Man-made earthquakes have followed the hydraulic fracturing boom into the twenty-first century. In recent years, operators have hydraulically fractured more than 100,000 wells in the U.S. In tandem with the current increase in unconventional oil and gas production in the U.S., the number of earthquakes in the central and eastern parts of...
On Thin Ice: Will the International Court of Justice’s Ruling in Australia v. Japan: New Zealand Intervening End Japan’s Lethal Whaling in the Antarctic?
In March 2014, the International Court of Justice (the “ICJ”) declared that Japan’s whaling activity in the Antarctic did not satisfy the scientific exemption to a global whaling moratorium and ordered Japan to cease its current operations. Japan complied with the ICJ’s ruling and ended its expedition for that year; however, it also revealed a new scientific research program in November 2014 to resume whaling in the Antarctic. The International Whaling Commission (“IWC”) in June 2015 rejected Japan’s new proposal, citing that the planned lethal research continues to violate international regulations.
It is not clear how Japan will respond to this recent rejection. The best-case scenario would be for Japan not to conduct any lethal whaling in the Antarctic until such whaling is approved by the IWC. However, because international whaling agreements are self-regulating, neither the ICJ nor other countries will directly be able to stop Japan from administering its new program.
Such a result does not mean that the ICJ ruling was futile. Although the ICJ lacks official mechanisms with which to enforce its opinions, the Court has been shown to have strong unofficial methods of enforcement. In prior disputes, ICJ opinions have successfully incited political action toward legal compliance. Even if continued external political pressure is insufficient to bring about Japan’s total abstention from lethal whaling, the ICJ’s ruling echoes global disapproval of the whaling trade. On the other hand, if internal changes eradicate Japan’s market for whale meat, Japan’s government may be forced to reconsider its lethal whaling practices.
Long-heralded as a "green" city with an almost-mythical quality of life, Portland, Oregon, unsurprisingly, is inscribing concerns over climate change into the very fabric of its land use planning. By 2035, city planners hope that eighty percent of Portlanders will live within a "complete neighborhood," defined as one in which all essential goods and services are available within a twenty minute walk from a resident's home. Planning documents expressly cite concerns over GHG emissions as a rationale for this vision. One set of seemingly innocuous policies with the potential to play an outsized role in the actualization of the complete neighborhood are minimum off-street parking requirements, and, as a corollary, a regime for allocating on-street parking space. When buildings are pushed further apart to make room for parking lots, the feasibility of twenty-minute walkability in the neighborhood decreases. More fundamentally, parking is the "terminal" of the very car-based transportation system whose negative environmental effects the complete neighborhood attempts to mitigate.
Man-made earthquakes have followed the hydraulic fracturing boom into the twenty-first century. In recent years, operators have hydraulically fractured more than 100,000 wells in the U.S. In tandem with the current increase in unconventional oil and gas production in the U.S., the number of earthquakes in the central and eastern parts of the country has increased dramatically: more than 300 earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010 to 2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year from 1967 to 2000. Although hydraulic fracturing stimulation operations routinely produce earthquakes below magnitude 2, so-called "microearthquakes" that are too small to be felt, these operations pose a very low risk of inducing larger, destructive earthquakes. To date, earthquakes induced by hydraulic fracturing in Oklahoma, Texas, Canada, and the United Kingdom, though large enough to be felt at the surface, have not posed serious risk.
On September 16, 2014, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") rejected the vast majority of a low-cost loan request from the administration of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to help finance a replacement for the aging Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River approximately 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan. The decision was hailed by environmental advocates who had argued that the federal funding, authorized by a 1987 amendment to the landmark Clean Water Act ("CWA"), should be reserved for "genuine environmentally beneficial projects" such as those financing municipal wastewater facilities and improving water quality. The federal rejection of $481.8 million in funding was also notable in that the full $510.9 million request had been approved by the agency responsible for managing the revolving loan fund, the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation ("EFC").
Event Coverage from the Columbia University Energy Symposium, held at Columbia University on November 21, 2014.
