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

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.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Student Blog Posts, Golden Tree Awards, Japan Reactor Restart Blocked, Clean Power Argument, UMD Summit (by Bob Percival)

On Wednesday April 15 my Global Environmental Law seminar had its final class of the year.  Students in the seminar have prepared blog posts summarizing the results of their research.  For the next nine days I will be posting three of their blog posts every day in the “Students” section of my parallel website.  To access the student blog posts, go to my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com and simply click on “Students” at the top of the page. The first three posts are by Maryann Hong, Renee Lani, and Taylor Kasky, who have been selected to received Fedder Scholar travel grants to present their papers at the 13th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in September in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Their blog posts focus on global tobacco control, the Lacey Act, and global food security.

On April 1 the University of Maryland hosted its annual award ceremony for students in my fall semester Environmental Law class who made short documentary films.  The film “The Gas and the Furious: FERC Approves Natural Gas Line Extension Through Baltimore County” by Bethany Henneman, Chelsea Kadish, Taylor Kasky, Laura Lutkefedder, Kat O’Konski and Andrea Olson won the Golden Tree for Best Picture.  The film also won awards for Most Educational, Best Interviews, Best Use of Humor, and Best Sound.  The film “Maryland Solar Energy” by Julia Carbonetti, Erik Pramschuffer, and Richard Starr won the Golden Tree awards for Best Acting, Best Animation/Special Effects, and the Special Judge’s Award for Cutest Child Actor.  The film “Cove Point LNG” by Salomee Briggs, Sean Dobbs, Marina Ivanovskaya, and Jaime Jacobson won the awards for Best Cinematography and Best Music. 

On April 14 the Fukui district court in Japan surprised the government by prohibiting Kansai Electric Company from restarting two nuclear reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant.  The Japanese government, which wants to restart all but five of the country’s 48 nuclear reactors, which were closed in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, argued that the reactors complied with new safety regulations.  But the court declared that the new regulations “are so loose that compliance . . . wouldn’t secure the safety” of the plants.

On Thursday April 16 I attended an oral argument in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit  where the court heard consolidated challenges to EPA’s Clean Power Plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing powerplants.  The argument, which lasted for more than two hours, was conducted before a panel consisting of Judges Henderson, Griffith & Kavanagh, probably the three judges most critical of EPA and environmental regulation. What was astonishing is that the argument was even being held because EPA has only proposed regulations and not promulgated them in final form.  It is a fundamental principle of administrative law that only final agency action is reviewable in court.  A similar challenge to EPA’s rulemaking was dismissed immediately as premature by a federal judge in Nebraska because EPA has not yet adopted the rule the petitioners seek to challenge.  

So many  people showed up to hear the argument that the courtroom filled up quickly.  I ended up listening to the argument in the lawyers lounge.  Many other people watched the argument in an overflow room.  Elbert Lin, the Solicitor General of West Virginia, represented several states that are challenging EPA’s rulemaking.  He did a much better job than Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, who had been hired by intervenor Peabody Coal.  Tribe delivered a rambling attack on EPA that was long on rhetoric and short on legal analysis.  He failed even to reach his fanciful new constitutional argument before running out of time.  Amanda Berman was perhaps the best advocate of all in a stellar group of attorneys defending EPA’s position. The panel clearly wanted to rule against EPA, but they and the industry attorneys could not come up with any principle that would limit pre-promulgation challenges to agency action.  Thus, a ruling against EPA would open up the courts to challenges to any agency rulemaking even before the agency adopts regulations.  This likely is too much for even anti-EPA judges to swallow.  Ms. Berman wryly noted that the state of Texas challenges many EPA rules, but its lawyers were smart enough not to join this litigation because it had been brought prematurely.  These lawsuits seem to represent a kind of scorched earth litigation tactic to demonize EPA, but I predict the court will dimiss them as premature.  However, I would not be surprised to see some of the judges seize the opportunity to castigate EPA on the merits in an effort to influence the agency’s ultimate action.

