On March 31 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) released its long-awaited (see July 7, 2013 blog post) ruling in the challenge by Australia and New Zealand to Japan’s whaling in Antarctica. A copy is available here: ICJ Whaling.pdf. By a vote of 12-4 the ICJ ruled against Japan, finding that its whaling in Antarctica is not for the research purposes permitted by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The ICJ unanimously rejected Japan’s claim that it did not have jurisdiction over the dispute. Australia initiated the proceedings in 2010 when it had a government much more sympathetic to environmental concerns than the current government of Premier Tony Abbott. Unlike prior ICJ decisions that have waffled on environmental concerns, perhaps reflecting the ICJ’s lack of enforcement clout, this one clearly rejects Japan’s argument that its whaling is for authorized research purposes. The ICJ orders Japan to revoke certain permits it has issued for whaling and preliminary indications are that Japan will abide by the decision.
On March 25 the World Health Organization released a report estimating that air pollution caused 7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012, twice as high as previous estimates. See http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/en/ This means that one out of every eight deaths worldwide was caused by air pollution, making it the world’s greatest environmental risk to health. More than one-third of these deaths occur in developing nations in Asia. Indoor air pollution posed the greatest threat, contributing to 4.3 million deaths. Dr. Carlos Dora, coordinator of public health and the environment at WHO emphasized that the agency now has “a better understanding of how large a role air pollution plays in strokes and coronary heart attacks.” Andrew Jacobs & Ian Johnson, Citing High Risks, Report Finds Pollution Killed 7 Million Worldwide in 2012, N.Y. Times, March 26, 2014, at A6.
On March 25 the U.S EPA issued a proposed rule to clarify which waters can be regulated under the Clean Air Act. This issue that has been fraught with confusion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Rapanos decision in 2006. Alicia Mundy, EPA Takes Wetland Step, Wall St. J., March 26, 2014, at A2.
March 24 was the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. The anniversary occurred while the Houston Ship Channel was closed for three days due to a major fuel oil spill caused by a barge colliding with another vessel. Lynn Cook, Channel Open Again After Fuel-Oil Spill, Wall St. J., March 26, 2014.
On Sunday I returned from a quick trip to California to attend the annual Macworld conference. The highlight of the trip was the tour I was given of Google’s headquarters campus in Mountain View on March 27 by Google employee Elliott Seltzer who is married to my former student Brooke Seltzer. Brooke is a former professional soccer star who led the Carolina Courage to the women’s professional soccer championship during the first year of the former Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA). While in San Francisco I had a wonderful dinner at Mandalay, the city’s oldest Burmese restaurant, with my friend Holly Munoz. Holly is about to release her first record album and from the advance clips that I’ve heard it will be spectacular. Also at the dinner was Tony Seba, a lecturer in entrepreneurship and clean energy at Stanford. We helped Tony review the cover art for his new book on how green energy will disrupt existing energy markets.
The blog posts made by the students on our recent spring break environmental field trip to China have now been posted in the “Students” section of my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. Photos of the trip will be posted in the “Photo Albums” section of this website in the near future.
On March 26 the University of Maryland Environmental Law Program hosted its annual Environmental Law Film Awards ceremony. The award for Best Picture went to “The Conowingo Controversy,” a film highlighting the lack of action to address silt buildup behind the Conowingo Dam. The film, which was made by Hilary Jacobs, Allie Santacreu, Renee Connor and David Barry, also won awards for Best Acting and Best Sound. The Golden Tree for Most Educational Film went to “Baltimore Brownfields Rennaisance” by Michael Brown and Kay Fallon. The film also won awards for Best Interviews and Best Screenplay. Best Cinematography was won by the film “Maryland’s Community Energy Future” by Katrina Rowe and Nick McDaniels. The award for Best Use of Humor went to “Rain Tax” by Liz Rinehart, Kaitlyn Smith and Anthony May. The film examined the controversy over a Maryland stormwater discharge fee that its opponents have cleverly dubbed a “rain tax”. The film also won awards for Best Narration and a Special Judges Award for “Cutest Kids.” The award for Best Animation/Special Effects went to “Shark Finning,” a film by Rachel Burch and Tara Messing.