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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

IMO Adopts Polar Code, Canada Pledges 30% GHG Cut, Hong Kong Air Pollution, China Trip & Graduation (by Bob Percival)

On May 15 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted new rules to protect the environment in polar waters in the Arctic and Antarctica (waters north of 60 degrees N latitude and waters south of 60 degrees S latitude).  Called the Polar Code, the regulations will strengthen restrictions on waste disposal by ships operating in these waters beginning in January 2017.  The new rules will ban all discharges of oil residues from ship engines and chemicals used to clean ships and their tanks.  They require food waste to be ground up and disposed at least 14 miles from land or the nearest ice formation.  The new rules complement rules on ship design and equipment for vessels operating in polar waters adopted by the IMO in November.  Environmental groups welcome the new rules, while arguing that a ban on ships using bunker fuel, which already applies in Antarctic waters, should be extended to Arctic waters.  Some countries, led by Russia, blocked this proposal when it was made several years ago. Costas Paris, United Nations Installs New Rules for Polar Ship Routes, Wall St. J., May 16, 2015, at B3.

On May 15 Canada pledged to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. While Canada’s submission provided few details concerning how it would achieve its pledge, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq stated that new regulations would be issued to encourage the use of natural gas to generate electricity and to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.  Canadian environmentalists greeted the pledge with great skepticism, noting that Canada has failed to meet previous promises to reduce GHG emissions.

I have been back for a week from my first trip of the year to China. I spent the first week of May at Shanghai Jiaotong University’s KoGuan School of Law where I am serving as a high-level visiting foreign expert.  On May 4 I gave a guest lecture on “The Evolution of Global Environmental Law” at the Shanghai University of Politics and Law.   I will be making return trips to China in June and August.  During the last two weeks of July I will be co-teaching a seminar on Comparative U.S./China Environmental Law at Vermont Law School.

China’s government is intensifying its efforts to combat its still-serious pollution problems.  The government has set a target of having 5 million electric, hybrid, or fuel cell vehicles on the roads by the year 2020.  In the first quarter of 2015, 27,271 such vehicles were produced in China, a nearly threefold increase over last year.  On May 5 the China’s State Council released a guideline on eco-civilization that seeks to hold officials responsible for failures to enforce environmental laws.  It provides for restrictions on promotion for such officials and promises to incorporate environmental performance metrics into the annual assessment of government officials.  In Hebei province, environmental performance now reportedly accounts for 20 percent of annual performance assessments for government officials.  Reporting on the new guidance, the People’s Daily on May 6 declared: “Gone are the days when economic development came at the price of the natural environment, as well as the idea that economy and ecology are against each other.”  If only that were true.

A study by the NGO Civic Exchange, working in collaboration with researchers from the Institute for the Environment at the University of Science and Technology, finds that levels of small particulates (PM2.5) in Hong Kong exceeded the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization (25 micrograms per cubic meter of air 24-hour mean) on 280 days last year.  The group measured the pollution levels by installing air quality monitors on a tram.  The Eastern District of Hong Kong Island, where there is substantially less vehicular traffic, exceeded safe levels of air quality on only 80 days last year. Emily Tsang, Pollution Exceeds WHO Safety Limit on 280 Days, South China Morning Post, May 1, 2015, at A1.

A team of American and Chinese scientists has just published a study in Environmental Health Perspectives finding that China’s extraordinary efforts to reduce air pollution during the 2008 Beijing Olympics resulted in the birth of babies with significantly higher birth rates.  David Q. Rich, et al., Differences in Birth Weight Health Associated with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Air Pollution Reduction: Results from a Natural Experiment, available online at: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1408795/.  The study, which included 83,672 pregnant women in Beijing, found that babies born immediately after the Olympics were on average 23 grams heavier than those born in 2007 and 2009.  The authors conclude that this suggests that air pollution, which was much higher before and after the Olympics, can impair the placenta’s functioning.

On May 6 China’s Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Environmental Protection issued a draft report encouraging public and private partnerships to improve water quality, particularly the quality of drinking water.  The report comes in the wake of China’s State Council announcing a crackdown on water pollution on April 16.  The city of Beijing levied a fine of 3.9 million RMB ($630,000) for water pollution against the Beijing Simplot Food Processing Company, which supplies McDonalds with french fries.  This reportedly was the largest fine for water pollution levied by the city.