On Friday April 17 the University of Maryland held its second annual Environmental Summit.  The event featured 55 professors from the University of Maryland System who work on environmental issues at most of the campuses in the system.  A highlight of the event was a “lighting round” session where dozens of professors spent 3-5 minutes describing their current research and activites.  This already has spawned some great collaborative discussions that I have had with faculty from severl parts of the university.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Nile Water Agreement, Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low, Foreign Shale Projects Plunge, IARC Labels Organophosphates (by Bob Percival)

While I was in the Middle East, several noteworthy developments occurred that are relevant to global environmental law. These and other developments are mentioned below.

On March 23, the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan signed an agreement governing the sharing of water from the Nile River, which flows through each of the countries.  Egypt previously had voiced concern that Ethiopia’s construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Project, a $4.8 billion hydroelectric dam project, would unfairly reduce the amount of water flowing to it from the Nile.  Some Egyptian legislators had even threatened military action if Ethiopia did not stop construction of the dam, which commenced in 2011.  The new agreement appears to resolve these concerns by ensuring that Ethiopia will only gradually fill the area behind the dam when it is completed in 2017 while enabling Egypt to purchase cheap electricity generated by the project.

The NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Date Center reported last week that Arctic sea ice hit a record low this year (http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/).  At its peak on February 25 the area covered by sea ice was only 5.61 million square miles, 50,000 square miles less than the previous low established in 2011.

On March 19 President Obama signed an executive order directing federal entities to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 40% below 2008 levels by 2025.  The executive order also establishes a goal that 30 percent of the energy used by the executive branch will be generated from renewable sources.  Obama unveiled the executive order at a forum for federal suppliers and where several private companies announced their own voluntary programs to reduce their emissions of GHGs. A fact sheet on the executive order and the private commitments secured by the administration is available online at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/19/fact-sheet-reducing-greenhouse-gas-emissions-federal-government-and-acro

The plunge in oil prices and environmental opposition has brought a halt to projects to release oil and gas from shale formations outside of the U.S. Justin Scheck & Selina Williams, Shale Push Falters Outside U.S.,” Wall St. J. (Europe), March 20-22, 2015, at 15.  Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron have stopped nearly all of their fracking projects in Europe, Russia, and China. France banned fracking in 2011 and revoked licenses that had been awarded to Total and GDF Suez.  Germany has imposed a moratorium on fracking.  Conoco Phillips is still working on fracking projects in Poland where Chevron, Exxon and Total pulled out after achieving poor results. Chevron is drilling in Argentina and seven wells have been drilled in shale formations in the United Kingdom, one of which used frackinG.

On March 27 the government of Mexico announced that the country plans to reduce its emissions of GHGs by 22% by the year 2030.  Under the terms of the commitment, Mexico’s emissions will peak by 2026 and be 22% below “business as usual” levels in 2030.  Mexico currently is the 10th largest emitter of GHGs.

On March 20 The Lancet published the results of an assessment by 17 experts from 11 countries convened by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the carcinogenicity of five organophosphate pesticides.  Kathryn Z. Guyton, et al., “Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate,” The Lancet, March 20, 2015 (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(15)70134-8/abstract). The experts labeled two of the chemicals (tetrachlorvinphos and parathion) as “possible carcinogens” (class 2B) and three of the chemicals (glyphosate, malathion and diazinon) as “probable carcinogens” (class 2A). Because glyphosate is used in herbicides with annual sales of $6 billion, includoing Monsanto’s popular “Roundup” weed-killer, IARC’s classification decision has drawn fury from Monsanto, which notes that it conflicts with the conclusion of a four-year evaluation for the EU that concluded that glyphosate was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March 25 Oral Argument in U.S. Supreme Court on EPA Mecury & Air Toxics Standards (by Bob Percival)

I returned from the Middle East on Monday.  Daily student blog posts from our environmental field trip to study water issues are available at my parallel blog (www.globalenvironmentallaw.com).

