February 06, 2017
Washington Examiner: "Burning Obama's energy regs."
With the unexpected election of a GOP POTUS, the Washington Examiner--a kind of thinking man's Fox News website and weekly magazine I've read for two years--is jazzed and riding high. And why not? The Examiner is relatively new. Although it started in 2005, in its current form covering just national politics it is barely 4 years old. It is for my money most professional, best-staffed and sanest right-leaning political sheet ever launched. Energy policy is especially well done. This week's magazine features "Trump's Energy Agenda." In one of three pieces devoted to Trump administration's plans for an aggressive energy and environment policy, reporter John Siliciano has one playfully entitled "Trump will burn Obama's energy regulations". Excerpts:
Trump issued his broad America First energy plan on Inauguration Day, highlighting key priorities but without details on how the goals would be reached.
The plan is ambitious, from making the nation energy-independent, to developing clean coal technology and devising an energy-and-terrorism security strategy with the Saudi Arabians.
The new president foresees a $30 billion boost to the economy from repealing strict climate and green regulations, such as the Waters of the U.S. rule, which puts ranchers, energy developers and many others under the thumb of the Environmental Protection Agency.
And then there is the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Obama's climate agenda, criticized for extending EPA authority over the power grid. The Supreme Court stalled the plan a year ago.
Beyond that, Trump wants to boost oil and natural gas production and to exploit vast fossil fuel deposits in America's shale rock. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has made the U.S. the world's biggest energy producer. Trump wants to extend that lead to the point where imports are not needed.
December 01, 2016
Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?
NRDC's Hinerfeld: "They win lawsuits."
Several years ago, I wrote "Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?" at the request of Environmental Protection Magazine, where I had a bi-monthly column and feature commitment. Based on my trip to the Robert Redford house in Santa Monica, California, and my interviews with environmental activists and strategists with offices there, "Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?" is about white-hat environmental attorneys at the Los Angeles office of the well-regarded Natural Resources Defense Council, a national public interest lobby now in its 45th year. I'm told the piece is still hip and funny. We are not certain if it was ever linked to by this blog. So I am sharing this with you now.
Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?
By J. Daniel Hull
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Daniel Hinerfeld, the young, ultra-articulate director of communications for the Southern California office of the Natural Resources Defense Council ("NRDC"), agreed to let me drop by in mid-September to interview him and some other NRDC staffers so I could write this installment.
I was slightly nervous about visiting. It was a little unseemly, I thought, for me to mingle brazenly with the Los Angeles office of the smartest, hippest, and arguably most successful public interest group in the world. I grew up in the Midwest, and as an environmental lawyer, I have represented chiefly companies -- some quite large and many of them processors, transporters, or storers of fossil fuels.
While several clients have been laudably progressive in their environmental quality management, more than a few of them allegedly violated their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits or were driven into consent orders under the Clean Water Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or Resource Conservation Recovery Act.
Plenty troubling was one ex-client: an operator of 50 underground storage tanks outside of Pittsburgh with a history of alleged groundwater contamination violations and a compliance program which, in the good years, consisted of sporadically checking properties to see if the ground had caught fire.
So, I wasn't really sure if I had the cultural, political, or professional qualifications to visit the NRDC's Los Angeles office and write this article. But the energetic Hinerfeld was quick to point out that, as a single issue, protection of the environment often transcends politics and culture wars.
"It's really a bi-partisan issue," he noted. "Everyone wants clean air and clean water." Hinerfeld, of course, is right. Although it's true that environmental compliance costs on occasion have put good companies out of business and good people out of jobs, strictly speaking, we all -- Republicans, Democrats, Independents, whatever -- want a healthy planet.
Another thing I have in common with the NRDC is the legal profession. Among other things, the NRDC is a boutique law firm of lawyers who practice only environmental law.
"They win lawsuits," Hinerfeld said matter-of-factly, and he's right about that, too. In fact, in its 35 year history, the NRDC has surpassed all other political action, citizens', and trade groups in "pro-environment" victories and accomplishments -- many of them through litigation. John Adams, the NRDC's president, is a lawyer himself who, in 1970, co-founded the organization in New York City following a five-year stint as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Under Adams's leadership, the NRDC has grown steadily and now has more than 600,000 members and a permanent staff of nearly 300, including lawyers, scientists, and research assistants. There are about 60 lawyers in the NRDC's four offices. Since the 1970s they have filed scores of cases out of the New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles offices. Many are enforcement actions, based on the "citizen suit" provisions of the major federal environmental statutes or their state counterparts -- filed when the government lacks either the will or resources to act. For years, the NRDC has monitored industry compliance with NPDES permits and often sues dischargers exceeding their parameters under Section 505 of the Clean Water Act -- the citizen suit provision. The NRDC has filed amicus briefs -- briefs filed with the court by people or entities who are not parties to a lawsuit -- and comments in literally hundreds of lawsuits and rulemakings under federal and state statutes.
Two recent clean water cases are illustrative. In 1994, the NRDC Southern California office sued the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to require the agency to address, among other things, stormwater violations resulting from run-off on highways in southern California. In 2004, Caltrans finally agreed to a consent order which could cut 80 percent of the stormwater pollution coming from state highways.
In 2003, the NRDC in New York served notice of its intent to sue Occidental Petroleum and Maxus Energy for pollution to the Newark Bay in New Jersey. In a matter of months, Occidental and Maxus entered into a consent order with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- which had previously failed to act on the matter -- requiring a full investigation and cleanup of the bay. The NRDC is closely monitoring compliance with that order.
A Public Interest Group with Everything?
The NRDC's mission statement begins by declaring its "purpose is to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends." Its slogan is "The Earth's Best Defense." These are very tall orders. To its credit though, the NRDC covers, in depth, a remarkably broad range of environmental areas in its now international watchdog-enforcer role: limiting oil and gas development in the Rocky Mountains; protecting Appalachian streams from coal waste; advising Chinese officials on energy efficiency; identifying environmental health risks in Latino communities; global warming; endangered species protection; nuclear waste disposal; cross-border pollution; pesticide control; preserving open space in cities; protection of marine life -- and even nuclear weapons policy.
It's got money, too. According to its 2004 Annual Report, the NRDC has an operating budget of close to $55 million. In 2004, it raised about $67 million -- $45 million from its 600,0000 members and other individuals. Grants, investment income, and legal fees won in lawsuits (about $570,000 in FY2004) accounted for the remaining $22 million. And speaking of resources, the NRDC's Board of Trustees is definitely interesting. Along with the usual captains of industry, power lawyers, and academics you usually see on the board of a major charity are names of the Hollywood elite: Laurie David (Seinfeld creator Larry David's wife); Elizabeth Wiatt (wife of William Morris Agency chief James Wiatt); Warner Brothers President Alan Horn; Peter Morton (of Morton's restaurants and founder of Hard Rock Cafes.); and three entertainers who have been serious NRDC supporters for years: singer James Taylor and actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford.
The Greenest Building in America
Which brings us to the NRDC's Southern California office. It's housed in "The Robert Redford Building," which is billed as the "greenest building in America." I don't know any artful way to say this, so I'll just blurt it out: The Robert Redford Building in Santa Monica is the coolest and best thought-out building I've ever seen or been in and you should just go see it. Located at 1314 Second Street, and formerly a 15,000 square foot "acupuncture institute" (remember, we're in L.A.), the building is a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Pier. (Twice weekly, NRDC offers tours, and a virtual tour is available at www.nrdc.org; click "Cities and Green Living").
For starters, the building is beautiful and quietly elegant. The exterior of the building has an understated classical design to survive changes in building styles over the next few decades. The siding is a wood substitute made of cement and sawdust that, unlike wood, won't shrink or expand, requiring far less maintenance over the years. The interior has tastefully decorated offices, conference rooms, and even a working rooftop terrace in light browns, pastels, and off-white colors. Wood for flooring and furniture is processed without toxic chemicals.
The building uses less than 60 percent of the energy that a typical U.S. office of the same size does. It produces no carbon dioxide emissions (a global warming element). Electricity is produced from rooftop solar panels and "wind certificates" representing electricity purchased from off-site windmills.
The Redford building also funnels rainwater to a treatment facility and recycling system in the building's basement, conserving water and preventing the building's stormwater run-off from polluting the Santa Monica Bay. Rainwater not captured for use in the system is used to irrigate plants and recharge underground water supplies. Two huge cisterns hidden beneath planters can catch and store about 3,000 gallons of rainwater. The rainwater, coupled with recycled water from showers and sinks, helps reduce outside water consumption by 50 percent. The building's recycling system can process 800 gallons of water per day.
Every detail of the building (too many to list here) is designed to conserve, sustain, and/or protect. The rooftop terrace is grooved to allow rainwater to drain to the two cisterns. Even the carpet is chemically "environmentally correct." The chairs in the large rooftop conference room have solid maple frames with seats woven from recycled seatbelts left over from auto manufacturers' purchase orders.
After it was purchased, $1.3 million in design and other preliminary costs were spent on the building. Construction costs for the building were $3.8 million -- or about $253 per square foot. The names of the handful of large donors who built the Redford building hang on a plaque inside the front door. They include the Horns, the Davids, Peter Morton, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the Wiatts.
The only thing more impressive than the building is the NRDC staff. No matter what your politics, you have to like and respect them. I met a few of them.
David Beckman, an NRDC lawyer who works on water issues, left a large law firm to join the NRDC. Beckman, a graduate of Harvard Law School who can clearly work as a lawyer wherever he wants, was instrumental in the success of the Caltrans stormwater challenge. He also helped coerce an agreement four years ago between 25 northern California litigation districts, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the NRDC to facilitate restoration of the San Joaquin River through water contracts for farmers of California's Central Valley. Without the agreement, the San Joaquin, California's second longest river, would continue to dry up and further threaten fish populations. Cara Horowitz, another lawyer just out of school, works in the NRDC's ecosystems team on marine mammal issues; her job includes litigation against the U.S. Navy over the harm to whales, dolphins, and other marine life caused by high-intensity active sonar. Horowitz graduated from Yale and then attended law school at the University of California at Los Angeles, where she was first in her class. She is also a former clerk to a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Like Beckman and Horowitz, Hinerfeld himself is as talented as he is dedicated. He's an alumni of Vassar, London School of Economics, and National Public Radio. Under Hinerfeld's supervision, the L.A. office even commands a page or two on the environment in each issue of Los Angeles Confidential, an expensive, hyper-slick quarterly "vanity" magazine where you're way more likely to find photos of Warren Beatty or Darryl Hannah at L.A. parties and reports about who's and what's hot in Hollywood than you are to see reports on endangered shrimp species, a "Heal the Bay" update, or conservation tips to save the planet.
