Mar 17 2013

2013 W&M Environmental Law Symposium: Day 2

543px-Chesapeakewatershedmap

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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Nov 16 2012

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

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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.

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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

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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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Oct 17 2012

First Public Hearing on Menhaden Regulation in Virginia: Competing Anecdotes and Common Ground

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Atlantic Menhaden, via wikimedia

There’s a battle brewing in Virginia over a mostly inedible, oily little fish: the menhaden. The first volleys were fired on Monday at a public hearing in Newport News about proposed interstate fishing regulations for menhaden.

First, a bit of background. Menhaden have been called “the most important fish in the sea,” mostly because of the role they play in the food chain. They eat phytoplankton (which causes algae blooms) and are in turn eaten by a wide range of animals, including striped bass, crabs, and various bird species. There’s also a range of human uses for menhaden; you can find them in everything from fish oil tablets to fertilizer to bait. Accordingly, an industry has arisen whose main goal is to harvest the menhaden, grind them up, and sell to other industries. On the east coast, this industry’s sole member is Omega Protein, based in Reedville, Virginia. Because other states on the east coast have banned or limited purse seining, the primary method Omega uses to capture menhaden, Omega Protein only operates out of Virginia.

Notably, menhaden is also the only fish in Virginia (and the entire east coast) to be regulated directly by the General Assembly and not by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). The General Assembly has exclusive authority to pass regulations for the menhaden fishery in Virginia.  However, menhaden is also regulated by an interstate organization called the Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) which has the federally-backed power to pass fishery regulations for the entire eastern seaboard. If Virginia does not implement ASMFC regulations in the state, the federal government has the power to shut down the entire menhaden fishery until Virginia comes into compliance. Continue Reading »

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Sep 21 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Makers of Pink Slime Sue and Elephant Slaughter on the Rise

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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 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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