Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney confirmed last week that he believed that climate change is real, a sharp break with the rest of the field of announced Republican presidential candidates. Romney stated: “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course. But I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe that based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.” While rejecting cap-and-trade, Romney stated that “It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.” For this seemingly sane statement Romney’s chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination were officially declared dead by Rush Limbaugh and others, but it instead could be the sign of the first serious challenger to Obama emerging from the Republican field.
On Monday June 6 a representative of EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard reiterated the EU’s determination to require all airlines flying to the EU to participate in a cap-and-trade program for their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that will begin on January 1, 2012. Airlines will be required to pay a penalty of 100 Euros for each ton of GHG emissions in excess of their allocation. Non-EU airlines are bitterly opposed to the regulation, while EU-based airlines argue that all airlines must be covered or they will be at a competitive disadvantage. Jonathan Buck, Europe to Keep Airlines in Emissions-Trading Plan, Wall St. J., June 7, 2011, at B8.
On Monday June 6 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upholding the constitutionality of the Superfund cleanup process. Since the late 1990s the General Electric Company (GE) has been arguing that Superfund’s provisions precluding pre-cleanup judicial review of cleanup orders and authorizing treble damages against companies who improperly defy them denies due process of law. GE enlisted Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe to represent it early on in this crusade (as he did in 2000 when the company argued that the Clean Air Act was unconstitutional on non-delegation grounds) but it lost at every stage of this long-running litigation. The latest round of GE’s efforts to attack Superfund was championed by former Stanford law dean Kathleen Sullivan who represented industry groups in the Burlington Northern case that made it more difficult for the government to hold companies liable under Superfund as arrangers for disposal of hazardous substances.
A bitter battle seems to have broken out over proposals to eliminate a multi-billion dollar subsidy for ethanol blenders. Senator Tom Coburn has drawn the wrath of anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist for breaking ranks to support eliminate of this tax break, which he interprets as supporting a tax increase in violation of the right’s “pledge” never to raise taxes. The environmental community also supports elimination of the tax break.
Fallout continues from the Japanese nuclear accident. The Wall Street Journal reports that “an unofficial nuclear shutdown” is occurring in Japan as Japanese utilities who had nuclear powerplants temporarily shut down when the Fukushima Daiichi accident occurred are declining to restart them even if they were not directly affected by the accident. As a result, only 17 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are now operating. Mari Iwata, Japan Expects Power Shortages Amid Growing, Unofficial Nuclear Shutdown, Wall St. J., June 10, 2011. German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded last week that her country’s decision to return to its policy of phasing out nuclear energy will require the country to build an addition 10 to 20GW of fossil-fuel powerplants over the next ten years. Bernd Radowitz, German Nuclear Exit Raises Fossil-Fuel Needs, Wall St. J., June 10, 2011, at A12.
Today I accompanied a delegation of young Chinese environmental professionals to Camden Yards to watch the Baltimore Orioles play the Tampa Bay Rays. The delegation is part of a project sponsored by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. The group includes Ma Yong (Director of the Department of Inspection and Litigation of the All-China Environmental Federation’s Environmental Legal Services Center in Beijing), Professor Qin Tianbao from the Research Institute of Environmental Law at Wuhan University, Ms. Bo Xiaobo from the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, Ms. Hu Wei (an attorney with the Shanghai Debund Law Office), and Ms. Liu Xiaoying (a research fellow at Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Center). The group has spent the last two weeks visiting San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington. For the next three days they will be participating in an environmental workshop at the University of Maryland School of Law. Most of the group seemed to really enjoy the baseball game, which I often describe as the very best way for foreigners to experience a slice of truly American culture. The Os lost to the Ray 9-6.