Does the NRDC Use Hollywood to Get Its Point Across?
It sure does, and the city gladly obliges. One reason may have less to do with money than publicity. While it's true that the Redford building is a very short drive in your Mercedes or Bentley from some of the wealthiest suburbs in the world, the NRDC knows that if Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a Seinfeld regular and NRDC mainstay, announces a press conference on an upcoming educational or fundraising event for clean water or fuel efficiency issues, two good things often come of it: the kind of media attention that only stars or politicians can bring, and, okay, the money.
According to Hinerfeld, some NRDC celebrities are anything but mere figureheads or fundraisers on environmental issues. Several know the issues inside and out and have donated extraordinary amounts of time over the years. Robert Redford, who grew up in Santa Monica, has worked quietly and continuously with the NRDC and its founder John Adams on substantive issues since 1970.
According to Hinerfeld, Redford's projects include early lobbying for key modern environmental legislation, helping block oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, stopping the construction of a coal-fired plant near five national parks in Utah, and hosting a U.S.-Soviet Union summit on global warming. The NRDC building bears his name to celebrate the Redford-NRDC relationship and Redford's efforts.
Another NRDC stalwart has been singer James Taylor, who has appeared at benefit concerts. Laurie David and Elizabeth Wiatt run the "Earth to L.A." program, an annual pageant (Tom Hanks was Master of Ceremonies in 2004) that has raised millions in the four years since Ms. David started it. Recently, leggy blonde Cameron Diaz became interested in the NRDC's Biogems Initiative, which preserves exceptional lands around the world and protects them from destruction. And if you check out www.nrdc.org, and click on "Clean Water and Oceans," you can see a video of what the raunchy funny-man Jack Black has to say about air and water pollution.
The NRDC's staff is not the least bit uncomfortable with the "special relationship" (in Hinerfeld's words) between the organization and Hollywood. Special Initiatives Director Liana Schwarz, a former Washington, D.C. advance person and political consultant, stays pretty much glued to the phone, courting what she calls her celebrity constituency: DiCaprio, Redford, the Davids, the Wiatts, Black, Diaz, Louis-Dreyfus, Pierce Brosnan, and Ben Stiller.
Why do "Hollywood people" get involved? Hinerfeld suggests it's something more than celebrities wanting to be involved in the gravitas of national political issues. It's highly personal. For the longest time, Los Angeles's smog and particulate matter problems were notorious, and the city's beaches too dirty or contaminated to use. Pride in the ongoing process of cleaning up and preserving the city is a huge factor in keeping its residents pro-environment and pro-NRDC. California, love it or hate it, still has natural beauty in its pristine beach, mountain, forest, and desert areas that nearly all Californians, including the rich and elite, regularly enjoy. And that makes sense. No one here wants a return to the smog-choked city of 20 years ago, which still strives to improve itself.
The NRDC really didn't go Hollywood after all. It just capitalized on the genuine interest many elite Los Angeles people have in environmental issues. Hollywood, though, does seem to have gone NRDC -- and that's indeed hard to knock.
About the Author
J. Daniel Hull is an environmental lawyer, litigator and lobbyist with Hull McGuire PC (www.hullmcguire.com), which has offices in Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. and San Diego. The firm practices in the areas of environmental law, litigation, legislative affairs, IP, employment practices and international tax and transactions. Mr. Hull can be reached at (619) 239-9400. His blog is at http://whataboutclients.com.
July 20, 2016
Maddeningly hot with increasing existential dread by Wednesday.
Global warming-driven or not, now is the always-hot weather period between July 1 and August 15 that early Greeks and Romans roughly 25 centuries ago named after the Dog Star, or Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens. Be reminded, however, that the "dog days of summer" coming early this year isn't just about the heat. You feeling okay there, Jack? If you are uncomfortable due to the heat and humidity alone, no problem. It does look like Al Gore was right about something.
But if you are walking around your town or city not only sweltering but also confused, overly-emotional, a bit paranoid and perhaps seeing mythical animals, penguins, weasels or other fauna you know for a fact are not real or certainly not native or known to survive in Metro Detroit--and finally you are not too much of a whack-job or flake to begin with--you may do well to head for a short summer respite at a local looney bin or garden-variety detox. Three or four days may be all you need. There are also some highly-recommended, reputation-saving out-patient programs where you can meet not only men and women for dating purposes but also a healthy chunk of the city's Irish big law partners who would much rather try six-week breach of contract and UCC Article 2 cases than spend time learning the names of their own children back in Swampoodle.
Indeed, dog days are not just about crazy hot summers. They are in league with Chaos Itself: "the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics and phrensies". See (above) Brady's Clavis Calendarium, 1813.
July 17, 2016
Washington Examiner on Energy & Environment.
Writer John Siciliano at right-leaning but non-hysterical and quite talented Washington Examiner does fine work on energy and environment law and policy, the same issues I've done for 25 years. Here is "Obama's clean energy goal fails without nuclear, industry says". First rate as always.
Image: AP photo
April 22, 2016
Earth Day 2016: Edition 47.
Today is Earth Day, Edition 47. The first was on April 22, 1970. It was founded by the late U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.), and organized and led by Denis Hayes, National Coordinator for the 1970 Earth Day, and since then a mainstay leader, thinker and writer in the environmentalism movement.
Senator Nelson was a lawyer, outdoorsman, true Wisconsin character, ex-governor and hardworking legislator. To get an idea of him, see my 2005 remembrance of "The Earth Day Senator", which appeared in Environmental Protection Magazine after his death in July of 2005. In Nelson's very first speech as a senator--in March of 1963--he had argued that reductions in America's air and water quality to be a pressing national issue.
"We need a comprehensive and nationwide program to save the natural resources of America," he continued. "Our most priceless natural resources are being destroyed."
Step right up, folks. This was new and different 1960s-era stuff. Conservation and protection of natural a resources--once the province of civics classes, the scouting movements, and a few scattered organizations like the Sierra Club--was about to become national, emotional and political.
Six years later, Nelson tapped Hayes to launch the first Earth Day. Denis Hayes has been student body president at Stanford University, and an activist against the war in Viet Nam. After Stanford, Hayes was attending Harvard's Kennedy School of Government when Nelson in 1970 hired him to spearhead the first Earth Day.
Hayes himself became a leader, solar power advocate, author and main driver in the then-new environmental movement. See yesterday's post on his new and widely-discussed new book (with his wife Gail Boyer Hayes) "Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment."
October 20, 2015
Despite Shell's Alaska decision, global oil is poised to drill in American Arctic.
Which in the scheme of things is productive, but not without its special uncertainties, expense and a super-short drilling season. As more ice melts off the Alaskan coast, drillers from all over the globe continue to look hard at the American Arctic. The state of Alaska, moreover, sees it as a magic opportunity for developing its economy. So do see Oil Industry not giving up on Artic drilling by Energy and Environment writer Kyle Feldscher at the right-leaning but sane, balanced and for me always-excellent Washington Examiner. It's one of several pieces featured this week in WE's weekly edition but updated online. Excerpts:
After Shell announced it would stop drilling for oil off the coast of Alaska for the "foreseeable future," environmentalists celebrated the end of the oil giant's northern adventure. But their victory almost certainly will be short lived.
The federal government moved on Friday [October 16] to delay for another 18 months the drilling that industry sees as inevitable. The Department of Interior announced it is canceling the 2016 and 2017 Arctic Ocean lease sales and ending discussions with two oil companies on Arctic Ocean lease extensions.
The decision by the department means lease sales will stop for the rest of the current leasing program, which started in 2012 and runs through 2017. Portions of the Chukchi Sea, where Shell decided to stop drilling last month, were up for lease in 2016. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said it didn't make sense to continue leasing in the wake of Shell's decision.
Energy experts say it's almost impossible for the United States to permanently keep oil companies from drilling in the American Arctic. As more ice melts, other countries are exploring new wells, and Alaska, with its huge energy industry, has state waters it is eager to see developed.
"The Arctic is not dead, and it's not even dormant," said Scott Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington.
The area's geology suggests massive oil reserves are under the water, said Dan Kish, a senior vice president at the Institute for Energy Research, an energy think tank that promotes fossil fuels. Exploration and drilling will continue because of a simple reason.
"They have no damn idea what's up there," Kish said.
October 03, 2015
Washington Examiner: What's happening to America's 40-year-old crude oil export ban?
Despite my unsavory limousine liberal past, I've become an ardent fan of the Washington Examiner, a decade-old right-leaning weekly/online publication with smarts, calm and class. I'm especially fond of its energy and environment coverage by John Siciliano. See "The push to end the 40-year-old ban on oil exports heats up". Excerpts:
The energy industry is making a hard shift from lobbying against ozone regulations to lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports, in anticipation of a vote next week in the House to repeal the ban.
The industry was engaged for weeks in an eleventh-hour push against costly Environmental Protection Agency rules to reduce smog-forming ozone emissions that it says would harm energy and infrastructure development across the country. Now, energy groups have replaced that campaign with a push to get Congress to repeal the oil-export ban.
Around the country, the group Producers for American Crude Oil Exports will be shelling out advertising bucks for a television blitz to be shown during this weekend's college football games. The ad says President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran undermines U.S. oil and gas producers by lifting sanctions on the Persian Gulf country and allowing it to begin selling Iranian oil in the global market.
At the same time, groups are fighting against repealing the ban. Ralph Nader's Public Citizen consumer advocacy group is actively protesting lifting the ban, while refiners represented by the CRUDE Coalition continue to press lawmakers against repealing it. The coalition says lifting the ban would raise gasoline prices, while making the country more dependent on imports, including those from Iran.
The House bill was expected to come up for a vote last week, but the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio forced the GOP leadership to push it back. Aides say they are hopeful the bill will be brought to the floor ahead of the Columbus Day holiday [of] Oct. 12.
August 06, 2015
Environmental Protection Magazine: Is fracking worth it?
I once wrote a column for this "pro-fossil fuels/industry" publication for environmental professionals based in Texas. Do visit a feature story last week by Julia Troute, a regular Environmental Protection writer and/or contributing editor. In "Let's Be Frank about Fracking: Is Unconventional Gas and Oil Drilling Really Worth It?", Ms. Troute points out that in approximately a decade the number of natural gas wells has nearly doubled in the United States. As of 2014, over 15 million Americans lived within a mile of a well drilled since 2000. That's more people, she continues, than live in Michigan or New York City. And in a recent study:
Dr. Reynold Panettieri Jr. and a team of researchers compared hospital visits in Bradford, Susquehanna, and Wayne—three counties of rural Pennsylvania—from 2007 (when drilling began) to 2011. They found a higher rate of hospital visits in the two counties with a heavy gas presence.
