This week Professor Emmanuel Kasimbazi from the Faculty of Law at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, arrived at Maryland to begin his time as a visiting scholar. Professor Kasimbazi is an expert on environmental law. He received his LL.M. in Environmental Law from the University of Calgary in 1995. He currently is the President of the East African Association for Environmental Impact Assessment and the Vice President of the Association for Environmental Law Lecturers in African Universities. Prof. Kasimbazi has extensive experience in energy law, water law and forestry law. He has been a consultant to the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the European Union.
I first met Prof. Kasimbazi in 1999 when I presented an Environmental Law Workshop in Uganda for the American Bar Association’s African Law Initiative. I was very impressed with him then and I subsequently have encountered him at meetings of members of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law. Prof. Kasimbazi’s visit is funded by a J. William Fulbright scholarship. He will be in residence at the law school through the end of January 2009. I am sure that Prof. Kasimbazi will be a big help to me in putting together the casebook on Global Environmental Law that I am co-authoring with Prof. Tseming Yang.
I am currently working on the sixth edition of the environmental law casebook that I co-author with Chris Schroeder, Alan Miller and Jim Leape. Chapter One of the book raises the question of whether the Arctic National WIldlife Refuge (ANWR) should be opened to oil drilling. That part of the chapter appeared in the first edition in 1992 when we had no idea how durable the controversy would be. We have been contemplating replacing it in the sixth edition with material on climate change, particularly since both presidential candidates now oppose oil drilling in ANWR. However, it now appears clear that the controversy simply will not die.
Last week the Republican Party adopted a platform that urges more oil drilling in Alaska, but that for the first time in many years does not specifically mention drilling in ANWR. However, the debate in the platform committee made it clear that this is not a reflection of any real change in the party’s policy in ANWR, but only a matter of trying not to directly contradict the position of the party’s presidential candidate. On Wednesday an Alaska delegate to the platform committee made a motion to amend the draft platform to specifically endorse oil drilling in ANWR. An opponent of the amendment from Oregon stated: “We all support, I think, drilling in ANWR, and we know that President McCain will eventually come around to our position. But he’s not there yet. And so I would say prudence would dictate that we leave the text as it is until our candidate catches up with us a little bit.” See http://www.npr.org/templates/story.php?storyid=94057387. The proposed amendment narrowly failed.
With Senator McCain’s announcement on Friday that his running mate will be Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the pressure on him to reverse his position and support drilling in ANWR may increase. Gov. Palin, like virtually all Alaskan politicians, strongly supports opening up ANWR to oil drilling. She previously has expressed hope that she can convince Senator McCain to change his position and to support drilling in ANWR. On Friday Gov. Palin and the state of Alaska sued the Secretary of Interior to challenge his listing of the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
On Monday, September 1 a new tax on gas-guzzling cars will go into effect in China. Automobiles with engines larger than 4.1 liters will be subject to a 40% sales tax, double the previous amount. Cars with engines between 3 and 4.1 liters will be subject to a 25% tax, an increase from 15%. The tax on cars with engines smaller than 1 litter will be reduced from 3 percent to 1 percent. The Chinese government hopes that these tax changes will encourage Chinese consumers to buy more fuel efficient cars. Skeptics argue that there also may be a protectionist motivation since virtually all the large cars sold in China are imported from abroad. The Economist notes that the tax may be a “canny” response to a July WTO ruling striking down China’s 25% tariff on imported car parts. “Taking Another Road,” The Economist, Aug. 23, 2008, p. 54.