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.
April 22, 2011
41 Years of Earth Day.
The founders were U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes. Nelson was a country lawyer, true Wisconsin character, ex-governor and well-liked U.S. senator. Hayes was, and is, a visionary academic and organizer. See this 2005 remembrance, "The Earth Day Senator", appearing in Environmental Protection magazine.
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.