But the medical issues in these counties don’t stem from water contamination alone; each gas well requires an average of 400 tanker trucks to carry water and supplies to and from the site. Panettieri noted that “[with fracking] there's a lot of diesel exhaust, noise and social stress. Hydraulic fracturing changes the complexion of the town because of the number of people coming through...the idling trucks and the noise."
Relying on 95,000 inpatient records, Panettieri and his researchers called their study "the most comprehensive one to date to address the health impact of unconventional gas and oil drilling...In Bradford and Susquehanna, where there was a substantial increase in hydraulic fracturing and active wells, [there] were more cardiovascular hospitalizations as well as more neurologic," Panettieri said. "The association was in proximity to the wells. The closer to active wells, the more Pennsylvanians are getting hospitalized."
August 05, 2015
Coal: Still standing. Barely.
In the Saturday, August 1 Washington Post,"New EPA rule on greenhouse gases the latest blow to King Coal". Excerpts:
When coal was king, it fueled more than half of the nation’s electricity. It fired up American industry and powered an ever-growing variety of household appliances and electronics. And American presidential hopefuls paid homage to coal, courting mine owners and miners whose unionized ranks once numbered more than 400,000.
All of that has changed. On Monday, the Obama administration takes on the coal industry with the final version of rules it has dubbed the Clean Power Plan, a complex scheme designed to reduce, on a state-by-state basis, the amount of greenhouse gases the nation’s electric power sector emits. The main target: coal.
Today, more people in the United States work jobs installing solar panels than work in the coal industry. Ideas for using liquefied coal for cars never materialized. Industrial users have become more efficient. And coal’s share of electricity generation is waning, with natural gas and renewable energy taking its place. Only a handful of coal power plants have been built in recent years, and the Sierra Club keeps a tally of canceled coal-fired power plants like trophies on the wall.
The reason for the focus on coal is that it remains the largest U.S. producer of greenhouse gases at a time when President Obama is striving for an agreement at the December climate summit in Paris. In March, the United States submitted its own goal to the United Nations, vowing to reduce by 2025 U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels. Trimming coal emissions must be a part of that.
"Early Coal Mining, Williams River, West Virginia, 1930s" by Finley Taylor.
April 21, 2015
"Cowed," the Book. Might as well face it we're addicted to, yes, cows.
Tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day. It was the idea over 45 years ago of a Wisconsin lawyer, outdoorsman and ex-governor named Gaylord Nelson I first worked for when I was 21. I hope I write about Earth Day this week. But at the very least I wanted to note that Denis Hayes--Denis Hayes was the Nelson-drafted organizer-in-chief of the first Earth Day in 1970, and has been a huge voice in a number of niches of environmental policy ever since--and his wife Gail Boyer Hayes have written "Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment" (Norton, 400 pp., $27.95). "Cowed" was released last month and is catching the kudos and attention of pretty much every American media outlet.
Google it and see. But don't google it too much. I want you to read it. I also note that environmental issues in America--for reasons which I loathe--are generally political even though, and to be fair, even the WSJ reviewer of "Cowed" begrudgingly gave it a big thumbs up (big points). And the Oberlin guy (no points). And hey the Salon guy (points). Anyway, I bought the book in late March from a bunch of Gen-Y hippies who run a cafe-bookstore on 14th Street called Busboys & Poets who were amazed that I was actually alive at the first Earth Day in 1970. Frankly, I'm surprised no one asked me if I knew Jerry Garcia--or Tiny Tim--and it took me 2 weeks before I could go back to Busboys & Poets again.
You can buy "Cowed" at Barnes & Noble, too. I of course read "Cowed". No matter what your politics may be these days--I am famously mercurial politically, and I spent 10 unexpected minutes yesterday with Donald Rumsfeld and his wife Joyce of 60 years, and was in Alpha Male heaven--this is a book every CEO, environmentalist, environmental lawyer, academic, politician, educator and hell any North American who can read without moving their lips should buy. Parts of it surprised me. Most of it added immeasurably to my personal life-long archive for environmental law and policy. All of it is likely to be part of the American conversation on our natural resources for years to come.
October 10, 2014
Si'ahl or Chief Seattle (1780-1866)
Only known photograph, 1864.
July 11, 2014
In Vox Populi: New article on natural gas fracking.
We believe that the only way for society to change is for people’s voices to be heard. The subject of this dialogue is power--who has it, how is it used, and to what purpose. We welcome your participation.
--Vox Populi to online readers (April 2014)
I just published an article that focuses on the continuing and very shrill dispute over the environmental and safety issues of hydraulic fracturing--or "fracking". Fracking is a drilling method to extract natural gas from reserves underneath public and private lands that are deep and/or difficult to access. The drilling process injects liquids into, and fractures, rock or shale encasing the gas. Critics point out that fracking increases the risk of polluting ground water, soil and air in the areas of the drilling. In the article, I try y to pin down how proponents and opponents really view their arguments, and what each side really wants in the fracking controversy. Is compromise possible? Which issues? What would be a "win" for each side? It's called Commentary on NY Court of Appeals Fracking Decision.
But of equal (if not slightly more) interest to me in this post is publisher Vox Populi itself, the progressive online forum that published my essay. It was co-founded by Michael Simms, a nationally known poet, writer and editor, founder of Autumn House Press, teacher and social activist, and by Nisha Gupta, who will be Vox Populi's first editor. Gupta is also a Ph.D candidate in Clinical Psychology at Duquesne University.
About the forum's purpose, we are given more than just hints. The name comes from the proverb, Vox populi, vox De, which translate from Latin as "the voice of the people is the voice of God." Moreover, if you look at the forum's website, Vox Populi's "tagline" on each web page is A Public Sphere for the Discussion of Contemporary Politics. With these items in mind, and in view of the opening quote above, the Vox Populi forum intends to be very respectable, if not slightly wonky, grass roots clearinghouse of ideas to address real social problems: identifying them, talking about them, evening the playing fields where battles are fought, and crafting sound strategies to solve them. Issue categories already up on the Vox Populi website give us a better idea: Social Justice, War and Peace, Public Education, Environmentalism.
July 07, 2014
[UPDATED] Last Week's Zoning Power-Based Decision by New York Court of Appeals: A "Watershed" for Fracking Opponents?
For the future of fossil fuel extraction in America, here is an important and possibly game-changing development (although I was just informed that French actress Audrey Tautau's upcoming 38th birthday is "just as important, dude, if not more so..."). First, if you need some background, see this June 30 WSJ article, on the decision last week by New York States's highest court to allow municipalities to use their zoning powers to ban the practice of induced hydraulic fracturing--or "fracking"--to drill for natural gas. And see two blog posts by attorneys, both with the New York City office of the well-regarded Natural Resource Defenses Council, who have been covering the litigation: June 30 blog post by Dan Raichel and July 8 blog post by Kate Sinding.
The New York Court of Appeals' ruling is certainly not novel--or really even limited to fracking. That communities may use zoning laws to limit activities on land is black letter law in nearly every American jurisdiction. But the clash of interests on each side of the fracking issue--opponents correctly arguing that the best current methods of extraction threaten natural resources and human health versus large producer-corporations correctly arguing that fracking is getting America closer to energy independence, and at the same time providing good jobs--has been exceptionally intense, loud, emotional, enduring.
Fracking technology is not new--and has been used for over 50 years to extract shale gas, tight gas, tight oil, and coal seam gas. Fracking's methods have never been particularly safe or without environmental risks. Geologists have known for decades about substantial shale natural gas reserves underneath us that fracking methods might be able to extract.
So what's really new? It's the huge, bold, previously unthinkable scale on which more recent fracking methods are based and are now being used all over the country. From the standpoint of the production of energy, and cheaper energy at that, it has been a hands-down success. No question.
Here's the problem, which is largely a matter of public relations. Each of the two respective arguments mentioned above--and this is not always the case, folks--has both merit and broad appeal. And, importantly, the nature of each of these overall arguments allows both sides to affect a certain righteous indignation. Opponents of fracking (i.e., let's protect humans, environment), those on the "David" side, have the advantage here. No one can deny either the morality or rationality of putting humans and nature first.
Fracking proponents (i.e., fracking is the key to American energy independence, and helps create needed jobs), or those in the Goliath camp, appeal to patriotism, energy security, and helping the American economic recovery with jobs. Granted, the energy industry has made a very similar arguments in the past (e.g., compliance with new regs forcing us to upgrade air pollution control equipment is expensive, and will eat up jobs) when faced with environmental barriers. Now, with a huge new supply of cheaper, domestic natural gas in the balance, the energy producer's argument is more compelling than ever. Producers have staff, experts and all manner of hired guns to help make that argument.
So both sides are "right". In government and politics, that can happen. But the sides here are David v. Goliath, and each is apparently willing to devote whatever money, additional resources, passion, organizational time and political capital it has to the fight, and fight indefinitely. That, frankly, is rare. In most cases, the grass roots David side--of veteran activists, new activists, fathers, housewives and college kids, and usually without much of a war chest or qualified lawyers for the long-haul--gets outspent or goes away by now. That has not happened here.
On July 7, The Hill, the daily newspaper covering Congress, wrote about the New York ruling in "'Watershed moment' for fracking foes?", but hasn't identified any significant long-term response from the energy industry. Our take is that the New York decision should and will stick as a matter of basic constitutional law, and will be closely looked at as a roadmap by other state judiciaries in similar cases. From proponents of fracking, you are likely to see a difficult, ardent and slightly demented attempt to 'federalize' fracking, probably under the Commerce Clause and coupled with policy arguments that the importance of energy security should trump local and state rights (which if successful in our judgment would make for bad law).
In any event, fracking, which no one sane and educated really likes, is here to stay, with or with or without zoning constraints, as long as producers keep finding ways to get leases on substantial "new" fossil fuel reserves. For some pols, the unexpected appearance of "successful" fracking on a huge scale is even a bit embarrassing. President Obama, an environmentalist, and Commenter-in-Chief who often chimes in gratuitously on big issues, has stayed away from the issue.
Right now, the best argument anyone can make for fracking is probably this:
"Even though energy companies lack safe, efficient technologies for fracking, we all need the energy source. We need the BTUs".
We know. It's somehow not enough, no matter who you "side" with, is it? So we can expect that in time, Americans will demand either a safer and more environmentally-friendly approach to drilling for hard-to-reach reserves, or require a stronger, more reassuring argument.
May 27, 2014
Big Moxie Alert: Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services. Seriously.
