Before it adjourned last week the U.S. Congress approved the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 to restrict the practice of cutting the fins off sharks and then dumping the sharks overboard. The legislation requires any fishing vessel landing sharks in U.S. waters to keep their fins attached and it prevents nonfishing vessels from transporting fins without their carcasses. The legislation, which had been introduced by Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, initially was approved by the U.S. House by voice vote in March 2009. Before it was approved in the Senate last week an exemption was added at the insistence of Senator Burr (R-N.C.) to allow those catching smooth dogfish off the coast of North Carolina to bring in their fins separately.
In October Apple Computer released the latest version of its popular iMovie software program (iMovie ‘11) that includes among its new features templates to make movie trailers. It struck me that it would be fun to make trailers for my upcoming classes. Last week I tried using the templates and was amazed at how easy it was produce movie trailers. I made them for my Global Environmental Law Seminar, my Constitutional Law class, and for the upcoming Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition that Maryland will be hosting in March. The trailers can be viewed online from with any browser that can view Quicktime files. The trailer for my Global Environmental Law seminar is at http://gallery.me.com/rperci#100744. The trailer for my Constitutional Law class, featuring video I shot at Independence Hall earlier this month after speaking at a conference in Philadelphia, can be viewed at http://gallery.me.com/rperci#100738. The International Environmental Moot Court trailer, which includes photos from previous competitions and from last May’s Jordanian National Moot Court Competition, can be viewed at http://gallery.me.com/rperci#100753.
Last week I had an opportunity to review an advance draft of the results of the second Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI) for China, which will soon be published by the Beijing office of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ma Jun’s Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs. PITI ranks Chinese cities on how well they are implementing China’s Open Information Law, which is similar to the U.S.’s Freedom of Information Act, with respect to environmental information. It has had a remarkable impact on some cities whose officials view it much like deans view the U.S. News rankings of schools in the United States. I will not steal their thunder in advance of the publication of the second PITI, but I can note a couple of positive developments it lauds that already are public information in China. Last March China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) disclosed a list of hundreds of key enterprises whose emissions exceeded applicable standards, the first time the central government had disclosed monitoring results for major polluters. Hubei Province subsequently released a similar list for polluters in its region and in August 2010 the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a list of 2,087 companies that were being required to phase out outdated production facilities in 18 industries, including the iron, steel, cement and smelting industries. Some local governments also are engaging NGOs. In May 2010 Weihai City in Shandong Province held a public workshop on information disclosure with NGOs, the media, and officials of the local Environmental Protection Boards (EPBs). Last month Jiaxing City in Zhejiang Province held a similar public forum.
Last week Iran finally implemented its plan to reduce dramatically the $100 billion it has been spending annually to subsidize the price of fuel and other basic commodities. Officials estimated that the move would at least quadruple the price of gasoline while raising prices for electricity and water by threefold. To ease the impact of the reduced subsidies on its citizens the government is spending half of its cost savings to provide compensation payments that it promises to double next year. Drivers now will receive 16 gallons of gasoline per month at a price of approximately $1.52 per gallon and they may purchase additional gasoline for a price 75% higher, which is close to the world market price. Spain’s plan to reduce its costly subsidies for solar energy projects has come under fire from investors who claim that it will exacerbate the country’s banking crisis by forcing many solar producers into default. Because the Spanish government agreed to pay solar photovoltaic projects ten times the price of electricity generated from gas and coal, Spain now has 3,200 megawatts of solar capacity, more than six times what the government had expected to have by the end of 2010. Guy Chazan, Spain’s Cuts to Solar Aid Draw Fire, Wall Street J., Dec. 23, 2010.
On December 21 Canada’s Oilsands Advisory Panel released a report concluding that there is insufficient data to monitor the environmental effects of development of Canada’s oilsands. The panel had been appointed by former Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice. Canada’s current Environment Minister John Baird reacted to the report by announcing that the federal government of Canada accepts its findings and will work to establish a better system to monitor the environmental impact of oilsands development. Two other reports released this month - by Canada’s environment commissioner and the Royal Society of Canada also have faulted current environmental monitoring. U.S. environmental groups have asked the State Department to reject a Canadian request to double the size of Tanscanada Corporation’s Keystone pipeline for transporting oil from the Alberta area where the oilsands are concentrated. Edward Welsh & Nirmala Menon, Oil-Sands Monitoring Faulted in Report, Wall St. J., Dec. 22, 2010, at B4.
On December 23 the U.S. EPA announced that it had completed its plans for state greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting programs that will take effect in January. EPA will temporarily take over issuance of air permit in the states of Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon and Wyoming until these seven states have revised their programs to cover GHG emissions. Because Texas has refused to revise its air permitting program to include GHG emissions, EPA will take over the program. While this is the procedure specified in the Clean Air Act when a state implementation plan fails to meet federal standards, that did not stop Texas officials from denouncing it as “an arrogant act by an overreaching EPA that is trying to implement new, unnecessary controls on American industry.” James C. McKinley, Jr., “EPA Challenges Texas Over RUles on Emissions,” N.Y. Times, Dec. 23, 2010.
EPA also announced that it will propose new standards for controlling GHG emissions from power plants by July 2011 and for refineries by December 2011. Stung that many utility executives who have invested in clean energy projects support EPA’s new regulations on both GHG emissions and other pollutants, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial last week denouncing “utility CEOs cheering on the Obama Administration’s plans to wipe out large portions of U.S. electric power capacity.” The editorial charged that “EPA is abusing environmental law to achieve policy goals that the democratic process has rejected, while also engineering a transfer of wealth to certain companies,” The EPA’s Utility Men, Wall St. J., Dec. 23, 2010, at A16. So companies who foresaw the need eventually to invest in clean energy sources because of long overdue regulations to improve protection of health and the environment are faulted by the Journal for (shockingly) actually making money at the expense of those who have profited for years from harming others with their pollution.