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, April 26, 2009

Hearings on Climate Change Legislation & Earth Day Talks

The dramatic shift in climate change policy initiated by the Obama administration was brought into sharp focus this week when the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce held hearings on the proposal by Congressmen Markey and Waxman to create a comprehensive regulatory program to control U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The hearings featured testimony from the U.S. Secretaries of Energy and Transportation and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as many representatives of industry and environmental coalitions.

On Wednesday April 22, one of my former students, Yvette Pena-Lopes, testified at the hearings on behalf of the Blue-Green Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental groups dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in a green economy. Ms. Pena announced that the Alliance had brokered an important joint statement between unions and environmental groups urging the adoption of a national program to control emissions of GHGs. A copy of this statement is available at: http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/atf/cf/%7B3637E5F0-D0EA-46E7-BB32-74D973EFF334%7D/Final%20Climate%20Policy,%20vFinal.pdf. It emphasizes the importance of using the best scientific evidence to develop policy, creating incentives to promote investment in clean technology, and creating and retaining green jobs.

Industry opponents of U.S. legislation to control GHG emissions are running ad campaigns in Washington arguing that “now is not the time” to raise the cost of energy use, citing the current global economic crisis. While some industry groups would like to block any legislation to control GHG emissions, others are concentrating on defeating President Obama’s proposal to auction off all the allowances to emit GHGs that are established by the new legislation. Many companies emitting GHGs are lobbying the government to give them some of the initial emissions allowances for free.

This week I had my final class of the semester at Maryland and I was rained out of two baseball games. On Monday a lengthy rain delay caused my law school friend, a top labor advocate before the Supreme Court, and I to forego attending the Nationals/Braves game. After a delay of more than two hours that left the stands sparsely populated, the Nats eventually won the game, the major league debut of their phenomenal rookie pitcher Jordan Zimmerman. Last Tuesday night I had a ticket to see the Red Sox play the Twins at Fenway, but the game was rained out. Fortunately, one of my Harvard environmental law students was able to use my ticket to attend the makeup game on Wednesday afternoon while I gave a talk on “Global Environmental Law on the 40th Earth Day” to the Harvard Environmental Law Society.

Next Tuesday I won’t fear a rainout when I attend Game 5 of the NBA playoffs at the Boston Garden between the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls prior to teaching my final Environmental Law class of the semester at Harvard on Wednesday. On Friday I fly to Beijing for a two-week speaking tour of China sponsoring by the U.S. State Department.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

EPA's Endangerment Finding, Peruvian Court Decision, Russian Resignation & Baseball Openers

On Friday, April 17, the U.S. EPA responded to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA by proposing to adopt a finding that emissions of six greenhouse gases (GHGs) endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations within the meaning of Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. The GHGs named in the endangerment finding include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. EPA’s proposal begins a process that will enable EPA to regulate emissions of GHGs under the Clean Air Act if Congress fails to adopt new legislation regulating them. This ultimately may prove to be the most significant impact of the Massachusetts v. EPA decision - arming EPA with a tool that can be used to help overcome congressional resistance to legislation regulating GHG emissions.

A copy of EPA’s proposal is available at: http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/downloads/GHGEndangermentProposal.pdf. EPA concluded that the emissions of GHGs contribute to climate change whose effects include include “the increased likelihood of more frequent and intense heat waves, more wildfires, degraded air quality, more heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea level rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems”. EPA is soliciting public comment on its proposal for 60 days. Congress will be holding hearings next week on proposed legislation drafted by Congressmen Markey and Waxman to adopt a cap-and-trade program to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050. EPA’s proposal and the proposed legislation in Congress should signal to the rest of the world that the Obama administration truly is serious about changing U.S. climate policy.

Last month the Supreme Court of Peru issued a surprising 4-3 decision that places an important natural area of the Cordillera Escalera, off limits to oil development. The decision cited the importance of protecting the area in its natural state because it is the source of water supply for 280,000 people who depend on the Caynarachi, Cumbaza, and Shanusi watersheds. The decision will result in a suspension of all oil exploration in the area, which will be subject in the future to compliance with a regional environmental “master plan.” In its decision, the Court apparently refers to the importance of preventing irreperable environmental harm in order to respect the needs of future generations. See Naomi Mapstone, “Peruvians Try to Maintain Flow of ‘Water Bank’,” Financial Times, April 14, 2009, at 7.

