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 10 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Drilling into an Antarctic Lake and WSJ Climate Change Op-Ed

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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Nov 04 2011

Twitter Link Round-Up: Climate Change’s Effects on Animals and Obama Makes Statement on Keystone XL

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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Aug 22 2011

Playing Catch Up: Major Environmental Stories from this Summer

Published by under News

Paul Souders/Stone/Getty Images via HowStuffWorks

If you’ve been watching the blog over the summer, you’ve noticed that we’ve been on a break and just posting our Twitter Round-Ups on Fridays.  Well, now that school has started again, we’re going to resume our regular posting schedule with three posts a week.  This first post is going to highlight the biggest environmental stories that happened over the summer and might have been buried in the list of Twitter posts.

 Supreme Court Decides Climate Change Nuisance Case

SCOTUS Blog: “Opinion Analysis: AEP v. Connecticut” 

Carefully noting that it was not deciding that global warming is a problem, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that Congress thinks it is, but has assigned the role of dealing with it first to the Environmental Protection Agency, with courts playing only a limited secondary role.  The decision, unanimous only in part, blocked state governments and others from going to federal court to file a claim of “public nuisance” in order to get judicial limits imposed on electric power plants’ release of “greenhouse gases” that may warm up the earth.

Grist: “Connecticut v. AEP: Public nuisance ruling may boost chances of EPA CO2 regulations”

The Second Circuit’s recent decision in Connecticut v. AEP, in which a coalition of state attorneys general sued electric power producers to cap and then reduce their carbon emissions, allows the public nuisance case to proceed and gave the environmental plaintiffs virtually everything they wanted. It should also give pause to those of us tempted to see judges as purely political: it was decided by Judges Peter W. Hall, a George W. Bush appointee from Vermont, and Joseph McLaughlin, a George H.W. Bush appointee from New York. Damn liberals. (The third panel member, one Sonia Sotomayor, is now busy with other things and did not sign the decision.). Continue Reading »

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Apr 25 2011

Fracking Problem: Shale Gas may be Worse for Climate than Coal

Published by under Energy

Natural Gas Processing Plant, via wikimedia

Natural gas has recently been touted as a major up and coming energy source for getting us off of dirtier sources such as coal and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  However, many communities have complained about one of the main methods of harvesting this resource: hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.  The process involves pumping large amounts of water and proprietary chemicals into the shale rock in order to allow the gas to come up faster and easier.  It has already been banned from Pittsburgh, PA and Buffalo, NY and is the subject of a proposed study from the EPA as well.  Now, a new study from Cornell argues that during the fracking process so much methane is released that, from production to burning, natural gas from shale may contribute more than 20% more to climate change than coal does.  This is in part because methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the main GHG from coal.  Shale natural gas also about 30% worse for the climate than natural gas gotten by more conventional means.  This study adds another weapon for opponents of fracking to use in trying to get the industry to move away from the practice.  On the other hand, Andrew Revkin in his Dot Earth column points out that the science is still in its beginning stages.  Furthermore, there may be profitable ways to capture the greenhouse gases and make fracking cleaner.  See his article and more linked below. Continue Reading »

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Mar 09 2011

Back in the Saddle: First New Deepwater Drilling Permit Issued for Gulf since BP Spill

Published by under Energy,Water/Maritime

Map of the northern Gulf of Mexico showing the nearly 4,000 active oil and gas platforms in 2006, via wikimedia

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement announced last week that they had approved the first permit for a deepwater drilling operation since the Deepwater Horizon Disaster.  The permit is for Noble Energy, who plan to drill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. The permit allows drilling to resume on a well in 6500 feet of water that was suspended as part of the drilling moratorium and subsequent remaking of the regulations. BOEMRE said in a statement that Noble has complied with the new, more rigorous safety standards and therefore are ready to begin drilling safely in the Gulf of Mexico.  This announcement comes after a Feburary decision by Judge Martin Feldman, who enjoined enforcement of the drilling moratorium and held the Interior in contempt of court in prior cases, ruled that the Interior Department had to take action on five pending permits. Continue Reading »

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