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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Sep 07 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Effects from Climate Change on the Rise while Romney Jokes

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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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Aug 27 2012

Sea Ice Melt Should Turn Up the Heat on the Climate Change Debate

Published by under Climate Change

Romney on the campaign trail

This summer has been marked by a lot of record-breaking, and not just at the Olympics. In addition to Michael Phelp’s medals, America has experienced record high temperatures, record depletion of pastureland, and a record number of wildfires. Today, the Earth hit a new record:  record sea ice melt.

Thought the consequences of this newest record are far less immediate than wildfires or droughts, for long-term effects, sea ice cover is an important indicator of what’s in store for the future. One of the major challenges in stopping climate change is that scientists are unsure when we reach a “point of no return” where the ecological momentum towards a drastically changed planet is too strong to stop or even slow by reducing the human contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.  Sea ice melt is one of the drivers of that momentum.

Here’s The Guardian on the significance of sea ice:

The consequences of losing the Arctic’s ice coverage for the summer months are expected to be immense. If the white sea ice no longer reflects sunlight back into space, the region can be expected to heat up even more than at present. This could lead to an increase in ocean temperatures with unknown effects on weather systems in northern latitudes.

So record low sea ice is a serious milestone. But as climate change gets more serious, the discourse about it gets less so. Just last week, presumptive Presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his energy plan announcing that he would achieve North American energy independence by 2020. How would Romney achieve such an ambitious (to say the least) goal? No one should be surprised that his answer is to open more drilling and remove credits for wind power. Though Obama is better on policy, even he has been studiously avoiding any mention of climate change on the campaign trail.

Despite the very real and immediate problems we are experiencing because of climate change, our politicians seem content to pretend it doesn’t exist and, in Romney’s case, attempt to move us backwards from what meager advances we’ve made toward sustainable energy production. Meanwhile, the planet continues to warm, approaching the point of no return. This new record has only highlighted how close that point is, if we’re haven’t crossed it already, and makes it more imperative than ever that climate change not disappear from the political discourse.

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Mar 02 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: BP Oil Spill Trial Delayed and Wisconsin Considers Hunting Cranes

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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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Jan 27 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Seaweed Could be the Next Alternative Fuel and Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

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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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Nov 04 2011

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

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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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