Maryland Carey Law held its commencement ceremonies on Thursday May 14.  Prior to the honors recognition and hooding ceremonies the Environmental Law Program held its annual party for students graduating with the Certificate of Concentration in Environmental Law.  Because this year’s hooding ceremony was held in the evening, the environmental law program celebration was held at lunchtime.  There was a record turnout of more than 80 students and their families.  This year 26 students qualified for the Certificate of Concentration in Environmental Law.  Noting the photo slideshow of the students’ activities that was shown at the party, Dean Donald Tobin observed that it looked like the environmental students “had some fun” while accomplishing impressive things during their time in law school.  The dean then presented the certificates of concentration to the graduates, who also received the program’s signature wine glasses (“Wine - Nature’s Thanks for Preserving the Earth”).  Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was the commencement speaker at the Hooding Ceremony, which was held in the evening at the Joseph Myerhoff Symphony Hall.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pope to Issue Environmental Encyclical, China Trip, Final Student Blog Posts (by Bob Percival)

Today top Vatican officials are holding a summit to promote a new campaign by Pope Francis urging world leaders to reach a new agreement to control emissions of greenhouse gases when they meet in Paris in December.  The New York Times reports that Pope Francis is preparing to issue an encyclical on environmental degradation and the effect of climate change on the poor.  The substance of the encyclical, which is likely to be issued this summer, should not come as a surprise in light of the fact that the Pope frequently has spoken about the importance of protecting the environment ever since his first homily in 2013. In a Twitter post this month the Pope stated: “We need to care for the earth so that it may continue, as God willed, to be a source of life for the entire human family.”  The issuance of the encyclical will kick off a 12-week campaign by the Vatican to raise environmental awareness capped by the Pope’s address in September to a joint session of Congress.  Climate change deniers and their organizations have expressed outrage at the Vatican’s plans.  Coral Davenport & Laurie Goodstein, Pope Francis Steps up Campaign on Climate Change to Conservatives’ Alarm, N.Y. Times, April 27, 2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/world/europe/pope-francis-steps-up-campaign-on-climate-change-to-conservatives-alarm.html).

Yesterday the law school closed at 2pm due to the unrest in Baltimore following the burial of Freddie Gray who died of a severed spine suffered while in police custody.  Students who were taking 1:30pm exams were sent home, but our information technology office was able quickly to arrange for them to retake the exams online during the next 48 hours.

I am leaving for China on Thursday where I will be serving the first installment of my time in 2015 as a high level visiting foreign expert at Shanghai Jiaotong University KoGuan School of Law.  I will be returning to the U.S. from China on May 7, but making additional trips there in July and August.

Today the final four blog posts by students in my Global Environmental Law seminar appear in the “Students” section of my parallel website at: http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. Brieanah Schwartz, who was a member of our greywater recycling project for use in communities off the grid in the Middle East, reports on water recycling in Australia and the Middle East.  Jeff Wettengel addresses the question whether environmental regulation hinders economic growth.  Christine Kim examines the effects on environmental enforcement of recent amendments to China’s basic environmental law.  Robert Feehley discusses global efforts to protect peatlands.

Monday, April 27, 2015

TransCanada Applies for Another Pipeline, Republicans Warn Against Paris Climate Deal, Four More Student Blog Posts (by Bob Percival)

TransCanada Corporation, the Canadian company seeking approval to build the Keystone XL pipeline, has applied to the U.S. State Department for permission to build another pipeline, the Upland Pipeline Project.  This 200-mile pipeline woud transport up to 300,000 barrels a day of crude oil from North Dakota to Saskatchewan.  Some of this oil would travel through the company’s proposed Energy East pipeline to refineries on Canada’s east coast.  If the State Department grants its approval, the pipeline is expected to go into service in the year 2020. Amy Harder, TransCanada Seeks U.S. Approval of Another Pipeline, Wall St. J., April 27, 2015, at B7.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Republican leadership in Congress is considering sending a letter to other nations urging them not to join any global climate agreement negotiated by the Obama Administration.  The letter reportedly would be modeled on the letter by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas to Iranian leaders, signed by 47 Republican Senators, warning that Congress could override any nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran.  Colleen McCain Nelson, GOP Plots Resistance to Talks on Climate, Wall St. J., April 27, 2015, at A4.  Representatives of the world are expected to negotiate a new global climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol when they meet in Paris in December. President Obama maintains that the U.S. pledge to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by nearly 30% by 2025 can be accomplished under existing law without seeking any new legislation from Congress.

