Feed on
Posts
Comments

And just like that, the Competition is over!  The Semifinal Round began at nine o’clock, with nine teams competing to advance to the Competition’s Final Round.  Three teams argued in three rooms, and the winning team from each room advanced to the afternoon’s finals.  Semifinal Round attorney-judges had difficulty determining the winners in each room – the competition was fierce!  Nevertheless, three teams were chosen.

The University of Mississippi School of Law, Vermont Law School, and the University of Montana School of Law, listed in no particular order, each advanced to NELMCC 2015’s final round.  The announcement was made to the competitors midday, after each of the nine Semifinal Round teams sat for a catered three-course lunch.  The three finalists made an hour to prepare their final arguments.

On behalf of the NELMCC Board, we would, again, like to thank the three Final Round judges for dedicating their time to the Competition and joining us and the competitors in this experience.  We were fortunate to have the following judges:

  • The Honorable Patricia Wald, Retired Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit,
  • The Honorable Barbara Gunning, United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrative Law Judge, and
  • The Honorable Malachy E. Mannion, Judge for the United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania (Pace Law alum!)

The final round began just after 1:30pm, in front of an audience of students, professors, and alumni, among others.  The Judicial Institute Lecture Hall provided a regal setting for the main event.  The problem, which was written by Pace’s own Professor Karl Coplan, involved primarily issues related to the Clean Water Act and the Resource and Conservation Recovery Act, although the Public Trust Doctrine, Fourth Amendment Searches and Seizures, and common law torts were also discussed.  Lead by the Honorable Patricia Wald, the bench was hot.  Competitors were confronted with complex questions, innovative hypotheticals, and almost no softballs.  After deliberating in the “robing room,” the Final Round Judges returned to the Lecture Hall and offered each of the competitors a combination of constructive criticism and great praise.

And without further ado…

The winner of the 2015 Jeffrey G. Miller Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition is The University of Mississippi School of Law, John Juricich and Mary Margaret Roark.

Congratulations to the winner as well as the Final Round Teams! Congratulations, also, to each of the sixty-two teams that competed in this year’s competition! It truly was a success; the competitors impress us year after year!

For more information about this year’s competition, including the names of all the teams that competed, advanced to the Quarter and Semifinal rounds, as well as the best brief and best oralist awards, visit http://law.pace.edu/jeffrey-g-miller-pace-national-environmental-law-moot-court-competition.

 

–Diana Neeves, NELMCC Chair 2015

The excitement continued on day two of the Jeffrey G. Miller Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition!  Each of the sixty-two teams competed in the third preliminary round Friday morning.  After the rounds, while the competitors and attorney-judges waited patiently, scores from each of the three preliminary rounds were compiled, and added to each of the team’s brief score to reach a final preliminary score for each of the sixty-two teams.  The teams with the top twenty-seven scores were selected to advance to the Quarter Final round.  At two o’clock, competitors and coaches gathered anxiously in the Tudor Room to hear if they would advance.  Following the announcements, the quarter-finalists immediately began preparations for the afternoon’s round.

 

The Quarter Final round went off without a hitch!  The twenty-seven teams were split into nine rooms, and one winning team emerged from each room.  By the end of the night, only nine semi-final teams remained!  On Saturday morning, three rooms of semi-finalists will argue in hopes of moving on to the Final Round of the Competition.

 

During Friday’s lunch hour, Professor-Emeritus Ann Powers hosted a Professor’s Workshop in the Faculty Lounge.  Lead by the esteemed Bob Perciasepe, the workshop was entitled “How Do We Get Back to a Rational National Debate on Climate Change?”  Over thirty professors from across the nation (one as far away as Hawaii) attended to discuss how to move past the political polarization in climate change conversations across the nation.

