On April 4 Maryland’s Environmental Law Program held its “Golden Tree” awards ceremony for students who had made films in my Environmental Law class last fall. Since fall 2002 my students have been making short documentary films as an ungraded, small group assignment. The films have been remarkably creative and they have helped students appreciate the difficulty and importance of distilling complicated regulatory issues into a form the public can understand. A total of thirteen films were made by last fall’s class. Six won awards. The film winning the Golden Tree award as “Most Educational” was “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” by Justin Noe, Amir Heyat and Justin Haas. The film that won the most awards was “Phil & Ned’s Excellent Adventure” by Colin Hood, Rebecca Maddox, Bridget Daly, Helen Wolf, James O'Donnell & Mario Medina. It won awards for Best Special Effects, Best Use of Humor, Best Screenplay, and Best Acting. The film that won the award for Best Picture was “Managing the Menhaden” by Alan Dunklow, Andrew Kraus, Gabe Scott and Joey Kroart. Receiving awards for Best Cinematography and Best Interviews was the film “Cherishing the Chesapeake” by Lena Beery, Ben Donoghue and Megan Ulrich. Golden trees for Best Sound and Best Animation went to “From Pollution to Solution: Alternative Fuel Vehicles” by Abigail Lubow & Jonathan Huber. The award for Best Narration went to “Ringwood - a CERCLA Case Study” by Tim Gilbert, Mike Kellerman, Beth Totman, Brittany Ditto and Will Harrington. The films will be available online in a few weeks on Maryland’s law school website.
Last week a federal prosecutor in Brazil filed another 20 billion real ($11 billion) lawsuit against the Chevron Corporation and Transocean Ltd. for a second offshore oil spill in the Frade field that occurred in March 2012. The two companies previously had been sued for $11 billion for the 3,000-barrel spill that occurred there in November 2011. Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, informed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week that it may be liable for up to 30 percent of any damages assessed against Chevron for the oil spill in the Frade field off the coast of Brazil. This is because Petrobras owns a 30 percent interest in the field, which is 52 percent owned by Chevron and 18 percent by a Japanese group led by Sojitz and Inpex. Civil and criminal charges have been filed by Brazilian authorities only against Chevron, the majority owner and the operator of the field, and Transocean, its drilling partner.
Total SA has been battling a natural gas leak in Elgin North Sea drilling platform for the last two weeks. The rig’s 240 workers were evacuated after the leak spewed mud and gas onto the drilling platform of the rig on March 25. Despite the risks of offshore drilling for gas, the U.K. is reacting cautiously to large onshore discoveries of gas that could be extracted through hydraulic fracturing due to environmental concerns about fracking. James Herron, Jitters Threaten Fracking in U.K., Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2012, at B9. In the U.S. conflicts are arising between state and local officials as several states seek to preempt local regulation of fracking operations. Daniel Gilbert & Russell Gold, Towns Fight Against Drilling, Wall St. J., April 3, 2012. Last week the U.S. EPA granted a two-week extension of the comment period on proposed regulations to control air pollution from fracking operations. Tennille Tracy, EPA Postpones Rules on Fracking Emissions, Wall St. J., April 2, 2012. Fracking is exempt from regulation under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, which generally governs underground injection operations, but air emissions from its operations can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
Prices of EU emissions allowances for carbon fell to a record low last week after data were released showing a larger than expected drop in emissions from EU factories and power plants. On Monday April 3 the European Commission released preliminary data showing that EU emissions of CO2 fell by 2.4 percent in 2011. In response, EU carbon allowance prices plunged 14 percent to €6.14 per ton, approximately $8 per ton. This represents a decline of more than 60 percent in carbon prices from levels a year ago. The decline in EU emissions of CO2 was attributed to a mild winter and the addition of 50GW of renewable energy capacity during the last two years, which more than offset increased demand for fossil fuels due to Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power. Pilita Clark & Javier Blas, Carbon Prices Tumble to Record Low, Financial Times, April 3, 2012, at 22.