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

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.

August 18th Blog Post: Return from China Environmental Field Trip

I am back from China where I led an environmental field trip with Professor Zhao Huiyu of Shanghai Jiatong University School of Law from August 3-15.  It was a terrific trip with lots of in-depth meetings with people who are playing important roles in shaping Chinese environmental policy.  We arrived in Beijing on the afternoon of August 4, visited “snack street,” and had a Beijing duck dinner that night.  On the morning of August 5 we visited the Beijing offices of the Environmental Defense Fund where Qin Hu gave us a great presentation.  After visiting the Lama (Yonghe) Temple, we spent the afternoon at the offices of the Natural Resources Defense Council. We discussed some of the exciting changes in Chinese environmental law with their office director Qian Jingjing and Qi Yu, director of their environmental governance project.  After visiting the Forbidden City in the morning, we spent the afternoon of August 6 at the Center for Legal Assistance for Pollution Victims (CLAPV).  Wang Canfa, CLAPV director, was in England where he has been serving as a visiting professor, but we had a great discussion with Dai Renhui and Liu Xiang.  

On Thursday August 7 we visited the Great Wall at Mutianyu.  We took a tram to the top of the wall and then hiked along it before taking “tobaggans” down to the base.  On the way back from the Great Wall our driver dropped us at the Beijing Airport to catch a flight to Shanghai.  Professor Zhao Huiyu was waiting for us at Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai.   At 6:30AM the next morning we headed to Chongming Island where we visited the incredible Dongtan wetland area, about two hours north of Shanghai.  Geng Zhizhong, director of the protected area, gave us a tour of the wetland, which is an important stop for migratory birds traveling from Australia and New Zealand to SIberia and Alaska. Following the tour we had a meeting with lawyers discussing draft legislation to improve protection of the area.  Geng Zhizhong showing us the video monitoring room where volunteers help protect the wetland area against poachers by watching cameras that can detect trespassers.  We visited the Yinzhou Ancient Town on Chongming Island before returning to Shanghai.  

On Monday August 11 we spent the morning meeting with officials from the Minghang Environmental Protection Board in the western part of Shanghai.  We had a very candid discussion with them concerning the difficulties confronting efforts to enforce China’s environmental laws given the highly decentralized nature of China’s legal system.  On the afternoon of August 11 we took a high-speed train to Nanjing.  On August 12 we spent the morning visiting the law firm of Mr. Liu, the first public interest lawyer in Jiangsu Province who is now the chair of the environmental and natural resources section of the Jiangsu Bar.  From his law firm, Mr. Liu took us to a museum honoring John Rabe, the German who saved many Chinese during the Nanjing Massacre, and then hosted a luncheon banquet for us.  In the afternoon we visited Green Stone, a small NGO founded by university students Wu Yunli and Li Chunhua that seeks to involve young people in environmental protection efforts.  After a night of karaoke in Nanjing, we returned to Shanghai on August 13.


Selected photos of the trip have been placed in the “Photo Albums” section of my parallel blog at: http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com.  On that blog just click on “Photo Albums” at the top of the page and then “VLS China 2014”.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Checking In from a summer blog hiatus: my summer in Brazil, Spain, Vermont and China (by Bob Percival)

It has been nearly seven weeks since my last blog post on June 16.  This is the first time in the seven years I have been blogging that I have skipped more than a single week.  But after more than 350 posts, this is the first time when I either found myself in a location where I could not conveniently post blog entries or simply juggling too many activities at once to carve out time to blog.  Here is a quick summary of what I have been doing during the last seven weeks.  

June 19-28: Trip to Brazil for the World Cup
From June 19 untl June 28 I was in Brazil with my son to attend two opening round matches of the World Cup futbol tournament.  We initially flew to Manaus where on June 22 we attended the U.S/Portugal match.  Prior to the match we toured Manaus and visiting the incredible 19th century opera house. Despite having our faces painted with U.S. flags, we were the most underdressed U.S. fans because of our absence of U.S. futbol gear.  I am confident that I was the only person among the 40,000 present at the match who was wearing a Washington Nationals hat. After falling behind 1-0, the U.S. team rallied to take a 2-1 lead in the second half.  A victory would have clinched the U.S. a berth in the Round of 16, but Portugal tied the match 2-2 in the closing seconds.  The U.S. fans in the stadium felt like a balloon had burst as their euphoria rapidly dissipated. Arena Amazonia, where the match was held, was gorgeous.

