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.