 

Also during the lunch hour, the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources hosted a panel discussion for students interested in environmental law.  Entitled “So You Want to Be An Environmental Lawyer – How to Get There From Here,” five panelists explained various ways to get involved in the environmental legal community.  Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, the Executive Director and General Counsel of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) spoke of her experience in both the private and public sector.  Steve Miano, a partner and head of the environmental practice at Hangley Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller in Philadelphia, discussed environmental law in private practice, while Sean Dixon, a staff attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, shared his experiences as a non-profit environmental attorney.  Lauren Fischer represented the governmental perspective, as assistant regional counsel in EPA Region 2.  The panel’s moderator, Seth Davis, is an adjunct professor for the Pace University School of Law and a partner at the Elias Group in Rye, New York.  Attorneys, student bailiffs, and student competitors attended the panel, making it an overwhelming success!  We are thankful to ABA SEER for their continued support of the Competition, and hope that we can make this panel a tradition in years to come.

 

At the evening’s award ceremony, each of the nine semi-final teams were awarded certificates and books, donated by the Environmental Law Institute.  Awards were also given to the two oralists with the best composite scores from the preliminary rounds.

 

Please check back tomorrow for the results of the final round, and the names of the best brief writers, quarterfinalists, and semifinalists!

- Diana Neeves, NELMCC Chair 2015

 

Yesterday marked the beginning of the 27th annual Jeffrey G. Miller Pace National Environmental Law Moot Competition.  Hosted by Pace Law School every February, the Competition is comprised of three preliminary rounds, one quarterfinal round, one semifinal round, and one final round.  After a cheerful Welcoming Ceremony conducted by Dean Yassky, Professor Czarnezki, and myself, sixty-two teams went on to compete in the first two preliminary rounds of the competition.  Despite the commotion, the rounds began on time and the competition flowed smoothly.  Over two hundred competitors showcased five months’ preparation, and attorney-judges from across the region were properly impressed!

 

The day concluded with a reception and awards ceremony.  Brief writers with the highest scores for each party were recognized (although the school names must remain anonymous until the competition is completed on Saturday afternoon).  After the ceremony many attorneys stuck around for the CLE Presentation on the future of water law, while the competitors returned to their hotels to prepare for the coming arguments.  It was an exciting day, and spirits are high as the competition continues!

 

Stay tuned for more updates!

- Diana Neeves, NELMCC Chair 2015

Keystone XL Update

Since the beginning of the New Year, and the months leading up to it, there were significant discussions surrounding the infamous Keystone Pipeline XL. The United States Congress has already approved a bill allowing the pipeline to be built for the transportation of heavy crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to American oil refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. The heavily debated pipeline symbolizes the environmental movement and all that is bad about the extraction of oil. Many environmental groups have used the Keystone pipeline to stimulate the global climate change discussion. The pipeline places direct pressure on the White House to take a stance on American environmental and energy policy.

The debate over Keystone pipeline began in 2011. The proposed pipeline will be 1,179 miles long connecting the Alberta, Canada oil sands to Houston, Texas. There will be approximately 800,000 barrels of oil per day transported and sold on the world market. The pipeline will have minimal economic impact on America. Similarly, the pipeline will only create 42,000 temporary construction jobs and only a few dozen full-time jobs once completed. However, on a global scale, the sands extraction will have minimal effect on climate change.

Comments on the pipeline from the Obama administration were delayed until the final ruling of a recent case held in the Nebraska Supreme Court. In Thompson v. Heineman (January 9, 2015), the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling that the governors’ decision to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to pass through the state was unconstitutional. Specifically, the lower court ruled the Nebraska legislature’s law, which allowed the governor to rule of the pipeline route instead of the Public Service Commission was unconstitutional. President Obama’s chief reason for stalling the six-year choice is now over.

How America responds to our energy policy and climate change will be top priorities for the next president. If the business continues as usual, the United States is on track to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer. Ironically, the pipeline debated comes to the forefront of political debate when oil futures are down to the lowest since 2009 ($50 per barrel). The lower price of oil futures offers less practical return on investments for TransCanada Corporation (the company who applied for the international pipeline construction permit) because tar sand extraction is expensive. To be profitable, oil futures need to be traded at $85 per barrel. As long as the price per barrel of oil remains low, the more unlikely the pipeline will actually undergo construction.

