On Monday May 30 the Chinese government announced that it would increase electricity prices in response to power shortages that occurred when electric utilities cut back on power production due to the high price of coal. The price increases, which became effective on June 1, average approximately 3 percent.
On Friday June 3 the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection released its annual report. Despite reporting progress in reducing air and water pollution (a 19% drop in SO2 emissions and a 32% decrease in pollution of surface water), the report described environmental conditions in China as “very grave.” The report cited declining biodiversity and increasing pollution of the countryside as polluting industries were moved from cities to rural areas. Ian Johnson, China Agency Says Threat to Ecosystem is “Grave,” N.Y. Times, June 4, 2011, at A7. Li Ganjie, vice minister for the environment, noted that China needed to write new legislation to control heavy metal pollution. He also conceded that more than one fifth of the country’s nature reserves have been degraded by illegal development projects.
On Wednesday June 1 the World Bank signed an agreement with representatives from 40 large cities (the “C40”) meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil to provide technical and financial assistance for local efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The agreement was hailed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton, who have joined forces to promote local initiatives to combat climate change. At present 58 large cities, with a population of 300 million people, that account for 12 percent of global GHG emissions, are participating in the C40 initiative. The World Bank will help the group employ standardized methods for measuring and reporting on GHG emissions to make it easier to attract financing for reduction projects.
On June 1 the French Senate began debate on legislation, approved last month by the French National Assembly, to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract natural gas from shale formations. “Fracking” has become a popular technology in the U.S. where it was exempted from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005. It has raised serious environmental concerns potential contamination of ground and surface water in light of the melange of chemicals injected deep underground to fracture rock formations and release gas deposits. On the very day the French Senate debate commenced, a British company announced that it temporarily would halt fracking operations due to concern that the practice had contributed to earthquakes near a test well. David Jolly, U.K. Company Suspends Controversial Drilling Procedure, N.Y. Times, June 1, 2011.
One little-noticed aspect of the G-8 Summit in France the week before last was a pledge by EU officials to consider replicating a controversial provision in the U.S.‘s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Financial Reform and Consumer Protection Act to require oil, gas and mining companies to disclose all payments to foreign governments. William MacNamara, Transparency Initiative Moves Forward in Deauville, FInancial Times, June 1, 2011. If such legislation is adoption, it should reduce the force of complaints by U.S. companies that Dodd-Frank’s requirements disadvantage them in global competition.
Today I received hard copies of the May 2011 issue of the Fordham Law Review where my article “Who’s in Charge? Does the President Have Directive Authority over Agency Regulatory Decisions?” appears. The article was a product of my presentation at a symposium on presidential powers held at Fordham last November (see Nov. 14, 2010 blog post). The symposium produced some great articles exploring a surprisingly uncharted area of law. A copy of my article, which reviews the constitutional and administrative law debate over the president’s authority to direct environmental regulations, can be downloaded at: http://www.fordhamlawreview.org/articles/who-s-in-charge-does-the-president-have-directive-authority-over-agency-regulatory-decisions.