As reported last week, Maryland’s law faculty have been fighting back against the state legislature’s threat to withhold funds from the school to punish our Environmental Law Clinic for bringing a citizen’s suit alleging that Perdue Farms has violated the Clean Water Act. On Monday I appeared on the Mark Steinor radio show on WEAA-FM in Baltimore to present our side of the story. Two state senators - Lisa Gladden and Jim Brochin - who support the clinic were on the show with me, as well as state delegate Richard Sossi who advocated cutting our funds. A podcast of the broadcast is available at: http://www.steinershow.org/radio/the-marc-steiner-show/march-29-2010-hour-2. Through the hard work of Rena Steinzor, Jane Barrett, Dean Phoebe Haddon and others, the clinic received a terrific outpouring of support. More than 450 law faculty and 50 deans signed a letter supporting us. The president of the American Bar Association, the Executive Director of the American Association of Law Schools, 39 environmental law clinic faculty, and many others wrote letters to the legislature condemning its threat to withhold funds. These expressions of support can be viewed online at: http://www.law.umaryland.edu/about/features/enviroclinic/support.html. In the face of all this support, the House voted on Friday to remove the threat to withhold funds from the budget bill. Our clinic still will be asked to report non-privileged information, but it will not be a condition for the university receiving any of its funds.
On Wednesday I appeared on WYPR-FM’s Midday with Dan Rodricks to discuss the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation’s mandate to purchase health insurance. This is a subject my students and I have been discussing in my Constitutional Law class. A podcast of the broadcast is available at: http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wypr/local-wypr-893737.mp3
When in China last month, I discovered that the March issue of Esquire magazine’s Chinese edition featured “Green Heroes of China” including my friends Wang Canfa and Zhang Jingjing. But it also featured many other Chinese environmentalists. Their photos can be viewed online at: http://pic.green.sohu.com/group-206198.shtml#m=b&g=206198&p=1779664 My friend Mary O’Loughlin, a Fulbright researcher at the University of Wuhan has put together a translation of this portion of the magazine that I have posted on my parallel blog at www.globalenvironmentallaw.com for anyone who wishes to learn more about who the “Green Heroes” are.
This week President Obama announced that he would lift a prohibition on offshore oil drilling off parts of the U.S. coastline in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, and Alaska, while continuing to prohibit such drilling off the coasts of California and New Jersey. This move is viewed as part of the administration’s efforts to build a broader coalition for legislation to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by promoting measures popular with Republicans. On April 1 the administration finalized its previously announced increase in fuel economy standards beginning with 2012 model year vehicles.
On Tuesday March 30 a French appeals court upheld a 200-million Euro award against the oil company Total for environmental damage caused by the 1999 oil spill from the tanker Erika off the coast of Brittany. The award will be paid by Total and Italian shipping and maritime certification companies to the French government and NGOs like the League for the Protection of Birds. The decision represents the first time a French court has awarded damages for ecological injuries, what is referred to as “natural resource damages” under U.S. law.
On Tuesday March 30 an international arbitration panel in the Hague awarded Chevron $700 million under the Bilateral Investment Treaty for oil that Ecuador allegedly failed to pay for during the 1990s. The claim is separate from the ongoing $27 billlion litigation over Chevron’s potential liability for environmental damage in the Oriente region of Ecuador. The arbitration panel ruled that Ecuador had violated the treaty by failing to provide Chevron with an effective means to recover payment for the oil in the courts of Ecuador. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the litigation against Chevron over environmental damage in the Oriente are appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit district Judge Leonard Sand’s March 11 refusal to block Chevron’s pursuit of a separate arbitral claim in the Hague premised on the Ecuadoran judiciary’s handling of the Oriente damage litigation.