This Field Report addresses the major topics covered by the Governance Policies on Climate Change Panel at the 10th Annual Columbia University Energy Symposium, held on November 21st, 2014. Panelists included Farrukh Khan, Senior Manager & Head of Climate Finance at the United Nations Executive Office of the Secretary-General; Jean-Philippe Brisson, a partner at Latham & Watkins and Co-Chair of its Air-Quality and Climate Change Practice; and Andrew Darrell, Chief of Strategy, U.S. Climate, & Energy and New York Regional Director at the Environmental Defense Fund. Sara F. Tjossem, a senior lecturer in Environmental Science & Policy at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, moderated the panel. These leaders in environmental law and policy focused their discussion on state, national, and international implementation of cap-and-trade, and considered how to fund sustainable development in both the developed and developing worlds.
Event Coverage from the "Should Universities and Pension Funds Divest from Fossil Fuel Stocks?" Forum, held at Columbia University on November 24, 2014.
The campaign encouraging shareholding entities to divest their holdings and funds from the stocks of fossil fuel companies has grown from a loosely affiliated grassroots confederation into a national-arguably global-movement deserving of major media coverage. It targets universities, pension funds, foundations, and religious institutions, among other groups. In the realm of university campaigns, students and occasionally alumni typically aim to pressure the school's fiduciaries to divest for political or moral reasons.
For the past decade, Cuba has permitted drilling offshore exploratory wells in the North Cuban Basin, just 60 miles from the United States' coastline. As the Deepwater Horizon disaster made clear, offshore exploratory drilling can go disastrously wrong and the environmental consequences of a spill can be devastating. Unfortunately, the Cuban Embargo is creating several obstacles to working with Cuba to avert and respond to drilling related disasters.
This Field Report previews Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, a pending Supreme Court case that will address whether the EPA permissibly concluded that a group of stationary sources are subject to permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act. For decades, the EPA has operated with the understanding that once a particular type of air pollutant becomes regulated under any section the Clean Air Act, the EPA could take the next step and regulate the same pollutant with respect to other sources in other sections of the Act. Accordingly, EPA determined that because it had started to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, it could also regulate these emissions from larger stationary sources. This interpretation has generated controversy because if these permitting requirements applied immediately, the costs would be so staggering that the EPA itself has decided to phase-in the permitting requirements.
States face a hurdle in regulating greenhouse gas emissions that the federal government does not: the dormant Commerce Clause. Most states import considerable amounts of electricity, so a state that desires to enact a strong climate program must regulate its imported power. Yet emissions from electricity generation must be measured at the emitting power plant because it is impossible to retroactively measure the emissions associated with electricity once it is on the grid. Therefore, because imports come from facilities beyond state borders, it is difficult for a state to regulate imported power using the same methodology used to regulate instate power. Unfortunately, any difference in the treatment of out-of-state electricity is likely to prompt a dormant Commerce Clause challenge, as evidenced by recent developments in California. This Field Report discusses how just one contiguous state does not face this challenge: Texas. Because Texas has a mostly isolated electrical grid and physically cannot import large quantities of power, this Field Report argues that Texas is the state best positioned to implement a strong and indisputably constitutional climate regime.
Air pollution is now the world’s “most important environmental carcinogen.” So concluded a recent expert panel on cancer research at the World Health Organization (WHO). Governments have responded to such unsettling statistics in part through increased regulation. In March 2013, Washington D.C.-based environmental consulting firm Enhesa reported that global environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regulation has risen 35% over the past four years. In particular, global regulation of air emissions increased 26% between 2009 and 2012—the fourth highest rate of change by regulatory area surveyed. While North America passed over 70 air-related regulations in 2009, it adopted nearly 90 in 2012. Similarly, while Europe passed almost 150 air-related regulations in 2009, it adopted nearly 180 in 2012. Clearly, air emissions regulation is on the rise in North America and throughout the world.
FIELD REPORTS ARCHIVES: POPULAR POSTS
11 January 2015 12:00 am
Event Coverage from the Columbia University Energy Symposium, held at Columbia University on November 21, 2014. This Field Report addresses the major topics covered by the Governance Policies on Climate Change Panel at the 10th Annual Columbia University Energy Symposium, held on November 21st, 2014. Panelists included Farrukh Khan, Senior...
13 March 2015 12:00 am
On September 16, 2014, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") rejected the vast majority of a low-cost loan request from the administration of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to help finance a replacement for the aging Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River approximately 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan. The decision...
07 January 2015 12:00 am
Event Coverage from the "Should Universities and Pension Funds Divest from Fossil Fuel Stocks?" Forum, held at Columbia University on November 24, 2014.The campaign encouraging shareholding entities to divest their holdings and funds from the stocks of fossil fuel companies has grown from a loosely affiliated grassroots confederation into a...