Today four new student blog posts appear in the “Students” section of my parallel website at http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com.  Dong Hee Hong compares policies to promote renewable energy in various countries.  Andrew Kiphart examines the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s regulations for hydraulic fracturing operations on federal land.  Lila Meadows focuses on the problem of climate refugees and Jon Saltzman discusses how electronic waste disposal is regulated in various countries.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Chevron/Ecuador Oral Argument in 2nd Circuit, Four More Student Blog Posts (by Bob Percival)

On April 20 a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard an appeal of a RICO judgment obtained by Chevron to prevent villagers in the Oriente region of Ecuador from enforcing a $9 billion judgment by an Ecuadoran court against Chevron.  The three judges hearing the case were Amalya L. Kearse, Barrington D. Parker, and Richard C. Wesley. Judge Richard Wesley stunned both sides by asking at oral argument whether the Second Circuit had the power to order the entire dispute retried from scratch in federal district court. Counsel for the plaintiffs in the Ecuadoran lawsuit responded that the court could make such an order, while Ted Olson, arguing for Chevron, stated that he “couldn’t agree” to such a proposal.  Judge Wesley also questioned why Chevron was simultaneously pursuing an arbitration action against the state of Ecuador and the RICO action and asked what would happen if they reached contradictory conclusions.  

Judge Parker noted that the Ecuadoran plaintiffs had failed to argue that the findings made by district judge Kaplan in support of his RICO judgment were “clearly erroneous,” the legal standard for overturning them on appeal.  Judge Kearse’s only question was what impact the RICO judgment would have on the villagers in Ecuador who were plaintiffs there and defendants in the New York RICO suit.  Judge Wesley responded with anger when Chevron’s counsel argued that the corporation should not be bound by a prior commitment to accept the judgment of the Ecuadoran courts in return for the case initially being dismissed from New York courts.  “I’m not terribly interested in legalistic arguments” about the terms of Chevron’s merger with Texaco, Judge Wesley exclaimed. Chevron made a commitment in federal court, he stated, and should be bound by it. Roger Parloff, Judge Asks Puzzling Questions at Chevron v. Donziger Appeal, Fortune, April 20, 2015 (http://fortune.com/2015/04/20/judge-asks-puzzling-questions-at-chevron-v-donziger-appeal/).

Today four additional blog posts from students in my Global Environmental Law seminar have been posted on my parallel blog at: http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. Just click on the "Students" tab on the top of the opening page.  Jonah Nelson writes about India’s new environmental tribunals.  Ashley Wetzel discusses how effective environmental courts have been and whether they would work in the U.S.  Pejmon Pashai reviews environmental law in Iran and Aminah Zaghab argues for recognizing environmental accountablity as a new human right.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


On April 24 representatives of countries who are members or observers of the Arctic Council gathered on Canada’s Baffin Island for the Council’s biennial meeting.  Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States are members of the Arctic Council.  Created in 1996, the Arctic Council is an international organization designed to foster cooperation among the countries with claims to the Arctic.  This year the U.S. assumed the Council’s chairmanship, which rotates among its members every two years.  Canada previously chaired the Council, whose decisions are made by consensus, and shepherded an agreement among Council members to cooperate in responding to oil spills in the Arctic.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. delegation, emphasized the threat of climate change to the Arctic and noted that the Council’s member states and observers account for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Today we have three new student blog posts on my parallel blog at: http:www.globalenvironmentallaw.com.  To view them click on the “Students” tab at the top of the opening webpage.  The theme of the student blog posts today is fossil fules. Tommy Bredar reviews the Obama Administration’s proposal to open up new portions of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil drilling and he compares it to offshore drilling in Norway. David Maher discusses New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s recent settlement with ExxonMobil for the cleanup of oil contamination from its refinery operations in Bayonne, New Jersey. Trey Hilberg discusses the problem of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in various countries.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Environmental Federalism Book Launch Conference, Student Blog Posts on an Environmental Amendment to the Maryland Constitution (by Bob Percival)

