Archive for September, 2010

Law Professor’s New Book Explores Climate Change Litigation

Lexington, VA • Friday, January 15, 2010
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The Courts have emerged as a crucial battleground in efforts to regulate climate change. A new book edited by Washington and Lee School of Law professor Hari Osofsky explores some of these cases argued in state and national courts, as well as international tribunals, in order to explain their regulatory significance and examine this emerging area of litigation.

The book, Adjudicating Climate Change: State, National, and International Approaches, was co-edited by William C.G. Burns and is available now from Cambridge University Press.

Over the past several years, tribunals at every level of government around the world have seen claims regarding greenhouse gas emissions and impacts. These cases rely on diverse legal theories, but all focus on government regulation of climate change or the actions of major corporate emitters.

Delving into these cases, the book demonstrates the role that these cases play in broader debates over climate policy and argues that they serve as an important force in pressuring governments and emitters to address this problem. But Osofsky emphasizes that these cases are not only important because they lead to greater or lesser regulation or push major emitters to reduce their emissions.

“These cases become part of a dialog about how we should regulate this problem,” says Osofsky. “What level of government is appropriate for regulating the problem? How should each level of government participate in the regulatory scheme?”

Osofsky herself became interested in climate change litigation while working in the area of international environmental rights and assisting the Center for International Environmental Law and Earthjustice with a petition to the Inter-American Commission claiming that U.S. climate change policy violated the Inuit’s human rights.

“At the time, almost all of the discussion surrounding climate change focused on the outcome of the Kyoto Protocol and post-Kyoto treaty negotiations,” says Osofsky. “But I realized that the Inuit case was just one of many actions already ongoing in national and state courts and international tribunals, and that these cases would have an impact on climate change regulation as these negotiations took place.”

Osofsky’s work continues to focus on, as she says, the “multi-scalar problem” climate policy creates for government.

“Our legal system is tied to specific levels of government and specific kinds of institutions,” notes Osofsky. “But climate change regulation cuts across every level of governance we have, from the most individual to the most international.”

In addition to her new book, Osofsky has a casebook on climate change law and policy forthcoming from Aspen Publishers. Her recent articles on climate change litigation have been awarded the Daniel B. Luten Award for the best paper by a professional geographer by the Energy and Environment Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers and have twice been runner-up for inclusion in Land Use and Environment Law Review’s annual compilation of the top land use and environmental law articles.

This year Osofsky will serve as co-chair of the American Society of International Law’s 2010 Annual Meeting. She also is a member of the Climate Legacy Initiative’s Consultants Working Group and the International Law Association’s Committee on the Legal Principles of Climate Change, and teaches classes in which students assist the Southern Environmental Law Center with its work on climate change.

Prof. Osofsky received her B.A. and J.D. from Yale University. After clerking for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, she worked as a Fellow at the Center for the Law in the Public Interest, with a focus on environmental justice advocacy.

Earle Bates Prize in Environmental Studies Awarded to Anna Stuart Burnett, ’10

The Earle Bates Prize in Environmental Studies is awarded to a graduating environmental studies student in honor of Earle Bates, a strong supporter of the Environmental Studies Program and a role model of environmental citizenship. The award recipient is chosen by the Environmental Studies core faculty on the basis of general academic performance, academic performance in the Environmental Studies Program, participation in co-curricular activities and contributions to campus and community sustainability.

Summer 2010 Johnson Opportunity Grant Awards

Two Environmental Studies students receive grants for internships abroad for the summer of 2010.   The students were awarded grants through a competitive process and receive amounts from $1,000 to $4,500 to provide funds to cover travel, living expenses and other costs associated with a project or summer activity. The grants are funded by a gift to W&L, which also created scholarships, a lecture series focusing on leadership and two endowed professorships.

