The government of Ghana has released the ARA Libertad, a frigate owned by the government of Argentina, following a ruling from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The ship had been stopped from leaving port in Tema, Ghana, in response to a ruling by a local court. The ruling was obtained by NML Investments, a New York hedge fund seeking to collect on a $284 million New York judgment it won in 2006 over debt that the Argentine government defaulted on in 2001. In response to the Nigerian court’s ruling, the government of Argentina had instituted dispute settlement proceedings under Annex VIII of the Law of the Sea (LOS) Convention in late October. It then sought an order requiring Ghana to release the ship as a provisional measure under Article 290 of the Convention. ITLOS ruled that the Libertad, a three-masted tall ship used to train cadets, is an Argentine warship protected from seizure even when in Ghana’s internal waters under Article 32 of the Convention. Thus, it directed the government of Ghana to allow the ship to refuel and leave port, which it did on December 19.
The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which has argued against the U.S. ratifying LOS, despite strong support for ratification from the U.S. military and the U.S. business and environmental communities, cites this as “a case in which a small African nation admirably tried to adhere to the rule of law” only to be “bullied by a global tribunal.” Lawless at Sea, Wall St. J., December 24, 2012, at A12. The Journal concludes that the “next time the Senate moves to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, Ghana should be exhibit A for opponents.” However, one would think that this episode instead reinforces why the U.S. military strongly supports ratification of LOS so that a foreign government could not seize U.S. warships in the wake of some U.S. “debt limit’-created default. If anything, ITLOS helped vindicate Argentina’s national sovereignty while extricating Nigeria from a messy dispute not of its own making. An additional complication, as University of Washington Prof. Craig Allen explained in a blog post on opiniojuris.org (Dec. 15), is that before turning to ITLOS for help, Argentina shrewdly amended its previous reservation to application of the compulsory dispute resolution provisions of LOS to its military, a reservation the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has long supported for the U.S.
Chevron Corporation announced a five-year partnership with Falcon Oil & Gas Ltd. to conduct seismic studies of the potential for extracting natural gas from shale formations in South Africa. Falcon is one of only three companies who have received approval to conduct such studies in South Africa. Three months ago South Africa lifted a temporary ban imposed early in 2011 on shale gas exploration. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the Karoo region of South Africa contains 485 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. South African environmental groups argue that fracking to extract the gas could cause major environmental damage in this environmentally-sensitive region. Devon Maylie & Alexis Flynn, Chevron Enters Shale Hunt in South Africa, Wall St. J., Dec. 17, 2012, at B7.
Last week the Colorado Oil & Gas Association sued the city of Longmont in an effort to overturn a ban on hydraulic fracturing that voters in the city approved by a substantial margin last month. Jack Healy, City in Colorado Is Sued Over Drilling Ban, N.Y. Times, Dec. 19, 2012, at A19. The surge in U.S. natural gas production spurred by hyraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has accelerated the shift away from coal in U.S. electricity generation. On Dec. 19 American Electric Power announced that it will shut down coal-fired production from its half century-old Big Sandy electric power plant in Louisa, Kentucky. The Sierra Club estimates that Big Sandy is the 55th coal-fired power plant to be retired this year, leaving only 395 such plants compared with 522 operating in the U.S. in 2010.
As the number of automobiles in use in Asian cities continues to soar, traffic congestion has become a major problem. To respond to this problem, Jakarta, Indonesia’s Transjakarta Busway has created dedicated buslanes that have soared in popularity. The number of high-speed bus passengers in Jakarta has soared from 15.94 million in 2004 to 114.78 million in 2011. It is estimated that this has reduced CO2 emissions by 30,000 tons per year and saved the government from paying subsidies on 13.4 million gallons of fuel. The average travel speed on Jakarta highways is 13.7 miles per hour (mph), compared with 14.9 mph in New Delhi, 15.5 mph in Rio de Janeiro, 16.2 mph in Mexico City, 23.0 mph in Dubai, Frankfurt and San Francisco, 23.6 mph in Los Angeles, and 24.2 mph in Johannesburg. Eric Bellman, Across Asia Bus Lanes Become the Way to Go, Wall St. J., Dec. 22-23, 2012, at A12.
On Thursday December 20 federal district judge William M. Nickerson ruled for the defendants in an important Clean Water Act citizen suit brought by the Waterkeeper Alliance against poultry producer Perdue Farms, Inc. (see December 2, 2012 blogpost). The judge ruled that the Waterkeeper, represented by Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic, had failed to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the source of high levels of bacteria and nutrients flowing through a point source into a tributary of the Pocomoke River was poultry waste. The judge accepted the defendants’ argument that it was more likely that the pollutants were from manure generated by unconfined cattle and not from a poultry CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) covered by the Clean Water Act. In his opinion Judge Dickerson acknowledged the importance of protecting the Chesapeake Bay from pollution and he rejected the defendants’ arguments that the Waterkeeper Alliance lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. The Waterkeeper’s lawsuit and the trial that it spawned exposed some important flaws in existing programs to prevent pollution of the Bay.
Merry Christmas to all!