Last week I was in Kolkata, India to speak at an International Conference on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement -- the Emerging Global Trend. The conference was co-sponsored by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board and the Environmental Compliance & Assistance Centre of West Bengal with funding from the World Bank. I was the opening speaker at the conference, which was attended by more than 300 people, including environmental enforcement officials from India’s state pollution control boards, several representatives of industries in India, and some NGOs. In my opening talk on “Environmental Enforcement in an Era of Globalization” I reviewed how NGOs and enforcement officials throughout the world are increasingly coordinating their actions to improve the effectiveness of enforcement efforts. Other presentations were made by enforcement officials from India, Sweden, Norway, Australia, and Kenya. The only other speaker from the U.S. was Apple Chapman, a former student of mine, who is the associate director of air enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Enforcement. She gave a terrific talk displaying how technology is being used to help enforcement officials detect air emissions. A copy of the conference program is available online at: http://www.wbpcb.gov.in/html/ICECE_2013_ProgramSchedule.pdf. The conference was organized by Professor Binay K. Dutta, Chairman of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board. I was a member of the International Advisory Committee he recruited to help plan the conference.
In addition to speaking at the opening and closing sessions of the conference on March 19 & 20, I gave a lecture to a group of Indian law students at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS) on March 20. Vice Chancellor P. Ishwara Bhat of WBNUJS introduced me to the students. We had a nice dialogue after my presentation including a discussion of what India’s role should be in global efforts to control climate change. The West Bengal Pollution Control Board has posted slides from the presentations online at: http://www.wbpcb.gov.in/html/icece_presentation.shtml and photos of the conference at: http://www.wbpcb.gov.in/html/icece_photos/. My album of photos from my trip to India is available by going to my parallel website at: http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com and clicking on the “Photo Albums” link at the top of the page.
On March 20 the U.S. Supreme Court decided Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, a case argued on December 3 (see Dec. 9, 2012 blog post). The case involved the question whether timber companies need Clean Water Act permits to control stormwater runoff from logging operations that flows through ditches and culverts along logging roads. Three days before the argument the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated regulations clarifying that such runoff did not require a stormwater permit. The Court ruled that EPA’s pre-existing regulations, which also provided that such runoff would not require a Clean Water Act permit, were entitled to judicial deference. All eight Justices voting in the case (Justice Breyer recused himself because his brother had heard the case when it was before the district court) agreed that a Clean Water Act permit was not required, though Justice Scalia in a separate opinion objected to the type of deference the Court said it was affording the EPA regulation. A copy of the decision is availabe online at: www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-338_kifl.pdf.
On March 20 the Environmental Defense Fund, Shell Oil and Chevron announced the formation of a new Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) (www.sustainableshale.org). The Center, which will be based in Pittsburgh, will promote voluntary industry efforts to ensure that hydraulic fracturing is conducted in an environmentally responsible manner. The Center announced that it had established 15 initial performance standards to protect air and water quality from fracking operations. CSSD will operate an independent, third--party certification process to certify that firms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio are voluntarily complying with the standards, which are not legally enforceable. The Sierra Club criticized the agreement for perpetuating the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels, which it stated would harm the environment even with the best controls in place.
In other global environmental news during the last two weeks:
The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species approved new protections for endangered shark populations.
President Obama proposed using $2 billion from federal oil and gas royalties to fund research on alternative fuel vehicles.
A proposal by the European Food Safety Authority to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been linked to a decline in bee populations failed to win approval when Britain and Germany abstained during a crucial vote in the European Commission. Thirteen countries voted in favor of the proposal, nine opposed it and five abstained.
On March 19 the British government approved the construction of the first new nuclear power plant in nearly 20 years. The plant will be constructed at Hinkley Point in southwestern England.
On March 20 BP declined to bid on new leases of tracts of the Gulf of Mexico for offshore drilling, indicating that the company is not close to resolving its debarment by EPA from receiving federal contracts.
Chinese solar panel manufacturer Suntech Power Holdings Co. filed for bankruptcy in China due to the plunging prices it was receiving for new solar components.
The Natural Resources Defense Council reported on March 15 that populations of 21 of 44 fish species protected by the 1996 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act have met rebuilding targets and 7 more are making significant progress.