Christine Balistreri, a senior Economic and Environmental Studies double major, from Mequon, Wis., will spend her summer as a medical intern at the Wichanzao Clinic in Peru. Balisteri, an economics and environmental studies major, will assist local doctors and broaden her understanding of healthcare systems in developing nations. A leader of Washington and Lee’s Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), Balisteri has already spent time learning about health care in developing nations during W&L’s Spring Term abroad in Ghana in 2009. There, she learned about the health crises affecting the nation and visited various Ghanaian health centers.
Ellen Yeatman, a junior from Little Rock, Ark., will work with the Center for Sustainable Development Studies in Athenas, Costa Rica, researching better ways to manage the operation of the parks within the conservation areas. Through classroom and lab experiences, as well as field research in the tropical forests of Costa Rica, she will learn about resource management and the socioeconomic challenges affecting Costa Rica and its rainforests. A chemistry major with minors in environmental studies and studio art, Yeatman is a member of the women’s tennis team and a volunteer with the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) organization.

Farmers Talk Watershed Protection: Answers, Compromises Sought At Latest Local Meeting

Lexington News-Gazette                                                                                                                       Lexington, Virginia

Farmers Talk Watershed Protection: Answers, Compromises Sought At Latest Local Meeting

By Roberta Anderson June 30, 2010

It was just over two years ago that state officials told farmers living in the Hays and Walkers creek valleys of northern Rockbridge that their cows were the cause of the pollution in those creeks.

State biologists had just completed a TMDL – total maximum daily load – study for the Hays Creek watershed, as they are in the process of doing for all impaired waterways within the state. Water samples taken in Hays Creek and its tributaries, including Walkers Creek, Moffats Creek and Otts Creek, showed bacteria levels at an overall 34 percent violation rate for fecal coliform contamination, well above the 10 percent level that is considered safe according to state guidelines

Fecal coliform bacteria is found in the intestines of warmblooded animals.

Even Dr. Robert Brent, a biologist for the Department of Environment Quality dryly observed at the time of the study in 2008: “This isn’t rocket science.”

Statistics had been maintained by DEQ on water quality in the Hays Creek watershed that covers 51,444.7 acres in Rockbridge and Augusta counties since 1990. In order to improve the water quality in Hays Creek and its tributaries sufficiently to remove the creek from the state’s impaired list, an 80 percent reduction in fecal coliform deposits from livestock, pasture runoff and cropland runoff would be required.

Making this happen became the responsibility of the community with the help of the Department of Conservation Resources. A community meeting on an implementation plan was held last week at the Rockbridge Baths firehouse with about 35 landowners, mostly Rockbridge residents in attendance.

Because the Hays Creek watershed is an agricultural area, with the exception of the villages of Brownsburg and Newport, it became quickly obvious that the focus of the implementation plan will involve decisions to fence livestock out of the creeks. There are a number of state and federal cost-sharing programs that landowners can apply for to finance stream bank restoration, to fence off waterways from livestock and to install automatic livestock waterers in fields. Compliance with any implementation plan is voluntary.

The meeting began with presentations from Washington and Lee University professors Robert Humston and Laura Henry-Stone, each of whom have received grants to have their students study the pollution in the creek and the resulting impact on residents. A portion of the students’ work focused on a stream bank restoration project on Indian Bottom Farm, a farm located on Walkers Creek Road and owned by W&L alumnus Russell Fletcher III of Middleburg.

Zack Hileman, farm manager at Indian Bottom Farm, later elaborated on the comments made by Humston. Hileman made his observations as farmers gathered with DCR representative Nesha McRae to discuss best management practices that are practical and that could become part of a cleanup plan for the community.

The fencing and stream bank project completed on the farm had been needed because of over eroded banks, Hileman said. Sediment was being washed downstream, and fencing was in danger of being washed away as well.

In other situations, Hileman said, he might advocate flash grazing along creek banks, a practice that would allow cattle to graze along creek banks for a limited time period. Hileman said an overall change in management practices is needed to protect the watershed.

Rockbridge County agricultural Extension agent Jon Repair, who did not attend the meeting, further explained in an interview the concept of flash grazing. Repair said by allowing cattle to graze down the creek banks during limited periods of two or three time per year, the riparian buffer can still be maintained. At the same time, invasive species such as bull thistle can be prevented from taking over and the pasture can continue to grow.

As the discussion at last week’s meeting progressed, it became evident that overgrazing does not appear to be a problem among farmers in the Hays Creek watershed. Most farmers estimated they have between 2 and 2.5 acres of grazing land per cow. Last year, they said, they were selling off their cattle herds; this year, the price of beef is up slightly and farmers are hanging on to their calves, although one man reported the national cattle herd is at the lowest number in history.