- Current Issue
- Field Reports
Columbia Journal of Environmental Law
The oceans are rising. Amid any remaining debates about climate change and its relation to human activity, this fact appears unassailable. “Records and research show that sea level has been steadily rising at a rate of 1 to 2.5 millimeters (0.04 to 0.1 inches) per year since 1900,” and since 1992, new methods of measurement show a “rate of rise of 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) per year.” Changing climatic conditions have led to an increase in the temperature of ocean water and consequent expansion in its volume. That rise in temperature has also led to the melting of polar ice caps, adding water to the ocean. At the same time, the changing climate has resulted in more frequent extreme hurricanes. And higher sea levels increase the risk these storms pose to coastal communities at a time when such communities are growing rapidly in the United States. A series of powerful storms—and the costs they have exacted—have vividly demonstrated the consequences of this dangerous trifecta over the past decade.
A variety of production techniques, including hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), have opened new reserves of natural gas from unconventional sources in the United States. The resulting growth of natural gas production in the last decade has dramatically altered the U.S. energy picture. Increasing supplies of natural gas have lessened reliance on coal for electricity generation, and the United States may be poised to be an exporter of natural gas.
Can You Sue the Government? An Examination of the Legal Doctrines for Government Liability Regarding Their Involvement with Wind Power Development
Federal and state governments have increasingly supported renewable energy in order to alleviate harms caused by traditional non-renewable sources of energy, as well as to encourage energy independence and job creation. The states have been the primary drivers of renewable energy, namely through state renewable portfolio standards, but the federal government also gives support through grants and tax incentives. Furthermore, both President Bush and President Obama have included investments in renewable energy as a key element of their domestic energy agendas. Governments are likely to increase these efforts in the future.
The story of Moe’s Stop, a small gas station in San Jose, demonstrates a major problem with the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). The owner of Moe’s wanted to add three new pumps to his existing station—an action without any obvious environmental effects—but the owner of a rival gas station across the street used CEQA to convince a judge to order an environmental review of the project, which halted construction for two years. After the completion of the environmental review, Moe added the new pumps, but the rival owner still went back to court to argue that the environmental review had been flawed. The mayor of San Jose, an environmental lawyer, stated that the lawsuit was “ridiculous” and described it as “obviously anticompetitive” in its intent. The cost to the owner of Moe’s of the litigation and associated delays was over $1 million. This story of CEQA abuse is not at all unique; it demonstrates just one facet of what legislators and business advocates claim are the myriad negative economic effects of CEQA.