During the second U.S. presidential debate between President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney on October 16 and the just-completed third debate on October 22, there was absolutely no discussion of climate change. Candy Crowley of CNN, moderator of the second debate, which employed a town hall format, stated after the debate that she had a questioner who was planning to ask a climate change question (“for all of you climate change people”), but she simply ran out of time. In the second debate the candidates did discuss oil and gas production with each accusing the other of being anti-coal, but there was no expression of concern for the environment. This contrasts with the 2008 presidential debates where both then-Senator Obama and Senator McCain expressed concern over climate change, while disagreeing over how much emphasis to put on increased fossil fuel production.
TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline that carries nearly 600,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Canada to the U.S. Midwest, was shut down on Wednesday October 17 after safety tests indicated potential problems. Since the 2,100-mile pipeline was opened in 2010 there have been more than a dozen minor leaks of oil from it. Ben Lefebvre & Chip Cummings, Pipeline Company Idles Keystone Temporarily, Wall St. Journal, Oct. 19, 2012, at B6. Environmentalists opposing the plan to construct the Keystone XL pipeline argue than it will be riskier because it will be carrying heavier, more acidic oil that will corrode pipes faster. The pipeline was restarted on the afternoon of Monday October 22 after some sections were excavated and inspected.
On Wednesday October 17, Rebecca Fenneman, general counsel of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), was a guest speaker in my Administrative Law class. Ms. Fenneman is a 1996 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law. She joined a group of students for lunch prior to class to discuss her career path and the work of the FMC, which regulates maritime shipping into U.S. ports. Due to the importance of global maritime trade, the FMC is particularly active in interacting with government officials in other countries, including China.
On Thursday October 18 I had lunch with Justice Zac Yacoob of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Justice Yacoob, who played a major role in South Africa’s transition to constitutional rule, was appointed to the court by Nelson Mandela in 1998. He is currently visiting Maryland as a distinguished scholar. Joining me at lunch was visiting Professor Zhao Huiyu of Shanghai Jiaotong University who indicated that Chinese legal scholars are particularly interested in South Africa as a model for how a transition to democracy can be affected. Justice Yacoob plans to visit my Environmental Law class on Wednesday October 24 when we discuss the concept of “judicial takings” and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Stop the Beach decision.
On Friday October 19 I was inducted as a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL). I then attended ACOEL’s annual meeting and introduced myself to the existing members of the organization, most of whom are practitioners of environmental law. There was considerable interest in harnessing some of the incredible talent in the organization for pro bono public service projects, including possible projects to assist environmental groups in China and other countries. I greatly enjoyed getting to network with old and new friends and to discuss current cutting edge issues in environmental law, including the debate over how hydraulic fracturing should be regulated.