Regardless, people want more than to stop the pipeline. It’s a symbol of the twenty-first-century environmental vision because the Keystone Pipeline services notable unfriendly environmental oil extraction processes. The main argument is to stop Canada from mining the sands and without Keystone Canada would be unable to export the oil. The pipeline represents nineteenth-century energy policy that has led us to the current debate surrounding climate change. Although there is limited environmental and economic impact, the decisions embody our energy policy future. Our energy policy must be revamped and revised to embrace a clean energy focus. We need to build on an American energy infrastructure leaving global warming behind.

On December 5th, 2014, Pace Law School’s Land Use Law Center held its thirteenth annual Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference in the Judicial Institute on the Pace Law School campus in White Plains, New York. This conference gathers professionals and academics from throughout New York and the nation to discuss topics, trends, and issues in the field of land use law and sustainable development. Over 250 attorneys and planners attend this daylong event featuring speeches and panels. The topic of this year’s conference is Transitioning Communities, concentrating on how communities and municipalities can effectively begin and continue to transition into a more sustainable and green community. Transitioning a community requires planning for and providing adequate green-space and parks for residents and community members. To offer guidance on this topic, Pace’s Land Use Law Center arranged for the Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP to present a keynote speech on the planning for parks.

 

Recently named Commissioner by Mayor de Blasio in May of 2014, Commissioner Silver, a New York City native, has immense knowledge and passion of planning for parks resulting from his long, successful history in planning. Prior to his position with New York City, Commissioner Silver was the President of the American Planning Association (APA) and has nearly 30 years and various awards in city planning. He also worked as the Chief Planning & Development Director and Planning Director for Raleigh, North Carolina; Planning Director for New York City’s Department of Planning; a principal of a New York City based Planning Firm; Town Manager in New Jersey; and Deputy Planning Director in Washington, DC. In his new position as Commissioner for NYC’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Commissioner Silver manages nearly 30,000 acres of New York City parks, playgrounds, beaches, marinas, recreation centers, wilderness areas, and various other lands.

 

In his keynote address at the Land Use Conference titled What’s Next, Commissioner Silver discussed and explained his plan to help improve and increase New York City’s parks and provide better park access for all of New York City’s residents and visitors. His plan includes three overarching goals: equity, resiliency, and technology.
Commissioner Silver’s first goal as Parks Commissioner is based on one of the Three E’s of Sustainability: equitability. His goal not only focuses on increasing the quantity of parks in New York City; but also focuses on increasing the quality of those parks. He strives to determine which areas need more parks and which parks need more improvement and funding. He believes that everyone should have fair and equal access to quality parks near their homes and work, but he understands the reality that some lower income areas may not be receiving the park access or funding to provide adequate parks.

 

In his first move towards improving the quality of NYC’s parks, Commissioner Silver looked at the previous funding of each park and found about 250 parks that received less than $250,000 in funding over the past 20 years. This helped indicate which parks were in the highest need of assistance and approval. So he concentrated on and visited each of those parks to determine which ones need the most improvement and assistance. Through this research, he was able to determine which parks were in need of simple, quick fixes as well as determine thirty-five park that’s were in the greatest need of funding and assistance. This hands-on, individualized approach allows for parks to get specific attention and improvements they need, making them more suitable and enjoyable for the communities they serve. But he doesn’t anticipate this being a one step process; he plans on continuous monitoring of New York City’s parks and the funding they receive in order to ensure equitable distribution of funds and services to ensure equal access to high-quality parks for all New York City residents.

 

His second goal for the New York City parks comes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in the form of resiliency and sustainability. After Sandy, Commission Silver and the Parks Department now understand that there must be other factors considered in planning for and designing parks; one factor in particular is the discovery of surprise flood zones. These are areas that were not considered at-risk areas until the tragic storm hit. Commissioner Silver plans to prevent such disasters to parks by planning according to flood zones when designing parks. The Department of Parks and Recreation is now more conscious of potential risks that flooding may have on parks, which lead to the Department developing a manual for designing and planning parks in flood zones. This new manual, set to be released in 2015, will offer guidelines for various site types and recommend types of plants and structures that at-risk parks should include to withstand or prevent flooding in the event of similar storms.

