Moreno, the first Latina to lead the department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in November 2009.
Her tenure spanned one of the worst disasters in U.S. history, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010. Eleven men died in that firestorm.
The Justice Department extracted a record $1 billion civil penalty from Transocean, the rig owner, earlier this year. And a civil trial continues in New Orleans over other environmental damages.
"To date, we have already achieved significant resolutions for liability in the Gulf," Moreno said in an exit interview with NPR. "We are focused on holding those responsible accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
The unit also successfully defended Obama administration regulations of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, winning a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year.
But veterans of the environmental unit worried it had lost some prestige by ceding ground in the massive Gulf oil spill case to the Justice Department’s criminal division, which led a federal task force and prosecuted giant BP and several individual employees in connection with the disaster.
Maybe even worth printing out.
For legal peeps - an interesting regulatory takings theory in play against Gov. Cuomo! Fun stuff.
This Article examines the challenges global climate change presents for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and its primary administrative agency, the U.S. Fish an
Great read. JB Ruhl is one of the best writers on climate law in the US.
Shopping list of corporate giveaways, most skirt pollution regulations - even elimination of disclosing environmental harms. One anti-science measure was snuck in by Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. His amendment would defund (in part) the United States’s world renowned scientific research institute called the NSF (National Science Foundation, widely known as the NSF).
The NSF supports science in universities around the US and is a beacon/model for science around the world - from cancer research to climate change. It is speculated that Coburn has failed over the years to get his pet anti-science bill passed through regular procedural votes, so he’s attaching it to an emergency budget bill which will keep government running only temporarily.
None of the amendments promote economic stability or aim to create jobs.
(M)any of 110 amendments offered by Republicans to the Democratic-authored legislation would amount to giveaways to major industry groups. The amendments, unveiled Thursday, are expected to see floor action by Friday evening.
“Giant corporations are hoping to sneak provisions into the rushed Senate budget bill to undermine the core regulatory protections on which Americans rely to make our country stronger, better, safer, cleaner, healthier and more fair and just,” said Robert Weissman, who serves as co-chair of the coalition and president of Public Citizen.“The American people aren’t so easily tricked, and they demand Senators vote down these corporate-gift amendments,” he added.
Wants to include climate change risks in environmental permits. When you build something, such a house or store, you typically need a permit (or three) from the local or state government. Bigger projects require federal approval, such as an oil pipeline or a rail line. So, the larger the project, the more information the government requires as part of those permits.
In order to get a permit, you need to conduct some studies and write a few reports, typically these include an economic feasibility and an environmental impact statement. For federal permits, these studies are made public. This “public comment period” gives everyone, including other businesses, a chance to voice their opinions on the project.
Now, Obama wants to change the rules. He is proposing that the federal permit process should include risks and impacts from climate change. These climate risks will be part of the environmental impact statement.
Businesses do not like permits - but not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s very expensive to conduct the required economic and environmental studies. Businesses have to hire specialists just for these permits. Often, these studies delay projects, which makes the projects more expensive to build.
The biggest complaint is that rules are inconsistent - they’re difficult to comply with, unclear in their intent, guidelines are always changing, and (worst of all) they’re unevenly enforced. Sometimes a politician will intervene - essentially subverting the law. Political intervention creates an atmosphere of unfairness and favoritism (but, that is discussion for another post).
In the permitting world, lawsuits abound. And lawsuits compound the costs of building and it generally pisses off a lot of people.
So, when you hear complaints that “environmental permits hurts jobs” it’s not that the developer hates the environment, it’s that the rules are a convoluted, expensive mess. It’s also a clever way for politicians to dismantle environmental regulations because, after all, the rules “hurt jobs” - a line that resonates with the voting public.
Thus, from the perspective of business, Obama’s proposal to increase the rules for environmental permits has businesses - and the politicians that they’ve bought - shaking in their boots.
Queue a big political fight on this one.
President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.
The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.
“It’s got us very freaked out,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.
In taking the step, Obama would be fulfilling a vow to act alone in the face of a Republican-run House of Representatives unwilling to pass measures limiting greenhouse gases. He’d expand the scope of a Nixon-era law that was first intended to force agencies to assess the effect of projects on air, water and soil pollution.
“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said last month during his State of the Union address. He pledged executive actions “to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Via the excellent Bloomberg.com
Wyoming’s House of Representatives is the latest legislative body pass a “ag-gag” law, a new breed of legislation which makes it illegal to record video or photograph inside factory livestock farms. From Food Safety News:
In her bill, [Republican Sue Wallis] makes it a crime to “knowingly or intentionally” record images or sounds of an agricultural operation with concealed devices without the consent of the owner. Six months in jail and a $750 fine are provided as penalty. But anyone reporting animal abuse to local police within 48 hours is immune from civil liability.
