Mar 17 2013

2013 W&M Environmental Law Symposium: Day 2


Day two of the Environmental Law Symposium focused on the non-profit’s role in environmental progress, the TMDL program’s affect on localities, and sea level rise. Below are summaries of the day two speakers.

Peggy Sanner

Ms. Sanner’s presentation laid out the history of menhaden regulation through the current legislation implementing the ASMFC‘s new cap. She talked about how regulation for menhaden going through the legislature has caused problems in advancing protections for the fish outside of when it is required by the ASMFC, backed by the federal government. However, in this legislative session the new cap sailed through the general assembly with no votes against it. Ms. Sanner praised the general assembly for stepping up in this way.

Shana Jones

Ms. Jones gave an overview of the regional impacts of the TMDL, saying that a collaborative approach between nonprofits, government, and the people will be needed to make them effective. This is because the new pollution reductions need to be accomplished by a large variety of people in the community changing their behavior. She used the example of Lynnhaven River Now, which was formed to encourage citizens to take action to reduce pollution to the Lynnhaven River. They were so successful that the river went from 1% compliance with pollution standards to 40% compliance in only a few years. This demonstrates the power of government collaboration with non-profit groups.

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Mar 17 2013

2013 W&M Environmental Law Symposium: Day 1


The 2013 W&M Environmental Law Symposium, organized by the Environmental Law and Policy Review, Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic, and the Environmental Law and Policy Review, was held on March 15th and 16th. We had an excellent discussion about legal and policy issues facing the Chesapeake Bay, including the TMDL and sea level rise. Below are summaries of the speakers’ presentations.


Joe Maroon

Mr. Maroon opened the Symposium with an overview of the history of the Chesapeake Bay starting with the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement in 1983 until today and the start of the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load). He praised the CB Partnership for making a lot of progress since its inception but indicated we still have a long way to go. He also said that over the years some have questioned if the annual governors’ meeting on the Chesapeake Bay was merely a photo op, but that he believed they are  incredibly important in bringing leaders together to talk about the Bay. Now, the TMDL is a big step forward for restoration because of the accountability measures, transparency, two-year milestones and possible federal backstops to require action.

Robert Nelson

Professor Nelson presented his paper called “Saving the Chesapeake Bay TMDL,” which criticized the TMDL for failing to implement an adaptive management strategy and stated that long-term blueprints with specific numbers don’t work well for issues that have uncertainties. He also argued that the cost of the TMDL hadn’t been considered but should have been. Finally, Professor Nelson proposed that the TMDL should be reworked to focus mostly on reducing pollution in agriculture and requiring a 150% offset for new development.

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Mar 09 2013

Climate Change: Remember That?

Published by under Climate Change and tagged:

Lately, it seems like the climate change discussion prompted by Sandy has slowed down. But a new report has shown that global temperatures are now the highest they’ve been in 4,000 years and I think it’s an appropriate time to remind everyone that climate change is very real and a very important issue. To that end, this new infographic from was brought to my attention that I think is a great reminder of what we face if we do nothing. Continue Reading »

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Nov 23 2012

News This Week: Climate Change Threatens Thanksgiving and the World Bank Warns that 4 Degrees of Warming would be Catastrophic

Photo by Kelci Block

A carbon tax has long been bandied about as perhaps the best and least controversial (though still incredibly controversial) option for reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. However, a carbon tax is trickier to implement effectively than most believe. [Grist]

Climate change may ruin your Thanksgiving along with everything else. For example, drought in the Midwest may make wheat too scarce to feed the quarter of a billion turkeys we eat every year.  [Mother Jones] [Grist]

Two international treaties regarding sharing multi-national rivers could become reality in the coming months. Such treaties are important to prevent upstream countries from building dams and performing other actions that harm their downstream neighbors. [Yale 360]

The World Bank has published its first major statement on climate change since the leadership changed in July. It emphasized the scientific underpinnings supporting climate change and refuted the idea that action on climate change is antithetical to economic development. It’s conclusion: four degrees of warming must be avoided to prevent immense suffering. [Scientific American] [Think Progress] [Scientific American (2)]

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Nov 16 2012

News This Week: Preventing Flooding in Sandy’s Aftermath and BP Reaches a Settlement

Photo by Kelci Block

EDITOR’S NOTE: Normally, this post would be served by posting a digest from the Twitter feed at @WMELSBlog. However, presumably due to the API changes Twitter made, the add-on that creates that digest is not working. So, keep an eye on the twitter feed for all the stories we’re posting and in the meantime, I’ll be making these shorter collections of big news stories from the week.