 

In the address’ final section, Commissioner Silver discussed plans for improving and innovating the technological programs used to maintain and restore healthy NYC parks. These new technologies are aimed towards analyzing each of the NYC parks and determining everyone parks health. These new technologies will provide the department with information about which aspects of specific parks are in need of improvement and funding to better allocate time and money to parks to ensure healthy, sufficient parks throughout the city.

 

The department also plans to utilize technology that better engages the public in what Commissioner Silver deemed to be park “caretaking.” Community engagement in caretaking will increase the public’s participation in increasing and maintaining park beauty and health which will help the department determine aspects of specific parks that the public would like to see more time and money spent to protect. Input from the community on how parks are used and enjoyed will help create a more efficient and productive system of managing parks.

 

Through these three overarching goals, Commissioner Silver strives to improve the approach taken in planning, designing, and managing public spaces; also known as “placemaking.” Commissioner Silver thinks placemaking is a two-dimensional approach. This two-dimensions of the approach should provide park-goers with an experience of place and memory of place which will allow park-goers to sit back and enjoy the surroundings inside the park as well as take with them memorable experiences that will keep them coming back and appreciating the parks. Commissioner Silver strongly believes that all of these goals and strategies will lead New York City and its residents into a bright green future for generations to enjoy.

Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country is blessed.  It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”

            - President Richard Nixon’s Statement on Signing the Endangered Species Act

This blog is a preview of Reexamining What We Stand to Lose: A Look at Reinitiated Consultation Under the Endangered Species Act, one of the articles featured in PELR’s upcoming winter edition. As the title suggests, reinitiated consultation is a critical feature of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and one that has been highly contested in recent years. Authors Catherine E. Kanatas and Maxwell C. Smith provide an in-depth look at the history of the ESA and potential impacts ongoing litigation could have on the legal basis, power, limits, and consequences of reinitiated consultation.

Reinitiated consultation plays a fundamental role within Congress’s statutory scheme, as the glue that holds the ESA’s protective scheme together. While the ESA generally prohibits any injury to an endangered species, Congress has authorized the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Marine Fisheries Service (Service) to permit such injuries under certain circumstances. However, without reinitiated consultation, these preauthorized injuries or “takes” would create gaping leaks in Congress’s Ark, leaving little or no safety to endangered species. Despite its central role, Congress never provided for reinitiated consultation within the act itself. While the Service has acknowledged this silence, the courts generally do not raise this question of statutory authority.

In light of the ambiguities within the ESA and Congress’s clear intent for agencies to reinitiate consultation expressed within the legislative history of the act, this article concludes that the practice is legally supportable. Given the significance of reinitiated consultation, and the likelihood that it is here to stay, the article explores how courts have reviewed suits concerning reinitiated consultation. This discussion highlights potential challenges and best practices for Federal agencies and permitees.  With few exceptions, courts have taken a surprisingly deferential approach to reviewing agency decisions to reinitiate, or more commonly not reinitiate, consultation. Nonetheless, some courts have taken a much stricter approach when considering the triggers for reinitiated consultation and have frequently insisted that those triggers be as meaningful and as exact as possible.

To learn more about the Endangered Species Act and reinitiated consultation, be on the lookout for Catherine E. Kanatas and Maxwell C. Smith’s Reexamining What We Stand to Lose: A Look at Reinitiated Consultation Under the Endangered Species Act in PELR’s Winter Edition.

Pace Environmental Law Review published an article in its 2013 Online Companion Volume 3 Issue 3 titled The Missing Link: U.S. Regulation of Consumer Cosmetic Products to Protect Human Health and the Environment by Valerie J. Watnick.  This article gave light to the inadequate federal regulations regulating the toxic and potentially carcinogenic substances found in cosmetic products we use everyday.   This article made me double check my lotions and shampoos to make sure my products did not contain any of the chemical substances mentioned in the article.  One of the article’s observations was the public’s false sense of safety from buying a product that is federally regulated.  After finding one of the toxic substances in my lotion, that false sense of safety has definitely been recognized.