"A nonprofit law firm incubating the growth of environmental legal services for modest means clients." That's the way Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a brand new non-profit with offices in the rustbelt's heavy industry towns of Akron and Pittsburgh, sees itself. Fair Shake is home to several youngish lawyers who seek to right a few wrongs for the little guy. We looked over the website. Unabashedly idealistic and nearly Oberlin College-level politically correct--we were fairly surprised it did not conclude each of its web pages with the iconic late 1960s Harvard Strike fist--Fair Shake seems to have been carefully planned, is well-organized and, above all, is king-hell serious. And it has "funders". One patron is The Heinz Endowments, funded with old H.J. Heinz Company family money, but not connected to the Ketchup King (now owned by Berkshire Hathaway). The rustbelt is home to many of the nation's best environmental lawyers--in air, water, hazardous waste--and they generally (read: almost always) have Fortune 500 companies as clients. Assuming the group knows what it's getting into in this particular region, Fair Shake has big ones. We wish these guys well.
May 07, 2014
Pittsburgh's Fracking War Part 2: No joy in much of Steelville.
Hardly a mandate. Approved by 9 to 5 vote early this morning was the controversial lease for drilling of natural gas under Pittsburgh parkland using hydraulic fracturing--or fracking. See the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Deer Lakes Park drilling plan approved by Allegheny County Council, 9-5".
May 06, 2014
Pittsburgh's Fracking War: The Allegheny County Council's Big Night.
In a challenge to fracking that's made national news, anti-fracking groups in Pittsburgh have been a constant thorn in the side of the Allegheny County Council on a proposal for a relatively small fracking lease to drill under public lands. Before the 15-member council tonight is a proposal that calls for the county to enter into a lease with Texas-based Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley, a local driller, to drill for natural gas beneath the Deer Lakes Park.
Under the proposed lease, there would be no drilling on the surface of the 1,180 acre park. Instead, drilling would be on private property in the townships of Frazer and West Deer. Proponents point out that the lease would generate about $8 million dollars to the county (including monies for park improvements) plus 18 percent in royalties, and create needed jobs.
Environmental groups and a diverse galaxy of private citizens are arguing that fracking is known to harm water, air, land and human health, that drilling based on current fracking technologies has proved risky in almost all parts of the world where it has been practiced, and that the proposal is in reality a slick stalking horse for future drilling throughout the Pittsburgh area.
After months of public hearings and informational meetings about the lease proposal, it goes before the council for a final vote.
The Council in action.
April 24, 2014
In Texas: Dallas County jury awards family $2.9 million in "intentional" nuisance fracking case.
In Parr v. Aruba Petroleum, Inc. (Dallas County, TX 2011), a Texas family sued an oil company for health problems and loss of property value arising from wells drilled in the Barnett Shale Formation near their 40 acre ranch. For some details plus a copy of the plaintiffs' complaint in Tuesday's "Earth Day" verdict, see the blog post of the Parrs' attorney, David Matthews in "$3 Million Verdict in Texas Fracking Case". The jury apparently found 5-1 that defendant Aruba had "intentionally" created a private nuisance despite Aruba's contentions "that it had complied with air quality and drilling safety guidelines set by the Texas Railroad Commission and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TDECQ)". Aruba will appeal.
Drilling in Barnett Shale Formation near Alvarado, Texas
April 17, 2014
National Academy of Sciences: Methane releases from Pennsylvania fracking grossly underestimated.
A significant environmental development appeared in the Los Angeles Times two days ago. The story was apparently missed by mainstream press in western Pennsylvania. See "EPA drastically underestimates methane released at drilling sites", which begins:
Drilling operations at several natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania released methane into the atmosphere at rates that were 100 to 1,000 times greater than federal regulators had estimated, new research shows.
Using a plane that was specially equipped to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the air, scientists found that drilling activities at seven well pads in the booming Marcellus shale formation emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that such drilling releases between 0.04 grams and 0.30 grams of methane per second.
The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The agency is expected to issue its own analysis of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as early as Tuesday, which will give outside experts a chance to assess how well regulators understand the problem.
Hat tip: Pittsburgh-based businessman Michael Simms.
Joshua Doubek photo: Halliburton frack site, Bakken Formation, North Dakota
April 15, 2014
Is clean technologies still a fad?
For over three decades, all manner of "alternative energy" products have been pitched as safer, healthier and cheaper ways to energy independence, especially during periods when oil prices are at their highest. Certainly, the idea of cleantech, green technologies and renewable resources is not new. The chronic obstacle for the industries that have formed around the idea? Making non-fossil energy sources affordable to consumers. But some cost-efficiencies are finally being achieved. At the very least, clean technologies these days is more than a recurring new age fad. See "Myths and realities of clean technologies", just out from McKinsey & Company.
Offshore wind farm near Copenhagen
October 20, 2012
Bob Redford, Santa Monica's Mayor for Life, Weighs in on Obama v. Romney.
No matter what they think of his politics, few people doubt actor Robert Redford's decades-long commitment and contributions to environmental protection. Or his expertise. And even while everyone connects him to that cause, his real work in environmentalism is still mostly unknown and unsung. Since the early 1970s, he's been more than a figurehead and money-giver. For example, he has been one of the main drivers in the growth and success of the Natural Resources Defense Council, arguably the largest and best environmental law firm in the world. While we don't think that the Obama-Biden Administration's record has been a standout in environmental policy and enforcement (Clinton-Gore certainly wasn't either, and for the entire eight years), Redford apparently thinks it sure beats the alternative for the coming years 2013-2016. See his recent guest column "Why I'm Supporting President Obama" in The Huffington Post.
September 27, 2012
Battle of Two Old Titans: King Coal v. Growing, Getting-Cheaper, Cleaner, Princely Natural Gas.
If you follow the news, you can hardly ignore the news that there is a lot more accessible natural gas underneath us than thought even ten years ago, and that we are now going dog nuts in a guilty and often messy blitzkrieg extracting it.
It's not fashionable these days, I know. But if I really think about it, my law practice, most years, most days and recently, has had something to do with fossil fuels: various forms of petroleum, natural gas or coal as fuels or pollutants--from producing, using, mixing, transporting and storing them to cleaning them up. Thirty-three years ago, "constrained abundance" was the term used to describe coal reserves in the breakthrough book Energy Future edited by Harvard Business School's Robert Stobaugh and Daniel Yergin. And the writers of the chapter on coal, Mel Horwitch and Frank Schuller, would still be right about that: there is still lots and lots of the fossil fuel that helped transform America from a farming to an industrial nation.
Coal. There is still lots and lots of it--of different grades and sulfur content--in the ground around the world. Maybe two centuries worth in North America alone. Generally, it's been and still is plentiful and cheap but dirty stuff.
Yet not so cheap in recent years. Apart from the fact that environmental regulations on air pollution made it much more expensive to burn coal, the price of cleaner-burning natural gas and synthetic natural gas has trended down in recent years. There is more of "the energy prince of hydrocarbons" (another wonderful fuel tagline from Energy Future in 1979) than we had once believed. You can hardly ignore the news that there is a lot more accessible natural gas underneath us than thought even ten years ago, and that we are now going dog nuts in a guilty and often messy blitzkrieg extracting it.
Various environmentalist groups, of course, applaud the decline of coal. But there are obviously tough regional economic problems--and that human cost we all forget about in our policy arguments with friends and co-workers on "energy security"--for later generations of coal-producing workers and their companies all over America. But I like the fact that coal is still an election issue, even if it's a waning issue. Yesterday, though, The Christian Science Monitor did a nice job on coal as an election issue this year. See "War On Coal"? Why Obama Might Not Be Industry's Worst Enemy.
September 14, 2012
Special Breaking Recession Survival Tip: If someone refers work to your firm, thank them.
I've come to the conclusion that it's not natural for most of us to remember who refers us good work or good clients--from within our firms or from outside our firms. For that reason, strain to make it a habit (1) to remember who pushed work to you and (2) to thank them over and over again. I can think of several instances in which our firm would have referred a second lucrative project to a law firm or other services shop if we had been thanked--even once--for the first lucrative project.
Art: Barbara Kruger
September 13, 2012
To the Nixon-era law that gave us the MS4 NPDES Permit: Happy 40th, Clean Water Act.
What would fancy lawyers do without phrases like TMDL assessments, POTW biosolids and "that's a kick-ass DMR this month for the client's NPDES permit, Jim". In The Huffington Post: "Clean Water Act Is 40 Years Old: Landmark Water Law Hits A Milestone During Critical Time".
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, New York.
March 02, 2012
Closing older power plants: The end of Tall Stacks? Maybe. And electricity prices may soar.
In the Midwest and East, you may lose a few jobs, too. See this one at the Washington Post: Utilities announce closure of 10 aging power plants in Midwest, East.
Power Plant, Tall Stacks, Morro Bay, California
March 01, 2012
Environmental Protection: New ocean radar treaty of 153 nations covers spilled oil, debris, tsunamis, bodies.
Here's a positive upshot of America's months-long Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010. At Environmental Protection, do see "153 Countries Sign Treaty on Ocean Radar Improvements". The meeting of The International Telecommunication Union’s World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12) took place from Jan. 23 to Feb. 17 in Geneva, Switzerland, and
concluded with agreement on a number of items, including improved ocean radar technology. This will yield better tracking of tsunamis, oil spills, ocean debris, and people lost at sea, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF).
After recent destructive tsunamis and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill increased interest in ocean radars, which have operated informally and would be quickly shut down if they caused interference with other radio systems, according to NSF.
But action taken at the meeting provides specific radio frequency bands for ocean radars-–small systems typically installed on beaches and using radio signals to map ocean currents to distances as far as 100 miles.
January 17, 2012
Transcript of last Monday's SCOTUS argument in Sackett v. EPA: Some Justices Peeved by EPA?
We posted briefly last Monday (January 9) on the oral argument that morning in Sackett v. EPA (No. 10-1062), the right to pre-enforcement review dispute which pitted the EPA against Mom and Pop America and their backyard. A few people asked for the transcript to determine which, if any, justices were actually "riled" at the EPA. The transcript is here and you can decide for yourself. In any event, the best post-Sackett argument lead came in an article by Greg Henderson at Drovers CattleNetwork in "Supreme Court Justices Critical of EPA in Wetlands Case". It begins:
One of the little guys had his day in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Monday, and a lot of the big guys were watching.
In what could become an important decision regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement rules, several Supreme Court justices appeared sympathetic to the cause of Mike and Chantell Sackett in their battle against the EPA and the Clean Water Act.
"Outrageous": Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Man of the People.
January 09, 2012
The Clean Water Act case before SCOTUS today: Backyard or Protected Wetland?
