On Friday May 21 the University of Maryland School of Law held its graduation ceremonies. Judge Andre Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit gave one of the best commencement addresses that I had ever heard. Twenty-nine of the students (more than 10% of the graduating class) qualified for the certificate of concentration in environmental law by earning at least 17 credits in environmental courses, including the required survey Environmental Law course, and by satisfying experiential learning and research requirements. On Thursday May 20 we held our annual pre-graduation awards ceremony to recognize these students. Dean Haddon presented the students with their certificates of concentration.
Enormous quantities of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform. Unlike spills from oil tankers whether there is a finite amount of oil contained in the ship, here the spill is continuing and it appears to be much larger than originally estimated. This week an effort was made in the U.S. Senate to amend the Oil Pollution Act to raise the limit on liability for spills from oil platforms from clean up costs plus $75 million to clean up costs plus $10 billion. However, Republicans in the Senate blocked the effort. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend environmental reviews and authorize immediate dredging to construct sand barriers to prevent some of the oil from reaching shore, an idea that has not been embraced by environmental scientists.
On Thursday May 20, the U.S. Senate by a vote of 59-39 passed its version of the Obama administration’s financial reform legislation. While the legislation does not address environmental issues, it does contain an unusual provision that could break some new ground toward future efforts to green corporations’ supply chains. The bill approved by the Senate requires any publicly traded company using particular minerals as primary ingredients in their products to certify whether they originated in the Congo or surrounding countries. The minerals include wolframite, widely used as a source of tungsten in lightbulbs and other electronic products, gold, cassiterite, and columbite-tantalite. The bill requires the companies to detail what steps they have taken to ensure that the minerals do not benefit armed groups in Africa. The provision was added to the bill by voice vote after being introduced by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). Edward Wyatt, Congo Minerals Provision Becomes Part of Financial Bill, N.Y. Times, May 22, 2010, p. B8.
I am leaving for China in a few hours. I will be arriving in Shanghai on Monday night and visiting the World Expo there on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday I will fly to Beijing to participate in conferences on tort law and climate change.