On June 23 we took a charter flight from Manaus to Recife.  After landing at the Recife Airport we took a bus to a small fishing village about an hour south of Recife where we stayed at a beach resort.  On June 24 we toured Recife visiting an old part of town and a historic jail that has been turned into a shopping mall.  Torrential rains hit on June 26, the day of the U.S./Germany match in Recife.  The rains caused such substantial flash floods that many did not make it to the match.  Due to the flooding, what should have been a one-hour trip to the stadium for us took 3 hours and 40 minutes.  My son and I arrived at the match just two minutes before it started.  Although Germany defeated the U.S. by a score of 1-0, the margin was narrow enough to get the U.S. through to the Round of 16.  My son and I flew home on June 27, arriving in the wee hours of June 28.  I have posted a small album of photos for the World Cup in the Photo Albums portion of my parallel website at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com.

June 29-July 5: 12th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium in Tarragona
In the afternoon of June 28 I flew to Europe for the 12th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.  The colloquium was held at the Universitat Roviro i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain.  Approximately 340 people from 44 countries participated in the Colloquium.  The IUCN Academy continues to grow.  It now has 157 institutional members from 57 countries.  Six Maryland law students presented papers at the colloquium.  I spoke on energy policy at a plenary session and I chaired a sesson on human rights and the environment.  A book launch ceremony was held for the book I co-edited with Jolene Lin of the University of Hong Kong and Bill Piermattei of Maryland.  The book, Global Environmental Law at a Crossroads, consists of edited papers presented at the IUCN Colloquium we hosted at Maryland in 2012.

A few of the many notable presentations I saw were Eva Duer’s discussion of the international legal resources UNEP is putting online, Laode Syarif’s discussion of the difficulty of enforcing environmental laws in Indonesia, and presentations by Antonio Cardesa-Salzmann and Pia Moscoso on whether international law requires courts to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction.  The Colloquium also featured a terrific gourmet field trip to a demonstration kitchen and a visit to the university’s winery near Reus where an awesome winetasting was held.  At the closing dinner on July 4 I was surprised and honored to receive the Academy’s Senior Educator Award for my contributions to global environmental education. An album of photos from the 12th Colloquium has been placed in the Photo Album section of my parallel website at www.globalenvironmentallaw.com

July 6-17: Vacation in Madrid and Barcelona
Following the Colloquium I spent a wonderful weekend in Madrid where I ate well and visited the Prado and the Reina Sofia Museum.  My wife then joined me in Barcelona for a week’s vacation.  We did a tapas tour and took a cooking class where you first accompany the chef to the market to buy the ingredients for a paella feast.  We visited the Picasso Museum, the Sagrada Familia (which is much more developed than it was when we were there 20 years ago).  Among the top highlights of our week was a tour in an off-road vehicle to Garraf National Park in the mountains above Sitges that included a private tour of the Can Rafouls winery and the performance of “Carmina Burana” at the extraordinary Palace of Music. 

July 20-July 31: Teaching Comparative U.S./China Environmental Law in Vermont
For the past two weeks I have been in Vermont teaching a summer course on Comparative U.S./China Environmental Law at Vermont Law School.  This is the third year I have taught the course and this year Professor Zhao Huiyu from Shanghai Jiaotong University accepted my invitation to co-teach the course.  We had an most enthusiastic group of students all but one of whom will be coming to China with us on a field trip that starts today.

On July 24, Professor Zhao and I gave a talk to the Vermont Law School community as part of the school’s “Hot Topics” series.  We spoke on “The Struggle to Protect China’s Environment.” On July 27 Professor Zhao and I visited Oran Young and Gail Osherenko, professors from the Bren School of the Environment at UC-Santa Barbara in their wonderful summer home in Wolcott, Vermont.  We went kayaking with them, a first for Professor Zhao.  On July 30 Vermont’s China Partnership took Professor Zhao and I to a minor league baseball game in Montpelier, which was a real treat.

