EPA Announces It Will Establish Fracking Wastewater Guidelines

At least we're moving in the right direction. 

Yesterday, the EPA announced in a press release that it will establish wastewater standards for discharges from the natural gas production process. That's the good of it.


Community-focused environmental justice conference. (Aug 23-26, Detroit, MI)

Next week (8/23 - 8/26), Detroit will play host to EPA's 2011 Environmental Justice Conference. Don't be discouraged by the registration being closed*, members of the public are still welcome to attend! 


AEP v. Connecticut: The Ruling and its Implications

AEP v. Connecticut (June 20, 2011) is this year's blockbuster environmental law case. AEP is the first decision of the Supreme Court on climate change since Massachusetts v. EPA (2007) and a titanic piece of litigation pitting some of the largest states against some of the country's largest utilities. AEP involves a plethora of constitutional issues (political question, standing and displacement of federal common law) together with equally important issues of judicial management of large-scale environmental litigation. 

The Court in AEP split 4-4 on certain preliminary issues that resulted in an affirmation of part of the lower court ruling, followed by an 8-0 decision reversing the rest of the Second Circuit's decision. The Court agreed with the utility defendants on one core point: That highly complex climate change environmental regulation is more suited to expert agencies set up by Congress than by federal judges issuing "case-by-case injunctions." Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court, also managed to raise one other constitutional issue not briefed by the parties -- potential federal preemption of state nuisance claims.

On Thursday, July 7, 2011 the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources will be hosting a teleconference to discuss the legal, environmental and regulatory implications of this decision. This is a FREE program and will not provide CLE credits.

The lawyer who represented the defendant utility companies, Peter Keisler of Sidley & Austin, and the former senior climate change policy counsel to the EPA Administrator, Professor Lisa Heinzerling of Georgetown University Law Center, will discuss the Court's holding and its implications.


The world gets hotter, and we're becoming hungrier

For nearly two decades, scientists had predicted that climate change would be relatively manageable for agriculture, suggesting that even under worst-case assumptions, it would probably take until 2080 for food prices to double.

In part, they were counting on a counterintuitive ace in the hole: that rising carbon dioxide levels, the primary contributor to global warming, would act as a powerful plant fertilizer and offset many of the ill effects of climate change.

Until a few years ago, these assumptions went largely unchallenged. But lately, the destabilization of the food system and the soaring prices have rattled many leading scientists.


Obama and House Republicans moving swiftly for natural gas exploration

picture: seekingalpha.com
Expansion of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska get's the "OK" from President Obama. At the same time, House Republicans are passing oil and gas legislation at record rates. So far this term, the House has passed four pieces of legislation that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to conduct natural gas exploration.

One of the most popular ways of extracting natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is by using the hydraulic fracturing method ("fracking") --- a method where a mixture of sand, water and chemicals are used to fracture the bedrock, allowing pressurized natural gas to escape. Fracking is controversial because of the several environmental and social consequences that are attributed to it.


U.S. Supreme Court to hear oral arguments next week on landmark greenhouse gas case

On Tuesday April 19, 2010 the Supreme Court of the United States is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the biggest greenhouse gas/global warming related case since Massachusetts v. EPA (2007) (where the Supreme Court held that the Clean Air Act allows the EPA to regulate GHG emissions from automobiles).

In American Electric Power v. Connecticut, a conglomerate of 6 states*, 3 not-for-profits and New York City ("States") will take on the nation's 5 largest GHG emitters (large electricity generators).
*NJ and WI are no longer part of this suit.

The legal issues to be argued: (1) whether states may sue for injunction under the common-law tort theory of "public nuisance" based on global warming-related injuries ; (2) whether the "political question doctrine" prevents the courts from hearing this suit; and (3) whether the Clean Air Act or EPA regulations preempt this action.

Don't think anyone is interested? Think again. As of Saturday evening, there have been at least 22 amicus briefs for the respondents (power plants) and 9 for the petitioners (the states ).


Pace Law School program on hydraulic fracturing in NY, April 14 @6:30pm (FREE for students. Live webcast!)

The Pace Law School Center for Environmental Legal Studies and Center for Continuing Legal Education present -

Natural gas can play an important role in the transition to cleaner energy supplies since it produces less carbon emissions than coal or oil. However, there are significant environmental and public health issues associated with the natural gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking.

Thursday, April 14, 2011 -- 6:30pm-9:30pm
Pace Law School -- 78. N.Broadway, White Plains, NY -- Moot Courtroom Law Library


Earthjustice responds to Obama's Energy Plan: 1 thumb up, 1 thumb down.

Last week, Earthjustice, the non-profit environmental law firm, issued a statement responding to President Obama's energy address. In its statement, Earthjustice said that "some elements of the plan are flawed and signal a lingering attachment to outdated ways of thinking."

Earthjustice is referring to the possibility of offshore drilling in America's Artic, corporate loopholes that limit liability for hydraulic fracturing, and monetary incentives for the oil and gas companies.