Yesterday I attended the Michigan v. EPA oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court with a group of my students (who got in line before 6AM in order to get seats). The case involves a challenge to EPA's historic regulations to limit mercury emissions from power plants.  The specific question the Court is considering is whether EPA is required to consider costs when it decides to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants from powerplants.  The statute requires EPA to regulate these pollutants if it determines regulation to be “necessary and appropriate.”  Representatives of old, coal-fired powerplants argue that “appropriate” requires EPA to base its regulatory determination on cost-benefit analysis.   As usual, Justice Kennedy will be the key to the outcome.  His opening line that “’appropriate’ is a capacious term” and his pointed question to the industry petitioners asking whether cost-benefit analysis is required whenever the word “appropriate” appears in the statute, suggest he is persuadable by the government.
Both Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts seemed concerned about the cost of the regulations.   The Chief seemed dismissive of EPA’s conclusion that the regulation would have overwhelming net benefits because most of them were “co-benefits” derived from reductions in other pollutants. He suggested this could represent an illegitimate “end run” by EPA around other restrictions in the Act. 
Paul Smith, who clerked at the Court the same Term I did, was terrific.  He was particularly effective in responding to Justice Kennedy’s question about cost, and indicated that most of the costs already had been incurred by utilities who plan to comply with the rule.  It was so refreshing to see someone representing industry groups defending a n EPA regulation in order to keep a level playing field.  While this is useful for EPA in this case, it may add a bit of force to the industry argument in the Murray Energy case (being argued in the D.C. Circuit on April 16) that given long lead times for capital projects courts should intervene even before regulations (the Clean Power Plan regs) are issued.  The panel that has been assigned to hear that case (Judges Henderson, Griffith and Kavanaugh) portends a potentially surprising (even if temporary) defeat for EPA in what should be an easy case because there is no final agency action yet.
Justices Scalia and Alito clearly have bought into the Tea Party rant that EPA can do no right (no surprise). At several points in the argument yesterday Justices Kagan and Sotomayor were directly (and effectively) debating them.  Justice Scalia tried to characterize an argument Justice Breyer made as an effort to rescue EPA by concocting an entirely new argument (which it was not).  The editors of the Wall Street Journal seized on Scalia’s claim in an editorial today (“Surprise at the Supreme Court: Justice Breyer Pulls a Fast One to Rescue EPA’s Mercury Rule”), which is online at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/surprise-at-the-supreme-court-1427325513?mod=wsj_review_&_outlook).  The Journal yet again uses its editorial page to file its own post-argument brief, here trying to convince Kennedy’s chambers that EPA is so clearly wrong legally that Justice Breyer had to try to rescue them.
After rejecting other creative assaults on the Clean Air Act in American Trucking and EME Homer City, the Supreme Court would be venturing into new territory if it rules against EPA.  As a practical matter, however, it would not raise a significant legal bar to EPA reissuing the regulations.  But it would delay them for several years and reward the industry laggards who wish to keep the aging, big dirties operating as long as possible.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Global CO2 Emissions Stop Rising in 2014, Surge in Chinese Environmental Cases, Fourth Anniversary of Fukushima Disaster, Middle East Trip (by Bob Percival)

Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) stopped increasing last year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).  This was the first time in 40 years that a halt in the growth of CO2 emissions occurred in the absence of a global economic decline.  CO2 emissions remained at a level of 32.3 gigatonnes, the same as in 2013, despite a 3% increase in global economic growth.  The IEA described the development as “a real surprise” that shows that efforts to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may have been more successful than anticipated.  Growing efficiency in the use of energy in developed countries and China’s slower economic growth contributed to the halt in rising CO2 emissions.  Pilita Clark, Climate Boost as CO2 Emissions Growth Grinds to a Halt, Financial Times, March 13, 2015, at 1. Last year China’s consumption of coal declined by 2.9%, according to government statistics. This development may improve the prospects for a new climate accord being reached in December when representatives of the nations of the world meet in Paris for the next climate Conference of the Parties.

The Supreme People’s Court of China reported a surge in environmental cases filed in the country’s courts in 2014.  In its annual report released on March 12, the Court said that 16,000 cases involving environmental violations were filed last year, an 850% increase over 2013.  A total of 3,331 cases seeking civil damages for pollution were filed in 2014, an increase of more than 50% from 2013.  Te-Ping Chen, China Sees More Cases Against Polluters, Wall St. J., March 13, 2015, at A11.  In a news conference held today at the end of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, Premier Li Kequiang conceded that the progress that the Chinese government has made in environmental protection “still falls far short of the expectation of the people.” Noting that he had stated last year that “the Chinese government would declare war against environmental pollution,” Li stated that the government remains “determined to carry forward our efforts until we achieve our goal.” He avoided any mention of the film “Under the Dome,” which the Chinese government ordered removed from the internet.  On March 7 Chinese environment minister Chen Jijing, who had praised the film, made no mention of it at what reporters described as a “carefully scripted news conference.”  Edward Wong & Chris Buckley, Chinese Premier Vows Tougher Regulation on Air Pollution, N.Y. Times, March 15, 2015.  At his March 15th news conference, Premier Li stated: “All acts of illegal production and emissions will be brought to justice and held accountable.  We need to make businesses that illicitly emit and dump pay a price too heavy to bear.  We must ensure that the enforcement of the environmental protection law is not a stick of cotton candy but a powerful mace.”

