Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

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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Oct 22 2012

When is Patent Law like Environmental Law?

Published by under Land Use,Miscellaneous

Edge of a field of corn, via wikimedia

The answer: whenever Monsanto is involved. And now the company is heading to the Supreme Court.

Perhaps the most hated corporation in existence, Monsanto is a huge organization, best known for creating, selling, and, most importantly, patenting genetically engineered crops (GE crops) that are resistant to Monsanto’s brand of herbicide, Round-up. Commonly known as “Round-Up Ready” crops, Monsanto’s seeds include corn, alfalfa, and soybeans and are so widely used that pretty much everything we eat contains at least some GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms).

GE crops have several environmental implications. First, having crops which are resistant to toxic herbicides like Round-Up allow farmers to use more of them on their crops. This means that there’s more pesticides that can get swept up in stormwater runoff and end up in the water supply, causing havoc.

Second, because seeds are passed on very easily by pollinating animals, so-called “super weeds” are beginning to pop up unintentionally that are also resistant to herbicides. Stronger and more potent herbicides are needed in greater amounts in order to get rid of these, compounding the runoff problem and potentially removing a tool in the fight against invasive species. The same is happening with Monsanto’s line of pesticide resistant crops, where the very bugs the pesticide is targeting are becoming resistant as well (isn’t evolution wonderful?).

While these are very serious problems, the reason Monsanto is so reviled is more a result of the way it treats farmers. Because the genes themselves are patented, Monsanto is allowed to prosecute patent infringement rigorously and it does so to great effect. Monsanto has also been accused of harassing and intimidating farmers into settling rather than pursuing their cases, which usually works because of the incredible resource disparity between local farmers and a huge conglomerate like Monsanto. Of the cases that have made it to court (11 out of 145 according to Monsanto’s website) every single one has been decided in Monsanto’s favor. Continue Reading »

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Jan 30 2012

Green Business and the Cost of Pollution

Published by under Miscellaneous

Protest about the Love Canal contamination by a resident, ca. 1978 or so, via wikimedia

Last weekend William and Mary’s Environmental Law and Policy Review held a symposium on green businesses.  It featured many fascinating and intelligent speakers, all discussing the ways in which businesses have taken measures to lessen their negative impacts on the environment.  For the most part, it seemed like the focus of each talk was on voluntary, private measures that businesses were taking in this arena.  When government regulation was discussed, it was generally in reference to how the government could encourage such actions or make them more convenient or effective.  One speaker in particular, Dr. Rick Levin, emphasized that businesses were acting without government regulations and in ways that were outside government’s ability to force action.

I found myself agreeing with many of the sentiments expressed in the Symposium; generally applicable regulations can only require so much before they risk causing significant disadvantages to the smaller businesses who must abide by them.  However, I also heard a second theme running throughout the speakers’ lectures: that of the businessman who “went green” because it was cheaper for him not to pollute.  Even Dr. Levin mentioned the fact that pollution is expensive and it was in some business’s best interest to increase their sustainability and therefore avoid the monetary cost of their pollution.

But what makes pollution expensive?  It certainly wasn’t expensive for Hooker Chemical to bury toxic waste beneath Love Canal or for companies to dump flammable chemicals into the Cuyahoga River.  The difference today is that we have government regulations that make such actions illegal and require polluters to account for the toxic substances they produce.  While these regulations are certainly not perfect, they at least force businesses to internalize and account for their effects on the environment.  Without such regulations, it is doubtful that any business would find monetary benefit in reducing pollution.

Making a sustainable business is a wonderful goal that should be encouraged by consumers and governments, but in a political season rife with attacks on environmental regulations we must remember how and why we got to a place where businesses are looking to go above and beyond.  Without the regulations that protect our environment, it wouldn’t be cost effective not to pollute.  Without those regulations, the price of pollution would be paid for with the health of communities rather than the profits of companies.  So, while considering how to move forward with green businesses, and based on this Symposium there are a wealth of amazing ideas on this score, let’s make sure that we don’t lose sight of what got us here.

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Jan 30 2012

Environmental Law and Policy Review 2012 Symposium: Managing Green Business

Published by under Miscellaneous

If you missed the ELPR Symposium but want to hear what happened anyway, ELPR has put up some amazing presentation summaries on their website.  Click the link to read the full summaries or read on for a few excerpts.

John Willoner's Eco-House at Findhorn. Turf roof, passive solar, solar panel, via wikimedia

The Myth and Reality of Green BusinessProfessor Judd Sneirson (summary by Vanessa Steltenpohl)

Professor Sneirson spoke at length about a continuum of green business achievement, which ranged from noncompliance with legal obligations to full integration. He explained that most companies are at the profit-driven level on this continuum, where companies will engage in green business practices only when those practices will result in greater financial benefits. An integrated company goes above and beyond what is expected of them by law; however, the integrated company still neglects the social impact sphere of sustainable business. For example, Nike has been commended for developing green business strategies such as replacing toxic glue products with stitching; however, the company still struggles with employing fair wages in other parts of the world where its products are developed.

Professor Sneirson then developed several theories as to why more businesses were not aiming for a fully integrated green business strategy. The business world is currently focused on a shareholder profit, which stems from ambivalent case law, market pressure, and behavioral norms. Professor Sneirson believes that this way of looking at profit margins will slowly pass as consumers and businesses strive for greener products and greener practices. Continue Reading »

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Dec 07 2011

Portrayal of Baltimore Lead Poisoning Reduction Efforts: Jackson and Armstrong

Published by under Miscellaneous,News

Lead Paint, via wikimedia

Lead poisoning from flaking residential paint in older homes has blighted Baltimore, MD for decades.  While lead poisoning is harmful to anyone who is exposed to it, it is particularly dangerous to children under six, and can cause severe neurological and physiological harm.  Many landlords have struggled to afford bringing their properties up to statutory standards without passing on prohibitive costs to their low-income tenants. The costs of prevention, coupled with the devastating harms of lead poisoning, has over the years spawned a number of well-intentioned efforts to find a workable solution to help protect the city’s socioeconomically deprived communities.  Despite an overall reduction in the presence of lead in homes, the efficacy of some efforts is debated, as evidenced by two independent lawsuits that have made headlines this fall regarding lead poisoning in Baltimore.  The two lawsuits, one recently filed, the other recently decided, are interesting to explore in juxtaposition.  Each case provides an opportunity to analyze decisions that were made in order to ameliorate the problem of lead poisoning that plagues the low-income communities of Baltimore, and how those steps have been, perhaps unfairly, portrayed as having injured the very populations they sought to aid. Continue Reading »

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