While this blog was on hiatus, there have been some important developments in environmental law around the world.  President Bachelet of Chile fulfilled her campaign pledge to kill the Aysen hydroelectric project.  The ancient Inca Road received World Heritage protection.  France agreed to cap its use of nuclear power.  The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the provision in CERCLA that preempts state statutes of limitations does not preempt state statutes of repose (for an analysis of the decision see my SCOTUS Blog coverage of it at: http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/06/opinion-analysis-courts-narrow-reading-of-superfunds-preemption-provision-leaves-victims-of-toxic-exposure-without-legal-recourse/).  Surprisingly, the North Carolina legislature responded by immediately passing a law intended to reverse the application of the decision to the parties in the case before the Court.  See http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/SessionLaws/HTML/2013-2014/SL2014-17.html. (I was interviewed about this development by a North Carolina news reporter via Skype while in Recife for the World Cup).  


The U.S. Supreme Court also decided the challenge to EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. On June 23 the Court decided the case by a 5-4 vote.  In an opinion by Justice Scalia the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the D.C. Circuit’s decision that had upheld the regulations. The Court majority held “that EPA exceeded its statutory authority when it interpreted the Clean Air Act to require PSD and Title V permitting for stationary sources based on their greenhouse-gas emissions.” In an opinion by Justice Scalia the Court held that EPA “may not treat greenhouse gases as a pollutant for purposes of defining a ‘major emitting facility’ (or a ‘modification’ thereof) in the PSD context or a ‘major source’ in the Title V context.” However the Court concluded that EPA may “continue to treat greenhouse gases as a ‘pollutant subject to regulation under this chapter’ for purposes of requiring BACT for ‘anyway’ sources.”  Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan dissented.  In a concurring opinion Justices Alito and Thomas stated that they continued to believe that greenhouse gases cannot be regulated under the Clean Air Act, the position they articulated in Massachusetts v. EPA. While the decision will slightly narrow the scope of EPA’s regulatory program, most of the sources EPA sought to regulate will still be subject to EPA regulation.

I am off to China tomorrow with my Vermont students.  Since Blogspot usually is blocked in China I may not be posting again until after I return on August 15.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 16 Blog Post from China

I've just returned from three weeks in China where Blogspot is blocked by the government's "Great Firewall." Here is the blog post I made on my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com:

I’m in the Beijing airport right now after a nearly three-week trip to China to serve as a visiting scholar at Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Law.  During the past week I made four presentations at four different Chinese institutions.  On Tuesday June 10 I spoke about “The Evolution of Environmental Law” at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences’s Center of Eco-Economics and Sustainable Development.  Following my lecture we had a lively discussion about why it has been so difficult for China to enforce its environmental laws.  

On Wednesday June 11 I took the high-speed train from Shanghai to Jinan where I gave an evening lecture on “Environmental Law in an Era of Globalization” at the Shandong University School of Law, Jinan, China, June 11, 2014.  Shandong University is where I taught a short course on environmental law in May 2012.  Shandong University Professor Zhang Shijun, who spent a year as a visiting environmental law scholar at Maryland hosted my visit. 

On Thursday afternoon June 12 I spoke to nearly 300 students at the Shandong University of Political Science and Law in Jinan.  The topic of my lecture was “Using Criminal Sanctions to Enforce Environmental Law.”  China has started doing more criminal enforcement of its environmental laws.  A week ago Professor Zhao Huiyu of Shanghai Jiaotong University attended a court proceeding involving the prosecution of a businessman for dumping chemicals.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult for foreigners to attend Chinese court proceedings so I was unable to accompany her.  It was a real privilege on Thursday afternoon to get to spend two hours with young Chinese students engaging in a fascinating discussion about the future of environmental law and the role of criminal sanctions in its enforcement.  I used a serious of examples of U.S. cases where I asked the audience to vote on whether or not the polluter should be prosecuted criminally.

