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

Monday, March 29, 2010

IMO Rules, Md. Legislature Attack on Clinic, ASIL Meeting

On Friday March 26 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London adopted new rules that will sharply reduce air pollution from ships in U.S. and Canadian coastal waters. Beginning in 2012 the rules require ships operating within 200 miles of each nation’s coast to use fuel with a sulfur content 98 percent below existing fuels. Beginning in 2016, new ships operating in these waters must have advanced pollution control technology. EPA, which estimates that the rules will save 14,000 lives in the U.S. and Canada, previously had issued similar regulations for U.S. ships. The IMO action, which was not opposed by the cruise and shipping industries, extends these rules to all ships operating in these waters. This will be a major step to clean up international shipping which has been one of the most heavily polluting industries because of its traditional reliance on cheap, but dirty, bunker fuels.

As discussed in the March 7, 2010 entry on this blog, on March 1 the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic filed a landmark lawsuit challenging the poultry industry’s chicken waste management practices, alleging that they violate the Clean Water Act. The large agribusiness company Perdue Farms is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Perdue’s political allies in the Maryland General Assembly have responded by seeking to cut funds for Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic. While Maryland usually is considered a progressive state that supports measures to protect the environment, the chairs of the House and Senate Budget committees are from the Eastern Shore where Perdue has considerable political influence. They managed to insert amendments to the university’s budget that would withhold up to $500,000 in funding until the school issues reports revealing data about the clinic’s clients, expenditures and case selection strategies.  The Baltimore Sun denounced the legislature’s move as “blatant stupidity” in an editorial that can be viewed online at:  http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/2010/03/state_house_bullies_um_law_sch.html While this is not the first time that Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic, which is one of the very finest in the nation, has been attacked by industry groups, it is the first time that the legislature has entertained such tactics. Maryland’s dean and faculty are vigorously opposing the budget amendments and hope that they will be removed when the final legislation is adopted.

This weekend I met Professor Yongmin Bian from the Law School of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. Professor Yongmin teaches environmental law and public international law and is an expert on international trade issues. Her reaction upon hearing about the Maryland legislature’s attempt to punish our clinic for suing Perdue is that it sounded like the kind of thing that routinely happens in China and that it was shocking to hear that it could occur in a country like the U.S. with an independent judiciary and a long tradition of respect for the rule of law. Cases should be decided on their merits and not by attempts to intimidate lawyers or litigants. Professor Yongmin was in Washington as the coach of her school’s Jessup International Law Moot Court Team. A team from the Australian National University won the competition this weekend.

On Friday and Saturday I attended the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) in Washington. I had hoped to attend State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh’s keynote address on Thursday afternoon, but was precluded from doing so by an emergency faculty meeting to discuss the Maryland Legislature’s attack on the clinic. Harold’s remarks, which focus largely on the administration’s efforts to combat terrorism are available online at: http://www.state.gov/s/l/releases/remarks/139119.htm I attended very interesting panels on recent developments in Alien Tort Statute litigation and efforts to respond to global climate change. The Saturday panel on the Road Forward from Copenhagen noted that Copenhagen had exposed the limitations of a consensus-based global treaty process and suggested that domestic legislation that regulates access to carbon markets is now emerging as a key driver of future progress.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break Tour of China

In the early hours this morning our group of 37 Maryland environmental law students and alums returned to Baltimore from our spring break tour of China. The trip was a huge success despite a very tight schedule that took us to Beijing, X’ian, and Shanghai in the space of a week. A large album of photos of the trip is available online at: http://gallery.me.com/rperci/100660. On Monday morning March 15 we visited the Great Wall, which was covered in snow as a result of the surprise blizzard the day before. This made climbing the wall rather difficult, particularly coming down some of the steepest sections. But the blue sky and snow-covered wall provided terrific scenery.

On Monday afternoon we visited the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) on the downtown campus of the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL). CUPL law professor Wang Canfa founded CLAPV in 1999 by setting up a hotline to field complaints about environmental conditions in any part of China. Professor Wang showed us the hotline and his offices and then we adjourned to a classroom where he gave a terrific lecture on the development of public interest environmental law in China. Our group learned a lot from Professor Wang and I am most appreciative of his taking the time to meet with us. Professor Wang described his vision for the next phase in the evolution of public interest environmental law in China which includes the development of private law firms that will represent victims of pollutions.

