On Tuesday May 8 I spoke to a group of five law professors from Russia who came to the law school to discuss teaching and research in environmental law. The professors were: Marina Leonidovna Davydova, Head of the Department of Constitutional and Municipal Law at Volgograd State University; Natalya Alexandrovna Geyt, Associate Professor on the Law Faculty of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration; Dr. Svetlana V. Boshno, Professor of Law at the Russian Civil Service Academy who also serves as a Staff Advisor to the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and Publisher and Editor-in-chief of the legal journal “Legislation Review”; Ekaterina Yirievna Dogadaylo, an Associate Professor in the Theory of State and Law Department at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration; and Evgeny Alekseevich Mamay, a Lecturer in the Department of Theory and History of State and Law at the Nizhny Novgorod Academy of the Interior. We discussed how the teaching of environmental law is evolving with the advent of electronic casebooks and the growing use of course websites. I demonstrated the Blackboard technology that we use for classes at Maryland. Not surprisingly, one of their main concerns was how to pay for the use of such technology.
On Friday I joined Professor Barbara Gontrum, Maryland’s law librarian, at a university-wide focus group on the future of technology in education. I was pleased to learn that the University of Maryland has been having high-level discussions on this topic with executives from both Apple and Google. Apple’s leadership apparently is quite serious about using its new iBook technology to make inroads in the higher education market, though the company is far less open than Google in discussing its future plans.
On May 9 a plan to nationalize the troubled Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), owner of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, was approved. The Japanese government has allocated 1 trillion yen ($12.5 billion) to take over the company and to decommission and clean up the reactors where a disastrous accident occurred in the wake of the March 2011 tsunami. The Japanese government also has allocated 2.4 trillion yen ($30.1 billion) to compensate those harmed by the accident. The Japanese government will receive special shares giving it a majority interest in TEPCO, which it eventually plans to relinquish after the company’s financial health has improved enough to enable it to return to the bond market. Under the takeover plan, the entire board of directors of TEPCO will resign at the annual shareholders’ meeting next month. They will be replaced by a new board with a majority of outside directors. Hiroko Tabuchi, Takeover Near for Tokyo Electric Power, N.Y. Times, May 10, 2012, at B4.
With the discovery that the electronic barrier designed to keep invasive Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes has suffered a mechanical failure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been under new pressure to stop the carp. Last week the Corps announced that it would seek to “streamline” its decisionmaking process by issuing an interim report to Congress next year. Environmentalists were not impressed by the announcement, noting that it does not guarantee that decisions will be made any sooner. The Great Lake states have been trying to use the federal common law of nuisance to get the courts to intervene to require the Corps to close the Chicago Sanitary Canal to prevent the carp from reaching Lake Michigan. So far the courts have declined to intervene, though the Seventh Circuit noted that it would closely watch the Corps’ progress in dealing with the problem.
Last week the Supreme Court of Chile accepted an appeal by environmental groups and halted construction on the Rio Cuervo hydroelectric project in Patagonia. The project is part of a three-dam complex to be built in the Aysen area. The court ruled that the environmental review board should have ordered a new soil survey to be performed as recommended by Chile’s national geology and mining service. Energia Austral, the joint venture building the dams, emphasized that this is only a temporary setback and that construction eventually may resume after the new soil survey is completed. The Chilean Supreme Court has refused to intervene to stop a separate five-dam, $3.2 billion Hidroaysen project to be built nearby, which already is in the final stages of approval.