On Friday June 13 Professor Zhao and I traveled about an hour and a half north of Shanghai to the Shanghai Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve.  The purpose of the trip was for local and regional environmental professionals to assess whether or not new legislation should be proposed to protect the amazing wetlands from the impact of future development.  Prior to the meeting the director of the reserve took Professor Zhao and I on an hour-long hike through the reserve.  He explained that the wetlands held in the reserve are part of a crucial flight path for birds migrating between Australia/New Zealand and northern Siberia/Alaska.  Approximately 290 different species of migratory birds can be found in the reserve.  Following the hike we participated in a conference with a group of Chinese environmental professors.  I spoke to the group on how wetlands are protected in the United States under U.S. environmental law.  The meeting ended with the group   drafting a resolution calling for additional legal protection of the Dongtan Reserve followed by a traditional Chinese banquet.

Last week we received word that the book of edited papers prepared for the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law’s “Global Environmental Law at a Crossroads” Colloquium has been published by Edward Elgar Publishers in London.  I co-edited the book with Professor Jolene Lin of the University of Hong Kong and William Piermattei, the Managing Director of our Environmental Law Program at Maryland.  There will be a book launch event celebrating publication of the book at the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium in Tarragona, Spain on July 3.

Today there are articles in the Shanghai Post and the China Daily noting how difficult it is to win the “license lottery” that enables one to buy a new car in those cities.  Both cities are trying to limit traffic congestion by strictly regulating the number of new cars on the road.  In Beijing the odds of winning the lottery are only 2.2 percent.  The papers also note that the Chinese government shut down a chemical plant in Hunan Province after discovering very high levels of lead in the blood of children living near the plant.  


I am about to board the plane to return to the U.S.  I am looking forward to getting back home, albeit briefly, before leaving with my son for the World Cup in Brazil on Thursday. I am enormously grateful to Professor Zhao Huiyu for her incredible hospitality during my time at Shanghai Jiaotong University.

June 7 Blog Post from China

I just returned from three weeks in China where Blogspot is blocked by the Great Firewall.  Here is the June 7 blog post I made on my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com:

On June 4 the Chinese government released its 2013 China Environmental Situation Report.  It reported that only 3 of the 74 major cities subject to tougher air pollution standards adopted last fall met the goals for reducing air pollution.  Li Ganjie, vice minister for environmental protection said that despite some improvements in environmental protection, air quality in cities remains a “serious” problem and the outlook for water quality is “not optimistic.” Groundwater quality was found to be poor or extremely poor at almost 60 percent of 4,778 groundwater monitoring sites.  Zhou Shengxian, minister for environmental protection noted that sulfur dioxide emissions declined by 3.5 percent in 2013 and chemical oxgen demand was reduced by 2.9 percent. He stressed the need to improve the legal system to address air, water, and soil pollution.  While the report covered the year 2013, Li stressed that the intensity of small particulate pollution (PM2.5) had declined by 10.3 percent during the first three months of 2014. Zheng Xin, Big Cities Struggle to Meet Pollution Standards, China Daily, June 5, 2014, at 1.  Noting that the Ministry of Environmental Protection describes the overall environmental situation as “grim” an editorial in the China Daily stated: “With all the input, of both pledges and resources, into an environmental cleanup, what this country achieved in 2013 appears less than impressive. . . . [W]e are now swallowing the bitter fruit of the poisonous but prevalent development philosophy that shouted ‘pollute first, address it later.’” Editorial, Grim Environment Challenge, China Daily, June 5, 2014, at 8.

World Environment Day was celebrated on June 5.  The theme for this year’s celebration, selected by the United Nations, was “Small Islands and Climate Change” and the official slogan was “Raise your voice, not the sea level.”  Tony de Brum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, reports that sea level rise has washed away the coffins of at least 26 Japanese soldiers who had been buried on a remote island.  

The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century released a report on June 4 finding that global investment in renewable energy fell sharply in 2013.  European investment in renewable energy fell by 44 percent compared to 2012 while investment in renewables by developing countries declined by 14 percent.  China’s investment of $56.3 billion in renewables accounted for 61 percent of the developing country total.  In 2013 China for the first time had more new renewable power capacity come on line than new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity.  

The United Nations reported this week on the results of the Fifth Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea.  The parties to the Convention, which is known as the Tehran Convention, include Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan.  At COP-5, which was held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the five nations agreed on a Biodiversity Protocol to protect species such as the Caspian sturgeon and Caspian seal.  Previous protocols to the Convention have dealt with oilo spill response and prevention of land-based pollution.

The Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) announced on June 6 that it had “blacklisted” 259 local companies during the first three months of the year for violating regulations limiting air or water pollution and the dumping of solid wastes.  Thirteen of the firms were ordered to close and 219 were required to change their behavior.  Eighty-four of the 219 firms have complied with these orders.  Zhao Wen, 259 Firms Guilty of Breaking Green Rules, Shanghai Daily June 7, 2014, at 4.

Residents of the Chinese village of Chendongyuan in Gansu Province have been protesting the deterioration of the town’s main road due to heavy traffic from oil company vehicles accessing PetroChina’s Changqing oil field.  As part of these protests 40 village residents blocked access to the oil field on Saturday.  One of the protesters, Wang Caixi, was killed when she was crushed under a truck that was attempting to break the blockade. Li Qian, Oil Field Protester Crushed to Death by Truck, Shanghai Daily, June 7 2014, at 5.


I am still in Shanghai where I will be giving a lecture on Tuesday at the Shanghai Institute of Social Sciences.  On Wednesday I am traveling to Shandong Province where I will deliver two lectures.  I return to the U.S. on June 16.

June 1 Blogpost from China

I just returned from three weeks in China where Blogspot is blocked.  Here is the June 1 post I made on my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com.

I arrived in Beijing on May 28 and flew to Shanghai on May 29 to start a stint as a high-level visiting foreign expert at Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Law.  China’s severe air pollution problems dominate a lot of public discourse here.  The government seems open to trying just about anything to reduce air pollution.

The State Grid of China announced on May 27 that it will seek private capital to establish a distributed power network for electric vehicle chargers.  This was considered significant because it represented the first time the Grid had opened up to investment of private capital, something that China’s major oil companies had done in January.  The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimates that 14,000 electric vehicles and 3,300 plug-in hybrids were sold in China in 2013. Du Juan, Power Supplier Will Seek Private Capital, China Daily, May 28, 2014. 

The Russian power company Inter RAO is considering building the world’s largest coal-fired power plant in the Russian far east to supply electricity to China.  Boris Kovalchuk, the CEO of the power supplier, said that it was considering building an 8GW power plant near the Erkovetskya coal deposit in Russia’s far east. The world’s largest coal-fireed power plant today is the 5.5GW Taichung plant in Taiwan.  Kovalchuk noted that China needs more electricity and that Chinese officials would like it to come from plants outside the country in order to reduce Chinese air pollution. Reuters, Russian Firm Studying World’s Largest Coal-Fired Power Plant to Supply China, May 26, 2014.

Yesterday’s South China Post had a front page story on the discovery that the particulate pollution in China’s air contains extraordinarily high levels of toxic metals. Stephen Chen, Hazardous Levels of Trace Metals in China’s Air, South China Morning Post, May 31, 2013, at 1. In a study published in Environmental Science and Technology last year, Li Weijun, a professor of environmental science at Shandong University, found 200-250 microgramsof zinc per litre and levels of iron of 105 micrograms per litre in clouds on two Chinese mountains.  These levels are 10 to 20 times greater than levels of metals in U.S. particulate pollution.

China is making changes to encourage local governments to crack down on air pollution.  On May 26 Zhai Qing, China’s vice-minister for environmental protection announced that for the first time the Communist Party’s Organization Department, which decides on the promotion of local officials, and top leaders of the State Council will evaluate local officials based on how well they do in meeting goals for reducing air pollution in 338 cities pursuant to the Airborne Pollution Control Action Plan that was unveiled last September.  This Plan calls for reductions of between 25% and 10% in levels of PM2.5 in various areas of China during the period 2013-2017.  The central government also pledged to give more financial support to regions that reduce air pollution, while reducing support to regions that fail to achieve the goals.  Wu Wencong, Appraisal to Facilitate Clean Air Endeavor, China Daily, May 29, 2014, at 3.