The main issues found within this article were the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) strong anti-precautionary approach policy and their lack of recall authority.  There are gaping loopholes under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to allow industries to hide toxic substances under proprietary interests. Currently, companies can hide certain ingredients under general terms of fragrances to protect trade secrets. Under U.S. regulations, products are assumed safe until data provides otherwise.  Other major concerns raised in this article were the lack of regulations of endocrine disrupting chemicals found in 80,000 chemicals used in cosmetic products and the lack of regulations of nanomaterials.  Nanomaterials have been found potentially hazardous to health because of the size of the particles, which brings the risk of inhalation or movement through the skin.  Furthermore, there is a need for different regulations for products used on children because children are more susceptible to environmental harms and toxins.  The article continued to compare the United States’ regulations of cosmetics with Europe, Canada, and California.

Europe, Canada, and California take the precautionary approach dealing with toxic substances in cosmetics.  European regulations require an assessment of the safety of the product prepared through a product safety report before marketing. Endocrine disrupting chemicals and nanomaterials can be added to a list of prohibited ingredients for products as they are identified. Furthermore, regulators can recall products that do not comply with safety regulations.  Canadian regulations allow regulators to request evidence of the product’s safety. Regulators can stop the sales of the product until the information is provided.  California requires products to have warnings on them if they contain an ingredient that is on the hazardous chemical list.  A list of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm are available on a public database.

The article concludes with a discussion on the new legislation pending in the House of Representatives that will have stricter regulations for cosmetic products. The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 would abolish the loophole to hide toxic ingredients under trade secrets.  Higher safety standards would be implemented and the FDA would have authority to recall products.  However, there has been no progress or movement of the bill as of today.

This article was enlightening and informative of the lack of regulations in the U.S. for cosmetic and personal care products. Moving forward, I hope our Congress can move along the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act to ensure the safety of the American people and to shift the paradigm to a precautionary approach when it comes to products that families and individuals use everyday.

Fraud and First Amendment Protections of False Speech: How United States v. Alvarez Impacts Constitutional Challenges to Ag-Gag Laws was published in April of 2014 by Larissa U. Liebmann. The article discusses the constitutionality, or lack thereof, of certain statutes that criminalize false speech on employee applications, specifically those in the animal agriculture business. This article was particularly intriguing because one would assume that such a statute is harmless in keeping the employer’s interests protected from potential employees who have alternative motives beyond working as the typical employee. What these statutes are in fact trying to prevent are people gaining access to the facility and secretly filming any animal cruelty or other illegal activities. This article analyzes the probable outcome of these statutes facing a constitutional challenge against the First Amendment.

Ag-Gag laws make it a crime for employees to intentionally misstate facts on their job application to gain employment with the intent to exploit unlawful or inhumane practices in agricultural production facilities.  While an employer would argue that these laws protect their privacy that they are entitled to, the Ag-Gag laws also pose a threat in suppressing false speech, which is protected by the First Amendment. This article analyzes whether the speech restricted by the Ag-Gag laws are either content-based subject to strict-scrutiny or fraudulent speech, which would be subject to a lower scrutiny standard.

I find the article’s argument categorizing the restricted speech as a content-based restriction to be very convincing. The Ag-Gag laws limit what a potential employee can write on an application, therefore constraining a person’s speech. The article compares these laws to the Stolen Valor Act[1] and how they both criminalize lying, or “false speech” on employment applications. Under both of these laws, a conviction can only be made if the statement made was actually false. Therefore, this contingent is established on content, rendering the Ag-Gag laws a content-based restriction. Having a law that restricts content-based speech should be subjected to a strict-scrutiny standard under the First Amendment so long as it is not fraudulent.

The article continues on to explain that in order for speech to be considered fraudulent, there must be a casual connection between the speech being restricted and the harm alleged to result from that speech. Normally, a misrepresentation must have been said in order to deceive someone, which did deceive someone and so caused injury to the deceived victim. However, false speech is only fraudulent if it holds the potential to cause a given harm; without the link connecting the speech restriction to the potential harm, there is no fraud.

The main statutes under analysis in this article are the Ag-Gag statutes from Utah and Iowa.[2] Both explain their intent but do not state any type of harm in which they are seeking to prevent. The lack of specificity leads to the lack of the required nexus between a speech restriction and a potential harm. This would allow for these laws to be considered one that punishes fraudulent speech, subject to lower scrutiny. The statutes’ intentions imply the protection of certain dangers of having unauthorized personnel on the premises however there still lacks any hard evidence or proof of these dangers posing a threat.