Homeowners or Industrial Polluters? Given the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, the case of Sackett v. EPA being argued before it today is probably as important, and certainly as "political", as environmental law gets. Our take? Despite the David v. Goliath hype, it's a relatively straightforward exercise on the right to pre-enforcement review under the APA. Lots of amicus briefs, mainly by private industry in support of petitioners, the Sacketts. Before this Court, the Sacketts have a shot of prevailing in their pre-enforcement argument. In any event, the due process challenge they are claiming in the alternative should fail. For background, see in the Los Angeles Times "Supreme Court Takes Up Property Rights Dispute" plus this summary and Lyle Deniston's preview, both at the SCOTUS blog.
January 04, 2012
Environmental Protection: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Has a Huge Weed Problem.
Well, that explains a lot. Poised at a rare intersection of the environment, inland waterways, immigration policy and national security, Environmental Protection magazine reports that "Giant Weed Creates Threat to Our Nation's Ecosystems and Border Security". Seriously, we have here a textbook example of "the complex society" at work. Think of the divisions of labor needed to address this issue fully. You need specialists. But who quarterbacks it? Excerpts:
Along U.S. southern coastal rivers, most particularly Texas’ Rio Grande, an invasive species of plant known as giant reed is encroaching on the water, overrunning international border access roads, and creating a dense cover for illegal activities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has called for a plan to control this weed.
Giant reed, more commonly known as Carrizo cane in Texas, is a nonnative bamboo-like plant that can grow more than 32 feet tall. To support its rapid growth rate, it consumes large amounts of water compared to native vegetation. The weed reduces arthropod diversity and abundance in our ecosystems and destroys wildlife habitat.
October 20, 2011
Natural Resources: Will Oklahoma "Sell Water to Save Water"?
Water, Drinking and Wastewater Systems, and the Catch-22 for Western states in 2011. We ran across this blog piece in Environmental Protection magazine entitled "Should Legislators Sell Water to Save Water in Oklahoma?" As worn-out water-related infrastructure in many states--from dams and bridges to sewage and drainage systems--continue be underfunded during the recession, we may be seeing more news items like it, especially concerning Western states where water supplies is always an issue. Further, and as the post points out, states like Oklahoma have few happy options. Excerpts:
Oklahoma water leaders are considering various options to not lose the state’s water supply – even mandates ordering the state to sell off water. Sell water to save water is the question. This proposition would make the state money to repair faulty infrastructure, but lose some of the state’s precious natural resources in the process.
In 2011, Oklahoma experienced one of the driest summers since 1921; along with much of the Central United States. The state can’t afford to hustle water to other parts of the nation when it’s already experiencing a water shortage. The potential water buyers would be states experiencing extreme drought, in the same classification as Oklahoma.
Apparently, Oklahoma isn’t the only state that has to face the water shortage reality. Nonetheless, Oklahoma is now stuck in a lose, lose situation with few options. So, should the state implement mandates to sell water to pay for infrastructure repairs that could save water?
October 06, 2011
I've wondered, too: "Why can't flood water get hauled to drought-stricken land?"
Water Transfer Technology, anyone? Clean Streams, anyone? For a year I wrote a bi-monthly column on federal and state clean water issues for a sister publication of the then Texas-based Environmental Protection magazine, in which my firm had published pieces on environmental management, compliance and remediation. Both EP and the compellingly-entitled Water and Wastewater News (in which the column appeared circa 2005-2006) have remained fine caches of news and ideas for environmental pros on clean water, clean air and solid waste issues. So do see this one by Christina Miralla at EP two weeks ago on a common sense subject that requires some daunting economic and technological gymnastics to think about realistically: "Why Can't Flood Water Get Hauled to Drought-Stricken Land?" Me? I've pondered this idea off and on myself since around the time I first got knee-deep in President Nixon's federal Clean Water Act--and as a job requirement had to think generally about anything toxic or non-toxic that moves in, on or over the planet in a "plume". That's just natural, right?
Mississippi floodwaters in Iowa, 2008.
September 26, 2011
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)
Wangari Muta Maathai was a Kenyan environmentalist and political activist educated in the United States and Kenya. In the 1970s, she founded the Green Belt Movement, which focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women's rights. She was also an elected member of Parliament and served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of current Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. In 2004, Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for "her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace." See Andrew Revkin's remembrance today at his Dot Earth blog in the New York Times, "A Passing: Wangari Maathai."
September 02, 2011
Big Sur: So Perfect It Seems Painted On.
This stretch of road just south of Monterey has "unnatural" grandeur: it's so perfect it seems painted on. My fourth time here. Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson both lived and worked here. I keep seeing their faces up in the dark clumps of branches of trees that line the creeks running down from the hills to the ocean.
February 04, 2011
Stock Market Weekly: Investment trends in energy markets.
See the Alex Willams Interview by Kent Moors. There's a trace of wishful thinking and (as usual) an agenda here--but it's certainly worth a look. A nice snapshot of trends in both fossil fuels and and non-traditional sources in the shifting Energy Mix. Plus: "The energy market will be driven by demand and China is the new 800-pound gorilla in the room. It is a barometer of demand activities globally." A mention of nuclear, too. And a dash of Methane as a the new multi-colored work-horse of the future.
January 25, 2011
Sometimes a Great Notion: NPDES Permit Training by US EPA.
Wastewater Permitting the Right Way. A Permit Writers' Course. Worthwhile, and something that doesn't happen every day. Live or on-line. Or five days if you want it. See Environmental Protection magazine and www.epa.gov/npdes/training.
Ex-US EPA Chief William Reilly on BP Investigation Report.
Reilly was co-chair of the U.S. commission to investigate last year's BP Gulf spill. He spoke last night in Durham, NC. See The Chronicle, Duke University's daily. Excerpt:
He criticized the lack of technological advancement in oil spill clean-up technology in the 20 years since the Exxon Valdez spill and said this was an indication of complacency within the industry.
Reilly also explained the difficulties in deciding on further domestic oil drilling, noting that although it opens up environmental risks at home, domestic drilling would be held to a higher standard than drilling in other parts of the world.
The alternative would be obtaining more oil from Nigeria, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, which comes with considerable environmental damage. Finally, he voiced his hope that the commission’s findings could be applied to future deepwater drilling projects in Mexico and Cuba.
January 24, 2011
In 2012, Sarah Kate Silverman for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District.
Americans and Speech. We've become too thin-skinned and polite with Words. Many of us still live by a script. We've made progress in the last few years with efforts to retire PC-Speak--but it's still a Mr. Rogers-Fest. Maybe Sarah could help.
We'll say it again. The idea of Bedford, New Hampshire's Sarah Kate Silverman temporarily chucking writing and performing mega-edgy comedy, and holding elected office for a few years, does appeal to us. Greatly. And why not? She's smart, energetic, outspoken, attractive, photogenic and young. Three weeks ago, on December 1, she turned 40.
She's not PC, either--she intuitively gets and uses the First Amendment--and America sure could use that. And use it right now. Everyone is so offended by Everything, and so smug, morally superior and emotional on All Subjects, that the inevitable has happened: no one can think straight. Ideology is the new substitute for thought. Contempt prior to investigation is the reigning methodology to process remotely alien or threatening ideas.
So try to picture a couple of years from now a new mainstream and new public but more serious Sarah: Rep. Sarah Silverman(D-NH). She could fix PC culture quickly, and just by being herself, provided of course that her language and persona(s) stay the same. No one could profess any longer to be shocked and offended by anything anymore.
Traditionally, of course, and with infrequent but near-heroic past exceptions in Great Britain (Churchill, often Disraeli), the U.S. Senate (Jim Abourezk of South Dakota) and the House (the late Bob Eckhardt of the 8th district in Texas), politicians don't tell you what they really think unless it's convenient.
For centuries, the West has given pols a pass on candor. We get it. Not a problem.
Silverman is a Total Betty, too.
However, in just the past two decades, the various and increasing regimes of Political Correctness in America in all aspects of work and life have meant that no one else tells the truth much about anything. Candor, certainly, is not encouraged. We are all too busy trying not to offend or "enjoying" our being offended.
Being outspoken? That is no longer the virtue it once was. Having No Stones in America is an epidemic--and in more and more circles (not just lawyer ones) considered "smart". These days you can't say anything interesting, or do anything in an interesting way, at work. We live by a script.
Even Alpha males are on the outs--at least for a while. We are somehow breeding them out. In our offices younger males are so careful about what they say and do--around both co-workers and superiors--that they are stone boring. No gospel, no moxie, no spirit. No glimpses into the soul and personality that make them unique and interesting. Younger workers of course were brought up on gender neutral role models. That's so nice, and sweet. But was that a good idea? Hey, Justin and Britanny, you got any original thoughts and ideas in there anywhere, folks? Anything of your own? Anyone alive and thinking? Or is this the New Peasant Culture?
So what's up? Are we turning into Canadians and the Junior League?
Keep reading. We'll get back to Sarah.
We hope for a different kind of culture revolution. We seek to include different ideas and expressions: old, new, objectionable, dumb-downed, bland, trite, creative, stupid, smart. But let's not leave anyone out. This is America. For example, after the Revolution, when politically-correct culture, and other goofy forced-conformity social agendas wane and disappear, you will be able to say what you want. Okay, anything that puts kids at risk--and about Mothers--will not be fair play. But you will be able to use words like "secretary", "stewardess"--and even "stew", if you've had a few drinks on the plane. You will have choices. If you're a lawyer, you will start using the term "Chinese wall" again. You will be able to swear, and loudly, in the workplace, and start war stories with: "You know, I had this case in the Southern District, back in 1987, when men were men." After the Revolution, you will be able to flirt, and be playful and even a tad eccentric, at work.
If someone you work with is lazy and disorganized and a loser, you will be able to say things like, whoa, that dude Josh "is lazy and disorganized and a loser". Rather than have to say it's so awesome that Josh is "low profile/independent/a team member requiring minimal face time/empowered by his flexible hour arrangement/a pioneer in work-life balance". The expression "Not Work-Oriented" will be okay, too. Using "not work-oriented" rather than "lazy" is also a proven attention-getter. Granted, it's too indirect. It's soft. Sounds a bit PC. But think of it as a transitional term you can employ until people start saying what they mean.
For example, we have used "not work-oriented" frequently in recent years in telephone conversations with people, unknown to us, who check references, of former employees, who we know too well. Saying that your ex-employee Kendall, who had top grades at Dartmouth and Duke Law, and had interviewed well, is "not work-oriented" is easier, faster and frankly more fun than struggling through on the phone with:
Mr. Bloor, it just wasn't a 'fit'. Kendall has many gifts. But we always knew she would flourish more in an alternative work setting where, you know, team members were, uh, not required to do any work per se, or actually perform, or add value. You know what I mean.