If the bill passes in Wyoming’s state senate, it would become the fourth state to pass anti-whitsleblower laws. Iowa, Utah, and Missouri all passed similar bills last year, though Wyoming would be the only state to mandate jail time for those (including employees) who film in slaughterhouses.
New Hampshire, Indiana, Nebraska and Arkansas are all also considering their own versions of ag-gag laws. Last year saw 10 states attempting to pass similar piece of legislation, with many backing down after public outcry or worries about the constitutionality of the proposed bills.
Ag-gag laws have sprung up in response to the increasing number of videos taken in large-scale slaughterhouses showing a dizzying number of abuses. In Wyoming’s case, a video taken at a Wheatland, WY hog farm showed workers beating sows and tossing piglets. A later investigation turned up a number of abuses. From the Casper Star-Tribune:
A subsequent investigation by the Wyoming Livestock Board uncovered numerous harrowing incidents.
— Workers cut off the testicles of piglets and fed them to their sow.
— A woman worker who weighed more than 200 pounds sat on a sow that couldn’t walk because of a broken leg and was screaming in agony.
— Workers throwing piglets as if they were balls.
— Keeping pigs in crates so small, the animals were nearly immobilized and helpless.
— A sow with a prolapsed uterus that was left to die slowly after a worker botched an attempt to pull her piglets from her uterus
The hog farm is now under new management, and nine employees were charged with animal abuse.
When not working as a state legislator, Wallis heads up Unified Equine, LLC, a company that is seeking to build horse slaughterhouse in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Wyoming. Wallis has attempted to pass numerous bits of favorable legislation for large-scale animal production plants, winning her a fun nickname: “Slaughterhouse” Sue.
(Image: Thomas Bjørkan/CC 2.0)
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Canada’s conservative government, which has been pressing the Obama Administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, has come under sharp criticism for allegedly muzzling Canadian government scientists who talk about the pipeline, climate change and other controversial topics.
The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria released a report called “Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy" that documents the ways in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration has prevented public scientists from speaking freely about their research.
The Law Centre and Democracy Watch, a leading Canadian public accountability group, have requested an official inquiry into whether these practices violate Canada’s Open Government laws.
Thanks for your nice note! :D
Sounds like a very good paper. And quite challenging. I don’t know your background, so it’s hard for me to know what advice to give you.
The major difference between U.S. and UN environmental protection is that the UN does not make formal “laws.” This is an important thing to grasp as you shape your paper.
I presume (again, I don’t know) that you’ll write a bit comparing the two, side-by-side. The U.S. is one country, with citizens and land. The UN is not a country, has no residents, no borders, and contains no lands. The U.S. federal and state governments are allowed to make law. The UN is not allowed to make any laws.
There are some minor exceptions.
First, core to the UN’s mission is to encourage its 193 members to create and enforce their own laws based primarily on human rights. These laws are enforced at the country level, and in no way can the UN intervene on enforcement of these laws (with the exception of war and conflict, where members vote on intervention or humanitarian aid).
The second exception is the International Court of Justice(ICJ), which is a very weak system that basically adjudicates the criminal acts of the highest leaders of individual countries. You can read about the process, here. Note that it encourages disputing parties to take it to their home lands.
The ICJ usually deals with human rights, genocide, and war crimes. It seldom enforces international treaty violations, and rarely enforces environmental treaties (mostly because violators are easily identified and their home countries and the polluted territories have jurisdiction).
So, basically, the ICJ tries hard to push any dispute back to the country level.
When that fails, then several special panels hold a series of votes to help decide jurisdiction, applicable procedural rules, and possible alternatives (usually there are alternatives).
The third exception is when the UN has to sue itself! That is a big hot mess, and I’d avoid writing about it like the plague. (If you must, go here.)
I’m being very generic, and I’m sure I’ll get a blistering message from some of my keen-eyed readers, but you get the point I hope!
This is all to say that the UN has no formally recognized environmental law jurisdiction (in fact, the UN attempted to create an environmental court, called the Environmental Chamber. But no country brought a single case during the Chamber’s 13 years of existence. It was dissolved in 2006. For the history of the Environmental Chamber, see: here).
Again, I’m being very general here. You’re more than welcome to contact me via email if you have more specific questions.