After determining that the Ag-Gag laws are content-based restrictions, the conclusion is drawn that they would not survive a strict-scrutiny analysis, which requires the statute to have a compelling government interest that was narrowly tailored to by the law.  It would be hard to disagree that these laws would not survive a strict or heightened scrutiny due to their lack of a compelling government interest that is neither expressed in the actual statutes nor evidenced with proof. Utah and Iowa’s state Ag-Gag laws would be rendered unconstitutional under this analysis.


[1] 18 U.S.C. § 704(b), (c) (2012).

[2] IOWA CODE ANN. § 717A.3A(1)(b) (West 2013); UTAH CODE ANN. § 76-6-112(2)(c) (West 2013).

Pace Law School had the privilege of hosting Dr. Michael Oppenheimer for an hour-long lecture on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. Dr. Oppenheimer was the lead author of the Fourth Assessment Report, and is a coordinating lead author of SREX (a special IPCC report on managing the risks of extreme climate events). Dr. Oppenheimer is currently the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences. Before Princeton, Dr. Oppenheimer spent more than 20 years at the Environmental Defense Fund.

 

Dr. Oppenheimer began his lecture, as the Firth Assessment Report begins, with a description of the planet’s greenhouse effect and distinguishing the greenhouse gas problem caused by humans. Dr. Oppenheimer pointed to two now well-known lines of proof for global warming: (1) temperature measures by continent are all rising, and the climate models are reproducing the same increase (this gives them credibility); and (2) greenhouse gas levels and temperature changes track together historically. Dr. Oppenheimer likened the greenhouse gas problem to a bathtub, saying that human-made carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere behave like water in a bathtub with a blocked drain: we just keep pumping them into the atmosphere and eventually their concentration will “overflow.” We are already seeing a lot of consequences of increased greenhouse gas concentrations—for example, the Arctic ice is very cracked and fragmented, when it used to be a solid sheet of ice. This is the biggest problem of the 21st century.

 

A fundamental component to the problem is how government handles risk—frequently, it is a step too late. Risk also includes the human side (how smart are we? How will we adjust?), not just the threat to the environment. Through the IPCC, national governments have claimed the climatic danger zone is an increase in global temperature of more than 2o Celsius, which corresponds to 400-450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We have already reached 400 parts per million; maintaining business as usual has the planet seeing a rise of 3-6o C.

 

Dr. Oppenheimer highlighted three particular risks from the Fifth Assessment Report that the planet faces as the climate changes, and which will be particularly aggravated if greenhouse gas emissions are not aggressively curbed: the heat index, crop yield, and coastal flooding. Dr. Oppenheimer discussed the heat index by using the concept of a wet bulb temperature, which takes into account the humidity as well as heat. A wet bulb temperature of 92o Fahrenheit is when normal human activity outside is potentially deadly. Under business as usual, this heat index risk will become a huge threat beyond the year 2100, when a significant portion of the summer is projected to see wet bulb temperatures in the deadly zone. Dr. Oppenheimer stated that crop yield declines are outpacing crop yield increases. This is because the benefits of the green revolution are running dry and because of the effect of a changing climate. Crop yields and food supplies will become a serious threat if the planet warms 3-4o C. Coastal flooding is a big risk because of the combination of stronger storms and higher sea levels; we will be seeing water where it hasn’t been before. This combination also has a multiplier effect: the hundred-year storm and flooding levels will happen every 1-10 years instead.

 

Dr. Oppenheimer then discussed the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global level; adaptation, while critical, is not enough on its own. Dr. Oppenheimer highlighted the recent agreement between the United States and China to each reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by three percent every year. While certainly a tall order, it is within the realm of doable. Any greater annual emissions reductions, Dr. Oppenheimer stated, is virtually impossible. Dr. Oppenheimer illustrated the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by noting that we have already used about 65 percent of the planet’s total carbon budget (and the US has consumed the majority of that used portion). With China, India, Brazil, and other countries rapidly developing, we risk using up the remainder of the total carbon budget at a much faster pace, therefore realizing catastrophic climate change more quickly. The need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions is quite acute.