After the Revolution, you will also be able to use your real name when you give your opinion in the ether of the Internet. In fact, anonymity will be banned--and reserved for rape victims, Iranian and Cuban dissidents, Ned Beatty "Deliverance" casualties, and the ballot box at primary and general elections. You will be able to utter all manner of potentially rude, offensive, defamatory and even straight-up tacky things--but you will take responsibility by backing it all up with your real name.
Males will be different. My own offices over the last 5 years has been full of "sweet" and "dainty" males who, frankly, I am a bit nervous about being with at night. They are not gay, even though at first I thought a lot of them were. (It's natural to wonder--so no letters, please.) They are not show-tunes flashy or YMCA-esque or anything. It's just that they are way too "nice". Way way too nice. Someone did a terrible thing in raising them. They are confused. The don't get what is okay/not okay about being a human being. They don't even swear well. The are not warriors. America's new males are stone-creepy "men".
After the Revolution, we'll get some of the more boorish and traditional--but at least authentic--males back. That would be "nice", too. More great news: In the New Order of Things, long after PC culture has dissipated and died, the Seas will not turn Red. No One will go to Hell. The Family Unit will not Implode. The Clintons won't Abduct Your Kids.
So you get the idea. We don't like "PC culture" that much--sane First Amendment people of any political persuasion never do unless to make fun of it--and so we do cherish Sarah Silverman. Right now, America needs shock troops. Yanks don't think much on their own anymore. We are too bland and nice. Too consensus-driven. So Sarah's our girl. Besides, Sarah is saucy and attractive. If you don't think that's important, you're wrong--but you can dash off an angry letter, not invite us to parties, or report us to Nina Totenberg and NPR.
Silverman's also a fine comic, writer, actress, musician, and rebel's rebel who never met a taboo she did not like. While at first blush Silverman's humor may seemed based on stereotypes, she's smart and ironic, not mean, and an unrelenting satirist of life and priorities in America. Meet Lenny Bruce's adorable grandchild who has escaped from Scarsdale, New Canaan or Shaker Heights and now has a bunch of uncomfortable questions for us all. She's going to ask them, e.g., "Sell the Vatican, Feed the World".
Let's see, what else? Her sister is a Rabbi. But Jesus is Magic? She's ethnically Jewish--but for years allegedly wore a St. Christopher medal from her boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel ("It was cute the way he gave it to me. He said if it doesn't burn a hole through my skin, it will protect me..."). She claims ancestry from Hungary, Poland, France and Slovakia. She does not drink. For you snobs, she graduated from a prep school in New Hampshire. She attended NYU. She turned 40 this year.
How about this: Can we run her for Congress in, say, California, New York, or New Hampshire, this year or 2012? That might help move things along. That would be "nice".
(from several past posts)
January 06, 2011
Frac me: Marcellus what?
If your firm does any work whatsoever for clients in fossil fuels--energy, environmental or the business side of either--see in Environmental Protection this piece by Keith B. Hall at New Orleans' Stone Pigman: "Hydraulic Fracturing--Is it all it's cracked up to be?". It's a fine primer on fracing and the extraction of natural gas from U.S. shale formations, if you don't know much about those two issues. Louisiana folks know a lot about both. Politically, moreover, it's a hot button issue right now, especially in the American Northeast.
July 25, 2010
Biotech expert Scott McPherson joins Hull McGuire.
As reported earlier this month by Doug Sherwin in the San Diego Daily Transcript:
McPherson joins Hull McGuire as special counsel
Scott E. McPherson, a respected San Diego biotech specialist and patent attorney, joined Hull McGuire PC as special counsel, effective June 1.
He will work with shareholder Julie McGuire on IP management and transactions in North America and Europe.
McPherson has a B.A. in biology from the University of California-San Diego, and an M.S.P.H. in toxicology from the San Diego State Graduate School of Public Health. Between 1990 and 1999, he worked as a pharmacologist and toxicologist in the biotechnology industry.
He has worked as in-house counsel for Nanogen Inc. and as an attorney for DLA Piper and Townsend Townsend & Crew.
McPherson's work for Hull McGuire clients will include searches and opinions on freedom to operate; opinions on invalidity; management and evaluation; and some patent prosecution.
He also is expected to assist Dan Hull with clean water and solid waste issues in the U.S. and the European Union, and environmental law legislative projects in Washington, D.C.
--Doug Sherwin, The Daily Transcript
June 18, 2010
Mother Jones: The Oval Office oil spill speech was...
First, our humble 2 cents. Prayer is a good thing, Mr. President, but is it a plan? That said, we defer to the smart and fearless pros at the enduring Mother Jones, and to Mojo's writer Kevin Drum, who watched the whole thing on Tuesday night. See "Obama's Oil Spill Speech: Running On Empty".
June 03, 2010
The BP Spill: Jann Wenner gets passionate, real, smart.
We don't have the link--but do read in this month's Rolling Stone magazine (RS 1106) Wenner's compelling editorial and call-to-arms on the Gulf spill in "Please, Mr. President". Everyone likes this one. If you don't know who Wenner is, don't read this blog. It's too late for you.
February 18, 2009
Superfund: Woburn winding down.
Never as infamous as Love Canal, but equally as disturbing in its harm to human beings and property, the Woburn Superfund site got the rapt attention and genuine concern of even the most industry-oriented environmental lawyers, and their clients. Woburn, in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, also received more than its fifteen minutes as the subject of Jonathan Harr's book A Civil Action, which later became a popular movie. Due to the litigation described in the book, and the threat to the local public water supply, EPA in 1983 designated 330 acres of Woburn a Superfund site (Wells G and H site).
Like other New England sites, Woburn was a hazardous waste site for well over 100 years. After another 25 years of litigation, discovery, EPA enforcement activity, remediation and mega-publicity, the clean-up effort at Woburn continues. About four more years to go. See The Boston Globe of February 12: "After 25 years, Superfund site cleanup nears final phase". If you are interested in a slightly jaded but concerned view of what Superfund (or CERCLA) achieved, and did not achieve, read "A Dark Legacy's Impact", which appeared three years ago in Water & Wastewater News.
January 26, 2009
Energy and the Environment: 'Real science' in DC?
"Obama needs to pass in 2009 the mother of all energy bills." In the yours-in-the-struggle but generally excellent Salon, see "Real Science Comes to Washington", by Joseph Romm, Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Romm is author of Hell and High Water: Global Warming--The Solution and the Politics.
Obama must begin high-level bilateral negotiations with China (or trilateral negotiations that include the European Union) to get a national commitment from the world's biggest carbon dioxide emitter to cap their emissions no later than 2020. Such a deal would presumably be contingent on U.S. action, but would enable a much stronger domestic climate bill.
We simply can't solve the climate problem without Chinese action. And absent Chinese action in the next decade, the developed countries could never sustain the price for carbon dioxide needed to achieve meaningful reductions.
December 08, 2008
The French to corner nuclear?
France is poised to develop its expertise into a significant export. Its president, Nicolas Sarkozy, considers the sale of nuclear power to be central to his diplomacy: it is a badge of France’s technical prowess and a reaffirmation of its status as a global industrial power.
December 01, 2008
Were you ready for Europe's REACH directive?
Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 18 December, 2006.
The Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of CHemicals (REACH) is a remarkably comprehensive European Union chemical and environmental regulation. It requires all companies manufacturing or importing everyday chemicals into the European Union in quantities of "one tonne" or more per year to register these substances with a new European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki, Finland. Potential registrants (i.e. manufacturers and importers of chemical substances) must pre-register these substances by today, December 1, 2008, in order to benefit from postponed ‘phase in’ deadlines. REACH is 849 pages long, took 7 years to pass, and has been described as the most complex legislation in the European Union’s history.
The European Chemicals Agency.
October 01, 2008
D.C. Circuit vacates air monitoring rule.
Sierra Club v. Environmental Protection Agency, 536 F.3d 673 (D.C. Cir. 2008).
We forgot to note that, in mid-August, the D.C. Circuit invalidated a two-year-old EPA federal Clean Air Act regulation barring states from requiring increased air pollution monitoring in permits issued under Title V of the Act. Under Title V, states with program approval--which EPA gives and takes away--issue permits to power plants and factories on their own, rather than directly through EPA. In a 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit, which by statute reviews most challenges to EPA rulemaking, concluded that states may require power plants, oil refineries and other stationary sources of pollution to include in their permits stronger monitoring requirements than those imposed by EPA. Environmental groups, of course, like the decision, but energy companies and other industries do not. By far the best summary for corporate clients and GCs we've seen is one given by Dustin Till of the Seattle-based environmental boutique, Marten Law Group. See also Law.com.
July 28, 2008
Yes, that's right. As the water supply becomes an issue, American states are considering requiring or policing it--and not just in Western states. See "Box of Rain: States Take a Closer Look at Rainwater Harvesting" by Jeff Kray at Seattle-based Marten Law Group.
July 14, 2008
Oil drilling ban: Do something.
AP: "Bush to lift offshore drilling ban". The White House is a bit late. Congress is flatfooted. Burning daylight here, guys. We haven't had an energy policy since Jimmy Carter. WAC? gets good gas mileage--but is considering trains, barges and extreme jogging.
July 01, 2008
One hot market: China nuclear energy.
Last week, Westinghouse told a Pittsburgh Post Gazette reporter that China needed 100 reactors out of it in the next decade. 100. And via the vigilant wunderkind Dan Harris at China Law Blog, we see that China Comment, a new blog covering energy, environment and politics in Greater China, has this truly information-rich piece, "China's Nuclear Power". We've said for months think that global climate change issues alone put nuke power in U.S. back in big play. It has. Just a fact.
June 24, 2008
China pollution liability; China due diligence.
For the glorification of the risk-bearer. China Law Blog in "Is China Going Green? Part XV" comments on "Government Targets Land Pollution to Ensure Food Security" in the June 20 China Daily.
May 23, 2008
IP getting its green on?
April 25, 2008
Why aren't pols talking about climate change?
See Evan Thomas's article in Newsweek, "The Green Phantom". The answer? It may be the money--taxes and government funding. Just what would that revolution cost, voters might want to know. But climate change and global warming also have overtures of mild class warfare: limousine liberals (WAC?'s term) and "chattering classes" (Thomas's term) v. everyone else. Thomas:
There is an enormous class divide on the subject. The chattering classes obsess about greenhouse emissions. The rest of the country, certainly the older and less well-off voters, can't be bothered.... It may be, though, that the politicians know something they are not saying-and that the green-conscious upper classes do not wish to confront. Making a serious dent in global warming would be hugely costly.
April 08, 2008
The Environment: Mr. Waxman goes to Israel.
April 02, 2008
18 states file suit to compel EPA to act on climate change.
