If your New Year’s resolution is to become more informed, the Vermont Law School’s Environmental Watch list for 2011 is for you. Professors and students pored through 75 issues before choosing ten of the nation’s most critical environmental law and policy issues of 2010 and explaining how they may play out this year.
The document is long so I’ve highlighted the ten items and issues at stake – some which have a link to New England. For those who want to read more, go here for the full report. It’s written clearly and for a general audience, giving a good background on each issue, its significance and potential next steps. The report ends with a look at the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
1. Congressional failure to enact climate change legislation
By Professor Gus Speth and student Andrea Cone ‘12
Issue at stake: Climate and energy legislation died in the U.S. Senate in 2010. So, what
2. The nation’s worst oil spill
By Associate Professor Betsy Baker and students Ashley Hintz ’11 and Cassandra
Issues at stake: How did our administrative, judicial, legislative, and emergency systems
allow—and respond to—the Deepwater Horizon explosion and BP oil well spill? This
one question includes multiple legal and societal issues, including how America’s
dependence on big oil and our faith in technology have outstripped our legal system’s
ability to control either, whether we can achieve more than cosmetic reform in drafting
and enforcing offshore regulations, and why we learned some lessons from the Exxon
Valdez disaster (making the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and “natural resource
damages” work), but not others (operationalizing effective oil spill response). And how
much can environmental law do about all of this anyway?
3. First U.S. greenhouse gas rules
By Professor Pat Parenteau and student James Crannell ‘12
Issue at stake: Will the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas rules, which
would significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming
pollutants from new motor vehicles and major industrial sources, survive judicial
challenges and threatened Congressional action?
4. Climate change in the courts
By Associate Professor Martha Judy and student Jonathan Gerard ‘12
Issue at stake: Will the U.S. Supreme Court restrain the courts from limiting greenhouse
gas emissions from existing coal burning power plants that produce 10 percent of U.S.
carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activities?
5. California’s climate law dodges a bullet
By Professor John Echeverria and student Brian Selogie ‘11
Issue at stake: On November 2, 2010, California voters decided whether to suspend or
continue the state’s landmark legislation addressing climate change, the Global Warming
Solutions Act of 2006, popularly known as A.B. 32. By a decisive margin of 61 percent
to 39 percent, the voters rejected Proposition 23, thus maintaining California’s
momentum in addressing climate change and keeping the Golden State at the forefront as
a potential model for other states and the nation.
6. EPA clamps down on mountaintop removal coal mining
By Professor Mark Latham and student Laura Griffin ‘12
Issue at stake: Will the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to reduce the
devastating environmental effects of mountaintop removal mining through use of the
Clean Water Act survive legal and political challenges?
7. Wind and solar projects make breakthroughs
By Assistant Professor Don Kreis and student Stephen Nadeau ‘11
Issue at stake: Cape Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind project, gained key regulatory
approvals in 2010, and 4,000 megawatts of new solar capacity are planned for the
Southwest in the largest solar projects on U.S. public lands. But will the momentum
achieved by these landmark renewable energy projects continue in 2011 given the
political and economic climate?
8. Supreme Court reviews genetically modified crops
By Professor Jason Czarnezki and student Holli Brown ‘12
Issue at stake: How will the Supreme Court’s decision in Monsanto Co. v. Geertson
Seed Farms affect the production of genetically modified crops, fish, and other socalled
9. EPA’s water transfer exemption remains in force
By Assistant Professor Laura Murphy and student Alison Stone ‘12
Issue at stake: How will the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affect the contested question
of whether a Clean Water Act permit is needed to transfer polluted water from one water
body to another?
10. U.S. military going green
By Professor Stephen Dycus and student Kate Swartz ‘12
Issue at stake: Can environmentalism and national security coexist?
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Helping Boston live a greener, more environmentally friendly life.
Christopher Reidy covers business for the Globe.
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