I am in Maastricht, Netherlands right now, having arrived this morning to speak at a conference sponsored by the European Union at the University of Maastricht. The title of my talk is “Risk, Uncertainty & Precaution: New Directions for Environmental Policy.” It will focus on what lessons can be learned from the history of risk regulation to develop sound policies to respond to emerging risks subject to great uncertainty, such as the risks of nanotechnology.
On Thursday April 8 the World Bank voted to approve a $3 billion loan to South Africa to help it complete construction of a 4.8 MW coal-fired powerplant that will be the world’s seventh largest such plant. The United States, Britain and the Netherlands abstained on the vote because the project will emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) contrary to guidelines developed by the U.S. to support multilateral financing of only “no or low carbon” methods for meeting the energy needs of developing countries. South African officials claim that the plant is desperately needed to boost the country’s economy. A report by the Environmental Defense Fund last year found that the World Bank had approved a total of $37 billion in financing for 88 coal-fired powerplants during the past 15 years. Many of these plants are in Asia and their total emissions will account for three-quarters of those from all coal-fired powerplants in the European Union.
Several oil companies have launched a campaign in California to put a measure on the November ballot that would block implementation of the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act until the economy rebounds. Adopted in 2006, the law requires that statewide emissions of GHGs be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. Supporters of the law concede that the proposed measure is likely to garner the 434,000 signatures needed to be placed on the ballot. Debate over the measure will focus in part on the economic impact of such cap-and-trade legislation. The California Air Resources Board now predicts that California’s program will result in a net gain of 10,000 jobs by reducing energy bills through greater efficiency investments while sponsors of the ballot measure project net job losses.
On Wednesday April 7 Maryland’s Environmental Law Program hosted its annual “Golden Tree” awards ceremony for the short documentary films students made in my Environmental Law class. “Environmental INJustice,” a film about environmental justice issues in a Baltimore neighborhood, won Best Picture, as well as awards for Most Educational FIlm, Best Narration, and Best Cinematography. The film was made by Nancy Lineman, Holly Davaser and Elsa Clausen-Michels. “Just a Reminder,” an entertaining film about the process of deciding what to make a film about, won awards for Best Acting, Best Sound, and Best Screenplay. Other films winning Golden Trees included: “Believe,” a clean coal parody that won Best Use of Humor. “The Tale of Corn,” a film about the environmental impacts of ethanol use, won Best Animation. “Six Stages in the Development of U.S. Environmental Law” won Best Use of Special Effects. “Environmental Awareness,” which revealed how little ordinary law students know about current environmental events, won an award for Best Interviews and “Bike Club” won a special judge’s award.
The Major League Baseball season opened last week. After teaching my Constitutional Law class on Monday morning April 5, I dashed to Nationals Park in D.C. just in time to see President Obama throw out the ceremonial first pitch. During the weekend I accompanied more than 50 Maryland law students to Charlottesville, Virginia for UVA’s annual national law school softball tournament. While the team I played on won all three of our games on Saturday and the first elimination round on Sunday, we lost in the Round of Sixteen as did the other Maryland team who advanced that far. Congratulations to Florida Coastal for winning the championship from among the 72 teams fom 53 law schools in the coed division. Photos of the tournament can be viewed online at: http://gallery.me.com/rperci/100668.