On August 3 the Japanese Parliament passed legislation to create a fund to compensate the victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Under the legislation the Japense government will make an initial contribution of $26 billion to the fund and other Japanese power companies also will contribute. With most of Japan’s nuclear power plants currently shut down, extraordinary measures to reduce consumption of electricity are being employed in Japan. Momentum seems to be building for keeping the reactors shut down. Last week three top Japanese nuclear regulators were fired by Prime Minister Naoto Kan for being too close to the industry and survivors of the World War II nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki joined the opposition to nuclear power. Martin Fackler, Atomic Bomb Survivors Join Nuclear Power Opposition, N.Y. Times, Aug. 7, 2011, at A11.
The conflict minerals provisions of the Frank-Dodd legislation appear to be having a dramatic impact as exports of tin, tantalum and tungsten from the Congo region have dropped by more than 70% in the last year. The legislation requires companies to certify to the SEC what steps they have taken to ensure that their supply chains for such minerals are not funding armed conflicts in the area. While proponents of transparency initiatives are working to establish certification procedures, apparently many companies simply are opting to acquire their minerals from other parts of the world even if they are more expensive there This allegedly is harming legitimate mineral suppliers from the Congo region. David Aronson, How Congress Devastated Congo, Aug. 8, 2011, at A17.
As mentioned last week, I was interviewed for a story about the legal challenge by foreign airlines in the European Court of Justice to the EU’s requirement that all flights to and from EU countries be subject to limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The article appear in the online edition of the New York Times last Tuesday. Lawrence Hurley, Airlines Face Uphill Battle in E.U. Emissions Cases, Legal Experts Say, New York Times, August 2, 2011 (http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/08/02/02greenwire-airlines-face-uphill-battle-in-eu-emissions-cas-9359.html?ref=earth). The European experts interviewed for the article think the legal challenge has very little chance of succeeding.
On August 4 the UN Environment Programme released its long-awaited assessment of oil contamination of the Ogoniland region in Nigeria’ Niger Delta. The report concluded that the contamination from repeated oil spills in the area has caused widespread environmental damage and health risks and could take decades to clean up. The complete report can be downloaded at: http://www.unep.org/nigeria/ A copy of the executive summary is available online at: http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/OEA/UNEP_OEA_ES.pdf
My former student Brooke O’Hanley, who now lives in California, was in D.C. for a conference last week. Prior to starting law school, Brooke was a pro soccer player for the Carolina Courage when they won the WUSA Championship in 2002. After playing soccer with my son on Monday, Brooke and I went to Nationals park to see Washington beat Atlanta. On Tuesday night we went to the White House for a special tour of the West Wing arranged by my former student Neal Kemkar who now works for CEQ. However we had horrendous luck because a fence jumper caused a security lockdown at the White House that resulted in our tour being canceled. Still it was great to catch up with Neal and Brooke over beers at a nearby watering hole. On August 2 I had lunch with Maryland alum Jacob Scherr, director of Global Strategy and Advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Prior to lunch he gave me a brief tour of NRDC’s new D.C. offices on 15th Street next to the Washington Post and across the street from the Madison Hotel. Jacob is working on preparations for the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June 2012. On Friday I moved into my office at the Georgetown University Law Center where I will be teaching Environmental Law this fall as a visiting professor of law.