Following dinner with the group in a Beijing hutong, I met with former CLAPV lawyer Zhang Jingjing who is now with the China office of the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI). She noted that the public interest law movement in China is still in its early phases of development with the key players easy to identify. The current Chinese edition of Esquire magazine is devoted to the theme of “Green China” and it features photo spreads of China’s top environmemtalists, including Wang Canfa and Jing Jing. I obtained a copy of the magazine at the Beijing airport on Tuesday prior to boarding our flight to X’ian. One page of photos is devoted to lawyers, but most of the people pictured are the leaders of grassroots environmental groups.

Prior to departing for X’ian on Tuesday morning, our group made an early morning stop at the Beijing offices of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). NRDC-Beijing director Alex Wang graciously agreed to open the office at 7:30AM so that our group could visit. He said that ours was the largest group ever to visit the offices. Alex gave a terrific presentation about the work NRDC is doing in China and its multi-prong strategy for improving energy efficiency, greening supply chains, and combating air and water pollution.

In X’ian on Tuesday and Wednesday we visited tourist sites, including the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the famous site where thousands of terra cotta warriors buried by Emporer Qin Shi Huang were discovered by a farmer digging a well in 1974. I had been to the latter twice before, the first time in 1981, shortly after the site was opened to the public. On Thursday we had a very early morning flight to Beijing, so early that our luggage was checked in prior to the group, resulting in one student being stranded in X’ian after he discovered that his passport was in his checked luggage. Chinese security would not let him board our plane without a passport so he had to made a 16-hour journey by overnight train in order to rejoin the group in Shanghai.

In Shanghai we visited the Nanjing Road shopping area, the Jade Buddha Temple, and Yu Yuyuan Gardens prior to attending a Friday evening reception in our honor at the Maryland China Center. At the reception we heard terrific presentations from Zhenxi Zhong, who described her work with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots office in Shanghai, and former Fulbright professor Dan Guttman, who discussed differences in the meaning of law and legal policy in China and the U.S. We also were joined in Shanghai by Mary O’Loughlin who is doing environmental policy research at Wuhan University sponsored by the Fulbright program and Michael Jean, a third year Maryland law student who recently moved back to Shanghai after her partner was transferred there.

On Saturday morning we visited the World Financial Center where we had a panoramic view of Shanghai from the 100th floor observation deck. We then stopped at the Mag-Lev Terminal in order to be whisked to the airport in seven minutes on a train that reached speeds of more than 430km/hour using magnetic levitation technology. On Saturday afternoon we flew back to the U.S., clearing customs in San Francisco.

UMD Wins Int'l Moot Court, China Tour & Copenhagen Accord (Belated 3/14 Post)

Because I was behind the great firewall of China last week I was unable to post this until now. Last Sunday I was in Beijing where I was leading a group of 37 students and alums on an environmental law tour of China during our spring break. We left Washington on Friday March 12 at noon and flew to Beijing with a stop to change planes in Tokyo. We arrived in Beijing late Saturday night and are staying at a hotel just south of Tiananmen Square. On Sunday March 13 we spent our first full day in China in a surprise blizzard as we toured the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square. The forecast had been for snow flurries changing to light rain, but the snow started out fairly heavy and just intensified throughout the day. Fortunately it was warm enough that the snow melted as it hit the roads so transportation was not greatly impeded, but there was a substantial accumulation of snow everywhere else.

Maryland Professor Shruti Rana who is in China to help set up a microfinance clinic joined our group for the day along with one of the alums of our joint Maryland/China business law exchange program. We also were joined in the afternoon by Huang Jing and Wang Jing, two of my former environmental law students from the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) who reported that they had just learned that CUPL’s moot court team had defeated Maryland in one of the preliminary rounds of the International Environmental Moot Court Competition being held this weekend at Stetson University Law School in Gulfport, Florida.

On Monday March 15) I received the news that, despite the loss to my former students from CUPL, Maryland’s team went on to win the International Environmental Moot Court Competition.  The team of Molly Knoll, April Morton, and William Tilburg had advanced to the Quarterfinal Rounds after defeating teams from India, Ukraine, Brazil, and the University of Pennsylvania, while losing to CUPL in the preliminary rounds.  CUPL also advanced to the Quarterfinals.  Maryland then defeated UC-Hastings in the quarterfinals on Sunday morning and then proceeded to win the semis and finals.  Molly Knoll was named best oralist in the final round.  Maryland also won the award for second best memorial.

Congratulations to Maryland alums David Mandell and Karla Schaffer who teach our Environmental Advocacy seminar as adjunct faculty and who put in so much of their own time coaching the team. This is a particularly timely achievement because Maryland will not be able to compete in the competition next year because we will be hosting the International Finals with 20 teams from all over the world coming to Baltimore in March 2011.

