Results tagged “Environmental Law”

November 5, 2012

Trisolinism.jpgBy Associate Professor Kathy Trisolini

In the immediate aftermath of "Superstorm" Sandy, a number of articles appeared in the mainstream press with pundits asking how Sandy might affect the election. Aside from practical questions about the logistics of early voting, most pundits focused on how the candidates' responses could affect their respective public images. "Who would 'look like' a leader?" they asked. Yet the presidential election is much more important than just another issue of People magazine, a fact obscured by the excessive focus on image and how it affects the horse race.

BloggingBallot.jpgSandy is just another example of a changing trend in extreme weather events. Last summer, excessive drought damaged crops and stranded boats on the Mississippi; each summer we are setting new heat records and Arctic ice falls to historic lows. Human-caused climate change is altering the stable environment upon which we have relied in choosing where to live and deciding how to build our homes, how to lay out our infrastructure and how to develop our economy. This should be an election issue of the first magnitude.

Apparently under sway of the woefully mistaken notion that environmental protection and economic health are competing goals, the national Republican Party has decided that it is in its interest to take an extreme anti-science position on climate change. In fact, as Sandy should be making clear, our economic health (not to mention our personal safety) is highly dependent on stable climactic conditions. The economy is not thriving when the nation's airports are shut down, Lower Manhattan is under water, and millions of people are without electricity.

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October 12, 2012

Atik_new_SJ.jpgBy Professor Jeffery Atik

Steve Coll's Private Empire provides oil spill-to-oil spill coverage of the recent history of Exxon-Mobil, and in that course brings us Bush/Cheney adventures, climate change deniers, armed conflicts in lost and forgotten places, and the rise (and fall) of Russian oligarchs. In this complex work, Exxon-Mobil appears misunderstood and misunderstanding.

Steve Coll Private Empire.jpg

Coll begins his story with the 1989 crash of the Exxon Valdez, the moment that seared Exxon in the public consciousness as an environmentally reckless brute, pandering to America's oil addiction at the cost of America's soul. Exxon reacts from this crisis in both positive and negative ways. It becomes obsessed with safety -- though the company's pursuit of safety is not to assure accident avoidance as much as it is a premise for increasing demands for precision and attention from its workforce. The safety culture Exxon creates becomes, in a menacing way, grounds for enforcing discipline, regimentation and uniformity-of-voice throughout the enterprise.

The second formative moment Coll relates is the 1993 removal of Exxon's headquarters from New York City (Exxon was the former Standard Oil of New Jersey) to Irving, Texas. Neither bi-coastals nor Texans would be surprised by the resultant shift in company worldview.

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July 10, 2012

Atik SJ.jpgBy Professor Jeffery Atik

Later this month, the ASEAN foreign ministers will meet in Phnom Penh - and the continuing disputes over the South China Sea will occupy much of the attention of the attendees.

The intricate and intriguing conflicts between China and its various Southeast Asian neighbors - particularly Vietnam and the Philippines - over the development of oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea may be resolved, in part, by corporate decisions of multinational oil firms such as ExxonMobil.

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At first blush, the South China Sea is yet another vexing territorial dispute, with competing states advancing arguments more designed to indulge the nationalistic impulses of domestic constituencies than to follow contemporary international law. China's claim to the South China Sea in its broadest form - the so-called 'nine-dash map' - is the most extravagant, and the flimsiest. To be fair, China merely references the nine-dash map; it avoids expressly claiming sovereignty over what is by far the greater part of the sea.

Two major developments have significantly aggravated these disputes. The first is the prospect of finding substantial reserves of oil and gas under the South China Sea. Control of these resources is of immense financial and strategic importance to the rival claimants. The second is the adoption of modern legal principles - fixed in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS - that motivate the states to make gestures that otherwise would seem incoherent. While the possibility of a hot conflict persists, the eventual resolution of the South China Sea disputes may result from commercial considerations - including decisions taken in corporate boardrooms.

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July 2, 2012

selmi SJ.jpgProfessor Dan Selmi, an advocate for environmental reform, was counsel in a case against paint manufacturers in a unanimous decision from the California Supreme Court. Selmi represented the South Coast Air Quality Management District which regulates pollution from sources other than vehicles. The new environmental standards require the development of new technology to prevent pollution.

[Read the full article from the Los Angeles Times here.]

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June 20, 2011

Trisolinism.jpg

By Associate Professor Katherine Trisolini

This is another installment in the Summary Judgments summer series, "The Headline Club," in which Loyola Law School professors will discuss legal issues ripped from the front page.

Today the Supreme Court handed down its decision in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut. Justice Ginsburg's opinion holds that the Clean Air Act displaces federal common law claims against power companies for contributing to the public nuisance of global warming. The decision reverses a Second Circuit case holding that state, local, and nonprofit plaintiffs had succeeded in stating a claim against five fossil-fuel fired power companies under federal common law. The Second Circuit case included a lengthy discussion supporting plaintiffs' standing and rejecting the trial court's conclusion that climate change presented a nonjusticiable political question.

While several headlines have focused on the Supreme Court's "rejection" of Connecticut's challenge, such attention to the formal outcome misses the real import of the case. The opinion bolsters EPA's authority to tackle greenhouse gases.

The Obama Administration had gambled that the Court would decide the case on the relatively narrow grounds that EPA's Clean Air Act authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants displaces federal common law nuisance actions (leaving those who seek to reduce power plant emissions via federal law to first petition EPA rather than the courts).

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December 6, 2010

CesareRomano2.jpgBy Professor Cesare Romano

This is Professor Cesare Romano's second dispatch from the Conference of the Parties of the Climate Change Convention and Kyoto Protocol in Cancun. Romano reported from the conference last week.

Something that happened in Cancun, at the Conference of the Parties of the Climate Change Convention and Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP), made me wonder whether and to what extent states enjoy the same human rights individuals do.

To cut a rather long story short, virtually all major modern multilateral environmental treaties are endowed with a body and a procedure to ensure states' compliance with their obligations under the agreement. These are the so-called "non-compliance procedures."

The UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol have a non-compliance body, made of independent experts, and a procedure to handle cases of non-compliance. Recently, Croatia was found in violation of certain of its obligations by the Compliance Committee's Enforcement Branch. In Cancun, Croatia raised a very interesting question. Namely, it argued that it had a right to appeal the Enforcement Branch's report, asking the matter to be referred to the plenary COP/MOP.

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December 1, 2010

CesareRomano2.jpgBy Professor Cesare Romano

Once a year the world gathers to discuss what we should do to stop catastrophic climate change, or, more realistically, how we can give ourselves enough time to adjust to its inevitable effects. This past weekend an estimated 15,000 people, representing 194 states, NGOs and media converged on Cancun, Mexico, for the annual ritual of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

The last conference of this size produced as much emissions as a 150,000-person Northern European town. However organizers claim as much as possible is being done to keep emissions down--including using solar and wind to generate electricity, reducing water use in hotels and providing hybrid cars for transport. We are all encouraged to calculate our carbon emissions at computers provided at the conference and offset the impact by supporting local projects. The Mexican Government will plant around 10,000 trees and bushes around Cancun. The dress code, usually very formal, has been relaxed. We have all been encouraged by the president of the conference to buy and wear a guayabera, the Mexican male holiday shirt, in lieu of wearing a tie and jacket.

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