10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium

10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium
More than 250 environmental experts from 35 countries gather at the University of Maryland for the 10th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in July 2012

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel
Maryland students vist Israel's first solar power plant in the Negev desert as part of a spring break field trip to study environmental issues in the Middle East

Workshop with All China Environment Federation

Workshop with All China Environment Federation
Participants in March 12 Workshop with All China Environment Federation in Beijing

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition
Jordanian Justice Minister Aymen Odah presents trophy to Noura Saleh & Niveen Abdel Rahman from Al Al Bait University along with US AID Mission Director Jay Knott & ABA's Maha Shomali

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Chinese NGOs Hit with Fees for Losing Lawsuit, South Africa's First Climate Suit, Northeast Florida Environmental Summit, Golden Tree Awards, Bosnian Mine Waste Spill (by Bob Percival)

A Chinese court has imposed a fee of 1.89 million yuan ($275,000) on two environmental NGOs for an unsuccessful public interest lawsuit.  The Changzhou Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangsu Province imposed the fee on Friends of Nature and the China Biodiversity Conservation & Green Development Foundation.  They sued three chemical companies for polluting land that later was sold in 2011 to build the Changzhou Foreign Language School, which opened in 2015.  The pollution was discovered after hundreds of students at the school became sick.  The court found that soil and groundwater pollution was “now under control” at the site and rejected the plaintiffs claims that the companies should be required to do further remediation.  The fee imposed on the NGOs includes not only legal fees, but a percentage of the amount the groups were seeking be devoted to additional cleanup.  Michael Standaert, Chinese Ruling Threatens Environmental Public Interest Suits, International Environment Reporter, Feb. 24, 2017.  In the U.S. plaintiffs in public interest litigation are not required to pay legal fees unless their lawsuits are found to be frivolous in order to avoid discouraging such litigation.  The NGOs are appealing the court’s decision to the Jiangsu Supreme People’s Court.  A copy of the court’s decision is available in Chinese at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/legal/2017-02/08/c_129470823.htm

On Thursday March 2 the Pretoria High Court will begin to hear South Africa’s first climate change lawsuit.  The Center for Environmental Rights, representing Earthlife Africa Johannesburg in a lawsuit challenging the Ministry of Environmental Affairs’ decision to approve the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power plant.  The plaintiffs are arguing that the plant should not have been approved without having completed an assessment of its impact on climate change. The defendants argue that there is no specific requirement that climate impacts be assessed in the process of environmental impact assessment.  

On Friday February 24 I delivered the keynote address at the 18th Northeast Florida Environmental Summit.  The summit was held at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, Florida.  The theme of the summit was “Protecting Communities from Harm: The Economic and Environmental Implications of Managing Harmful Waste.”  The subject of my keynote was “The Future of Environmental Law in the Trump Administration.”  I noted that newly-confirmed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has emphasized two principal themes: keeping EPA from exceeding its legal authority and respecting state prerogatives.  Noting that Pruitt lost most of his lawsuits against EPA when he was the attorney general of Oklahoma, I argued that it would be best for him to let the courts decide what the law is with respect to the Clean Power Plan and the “waters of the U.S.” rule.  If Pruitt seeks to stop California from implementing more stringent environmental controls on greenhouse gas emissions, he would be indicating that he is mor interested in weakening environmental protections than promoting cooperative federalism.

On February 15 the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Program held its annual Golden Tree award ceremony.  Awards were given to environmental law films made by students in my Environmental Law class last fall.  Based on voting by judges, the two top films were “Glass Half Full: Sustainable Vineyards” and “A World in Retreat.”  The former film examines how wineries are trying to shrink their carbon footprints.  The latter film examines how coastal communities are responding to rising sea levels.   Chris Remavege and Taylor Lilley will be showing these films at NYU Shanghai on March 21.

On February 21, I presented two guest lectures to officials from Anhui Province in China who are in the U.S. to learn about U.S. environmental law deals with soil contamination.  China has a huge problem of soil contaminated by pollutants and it is in the process of developing new laws and policies for responding to it.  The lectures were held at the University of Maryland College Park under the auspices of its Office of China Affairs.


Last week a massive landslide of waste from an open pit coal mine blocked the flow of a river near the town of Kakanj in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  The landslide created a lake that has now flooded a major highway connecting the cities of Sarajevo and Zenica.  Two smaller villages, Ribnica and Mramor have been largely destroyed by the landslide.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cambridge Conference, Air Pollution Alerts, Trump Takes Over, Canadian Court Protects Chevron Subsidiary (by Bob Percival)

From January 19-21 I participated in a conference at the University of Cambridge that brought together more than thirty global environmental law scholars who are authoring chapters in the Oxford Handbook of Comparative Environmental Law.  The conference, which included a dinner at King’s College on January 20, was hosted by Cambridge Professors Jorge Vinuales and Emma Lees, the book’s editors.  I am authoring a chapter on “Environmental Transitions: Forces Shaping the Evolution of Global Environmental Law.”  The conference was really terrific and I received some very helpful comments on my chapter. 

I spent two weekends in the heart of London where there were “highest level” air pollution alerts issued due to levels of PM10 being more than twice the legal limit. Paris also has been suffering from high levels of air pollution this winter.  Paris officials made public transportation free during the alerts.  They also assigned labels to each make and model of car based on the amount of pollution it emits, enabling them to ban the most polluting vehicles from the road during bad air days. Residents of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia also held a large demonstration to protest air pollution with levels of particulates reaching 80 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

On January 30 President Trump issued Executive Order 13771 on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.  The order mandates that agencies repeal two rules for every new rule they promulgate and it specifies that the repealed rules have to reduce costs to industry by at least as much as the new rule costs.  I have written a blog post critical of the executive order, which was posted on the American College of Environmental Lawyers blog on February 8.  It notes that the order is fundamentally flawed because it focuses solely on regulatory costs without consdiering the benefits of regulation.  Is President Trump Repeating Reagan’s Missteps on Regulatory “Reform?” American College of Environmental Lawyers Blog, Feb. 8, 2017, available online at: http://www.acoel.org/post/2017/02/08/IS-PRESIDENT-TRUMP-REPEATING-REAGAN’S-MISSTEPS-ON-REGULATORY-“REFORM”-.aspx  I also posted a short article in an online journal: “Environmental Law in the Trump Administration,” 4 Emory Corporate Governance and Accountability Review, Presidential Inauguration Issue, January 2017, online at: http://law.emory.edu/ecgar/content/volume-4/issue-special/essays-interviews/environmental-law-trump-administration.html


On January 20 a trial court in Ontario, Canada ruled that plaintiffs seeking to collect on the $9 billion judgment against Chevron for oil pollution in Ecuador cannot recover from the assets of the company’s subsidiary in Canada.