Wednesday March 11 marked the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.  Approximately 79,000 people who lived in the hundreds of square miles that remain off-limits to habitation remain displaced.  However, efforts are being made to decontaminate the area, unlike the area around Chernobyl which remains an exclusion zone nearly 29 years after that deadly accident.  Approximately $13.5 billion has been spent on efforts to decontaminate the area around the reactor.  More than 5.5 bags of contaminated material have accumulated though it is unclear where it ultimately will be stored.  Julie Makinen, After 4 Years, Fukushima Cleanup Remains Daunting, The Jerusalem Post, March 15, 2015, at 17. Due to the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s 48 nuclear reactors remain offline, which has spurred Japanese utilities to build new coal-fired powerplants.  On March 12 plans to build a 1.3 gigawatt coal-fired powerplant in Akita prefecture were announced by Kansai Electric Power Company and the Marubeni Corporation. This increases the number of new coal-fired powerplants in Japan announced in 2015 to seven.  More are expected to be announced by other utilities. Mari Iwata, In Japan, Coal Makes Comeback at Utilities, Wall St. J., March 13-15, 2015, at 22. 

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has approved the construction of two new nuclear powerplants in Liaoning.  These are the first new nuclear plants approved since China lifted a post-Fukushima moratorium on nuclear construction in 2012.  China currently has 22 nuclear powerplants in operation and a similar number under construction.  Last week the European Commission (EC) upheld a decision by Euratom, the EU’s nuclear watchdog, to veto a plan by Hungary to allow Russia’s state-owned nuclear construction company Rosatom to build two 1,200MW nuclear reactors in Paks, 75 miles south of Budapest.  Citing the importance of avoiding increased reliance on Russia for energy supplies, the EC refused to approve the plan’s requirement that nuclear fuel be imported exclusively from Russia. Andrew Byrne & Christian Oliver, Brussels Veto of Hungarian Nuclear Deal Set to Inflame Tensions with Russia, Financial Times, March 13, 2015, at A1.

On March 11 Professor Suzan Gokalp Alica from Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey gave a lecture on Turkish environmental law to my seminar on Global Environmental Law. She noted that many pieces of environmental legislation have been enacted in response to EU directives.  Although Turkey is not yet a member of the EU, it hopes eventually to join the Union.  Three lawyers from Turkey also came to class.  Prior to class the group and I watched the finals of the Myerowitz Moot Court competition.  They were surprised that the competition was judged by real like judges, including judges from federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  Judges rarely, if ever, visit law schools in Turkey, they noted.

I am now in Tel Aviv.  In a few hours I will be meeting Maryland students and Julie Weisman from the Water Resources Action Project at Ben Gurion Airport.  We will be spending the next week visiting water recycling projects in Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories.  The students are from Maryland’s Carey School of Law, the Smith School of Business, and Maryland’s nursing and dental schools.  They will be researching greywater recycling.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Stegner Lecture & Symposium, Internet Video Rocks China, Keystone XL Veto Upheld, Occidental/Achuar Settlement, Maryland/Pace Alliance (by Bob Percival)

On Wednesday March 4 I delivered the annual Wallace Stegner Lecture at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney School of Law’s Stegner Center in Slat Lake City.  The topic of my lecture was “Against All Odds: Why America’s Century-Old Quest for Clean Air May Usher in a New Era of Global Environmental Cooperation.”  I reviewed the history of efforts to control air pollution in the United States and why their success has become the envy of environmentalists in China and India.  Concluding that “clean air has become a global imperative,” I argued that the U.S./China Climate Agreement announced in November 2014 increases the chances for a new global climate treaty being signed in Paris next December.  The lecture, which will be published by the University of Utah Press, was webcast.  A video of the lecture is now available online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECELQAf3evA#t=4501