BP, the oil company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf, will plead guilty to the 14 criminal charges leveled against it  and pay over $4 billion in penalties. This settlement does not cover any federal civil charges that may be pending, including those for damage to natural resources. It also does not include fines under the Clean Water Act, which could amount to over $21 billion. [New York Times]

It goes almost without saying that sound levees are important, especially during hurricanes. Surprisingly, however, in New Jersey there is no state agency in charge of overseeing the levees and the levees would have to get to an incredible state of disrepair before the federal government would step in to fix them. [NPR]

New York City is considering building a movable steel barrier to keep future flooding, like what happened during Hurricane Sandy, out of low-lying areas. The project could cost up to $29 billion dollars including having to shore up the areas around the barrier. [New York Times]

Evidence suggests that the world needs to reduce its carbon emissions more and faster to avoid the catastrophic warming of the globe. One estimate found that even if we doubled the current rate of reduction, we will experience a 6 degree warming before the end of the century. [Scientific American]

In other NYC flooding news, the Gowanus Canal flooding has caused concerns about health and safety problems in the neighborhood. Gowanus Canal is one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the country and a Superfund site. [New York Times] Continue Reading »

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Nov 08 2012

The Environment on the Ballot: 2012 Edition

Voting Sign in California, via wikimedia

Though the major news networks focused mostly on the presidential and congressional elections, the voters also decided on some environmental measures, especially in the states and localities. Below is a collection of the biggest results.

Virginia Passes Eminent Domain Limitations: Virginia voters passed by a large margin a constitutional amendment that will prevent private property from being taken by the government for the benefit of private parties. The amendment also contains language that expands the definition of “just compensation” to include lost profits and loss of access, which could increase the cost of even public projects requiring the use of eminent domain. For poorer localities, expanding public transportation routes or other infrastructure improvements could be financially out of reach. [Washington Post]

Fracking Ban Invites Lawsuits: The City of Longmont, Colorado passed Ballot Question 300, which effectively banned all hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as fracking) within the city limits. Opponents of the measure warned that lawsuits from oil companies and landowners would be forthcoming. The state is currently in a lawsuit with Longmont over an earlier ordinance the city passed forbidding drilling in residential areas. The state claims that the ordinance is preempted by state law. The linked article also has an interesting statistic: 90% of all oil and gas wells in the country are fracked. [Denver Business Journal]

North Dakota Passes “Right to Farm” Amendment: Measure 3 amended the ND Constitution to forbid passage of any law that would restrict farmers and ranchers from using “agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.” The amendment was primarily designed to prevent changes to factory farming practices such as battery cages, but opponents worry that it could allow farmers to avoid pollution regulations. [InForum] [BNA (W&M Access Needed)]

GMO Labeling Law Fails in California, but Clean Energy Fund Passes: A hotly contested effort to require labeling on all raw and processed foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) failed by a few percentage points. However, California passed another measure that would close a tax loophole for multi-state businesses and use the revenue to fund clean energy projects. [CNN] [Christian Science Monitor]

Michigan Rejects Increase in Alternative Energy Goals: Voters on Tuesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment in Michigan that would have set a goal that the state get 25% of its energy from alternative sources by 2025. The current goal is to have 15% by 2015. State Treasurer Andy Opponents to the measure argued that it would raise electricity costs for consumers and spent $23 million to get their message out.[Michigan Live] [BusinessWeek]

Obama Reelection Allows EPA to Advance Environmental Regs: Among the various environmental regulations that are currently underway and will likely proceed under an Obama second term are: cooling water intake rules, new Clean Water Act guidance on intermittent streams and isolated wetlands, regulations on hydraulic fracturing practices, stormwater regulations from power plants and construction sites, stricter regulation of antimicrobial pesticides, greenhouse gas rules under the Clean Air Act, and new regulations of perchlorate in drinking water. EPA is also discussing expanding the list of industries required to report to the Toxic Release Inventory and Congress is working on a bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). [BNA (W&M Access Needed)] [BNA (W&M Access Needed)]


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