THis is a copy of my Aug. 5 blog post that I posted on my parallel blog at www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. I was unable to post it on blogspot until now because I was in China where blogspot is blocked.
Dozens of homes near Oklahoma City burned last week as extreme drought and temperatures reaching 113 degrees Fahrenheit fueled devastating wildfires. Climate scientist James Hansen, published a paper last week linking global warming and climate change to an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. The study, “Perception of Climate Change,” is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is available online at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/07/30/1205276109. This is an excerpt from the abstract: “The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased. An important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (3σ) warmer than the climatology of the 1951–1980 base period. This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface during the base period, now typically covers about 10% of the land area. It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.”
Last week the U.S. State and Transportation Departments hosted a meeting of 17 non-European nations to coordinate their opposition to the EU’s cap-and-trade program for emissions from airlines flying to and from the EU. On August 1 a Senate committee approved a bill forbidding U.S. airlines from participating in the program. Such legislation already has passed the House of Representatives. Delta, AMR and United Continental asked the Obama administration in a letter last week to file an Article 84 action with the International Civil Aviation Organizations (ICAO) to declare the EU program inconsistent with global aviation standards. Sixteen environmental groups sent a letter asking the administration not to file such a complaint, citing the need to curb aviation emissions of carbon, which now constitute 3% of global carbon emissions and which are projected nearly to double by 2025.
Last Tuesday a Brazilian appellate court ordered the Chevron Corporation and Transocean Ltd. to stop producing or transporting oil in Brazil within 30 days pending the completion of an investigation of a November 2011 oil spill in the Frade offshore oil field. The spill released only 3,700 barrels of oil from the seabed, but Brazilian authorities have reacted harshly, threatening criminal prosecution against Chevron executives. Transocean operates ten drilling platforms in Brazil, including seven for Petrobras, the now-publicly traded oil company formerly owned by the Brazilian government. The companies have vowed to challenge the injunction. Jeff Fick, Chevron, Transocean Halted in Brazil for Month, Wall St. J., Aug. 2, 2012, at B3.
Chevron is moving aggressively to buy land in Europe suitable for production of shale gas. It is estimated that Europe has 639 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas, nearly as much as the United States, which is estimated to have 862 trillion cubic feet of such gas reserves. Chevron has purchased huge swaths of land from Bulgaria to Poland where it believes the potential for producing gas through hydrofracturing is the greatest. Environmental opposition to fracking may slow its use in Europe as France and Bulgaria have banned the practice and Romania and the Czech Republic also are considering bans. Chevron believes that Eastern Europe’s desire to reduce its reliance on gas from Russia ultimately will tip the balance in favor of fracking. Guy Chazan, Oilmen Hope to Carry Shale Revolution Across the Pond, Financial Times, Aug. 3, 2012, at 14.
Last Thursday I finished my last Comparative China/U.S. Environmental Law class at Vermont Law School. On Friday I flew to Chicago where I participated on a panel at the ABA Annual Meeting on “Overriding the Experts: Executive Rejection of Administrative Agency Expertise.” The panel was moderated for the ABA’s Administrative Law Section by Professor James O’Reilly of the University of Cincinnati. Also participating on the panel were Ralph Tyler of Venable LLP, who discussed political intervention into the FDA’s Plan B decision, and University of Akron Professor Katherine Van Tassel who gave an excellent overview of the history of the issue.
I have just arrived in Beijing where I will be spending the next two weeks taking four of my Vermont students on an environmental law field trip. As usual when I am in China I may not be able to make postings on one or the other of my blogs, the reason I publish parallel blogs.