 

Dr. Oppenheimer ended with a poignant point: in spite of the notable risks and danger, we forget. Always. And much too quickly. Dr. Oppenheimer used flooding in the Hoboken subway station as a local example. In 1992, the station flooded as a result of a powerful storm. Immediately after, there were discussions and plans to storm-harden the station; ultimately, nothing of substance wound up happening because time went on and the memory of danger faded. Ten years later, Superstorm Sandy hit, and the Hoboken station saw the same flooding. We forget, perhaps because we inherently do not want to focus on threats and dangers for so long, for the amount of time necessary to see an actual solution to bulk up our resiliency and lower future risks. However, as Dr. Oppenheimer’s lecture very clearly illustrated, the changing climate is a threat we should try our hardest to not forget.

 

 

The Pace Environmental Law Program had the pleasure of listening to Wang Xi’s presentation on amending the environmental law in the People’s Republic of China on November 3, 2014. Wang Xi is the Vice Dean of Shanghai Jiao Tong University (the MIT of China) and Director of its Energy and Resources Institute. He has been an instrumental partner in Pace’s work with China over the past dozen years and a leading figure in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Wang Xi began his presentation by explaining the relationship he has had with Pace University. He also explained the friendship he had created with Professor Nolon. Wang then broke down his presentation into four sections; 1) the history of his research 2) the reason for the amendment 3) the results 4) and then the amendment’s future.

Wang’s first section of the history of his research, which is cleverly titled the “Seeds” section, explained his extensive studies. He studied US environmental laws from 1985-1987 and then in 1992 and 2005. After his research, he wrote a few books focusing on our laws and how they differed from China’s. The largest difference, he noticed, was how China’s law only focused on controlling corporations and never view regulating local governments as an option.

After noticing this significant difference, Wang’s next section of research (the “Growing” stage) focused on case studies and research reports between 2007 and 2010. His research concentrated on the difference between Chinese environmental laws compared to the US and other countries. He noticed the differences were large and there were many international policies that could be adopted to improve China’s environmental law; for example, he noted how China could benefit from the NEPA.

Wang’s last section of his research history was the “Harvest” stage which lasted from 2011-2014. Wang combined his research and case studies in order to draft a legislative proposal for the Congress of Ministry of Environmental Protection in both 2011 and 2014. His first proposal in 2011 was rejected because this was the counsel’s last term and they did not plan on making any drastic changes to the law. The newly appointed counsel in 2012 asked to view the report once more in order to examine it. Finally in April of this year, the counsel accepted almost everyone of Wang’s proposal points; adding 33 new articles into their law. Pace Environmental Law Review has the honor of publishing Wang’s achievements in our upcoming edition.

The report’s main focus consisted of the cooperation of three different actors; the government, enterprises, and the Chinese population. Wang stated that the reason for the amendment was to alter the way the government viewed the environmental. He stated that the Chinese government was focused on having a prosperous economy and never view the environmental as a problem. The problem with China’s history was that the local government was never regulated. There were some laws which regulated corporate pollution but the local government was completely overlooked. Consequently, Wang included the local governments in his research formulas and created a balancing solution that could help China.

The future seems bright for China’s environmental laws. Wang stated these laws strengthen the Chinese Supreme Court and how they view environmental problems. The laws also help stop the corruption of the local governments. In the past, local courts would dismiss environmental cases in order to look like there was no problem, which Wang described as “Local Protectionism.”  Chinese courts follow a Continental Legal System which rarely publishes their rulings (Germany has a similar system). Although now, courts are beginning to publish their rulings and reasoning in order to have a consistent view on legal problems, which can have a positive impact on the environment. Lastly, Wang stated that in the past, farmers were only able to bring tort claims in court when company’s would pollute a river that they use. As this law begins to alter, there is a possibly that citizens will begin to bring suits against their local governments for not regulating corporate misconduct. This could revolutionize Chinese law as we see it today. We can thank Wang Xi for that.

Older Posts »