Nov 08 2012

The Environment on the Ballot: 2012 Edition

Published by under News

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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Feb 24 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: US Joins Agreement to Reduce Methane and Soot and Shell Oil Drilling in the Arctic

Published by under News

Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Oct 19 2011

Feed the World, Save the Environment?: A New Plan for Increasing Agricultural Yield Without Trashing the Planet

Published by under Land Use

Dryland Agriculture in Palouse Hills, Washington, by Chris Devaraj, via wikimedia

An international group of scientists, hailing from the US, Sweden, Germany, and Canada, has released a report setting out a plan for feeding the projected global population of 9 billion people…while also protecting the environment from the devastating effects of agriculture.  The article, entitled “Solutions for a Cultivated Planet” will be published in the October 20th issue of Nature (online version is here, behind a paywall) and will set out five key factors: boosting productivity on low-yield farms, raising water and fertilizer use efficiency, reducing meat consumption, reducing food waste, and stopping the conversion of tropical rainforest to farmland.  Their plan would require a coordinated, global, effort toward these goals, which sounds like a pipe dream.  However, the significance of this report is that, for the first time, researchers have shown that it is possible to feed the growing population and at the same time keep a habitable planet.

Agriculture has always been regarded as the biggest threat to the environment while at the same time being the most necessary undertaking for human survival in our modern world.  As it exists today, agriculture has allowed humans to live and flourish without having to grow their own food or even live near a farm.  But with increasing use of chemicals on our crops to increase food yield, the conversion of open land and forests to farmland, and agriculture’s high contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, feeding ourselves is taking a huge toll on water quality, climate change, energy availability, and water supplies.  What’s more, a third of all crops go for non-food products such as feed for livestock or biofuels, which means that a lot of this harm is not even going towards the production of human calories.

The plan as laid out in “Solutions for a Cultivated Planet” would call for an increase in food yield that would go toward human consumption.  This means a change in diet; meat production uses up a lot of food that could go directly to humans.  It also means reducing food waste, not just at the consumer level but also at the growing and shipping stage, and increasing efficiency in water and fertilizer use.   At the same time, the researchers call for a halt to expanding farmland into forests and other wild spaces, especially rainforests, by providing economic incentives for farmers to keep such places intact.  This would provide a big environmental benefit without cutting very much into production or economic well-being.  Finally, the researchers suggest closing gaps in yield between the highest producing agriculture countries and those that aren’t living up to their potential, such as parts of Eastern Europe and Africa.  If such a wide-reaching, comprehensive plan could be put into place, we might avoid the intense crises that will arise when our population outstrips the amount of agriculture our planet can sustain. Continue Reading »

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Oct 14 2011

Twitter Link Round-Up: New Zealand Oil Spill News and Modern Agriculture’s Effect on the Environment is Examined

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Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Sep 05 2011

The Keystone XL Pipeline: Fuse on a Climate Bomb

Published by under Climate Change,Energy

Keystone XL demonstration, White House Photo Credit: Josh Lopez, via wikimedia

A sit-in protest has been going on outside the White House.  It’s attracted hundreds of protesters and resulted in hundreds of arrest, including some very high profile activists.  Among them are such diverse figures as Bill McKibben of 350.org (the architect of the protest), Dan Choi, and Daryl Hannah.  Called the largest act of civil disobedience in a generation, it was sparked by a project called the Keystone XL Pipeline.

This pipeline would be an expansion of the existing Keystone pipeline system and carry oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas and is currently be considered by the State Department.  The protestors have several problems with this proposal.  First, tar sand oil itself has three times the carbon footprint of conventional oil, mostly because of the energy-intensive extraction process.  TransCanada, the owner of the Keystone pipelines system, insists that they have found ways to reduce the carbon footprint of tar sands production. However, Canada’s environmental ministry estimates (pdf) that emissions from tar sands will continue to be incredibly large.  James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist who was also arrested at the Keystone XL protest, has said that if this pipeline is approved it will be pretty much “game over” for the climate. Continue Reading »

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Mar 18 2011

Twitter Link Round-Up: Nuclear Fears in Japan Reach the Rest of the World

Published by under News

Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

– NYT: @nytimesgreen Oil Industry to Form Safety Group http://bit.ly/f226y2 (RT)

– NG: @NATGEONEWS Comparing and contrasting the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan with Chernobyl and Three Mile Island http://bit.ly/hXlcLH

– MJ: @MotherJones All indications point to the fact that the nuclear situation in #Japan is deteriorating: http://mojo.ly/gCbNSC (RT)

– MJ: @MotherJones The science and environmental impact of the earthquake in #Japan http://bit.ly/fILv3J

– NYT: @nytenvironment #Republicans restore Styrofoam cups and non-compostable utensils to House cafeteria http://nyti.ms/dJESob Continue Reading »

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