On Monday April 13, Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of Rospirodnadzor, Russia’s Environmental Protection Agency that is part of Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources resigned, claiming that he had been deprived of most of his authority for protesting official corruption. Mitvol had attracted international attention for forcing foreign oil companies to sell some of their assets to Russian companies in settlement of environmental cleanup claims. He announced that he plans to lead the Green Alternative, a new environmental group that will challenge Kremlin candidates in local elections.

The last two weeks have been the first weeks of the Major League Baseball season in the U.S. On Monday April 6 I attended the Baltimore Orioles season opener at Camden Yards. Vice President Joe Biden threw out the first pitch and a sell-out crowd saw the Os embarrass the New York Yankees and their new free agent pitcher C.C. Sabathia. On Wednesday April 8 I was at Fenway Park and watched the Red Sox lose in their second game of the season to the defending American League champions, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I root for the Washington Nationals, the worst team in baseball, and saw them lose their season opener on April 13 by a score of 9-8 to the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. President Obama declined an invitation to throw out the first pitch at the Nats’ opener, one of the few missteps of his first three months in office. I always love to introduce foreigners to baseball and last Saturday I was delighted to take Bo Li, a student from Renmin University in Beijing who is spending the year at the University of Maryland, to Nationals Park for his first baseball game ever. During the games, Nationals Park is touted as “America’s Greenest Ballpark” for being the first to become LEED Silver Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Garrison Lecture at Pace Law School & UVA Law School Tournament

On Wednesday April 1 I delivered the Fifteenth Annual Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law at Pace University Law School. I spoke on “The Globalization of Environmental Law” and made the pitch for combining the teaching of domestic and international environmental law into the subject of global environmental law. After giving examples of how global law is developing in several areas, I discussed the forces driving this development. These include the globalization of environmental concerns, increased trade and the growth of multinational enterprise, increased global collaboration of NGOs and government officials, and the influence of multilateral environmental agreements. I then explained why the current global financial crisis should not hinder the development of global environmental law, but rather should serve as an opportunity for promoting green development throughout the world.

I could not have received a warmer welcome from the faculty and students at Pace. Professor Nick Robinson met me at the airport and took me to lunch. In the afternoon I joined Nick, Ann Powers, Jeff Miller, Karl Coplan, Dick Ottinger, and Jamie Van Nostrand for a meeting with NRDC Executive Director Peter Lehner to discuss ways in which the Pace faculty can cooperate with NRDC on environmental issues in New York State. At the lecture Professor Jeff Miller introduced me and Pace Dean Michelle Simon presented me with the Garrison medal. Following a post-lecture reception I went to dinner with a great group of Pace faculty and students.

On Thursday morning I returned to D.C. and then taught my Constitutional Law class in Baltimore. Following class, I joined the students who play on Maryland’s law school softball team to watch a film of their participation in last year’s University of Virginia Law School Softball Tournament in preparation for their departure for this year’s tournament. Thursday night I had dinner with a friend from California who was in D.C. for a medical convention. He had been on my mountain climbing trip to Nepal in 1981 and we reminisced about our adventures there, including meeting Sir Edmund Hillary. On Friday morning I flew to Boston to teach my Environmental Law class at Harvard, which had been rescheduled from Wednesday due to my visit to Pace.

On Saturday morning I left D.C. at 5AM to drive to Charlottesville, Virginia where I spent a really enjoyable weekend at UVA’s Law School Softball Tournament. More than 100 teams from more than 50 law schools participated in the competition. Maryland fielded four teams, three in the coed division, and I played on one of the coed teams. Our top coed team defeated teams from Harvard, Fordham, the University of Connecticut, Rutgers-Camden, University of Baltimore, and Catholic University to reach the semifinals where they won a close game against perennial champion UVA Gold. They then finished second in the competition after losing to a great team from the Appalachian School of Law in the championship game. Unlike last year, the weather was terrific in Charlottesville. More than 50 Maryland students played in the tournament and we all had a great time.