Today a book launch conference was held at George Washington University Law School for “The Law and Policy of Environmental Federalism,” which will be published this fall by Edward Elgar Publishing.  The book is edited by Professor Kalyani Robbins of Florida International University.  I moderated a panel on “Climate Change and Environmental Federalism” where Professors Bill Buzbee of Georgetown and Alice Kaswan of the University of San Francisco (who is currently visiting at UC-Berkeley) spoke.  Bill spoke about the importance of preserving state regulatory authority in any federal program to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases.  Alice examined how federal authorities can assist state and local governments in adapting to climate change.

Four new blog posts from students in my Global Environmental Law seminar have been posted on my parallel blog at: http://www,globalenvironmentallaw.com.  To access the posts go to the blog and click on "Students" at the top of the page.  The posts are from the four students who participated in a group project to consider whether the state of Maryland should add an environmental provision to its state constitution.  The project was inspired by rabbi Nina Beth Cardin who is part of a coalition of religious leaders on the Ecumenical Council of Maryland.  The Council has identified environmental protection as an important priority for them.  The students divided the research into four areas: (1) analysis of the environmental provisions that are in the constitutions of 22 other states (by Hannah Ernstberger), (2) analysis of the environmental provisions in the constitutions of other nations (by Robin Cleland), (3) a comparison of the different approaches to environmental provisions embodied in constitutional amendments and how courts have interpreted them (by Bryan Smith), and (4) analysis of the process for adopting a constitutional amendment in Maryland (by Mellissa Sager).  I am using the students’ research to prepare a report for the Ecumenical Council.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In Memoriam: Joel Fedder, Additional Student Blog Posts (by Bob Percival)

On Saturday April 18, Joel Fedder lost his long battle with pancreatic cancer.  Joel was an amazing man who spent his later years promoting global environmental protection efforts.  I met him several years ago after he had visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on a Sierra Club trip led by my then-neighbor Melinda Pierce.  Because I use ANWR as a case study in my Environmental Law class, I asked Joel to come to class to show the slides of his trip and to discuss his impressions of ANWR.  I soon discovered that Joel had immersed himself in climate science and had become a passionate advocate for measures to control greenhouse gas emissions.  Joel and his wife Ellen joined Maryland’s Environmental Law Program on our 2010 environmental field trip to China.  I have so many fond memories of him from that trip, including him scaling the Great Wall with us the day after a blizzard had covered it with ice.  

Joel became a significant benefactor for our Environmental Law Program.  He provided us with funding to host an annual environmental lecture as well as the 10th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in July 2012.  Following the tremendous success of that Colloquium, Joel created the Fedder Scholars Fund that creates an endowment to fund students to present papers each year at the Academy’s colloquia.  Just last week four new Fedder Scholars were selected to present their papers at the Academy’s colloquium in Jakarta, Indonesia next September.  

Dean Tobin, Heather Culp, Trishana Bowden and I attended Joel’s funeral yesterday.  It was a wonderful celebration of his life where his children, Amy and Michael, his sister Sue and one of his grandchildren gave moving recollections of Joel.  He will be greatly missed, but his passion for the environment will live on in the students who have been and will become Fedder Scholars.

Posted today on my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com we have student blog posts from Josh Dhyani and Emily Gallin.  Josh is a third year law student who will serve as a law clerk for Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Lynn Battaglia following his graduation next month.  Josh’s blog post explores the implications of climate change for the insurance industry.  Josh was selected to be a Fedder Scholar.  Due to his clerkship, he will not be able to present his paper in person at the 13th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in Jakarta, Indonesia, in September.  However, his paper will be submitted for consideration for inclusion in the conference proceedings volume.  Emily Gallin is a first year law student whose blog post discusses efforts to combat deforestation in Indonesia. Their blog posts can be accessed by going to my parallel blog at http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com and clicking on "Students" at the top of the blog page.