On Friday morning September 19, I participated in a panel on “China and the Environment -- A Conservation with Experts on Environmental Protection, Development of Natural Resources, Energy Use, and Health and Safety in China” at the fall conference of the ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy & Resources (SEER). The conference was held at the Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. The panel was moderated by Margret J. Kim, senior advisor on International Climate Change and China Program Director for the California Air Resources Board. EPA attorney Steve Wolfson discussed the prospects for China controlling its emissions of greenhouse gases, noting that the Chinese government has been quietly shutting down many old, inefficient coal-fired power plants. Former EPA general counsel Roger Martella discussed the huge market for clean energy technologies in China and the rapid growth of wind power in China. I discussed the prospects for democratization in China and the need for greater centralization of authority to enforce Chinese environmental laws.
I was particularly struck last week by reports that the Chinese central government did not learn of the scandal involving Chinese infant formula contaminated with melamine until it was informed by the government of New Zealand. The contaminated formula has caused the deaths of some infants and sickened hundreds of others in China. It was produced by the Sanlu Group, a Chinese company whose New Zealand business partner was appalled when it was informed of the problem but told that there would be no public announcement of it. The New Zealand company then informed its government, who notified Chinese authorities. As other countries now restrict imports of Chinese dairy products, it seems likely that the Chinese central government will have to do much more to ensure the public in both China and export markets of the safety of Chinese products.
This week’s incredible gyrations in U.S. financial markets, including the sudden bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the sale of Merrill Lynch, the U.S. government bailout of AIG, and massive federal intervention to shore up financial markets, may signal a substantial shift in the relationship between government and business. Globalization and deregulation have made markets so interconnected that bad business decisions can have ripple effects that have much broader consequences than previously. The collapse of the Russian stock market earlier in the week was viewed by some as the global marketplace’s response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia and Russia’s reckless treatment of foreign investment partners. By the end of the week both the U.S. and Russian governments intervened to shore up their markets, at least temporarily, but the long-term effects of the bursting of the housing bubble in the U.S. are likely to persist for a long time to come.
After I flew into Phoenix on Thursday night I met five of my former students for drinks. Two of the Maryland alums - Brad and Karlene Martorama -- now work for law firms in Phoenix. The three others were in Phoenix for the SEER conference. They included Andrea Curatola, who is an attorney at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); Sriram Gopal, an attorney for EPA; and Rich Kuhn, who works for a law firm in Washington, D.C. Andrea’s expertise proved useful when a question arose at the SEER panel on regulation of nuclear power in China.
On the way back to Washington from Phoenix I stopped in Denver and saw a baseball game in Coors Field for the first time. On Saturday I stopped in Dallas and caught a game at the Ballpark in Arlington with my nephew who works there for the Texas Rangers.