I am currently in New Zealand where I participated in the 11th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law from June 24-28. With me at the Colloquium were five of the Maryland law students from my Global Environmental Law seminar who presented papers at the Colloquium, Global Environmental Justice Fellow Gabby Queenan from Macalester College, and Bill Piermattei, managing director of Maryland’s Environmental Law Program. Monday June 24 featured an all day workshop on the teaching of environmental law. I gave a presentation on how a massive open online course operates and a demonstration of the SmartBook technology that enables me to include customized, multimedia materials in the electronic version of my casebook. Tuesday June 25 featured an all day research workshop. Plenary sessions were held on Wednesday and Thursday morning and a forum featuring some of the world’s top environmental judges was held on Friday morning. Combined with breakout sessions on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, more than 160 presentations were made on a fascinating array of environmental topics. The full program is available online at: http://iucnacademy2013.org.nz
The Academy of Environmental Law now includes 168 institutional members from 53 countries. More than 200 people attended the Colloquium from at least 30 countries. Despite the upbeat atmosphere from seeing so many old friends at the Colloquium, speaker after speaker shared depressing news concerning the state of the world’s environment and efforts to roll back environmental protection in several countries. Considerable discussion focused on why decades of effort to strengthen environmental law has not yielded more positive environmental results. This year’s distinguished scholar lecture was presented by Mas Achmad Santosa, Deputy Minister and Deputy Head of the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring & Oversight of the Republic of Indonesia. He gave a remarkably candid presentation concerning how Indonesia is trying to locate and suppress the sources of massive fires in Sumatran palm oil plantations that have blanketed Singapore and Malaysia with record air pollution.
Most of the participants in the Colloquium welcomed President Obama’s announcement on Tuesday June 25 of his Climate Action Plan (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/image/president27sclimateactionplan.pdf) as a useful step for responding to this enormous global challenge. In his plan President Obama recommitted his administration to the goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. In a memorandum to EPA issued the same day, available online at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/25/presidential-memorandum-power-sector-carbon-pollution-standards, the President directed EPA to propose GHG emissions standards for existing power plants by no later than June 1, 2014, and to adopt them in final form by June 1, 2015. Among the many elements of the President’s plan are measures to speed permitting of renewable energy projects, to increase energy efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, and to develop an interagency strategy to reduce methane emissions. The President also pledges that the U.S. will play a more vigorous global leadership role on climate change issues.
While I was at the Colloquium, the U.S. Supreme Court finished its October 2012 Term. On Monday June 24 the Court announced that it will hear challenges to the D.C. Circuit’s decision striking down EPA’s interstate air pollution rule (see August 26, 2012 blog post). The Supreme Court’s decision to review this case is a most welcome development because the D.C. Circuit’s decision (EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, 696 F.3d 7) featured extraordinary judicial activism to ensure that no state had to do too much to control interstate air pollution. The case will be argued and decided during the Court’s next term that starts in October 2013.
On June 25 the Court decided an important regulatory takings case. In Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District the Court extended its Nollan/Dolan regulatory exactions doctrine to decisions to deny a permit to develop wetlands and to regulatory exactions that involve a payment of money rather than a dedication of real property. The decision was 5-4 with the Court’s four liberals dissenting. The dissenters agreed that permit denials could be subject to Nollan/Dolan review, but disagreed that exactions involving the payment of money should be subjected to such review. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito emphasized that the Court’s decision did not call into question the constitutionality of property taxes. He downplayed the impact of the decision by noting that many states, such as California, already apply the Nollan/Dolan “rough proportionality” requirement to impact fees exacted when developers seek variances.
Koontz was decided just as I was making the final corrections to the second pass page proofs for the new 7th edition of my casebook Environmental Regulation: Law, Science and Policy. My publisher allowed me to include a new paragraph discussing the decision in the book, which will be in bookstores next month in time for fall semester 2013 classes.