During the week of March 8 the Chinese and Indian governments transmitted letters to the United Nations (UN) agreeing to associate their countries with the Copenhagen Accord. India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh stated that by listing itself as joining the accord, the country strengthened its negotiation position on climate change. China’s chief climate negotiator Su Wei sent a one-sentence letter stating that the UN “can proceed to include China in the list of parties” associated with the Copenhagen Accord. EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard of Denmark stated that the nations of the world should now seek to complete a global treaty to control emissions of greenhouse gases in the 2011 conference of parties (COP) to be held in South Africa, rather than in the COP scheduled for Cancun in December 2010. John M. Broder, Climate Goal Is Supported by China and India, N.Y. Times, March 10, 2010, at A9.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Comer En Banc, Chicken Waste Suit, China Tobacco Clinic, CIEL 20th, Fordham Conference

On Monday March 1 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit announced that it had granted a petition for rehearing en banc in the case of Comer v. Murphy Oil USA. The court’s action vacates the October decision by a three-judge panel holding that climate change did not raise a political question that would prevent trial of a lawsuit brought by victims of Hurricane Katrina who allege that oil companies contributed to climate change that exacerbated their hurricane damage. The court will rehear the case en banc in late May 2010. It is possible that the en banc court could follow the suggestion by Judge Davis in his concurrence in the panel decision that, while the case is justiciable, the plaintiffs have failed to allege facts to establish that the defendants’ actions were the proximate cause of their injury. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is currently hearing an appeal of the Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil, where another federal trial court dismissed an Alaskan village’s claims for damages due to climate change as raising a nonjusticiable political question.

On Monday March 1 the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic filed a landmark lawsuit to challenge chicken manure management practices that pollute the Chesapeake Bay. Plaintiffs Assateague Coastkeeper, the Assateague Coastal Trust and the Waterkeeper Alliance filed a citizen’s suit alleging that a large chicken farm in Worcester County, Maryland, and the giant chicken producer Perdue Farms, Inc. violated the Clean Water Act. Environmental Clinic Director Jane Barrett, Fellow Tina Meyers and clinic students have done a terrific job preparing this case.

This has been a really busy week as I prepare to lead a group of 40 Maryland law students and alums on a spring break tour of China departing next Friday. On Wednesday we had an orientation session for the group and it looks like it will be a spectacular trip. On Monday I met a group of professors from the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) in Beijing who were visiting Maryland to consult with Professor Kathleen Dachille, director of our Tobacco Control Clinic. CUPL, where I taught as a Fulbright Scholar two years ago, is in the process of establishing a similar clinic, confirming the growing interest in tobacco control initiatives in China.

On Tuesday I met with Jorge Guzman, Coordinator for the Environmental Secretariat established by the Dominican Republic-Central America-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). In August 2004 the U.S. signed the agreement, the first between the U.S. and smaller developing countries (Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua). Like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), DR-CAFTA establishes a procedure for citizen complaints about environmental conditions. Jorge Guzman reported that there have been six environmental complaints filed since the procedure was launched in 2006. He is working to enhance understanding of environmental law in Central America and I hope to be able to assist him in this worthy cause. I am grateful to Professor Carmen Gonzalez from Seattle University Law School for putting Mr Guzman in contact with me.

On Tuesday night I attended the 20th anniversary celebration of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). The event was held at the U.S. Botanic Gardens at the foot of Capitol Hill. It gave me a great chance to catch up with many of the people working in the global environmental law field today, including some of my former students and a current student who is interning at CIEL.

On Friday I spoke at a conference on Environmental Litigation and Corporate Social Responsibility at Fordham Law School. The Fordham law students who organized the conference, including Elizabeth Marcon, did a terrific job. Professor Ronnie Chatterji from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business opened the conference by discussing how difficult it is to measure corporate social responsibility (CSR). Carol DInkins of Vinson & Elkins discussed CSR from the perspective of counsel to corporations. Professor Lakshman Guruswamy from the University of Denver explained why international law is not well-suited to influencing corporate behavior in this area. Professor Martha Judy of Vermont Law explored how the Superfund legislation (CERCLA) influences corporate behavior. Professor Hope Babcock from Georgetown proposed using contract law to improve CSR. Tony Roisman illustrated how you do not need a fancy powerpoint to hold an audience’s attention with an inspiring speech about why litigation remains an essential tool, despite its difficulties. I gave the final presentation of the day on why the future of corporate social responsibility is global in light of the rapid development of global environmental law. Papers prepared for the conference will be published in the Fordham Environmental Law Review.