A year ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al. ruled that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is a pollutant subject to the Clean Air Act, and directed the EPA to determine whether such emissions, associated with climate change, endangered public health. Today, according to mainstream news sources, 18 states have sued the EPA to act within 60 days. It's a mandamus-like pattern states, cities and public interest groups have used for two decades under the CAA to prompt the EPA to move on other issues within its expertise, such as interstate acid rain transport. See NBC news. WAC? is trying to obtain a copy of the petition-complaint, which was set for filing today.
Trains and boats: New Clean Air Act regulations.
Published on March 14, a new final U.S. EPA rule on air emissions from locomotive and marine diesel engines is designed to reduce from these sources particulate matter (PM) by 90 percent and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 80 percent. See Environmental Protection and EPA rule and guidance.
The Environment: Got mercury?
From both regulatory and remedial standpoints, it's hard to make mercury go away. See at Environmental Protection magazine "Mercury Spill Control 101" by Mark Ceasar at OMNI/ajax in Gouldsboro, Pennsylvania, USA.
March 17, 2008
C.J. Barton: "Nuclear Green"
I'm intrigued by it all. But I'm still not sure what either the science or politics of climate change does or does not do to nuclear energy, an industry my firm generally supports. Twice when I worked for Congress, I dealt fairly closely with two "problem" plants, both in the Midwest; each was discovered to have construction and/or operational flaws that made owners and federal regulators alike incontinent. The question was always: no matter what apparatus you set up, can nuclear plants ever be regulated to ensure public health and safety? While we think about this, see Charles Barton's Nuclear Green, which has a fine collection of links on nuclear and other non-fossil fuel energy sources.
March 10, 2008
Spontaneous Porsche combustion and you.
ABA Law Journal news: D.C. Law Firm’s Hot Porsche Spontaneously Caught Fire, Suit Claims. See also Legal Times blog.
February 20, 2008
Colorado River System in trouble?
From Water & Wastewater News. There's a 50% chance that Lake Mead, a water source for millions in the Southwestern U.S., will be dry by 2021 at present usage levels, say researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC-San Diego.
February 09, 2008
White House water budget is $2.5 billion
Here, at W&WW News. The budget is designed to help EPA improve the major coastal ecosystems, achieve a net increase of wetlands, increase populations served by systems meeting drinking water standards, and implement a total of five water security infrastructure pilots.
Once in a blue Mississippi moon: U.S. EPA vetoes Army engineers project.
EPA Halts Corps' Yazoo Pump Project
VICKSBURG, MISS. (Feb. 8)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently blocked a $220-million Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project in the Mississippi Delta known as Yazoo Pump. Such "vetoes" of Corps projects are rare, having happened only 12 times in EPA's history and not since 1990. [more]
February 01, 2008
Nuclear proliferation: "Has Iran won"?
See The Economist, the world's new Time Magazine of the Entire West--just wittier and better written than Time or Newsweek (sorry, Howard). The piece begins: "Who would have thought that a friendless theocracy with a Holocaust-denying president, which hangs teenagers in public and stones women to death, could run diplomatic circles around America and its European allies? But Iran is doing just that."
January 30, 2008
The courts, the Clean Water Act, and permitting.
January 25, 2008
Goldhammer: The French nuke model.
At his wry French Politics, Art Goldhammer briefly comments on the future of nuclear power, inspired by a Roger Cohen NYT piece two days ago that we missed: Why America needs Atomic Anne. Cohen: "It's not often that I find myself recommending a French state-owned industry as the answer to major U.S. problems, but I guess there's an exception to every rule." Ah, the energetic but impressionable Yanks.
The Environment: China still talking the talk.
"To be clean is glorious--but you won't make the Big Bucks." The Economist: Don't drink the water and don't breathe the air.
China's environmental bureaucrats...readily admit that pollution is poisoning the country's water resources, air and soil. They acknowledge that carbon emissions are soaring. If only, they lament, the government would give them the means to do something about it.
January 23, 2008
Is going green really good business--and is it even happening?
See Environmental Protection, the Stevens Publishing magazine for environmental pros.
January 16, 2008
Big banks not banking on climate change.
January 03, 2008
Brits and nukes.
UK seen giving green light to new nuclear plants
LONDON (Reuters)--Britain is expected to give the go-ahead to a new generation of nuclear power stations next week, sparking a frenzy of deal-making by nuclear firms as well as a fresh challenge from environmental campaigners.
"I don't think the government has any other option," said analyst David Cunningham at Arbuthnot Securities. "It's a necessary evil."
Nuclear operators say they could have new plants running by 2017, helping Britain to meet its 2020 goals for combating climate change.
The government green light, expected on Tuesday, is likely to be accompanied by publication of an Energy Bill to be fast-tracked through parliament alongside the Climate Change Bill and the Planning Bill. [more]
California sues EPA to force waiver on greenhouse-gas emissions.
SAN FRANCISCO (NYT)-—California sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, challenging its recent decision to block California rules curbing greenhouse-gas emissions from new cars and trucks.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, California has the right to set its own standards on air pollutants, but must receive a waiver from the E.P.A. to do so. The environmental agency broke with decades of precedent last month and denied California a waiver to move forward with its proposed limits on vehicular emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. [more]
December 19, 2007
Bush signs bill boosting fuel standards
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush signed into law Wednesday legislation that will bring more fuel-efficient vehicles into auto showrooms and require wider use of ethanol, calling it "a major step" toward energy independence and easing global warming. [more]
December 13, 2007
Needed, inevitable, vainglorious, troublesome: Nuke Energy.
The return of nuclear power. Expect pitched battles. And give credit to USA Today for continuing (e.g., June 2005 item) to follow and cover the biggest environmental story since climate change--which, at least for now, gives nuclear power development new importance, new legs. See "How Risky Is the New Era Of Nuclear Power?".
December 07, 2007
The Environment: "All we are saying is give nukes a chance?"
Will climate change concerns turn out to be a renaissance for nuclear power? We think so--nuclear's "new day" is beginning to accelerate piece by piece. So watch for pitched battles on this issue. Two days ago, with much fanfare and by an 11-8 vote, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill which would require U.S. limits on greenhouse gases. See AP's "Senate Panel OKs Global Warming Bill". Measures offered by a Republican senator to expand the use of nuclear power--on the argument that reactors, unlike coal-burning
plants, produce no carbon dioxide--were defeated in the committee. However, nuclear energy as way to combat global warming is expected to emerge again when the full Senate considers the bill. The pro-nuclear lobby which slowly evolves over the next few months should be an interesting coalition of peace, love and heavy industry. See at Wired.com a feature-interview about a journalist and environmental activist who is re-thinking nuclear power: "Former 'No Nukes' Protester: Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Power". Finally, visit Mark Hertsgaard's San Francisco Chronicle op-ed piece of two years ago: "Nuclear Energy Can't Solve Global Warming".
November 21, 2007
Climate change: The new overture in US policy.
The price of admission has changed. "No Net New Greenhouse Gases" should begin today. --John Reaves
See in last week's San Diego Union-Tribune "Global Warming and San Diego", an op-ed piece by environmental lawyer John Reaves. It's irrelevant how you interpret the science, or precisely where it leads you. Even in San Diego, America's answer to paradise on earth, the topic of climate change is here to stay. It's the new fixture in the national conversation.
November 18, 2007
Clinton, Edwards and Kucinich do LA environmental forum.
This happened Saturday afternoon. WAC? even sent its secret resident stringer to this limited-seating event at the Wadsworth Theater in West Los Angeles. But never mind--the NYT was there anyway, along with the feisty Huffington Post. The forum was held by the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and other environmental groups. All Dem and GOP candidates were invited--but only Clinton, Edwards
and Kucinich accepted the invitation. Climate change and energy security were the main topics. No tough panel questions, and no real differences in positions. WAC? and many others think charming, articulate and nothing-to-lose-now faux populist John Edwards was the forum's real star. Hillary seemed tired, more stiff than usual, and overly-careful. Dennis was, well, genuinely liberal and spectacularly un-Presidential. But we have liked the Ohio Boy Wonder since 1978.
November 16, 2007
Congress passes water bill over the President's veto
Last week's override of the President's veto marks the 107th time in U.S. history that Congress has taken such action--but the first for this President. See coverage from Tennessean.com and Reuters. The $23 billion appropriations bill clears the way for a number of projects, including the repair of the Wolf Creek Dam in Kentucky, funding for coastal restoration in Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and improving flood control and navigation on waterways. The appropriations bill, which was originally passed by the House in August and the Senate in September, was vetoed by President Bush on November 2. On November 6, the House voted to override the President's veto, and on November 8, the Senate did the same.
November 12, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Federal investigators were considering Monday whether to file criminal charges against the crew members of a container ship that struck the Bay Bridge and ripped a gash in its fuel tank, creating the San Francisco Bay's worst oil spill in nearly two decades. [more]
November 06, 2007
The Environment: The Universal Waste Rule
You can expect to hear more from industry and government in the next few years on the issues of responses to global warming, nuclear energy, energy security, non-fossil alternative fuels, waste disposal, and the environment generally. We'll see more federal environmental law enforcement, which waned under both Ds and Rs in the past fifteen years. Remember Jimmy Carter? Remember the "cradle-to-grave" waste management scheme of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 ("RCRA")? Okay, well then, how about the
Universal Waste Rule (original) issued in 1995? Under federal UWR, which is being amended further still, certain hazardous wastes generated by a wide variety of businesses--companies which generally generated no other hazardous wastes--were given a uniform but relaxed treatment: light bulbs (e.g., fluorescent, mercury vapor, sodium vapor, neon); batteries such as nickel cadmium, silver oxide, and lithium; mercury-containing devices (thermostats, barometers, thermometers, switches); and expired, collected or recalled pesticides. For a good primer on the Universal Waste Rule, see in the recent issue of Environmental Protection magazine "Universal Waste: Bulbs, Batteries, Bugs and Barometers" by Mike King of Excal Visual LLP.
November 01, 2007
Handbook for those affected by the 2007 SoCal fires
Morrison & Foerster's San Diego office has put together just such a manual, and you can easily download its 72 pages here. It's called "Helping Handbook - For Individuals and Small Businesses Affected By The 2007 Southern California Wildfires", a genuinely useful tool for southern Californians as they deal with and gauge the damage and fallout from last week's devastating fires. The chief architects of the project are MoFo litigation associate Katherine Parker and managing partner Mark Zebrowski. Thanks to Orange County's Craig Williams for pointing out this great resource in his post yesterday.
October 29, 2007
The Environment: Justice Burton's opinion, Al Gore's truths.
