On March 18-20 the University of Maryland School of Law hosted the International Finals of the Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition. A total of 18 teams from 10 countries (Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Ireland, Phillippines, Trinidad, Ukraine,the United States, and Zimbabwe) qualified for the International Finals after regional competitions throughout the world. After Friday’s competition eight teams advanced to the quarterfinals on Sunday March 20: two teams from the Law Society of Ireland, the University of the Phillippines College of Law and the Ateneo de Manila School of Law from the Phillippines, the National University of Advanced Legal Studies from India, the High Wooding Law School from Trinidad, the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, and the University of California Hastings College of Law.
Advancing to the semifinals were one team from the Law Society of Ireland and teams from Hawaii, Trinidad, and the University of the Phillippines. The final round featured the University of Hawaii against the Law Society of Ireland. Judges for the final round included Rock Pring from the University of Denver School of Law, Tim Sellers, director of the Center for International and Comparative Law at the University of Baltimore, and Tseming Yang from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For the second time in three years the winner of the competition was the Law Society of Ireland. Laura Allen from the University of Hawaii won the award for best oralist in the final round.
The team from Atenco de Manila won the award for best memorial for the second year in a row. Lance Cidre from Hasting won the award for Best Oralist of the Preliminary Rounds. The most inspirational story of the competition was the University of Zimbabwe, which won the Spirit of Stetson Award. Prior to the competition, the team members had never studied international law or environmental law. They initially tried to raise the funds to finance their trip through collecting small donations on street corners. Just when it looked like this effort would fall short, the publicity it received convinced a local corporation to make a last minute contribution that allowed the team to come to Maryland.
After five terrific days of vacation in Rome, my wife flew home on Wednesday while I flew to Spain to speak at a World Health Organization (WHO) Conference on “Environmental and Occupational Determinants of Cancer: Interventions for Primary Prevention.” The conference, which was held in the Asturias area of northwestern Spain was organized by Maria Neira, director of the Public Health and Environment Division of the WHO. The conference featured nearly 100 scientists, health journalists and NGO officials from 21 countries as well as a dozen WHO officials. I apparently was the only law professor invited to speak at the conference. On Thursday the conference opened at the spectacular new International Art Centre Oscar Niemeyer in Avilés, on which construction is still being finished. A huge press contingent attended drawn by the presence of Princess Letizia of Spain. Following the opening ceremonies, the conference speakers had an audience with the Princess and I was able to meet her and speak briefly with her. Local participants in the conferences were uniform in their praise of the Spanish royal family for helping hold the country together and for supporting causes such as cancer prevention through environmental regulation.
The conference marked the launch of a new WHO initiative to focus on primary prevention of cancer by controlling human exposure to toxic agents. Despite bans on the use of asbestos in most of the developed world, asbestos use actually is increasing in developing countries such as China and India. The power of global NGO networks to expose such practices in developing countries has forced all major multinational corporations out of the asbestos business, but it is still yielding windfall profits to less well known companies. Shockingly, Canada is considering reopening an old asbestos mine to export more of this deadly product to poor countries.
On Friday the conference was held at the Laboral City of Culture in Gijon, an impressive setting that formerly had served as the Franco government’s school for the children of laborers. I spoke about what the WHO should do to promote improved global environmental regulation to prevent human exposure to carcinogens. The conference concluded with the participants agreeing to The Asturias Call for Action, which was drafted in large part through the efforts of Dr. Philip Landrigan, the dean for global health at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. The final version of this document is not online yet, but a press release describing the Call for Action is online at: http://www.who.int/phe/news/events/international_conference/PR_cancer_conf2011_en.pdf
I was supposed to return to the United States on Saturday to speak on a panel at the International Environmental Moot Court Competition and then to judge the quarterfinal round on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, after sitting for three hours on a plane awaiting takeoff at Madrid’s Barajas Airport on Saturday morning, my flight was canceled when repairs could not be completed in a timely fashion. That meant that I was unable to return to the U.S. until after the competition was completed on Sunday afternoon. I am so appreciative of the work of Suzann Langrall, David Mandell, William Piermattei, and Karla Schaffer in making the competition such a great success. On Friday night at the annual Fedder Dinner, Maryland law professor Rena Steinzor introduced Joel Fedder, whose generosity helped make Maryland’s hosting of the competition possible. Rock and Kitty Pring gave the annual Fedder lecture. Sunday was Karla Schaffer’s birthday and she was presented with a cake and flowers and then serenaded with “Happy Birthday” by the competitors in five different languages (English, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Shonu (by Team Zimbabwe)). An after-competition party was organized at a local pub by the Brazilian delegation. Despite not advancing to the quarterfinals, the students were so enthusiastic about the competition that the vowed to encourage more Chinese schools to participate in a new regional competition next year.
On March 16 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed national standards to limit emissions of mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollutants from U.S. power plants. EPA estimates that the standards will save 17,000 lives each year while preventing 11,000 heart attacks annually. While compliance with the standards will be costly, EPA estimates that they will generate net benefits five to 13 times their cost. Details of the proposal are available online at: http://www.epa.gov/hg/. EPA’s action is an historic step in the regulation of mercury emissions from U.S. powerplants. However, because nearly 30 percent of all mercury in the U.S. originates in Asia, predominantly from Chinese coal-fired powerplants, it also will be essential to negotiate a global treaty to achieve progress in reducing human exposure to mercury.
Spain’s Constitutional Court has struck down statutes in Andalusia and Castilla y Léon that gave the regions’ governments control over the Guadalquivir River and the Duero River, respectively. The court ruled that Article 149 of the Spanish Constitution trumped the laws by giving exclusive control over hydrological resources that pass through more than one region to the central government. The decision represents a sharp challenge to efforts by Spain’s regional governments to resist the European Union’s efforts to manage each river basin as a single unit. “A Watershed Decision,” El País, March 19, 2011 (English edition), at p. 2.