A comprehensive survey of Chinese wetlands begun in January 2010 has concluded that Tibet has more than 38,000 wetlands.  China’s largest wetland area is the Sanjiang Plain Nature Reserve in Heilongjiang province, which covers more than 10 million hectares.  About two-thirds of Tibetan wetlands currently are in conservation areas and by 2020 Tibet will be required to preserve at least 6.4 million hectares of wetland areas.  Hu Yongqi & Da Qiong, Tibet Ranks Second in Wetland Preservation, China Daily, May 29, 2014, at 7.

On May 30 Shanghai Jiaotong Professor Zhao Huiyu and I had dinner with Sushu Wang, a Maryland law student who is spending the summer working as an intern with the Shanghai Environmental Protection Board (EPB).  Sushu was born in Nanjing, but moved with her family to the U.S. when she was two years old.  She described how the Shanghai EPB responds to complaints about pollution and noted that she has been able to accompany EPB staff as they serve papers on polluters.

On May 31 Professor Zhao and I accompanied a group of students participating in the University of Santa Clara Law School’s summer program in China on a trip to the ancient Chinese city of Xitang.  Xitang, which is located about 80 minutes southeast of Shanghai, is a city of canals that has become a major tourist attraction, though we appeared to be among the few foreign tourists there on Saturday.  Xitang has lots of well-preserved buildings and bridges dating from the 14th through the 19th centuries.  


I am quoted in today’s Washington Post in a column by Robert McCartney criticizing Midwestern attorneys general for filing briefs supporting the Farm Bureau’s appeal of a decision upholding the EPA’s total maximum daily loadings (TMDL) plan for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Robert McCartney, Distant States Seek to Disrupt Our Region’s Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan, Washington Post, June 1, 2014. McCartney called me in Shanghai to interview me for the article. I will be in China until June 16 giving a series of lectures in both Shanghai and in Shandong Province.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Japanese Court Blocks Reactor Restart, BP Again Loses Challenge to Settlement, China May Expand Tax Incentives for Electric Cars, China Trip (by Bob Percival)

On May 21 a court in Japan ruled that the Kansai Electric Power Company cannot restart two of its nuclear reactors due to safety concerns.  The ruling from the Fukui District Court is a blow to the plans of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring back online the country’s nuclear power plants that were idled following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The court cited uncertainty concerning the ability of Oi reactors 3 & 4 in western Japan to withstand an earthquake.  The court’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by 189 plaintiffs who live within 250 kilometers of the Oi plant.  Mari Iwata, Japan Court Blocks Reactor Restarts, Wall St. J., May 21, 2014.

On May 19 a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied BP’s motion for reconsideration of its ruling upholding the Claims Administrator’s interpretation of BP’s agreement to settle claims arising out of the March 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  BP argued that it was unconstitutional for the Claims Administrator to be able to pay claims regardless of whether claimed losses were actually caused by BP’s conduct.  The two judges in the majority concluded that in the settlement agreement BP had agreed to certain indirect means of connecting a claim to BP’s conduct in the Gulf “that sufficiently satisfied each party’s litigation interests.”  The judges concluded that “In settling this lawsuit, the parties agreed on a substitute for direct proof of causation by a preponderance of evidence.  By settling this lawsuit and agreeing to the evidentiary framework for submitting claims, the plaintiffs did not abandon their allegations of Article III causation.”  By a vote of 8-5 the entire Fifth Circuit then denied a rehearing en banc.  BP’s only recourse now is to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  While there is no possibility of a circuit split on this issue, which usually is the primary reason the Supreme Court would grant review, the five dissents might increase the chances of Supreme Court review.

Beijing Business Today reported that the Chinese government is considering whether to extend the subsidies it offers to purchasers of domestically-produced electric cars to electric cars that are imported into China. U.S. electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, which has begun selling its cars in China, has asked the Chinese government to enable purchasers of its cars to qualify for the tax incentives, which range from 35,000 to 60,000 yuan ($5,700 to $9,800).  Miao Wei, minister of Industry and Information Technology, also indicated that the Chinese government is considering offering foreign electric car manufacturers incentives to build their cars on the mainland.  Tesla is rumored to be interested in establishing an assembly facility in China to complement its existing facilities in California and the Netherlands.

I will be spending the next three weeks in China as a high-level visiting foreign expert at the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Law.  China’s firewall usually blocks this website but I should be able to post regularly on my parallel blog at: http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com.