial noted that only a third of the $900 million authorized annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is likely to appropriated, even though the fund is supposed to received dedicated royalties from offshore oil leasing.  “Still Time for a Conservation Legacy,” N.Y. TImes, Sept. 2, 2014.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Singapore Transboundary Pollution Law, A Green Brazilian President? Shell Seeks Arctic Return, Australian Renewables Target, China Article (by Bob Percival)

For decades Southeast Asian nations have been plagued, particularly in summer months, by transboundary haze from slash-and-burn fires in Indonesia.  In June 1990 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pledged in the Kuala Lumpur Accord on Environment and Development to coordinate their efforts to prevent and abate transboundary pollution.  This led to adoption of the 1995 ASEAN Co-operation Plan on Transboundary Pollution, the 1997 Regional Haze Action Plan, and the 2002 ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Pollution.  Despite increased regional cooperation, haze pollution in Singapore reached record levels in June 2013, spurring the Singapore government to further action.  In March of this year the government appointed an International Advisory Panel on Transboundary Pollution, including several prominent experts on international environmental law. Earlier this month the Singapore Parliament passed the 2014 Trans-boundary Haze Pollution Act. The Act subjects sources of transboundary pollution to civil and criminal penalties in Singapore courts. Last week the International Advisory Committee submitted its report and recommended options to the Singapore government, which reportedly does not plan to make the report public. Singapore’s National Environmental Agency maintains a website with daily monitoring data on haze and air quality conditions at http://www.haze.gov.sg.

Brazilian environmentalist Marina Silva, who just became a presidential candidate following the death of her running mate, is surging in the polls after a strong performance in the first candidates’ debate last week.  Joe Leahy & Samantha Pearson, Silva Shakes Up Barzilian Election with Strong Showing in Televised Debate, Financial Times, Aug. 28, 2014, at 3. Silva grew up in a remote indigenous community of rubber tappers and was a friend of Chico Mendes, the Brazilian environmentalist who was murdered by ranchers.  In 1996 Silva won the Goldman Environmental Prize for Central and South America.  She served as Brazilian Environment Minister from 2003-2008.  Running as a Green Party candidate for president in 2010, Silva won more than 19% of the vote.  Silva had been the vice presidential candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party until the death of the party’s presidential candidate Eduardo Campos in a plane crash on August 13.

Royal Dutch Shell reapplied last week for permits to drill off the north shore of Alaska while also negotiating a sale of some of its assets in Nigeria.  Shell said that it had not made a decision to drill in the Arctic next year, but tht it was filing an exploration plan with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in order to keep its options open. Mishaps cut short Shell’s last effort to drill off Alaska in 2012 and a court ordered new environmental studies before Shell could return there. Shell reportedly will sell four oil fields and a pipeline in Nigeria to Nigerian firms as it seeks to reduce its exposure in a country that is moving to impose more stringent terms on foreign oil producers. Anji Raval and Javier Blas, Shell-led Consortium Close to Sale of Nigeria Oilfields to Local Buyers, Financial Times, Aug. 28, 2014, at 11.

Investors in wind and solar energy projects in Australia are concerned that the Abbott government may slash incentives for renewable energy.  Of particular concern is Australia’s renewable energy target (RET), which mandates that 20 percent of electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2020.  The RET previously has received bipartisan support and green energy now accounts for 15 percent of all electricity generated in Australia.  But Abbott has initiated a review of green energy subsidies and his industry supporters have sought to blame them for increases in electricity prices.

I have amended my August 18th blog post to flesh out details of my environmental field trip to China from August 3-15 (photos of the trip are on this website - click on “Photo Albums” above).  I continue to be absolutely fascinated by developments in environmental law there.  An article on “The Role of Civil Society in Environmental Government in the U.S. and China” that I co-authored with Professor Zhao Huiyu has now been published in a symposium issue of the Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum.  It is available online at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/delpf/vol24/iss1/3/  On August 19 I participated in a meeting on the development of administrative law in China at the Administrative Conference of the U.S.  China is in the process of amending its Administrative Litigation Law.  This week the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress posted the text of the second draft of the law online with a request for comments by September 20.

Maryland’s fall semester started last Monday.  On Tuesday we honored Environmental Law Clinic Attorney Andrew Keir, who is about to depart for his new job at the U.S. Department of Justice, by taking him to Camden Yards to see the Orioles beat Tampa Bay.  I am teaching Environmental Law and Administrative Law this semester, which makes for four days of classes per week, but I really love teaching both courses.  Now that my summer travels are over, this blog will return to its regular weekly schedule.