On Thursday and Friday I participated in the University of Utah’s annual Stegner Symposium.  I spoke on the opening panel on Thursday on “Getting the Lead Out: An Unusual Global Environmental Success Story.” My talk reviewed the incredible political twists and turns that led to the prohibition of lead additives in gasoline in the U.S., which now has been adopted in all but six countries of the world. This has dramatically reduced levels of lead in children’s blood, producing an estimated $2.4 trillion in net benefits according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

The topic of this year’s Stegner Symposium was “Air Quality: Health, Energy & Economics.”  This was an appropriate topic because Salt Lake City is afflicted by severe air pollution, particularly in winter months when inversions trap pollutants in the valley.  Several scientists and doctors who spoke at the symposium explained the severe health consequences of exposure to air pollutants.  They noted a just-released study demonstrating how reductions in air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin have significantly improved lung functions in children.  See Erica E. Phillips, “Kids Lungs Improve as LA Smog Falls,” Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2015, at A2.  One physician noted that these improvements in lung function could translate into five years longer life expectancy for children. Wood smoke contains particularly dangerous air pollutants and Utah authorities have proposed bans on wood burning during winter months, which has generated considerable opposition.

One speaker cited Mexico City’s “Hoy No Circula” program, which banned the use of certain automobiles on Saturdays, as a politically costly effort to reduce air pollution.  He explained that pollution levels already were lower on weekends when many poor people like to drive to visit relatives.

Jeff Holmstead, who was the EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation during the Bush Administration, argued that 95% of the benefits produced by air pollution controls have been the product of reductions in small particulates (PM 2.5).  He argued that it would be better simply to focus on controlling PM 2.5 rather than tightening controls on emissions of other pollutants such as mercury.   

Last week China was rocked by a new video posted online by Chai Jing, a former CCTV presenter.  Called “Under the Dome,” the video highlights China’s severe air pollution problems and Ms. Chai’s concern for the health effects of pollution on her unborn child.  In 48 hours the film was viewed more than 100 million times. The film, which reportedly cost Ms. Chai 1 million RMB ($160,000) to produce, emulates the style of “An Inconvenient Truth” with Chai appearing before an audience and projecting horrendous scenes of air pollution on a screen behind her.  Chen Jining, China’s new Minister of Environmental Protection, reportedly contacted Ms. Chai to congratulate her on the film, noting that it could be “China’s Silent Spring.”  Authorities from China’s central government, who have encouraged some citizen efforts to put pressure on companies and local authorities to reduce pollution, did not immediately try to censor the film.  After it had generated more than 260 million comments on Chinese social media, Party censors instructed the media not to continue reporting on the film and they later removed it from the internet on China.  However, the film remains available on foreign websites and it has been translated into English.  The film, which lasts an hour and 44 minutes, is now available on You Tube with English language subtitles at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6X2uwlQGQM.

On March 4 the U.S. Senate fell four votes short in an attempt to override President Obama’s veto of legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Congress that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. This was not unexpected as the Republicans knew when the legislation was passed that they did not have the votes to override the veto, which requires a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress.

On March 5 it was revealed that Occidental Petroleum had agreed to pay compensation to five Achuar communities in Peru’s northern Amazon region.  The coil company was sued by the indigenous groups and Amazon Watch, who were represented by Earth Rights International, for oil contamination that occurred over a three decade period ending in 2001.  The case initially was dismissed by a federal district court on forum non cenveniens grounds, a decision that was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  I would like to thank Michelle Salomon, one of my former students who worked on the case for EarthRights International, for bringing this to my attention.

On March 2 the University of Maryland and Pace University announced a new alliance between their environmental law programs that will allow students at each school to participate in courses and activities of both schools.  Pace students will be able to participate in Maryland’s Washington D.C. externship program and Maryland students will be able to participate in Pace’s United Nations practicum.  Pace students will be able to join Maryland’s environmental field trip to China next year and Maryland students will be able to participate in Pace’s Brazil program.  Based on the positive reactions we have received from environmental faculty around the country, this alliance may well prove to be a model for future cooperation between many schools.

On Friday I leave for Israel where I will be co-leading a group of eight University of Maryland students on a spring break trip to the Middle East (Israel, Jordan and the West Bank) to work on water resources issues.