On January 26 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit released its decision rejecting Chevron’s efforts to reinstate an injunction barring global enforcement of en Ecuadoran court’s $18 billion judgment against the oil giant for oil pollution. Last September the court had lifted the New York federal district court’s injunction three days after hearing oral argument in the case. The decision, Chevron v. Naranjo, No. 11-1150-cv(L), concludes that New York’s Uniform Foreign Country Money-Judgments Recognition Act does not “grant putative judgment-debtors a cause of action to challenge foreign judgments before enforcement of those judgments is sought.” Thus Chevron can challenge the Ecuadoran judgment “only defensively, in response to an attempted enforcement – an effort that the defendants-appellees have not yet undertaken anywhere, and might never undertake in New York.”
The internet campaign that helped force Chinese authorities to agree to improve air quality monitoring was spurred in part by Chinese NGOs purchasing their own pollution monitors. Last May citizens in Beijing spent $4,000 to purchase their own air quality monitoring device and in December groups in Shanghai and Wenzhou followed suit, with the Wenzhou group selling oranges to finance their purchase. After data from these private monitors and from the U.S. Embassy’s twitter feed contradicted Chinese government claims concerning air quality, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection agreed to release hourly readings of fine particulate levels in Beijing, while promising to set a standard to control them as soon as possible. Sharon LaFraniere, Activists Crack Wall of Denial About Air Pollution, New York Times, Jan. 27, 2012.
Chinese environmentalists have been exposing labor and environmental violations by companies that are part of the supply chains of multinational electronics companies, including Apple Inc. On January 25, the New York Times examined labor and safety conditions at an iPad manufacturing plant in Chengdu, China, where some workers were killed in an aluminum dust explosion last May. Charles Duhigg & David Barboza, In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad, New York Times, Jan. 25, 2012, at A1. Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to the TImes article by sending an email to Apple employees on January 26. He stated: “We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us.” Apple certainly has the financial resources to correct health, safety and environmental problems with its supply chains. Last week it passed ExxonMobil as the most valuable company in the world and the company currently holds nearly $100 billion in cash, greater than the gross domestic products of more than half of the countries in the world.
On January 24 the government of Peru announced that it has selected three independent consultants to review the environmental impact of Newmont Mining’s $4.8 billion gold and copper mine. Work on the project, which is the largest foreign investment in Peru’s history, has been suspended for the last two months due to protests that blockaded the town of Cajamarca. Gregorio Santos, governor of the region where the mine is located, has called for the project to be canceled because of concerns over its environmental impact. Environmental protests in Peru have centered on mines and dams being built by foreign companies including the Tia Maria copper project (U.S. company), the Santa Ana silver project (Canadian company), the Inambari dam (Brazilian company), and the Tambo 40 hydroelectric project (Brazilian company). Naomi Mapstone, Peru Sets Up Close Scrutiny of Conga Mine, Financial Times, Jan. 25, 2012.
As the 2012 World Economic Forum convened in Davos, Switzerland last week, Yale researchers released their latest update of their Environmental Performance Index (EPI ), which seeks to rank countries on their environmental performance. Switzerland ranked first in the latest ratings, while Russia suffered the greatest decline to 106th place due to a breakdown in air and water pollution controls, increased overfishing and deforestation. Latvia moved into second place and showed the greatest improvement overall due to eliminating coal from its electrical supply mix and reforestation efforts. The complete rankings are available online at: http://epi.yale.edu/epi2012/rankings.
On January 24 President Obama delivered his third State of the Union address. He reiterated the administration’s commitment to promoting clean energy and defended EPA’s mercury rule. President Obama touted increased oil and gas production in the U.S. and reminded the audience that hydraulic fracturing that produced much of this increase was developed in part through federal support.
This week California’s Air Resources Board unanimously approved the Advanced Clean Car Program. The program will require a two-thirds reduction in auto exhaust emissions and the production of more than a million zero-emission vehicles for the California market by 2025. The rules are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by half by 2025. Peter Fimrite, State OKs Stringent Fuel Rules, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 28, 2012, at C1.
This week I attended the annual Macworld conference in San Francisco, the annual gathering of devotees of Apple products. The new product that holds the greatest interest for me is Apple’s iBooks Author software, which was announced on January 19. This app allows authors to create electronic textbooks with rich multi-media material that can be sold through Apple’s online iTunes store (http://www.apple.com/ibooks-author/). Although Apple no longer directly participates in the conference, vendors of supporting products were there in force selling things like an iPhone case that can open a beer bottle (intoxicase.com). Serendipitously, on Friday night I was able to attend a reunion of some of the members of the Beijing Environment and Energy Roundtable (BEER) who now are living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. The gathering was organized in part by Alex Wang, who was with NRDC’s Beijing office when I lived there in 2008 and who now is a visiting professor at Boalt Hall. It was a great opportunity to catch up with Alex and other people who share a passion for China’s environment. I really appreciate their including me in the group.