On Friday and Saturday the University of Maryland School of Law hosted the North American Finals (Atlantic Round) of the International Environmental Moot Court Competition. Teams from twelve law schools in the U.S. and Canada participated in the competition. Three preliminary rounds were held on Friday with the teams arguing a hypothetical case before the International Court of Justice concerning one country’s seizure of another country’s fishing boat allegedly overfishing krill in Antarctic waters.
On Friday night more than 100 participants, judges, and student volunteers were hosted to a dinner in Westminster Hall where they heard Zhang Jingjing, one of the top public interest environmental lawyers in China, deliver the first annual Fedder Lecture. Jingjing, who participated in my environmental law course last year in Beijing, gave a truly inspiring lecture about the state of environmental citizen activism in China. Maryland alum Joel Fedder, who has been a great supporter of our Environmental Law Program, closed the evening with a moving message. Photos of the dinner and lecture will be posted online shortly and this blog entry will be updated with a weblink to them.
Following the dinner the eight teams advancing to the quarterfinal rounds were announced. After the quarterfinals were held on Saturday morning, teams from Cleveland-Marshall, Florida State, John Marshall, and Wake Forest advanced to the semifinal round. This was followed by the final round, which featured the top teams representing the applicant (Cleveland-Marshall) and respondent (John Marshall).
The competition was blessed with an extraordinarily well-qualified group of judges. These included many alums of Maryland’s Environmental Law Program and other experts in international environmental law. The judges for the final round were: Dan Magraw (president of the Center for International Environmental Law), Paul Hagen (chairman of the board of the Environmental Law Institute), and Bruce Rich (director of international programs for the Environmental Defense Fund). After a terrific final round the judges declared the team of Danja Therecka and Carrie Lewine from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law as the winner. Both they and the runner-up team from John Marshall Law School will advance to the International Finals to be held at Stetson University School of Law on March 25-28. Congratulations to both teams and their coaches, Janice Aitken of Cleveland-Marshall and Steven Schwinn of John Marshall. Photos of the competition and the awards ceremony are available online at: http://gallery.me.com/rperci/100411.
On Wednesday I taught my first Environmental Law & Policy class at Harvard Law School. I have a large and seemingly enthusiastic group of law students in the class as well as more than a dozen students from outside the law school, including students from the School of Public Health and MIT. It was great to be reunited with Tom Potter, the same wonderful faculty assistant I had when I visited at Harvard in 2000. The atmosphere at the law school seems distinctly more student-friendly than it was nine years ago, a real accomplishment than can largely be credited to the work of outgoing dean Elena Kagan.
On Friday I spoke at the annual ALI-ABA conference on Environmental Law, which was held in Bethesda. I teamed up with John Cruden, acting head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, to present the annual “Supreme Court Roundup.” After discussing the Supreme Court’s Winter decision, we took turns discussing the other four core environmental cases being heard by the Supreme Court this Term. It was great to see some of my former students in the audience. Cruden announced that the Justice Department had just asked the Supreme Court to pull its cert petition challenging the D.C. Circuit’s decision striking down EPA’s mercury rule. While the Obama administration is taking its time filling up many sub-cabinet positions, it is moving quickly to reshape environmental policy in a positive direction. The real challenge ahead for it will be to reach agreement on a strategy for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
Another indication of positive change by the Obama administration is a landmark settlement announced on Friday of a long-running NEPA lawsuit brought by Friends of the Earth (FOE), Greenpeace, Boulder, Colorado and three California cities. The suit, filed in federal district court in San Francisco in 2002, charged that the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) had failed to consider the impact on global warming and climate change of their actions financing fossil fuel power projects in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In the settlement, the agencies agreed to provide $500 million in financing for renewable energy projects over the next 10 years. The Export-Import Bank agreed to develop, in consultation with plaintiffs, a carbon policy that will include financing incentives for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It also agreed to evaluate GHG emissions when assessing fossil fuel project investments. OPIC agreed to set a goal of reducing by 20 percent the GHG emissions associated with the projects it funds over the next 10 years. It also agreed to include climate change impacts in the environmental assessment it performs of any projects it funds that emit more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year.