We think global warming is a real and actual thing--but did Big Al go a bit far with its real and actual effects on sea levels, hurricanes, polar bears and coral reefs in his world-changing movie documentary? As a follow up to our post UK judge lets Brit schools show Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth", see the October 29 issue of Time (at "Dashboard") and the piece "Examining Gore's Truths". Finally, let's be skeptical all around. What scientific qualifications does obviously talented UK High Court Justice Michael Burton have to give and write his researched and rapidly-issued (impressive, but characteristic of British judiciary) October 2 opinion (full text here), anyway?
October 24, 2007
U.S. forest fires--and mercury?
Speaking of fires in WAC?'s San Diego neighborhood, forest fires in Alaska and the continental United States--California, Oregon, Louisiana and Florida--release nearly 44 metric tons of mercury into the atmosphere every year, according to a recent paper by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The Southeastern U.S. emits most of this toxic metal. The mercury comes from both industrial and natural sources. See "Scientists Estimate Mercury Emissions from U.S. Fires" in Environmental Protection magazine or NCAR website.
October 13, 2007
Climate change, nuclear power and the NRC
Speaking of bright ex-American Vice-Presidents who win the Nobel Peace Prize, some people think--and this is ironic if you've studied the environmental movement in the U.S.--that climate change concerns may lead to the building of nuclear power plants, both in the U.S. and worldwide, on a relatively large scale. We believe that, too. By the way, the last commercial nuclear reactor to go online in the U.S. was the Watts Bar plant, a TVA facility in east Tennessee, in 1997. Remember the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission? See Environmental Protection magazine's "NRC Seeks Comment on Implementation of Reactor Oversight Process (ROP)" and the NRC's call for comments to improve the 7-year-old ROP process. Comments close on December 7.
October 04, 2007
California air quality arm gets even seriouser.
In Environmental Protection, see "California Air Resources Board (ARB) Approves Strategy to Drastically Cut Air Pollution". The ARB's new plan is statewide and comprehensive, with special focus on meeting federal standards and deadlines for the districts of the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley, a rural-urban mix in the center of the state.
October 03, 2007
UK judge lets Brit schools show Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"
For a moment, forget about your politics, views on the environment or how enlightened, hip or correct you think you are. WAC? "likes" Al Gore. But you gotta like this feisty Brit. Stewart Dimmock, a lorry driver, father of two children (ages 11 and 14), and part-time school official in Dover, Kent, England, claimed that Gore's 2006 Oscar-winning film on climate change was scientifically inaccurate, biased and "sentimental
mush"--and shouldn't be shown in English schools. He said he wanted his children educated in an environment "free from bias and political spin". So Dimmock went to court--and just lost his challenge to the showing of the former U.S. vice-president's documentary in English secondary schools. But Dimmock still got his point across. Yesterday High Court Judge Michael Burton agreed that "An Inconvenient Truth" advanced "partisan political views", but didn't elaborate. Burton said the movie could be shown if the written guidance for teachers accompanying the program was changed so as not to endorse the film's (and Gore's) views. The UK government will re-write the guidance.
September 28, 2007
An Asian water war?
NBC: Could climate change gradually deplete and eventually dry up the Mekong River--which runs from the Tibetan Mountains to the South China Sea--and other world freshwater sources?
September 27, 2007
Who's really greener--Democrats or Republicans?
In olden times, just over 30 years ago in the mid-1970s, the environmental movement was still young, 'environmentalists' were a troublesome new class of malcontents and eccentrics, and men were still men.
Our law firm tried to answer the "who's greener" question in 2006 for Water & Wastewater Products magazine. The answer is interesting and still the same. Do see the timeline/chart in the article "Who's Greener--Democrats or Republicans?". WWP, as dull as it sounds, has great writing and useful, if sometimes technical, content. Some of its readers, though, have their wild side. Environmental engineers can
get pretty wiggy after throwing back martinis and swapping a few stormwater permit sampling event stories in the Boom-Boom Room at the Ramada after work. Anyway, a lot of them--especially the ones over 40--loved the WWP piece. They miss the old days--when an "environmental problem" just meant that the ground had finally caught fire.
August 29, 2007
Humans to blame for hot summer?
That's the word, at least for last summer, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. See here, from MSNBC.com.
July 07, 2007
Live Earth: Saving planet, WAC? duck-walks soulfully in Chicago Marriott; hotel staff upset.
Hull McGuire is torn. We love people, animals, plants and the outdoors. Yet with one notable exception, we are mostly Republican types with several longstanding industrial clients; for money, the more the better, we represent and defend entities which "spill and/or emit things" into the environment. We think it's challenging and interesting work. We don't care what you think about it.
You just never know these days what humans who are lawyers will do. But no matter what your politics are on the environment, do tune into Live Earth tonight or on encore nights on Sundance or Bravo! or any number of cable channels. Concerts are in New York (well, Giants Stadium in NJ, where Al Gore appeared), London, Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hamburg, Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro.
At the London event, Madonna in a semi-formal black dress jumped up and down with an electric guitar. In New York, and even better, Sting and The Police did "Roxanne", which for a while (under-35 Americans need to know this) replaced the "Star Spangled Banner" as the national anthem ("You don't have to put on a red light..."). I understand that WAC?, while working on a Clean Air Act permit, and very moved, duck-walked for a good 20 minutes in his hotel room until asked to stop.
June 20, 2007
Outsourcing air emissions, too: China trade and the environment
At Environmental Protection magazine, see "U.S. Trade with Countries like China May Impact Future Global Climate Policy". In a June 13 research paper, Carnegie Mellon researchers suggest that, by importing more carbon-intensive goods from other countries, the U.S. is reducing its own carbon emissions; however, those same imports may be contributing to overall global increases. From the EP article:
As global trade continues to expand, issues of trade and emissions will continue to grow in importance. Many researchers have questioned how emissions associated with traded goods should be accounted for.
June 08, 2007
States question EPA's new New Source Review rule
Led by NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, AGs from 16 states have written to EPA in response to a proposed rule on record keeping and public information requirements for coal-burning and other industrial plants that EPA published in March in the Federal Register, according to Environmental Protection. The AGs want a tougher rule--one that
gives power plant operators less discretion to circumvent New Source Review (NSR) enforcement under the U.S. Clean Air Act. The NSR program requires older coal-burning power plants to install modern air pollution controls if they expand their operations and increase emissions. EPA was required to issue the rule in response to a 2005 decision by the D.C. Circuit in an action brought by New York and other states in June of 2005. The court sent back EPA regulations that it believed in effect did not require plants making modifications to track and report their emissions.
March 29, 2007
EPA fines DOE: Here's something we don't see every day...
From Environmental Protection magazine, EPA Fines U.S. Energy Department $1.1 Million re: violations of agreement to clean up Hanford, Washington nuclear reservation.
February 13, 2007
Paris weather report
From The Economist, here's "Heating Up", a summary of the assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in Paris on February 2nd.
February 04, 2007
46 nations support France’s appeal for a new global EPA
The French do have a long history of embracing correct, civilized and humanitarian ideas. From the Associated Press, see Climate Report Builds Support for World Body. Chirac: "a borderless world".
November 03, 2006
Arsenic, Old Graves and Green Funerals.
From Jason Goodman, Managing Editor at Water and Wastewater Products magazine, one of the better management-side environmental news publications out there, here's "Arsenic and Old Graves", an interesting post-Halloween piece.
August 19, 2006
Environmental Boutique: The Right Stuff, The Right Clients and a New Blog.
American environmental lawyer Walter James interests us because he (1) left a large law firm but refuses to bottom-feed (high-end clients reportedly followed him out), (2) does corporate environmental law and (3) has a new site, Environmental Crimes Blog. And now "WAC?" can talk to another blogger about RCRA, CERCLA, PRPs, TSCA, NEPA, CWA Section 404, the 1990 CAA Amendments, USTs, ASTs and ISO 14001 without fearing his eyes will glaze over.
July 21, 2006
An unusual, interesting and inspiring post by Blawg Review has made me re-think my career, fall in love, get inexplicably hungry. It's a post about the fearless young criminal LA defense attorney Allison Margolin. And in her video do we get a few quick glimpses of the 1936 anti-drug film turned-cult classic Reefer Madness?
May 05, 2006
Superfund: "A Dark Legacy's Impact"
You will need to click at two points to bring it up, but here's the on-line version of our firms' sixth and final "Waterlawged" column this year for the tony glamour periodical Water and Wastewater Products Magazine about groundwater contamination and the federal Superfund law. Pretty gothic but apt title, and not the one we chose, as I recall--but you get the idea. Superfund, or CERLCA, deals with abandoned hazardous waste sites. It's not a humorous topic--nor should it be--but I did my best to make it interesting and at points entertaining enough so that more readers than just environmental lawyers and chemical engineers could get through it.
February 21, 2006
Clean Water Act Argument in SC Today: So What Are "Waters of the U.S." These Days, Anyway?
See today's WSJ Law Blog. If your firm does any environmental law, you may know know that two critical companion cases were argued today on the reach of the 33-year-old federal Clean Water Act in a test of the new U.S. Supreme Court. I almost forgot about this--probably because it was such a strange development (no pun), I was in denial the case even got as far as it did. In the two cases, developers are challenging the federal government's authority to regulate (and protect) wetlands.
Simply put, the question is: will wetlands or any other waterways which you can't float a boat in still fall under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act? If the answer is "no"--i.e., wetlands and certain smaller tributaries to navigable waters are now suddenly "out"--the Clean Water Act and much of its jurisprudence is changed forever unless Congress steps in. Although the case affects many U.S. businesses and persons from diverse political camps in different ways, it's in many ways a straightforward Environmentalists v. U.S. Business dispute. Also see the Associated Press's coverage of the argument.
January 04, 2006
Diversion: "Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?"
While my firm is involved in several practices areas focused on larger businesses--ranging from employment practices to international tax to IP--my law practice over the past 20 years has focused on commercial litigation and regulatory disputes. And for many years a lot of that focused on environmental law and energy law--as many of our clients have a connection with fossil fuels. In writing a bi-monthly column for an environmental magazine of Dallas-based Stevens Publishing called (brace yourself) Water and Wastewater Products Magazine, I developed a new respect for my clients' sworn "enemy"--especially on clean water and NPDES issues--the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The WWP Magazine column's fourth installment, an article entitled "Has the NRDC Gone Hollywood?", is a snapshot of two things: (1) the NRDC on the eve of celebrating its 35th birthday, and (2) Hollywood put to its very best political and public service uses. Since 1970, the NRDC has been a boutique of first-rate "pro-environment" environmental lawyers. But in addition to the group's substantive achievements in the environmental field, I was impressed with how the NRDC uses the cult of celebrity and celebrity money to effectively advance its increasingly mainstream agenda. This gets done in large part through its LA office, which I visited in the Fall at The Robert Redford Building ("the greenest building in America") in Santa Monica.