Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Literary Warrant [19]

  • Association of American Railroads, National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study (Final Report) (September 2007)

    "This study is an assessment of the long-term capacity expansion needs of the continental U.S. freight railroads. It provides a first approximation of the rail freight infrastructure improvements and investments needed to meet the U.S. Department of Transportation's (U.S. DOT) projected demand for rail freight transportation in 2035. The U.S. DOT estimates that the demand for rail freight transportation—measured in tonnage—will increase 88 percent by 2035....

    "[T]he findings point clearly to the need for more investment in rail freight infrastructure and a national strategy that supports rail capacity expansion and investment."—Executive Summary.

  • John C. Austin et al., The Brookings Institution, Great Lakes Economic Initiative, Healthy Waters, Strong Economy: The Benefits of Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem (September 2007)

    "Restoring the Great Lakes to health will create $50 billion in economic benefit for the region, a new cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program finds.

    "According to Healthy Waters, Strong Economy: The Benefits of Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem (16 pages, PDF), efforts to improve the health of the Great Lakes will produce economic gains that are worth almost twice as much as the cost of those efforts. Funding to modernize wastewater treatment systems would reduce sewage and other contamination, which would result in improved water quality and fewer beach closings; efforts to eliminate invasive species would increase the supply of fish in the lakes and stem the dislocation of sport-fishery workers and assets; restoring and protecting wildlife habitat for birds and waterfowl would benefit naturalists and hunters; and removing contaminated sediment in areas of high concern would reclaim communities and increase property values."—Press release (September 19, 2007)

  • Anthony H. Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Global Energy, Economic Interdependence, Iraq And the Gulf (September 2007)

    "The real issue is not taking oil for the US; it is securing oil for the global economy. The US depends on that economy for its growth and at least indirectly for part of every job in the US. It not only needs direct imports, it needs oil to flow from Gulf to all of its major trading partners: Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, and all of the other powers that trade and invest with the US. If they cannot buy oil reliably at market prices, the world economy will weaken and the US economy with it.

    "As the attached briefing show, the stability and security of the Gulf is absolutely critical to the world and will be for decades to come. That security also is not a matter of Iraq's oil or Iran's. It is the security of all Gulf oil and especially southern Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. If the US goes to war with a nation like Iraq, it is because of the strategic importance of the region, and the broader threat it poses, not because of the size of oil reserves that the US could only exploit profitably if it totally controlled Iraqi oil for decades."—Synopsis.

  • Environmental Defense, Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Reductions from an Energy Bill (September 24, 2007)

    "A new analysis released today by Environmental Defense shows that energy legislation passed by the House and Senate would let greenhouse emissions continue to increase for the next three decades, even if the best fuel-saving and renewable energy provisions in both bills were combined in conference committee."

  • Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group & Chair, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Scientific Forum 2007, Vienna, Nuclear Energy in the Next Quarter Century: The IAEA's Role (Concluding Report to General Conference) (September 20, 2007)

    "Throughout the deliberations of the Scientific Forum there was a strong sense that the matters we were discussing were at the cutting edge of the international public policy debate—with widespread current concerns about energy security, about the environmental impact of fossil fuels and renewed fears about a new surge of nuclear weapons proliferation making the whole constellation of issues about both the peaceful and non-peaceful uses of nuclear energy more alive and important than they have been for many years. There was a recurring hope evident in the presentations that policymakers would be willing to think hard about whether present policies and institutional structures and resources were really up to the multiple challenges the international community was now facing."

  • Lisa Heinzerling, Georgetown University, O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law Scholarship, Climate Change, Human Health, and the Post-Cautionary Principle (Research Paper no. 4) (September 2007)

    "In this Article, I suggest two different but related ways of reframing the public discourse on climate change. First, I propose that we move further in the direction of characterizing climate change as a public health threat and not only as an environmental threat. Second, I argue that we should stop thinking of responses to climate change in terms of the precautionary principle, which counsels action even in the absence of scientific consensus about a threat. We should speak instead in terms of a 'post-cautionary' principle for a post-cautionary world, in which some very bad effects of climate change are unavoidable and others are avoidable only if we take dramatic steps, and soon. These points are related insofar as they together create a moral imperative both to adapt to the changes we cannot prevent and to mitigate those we can. Without these efforts, people will fall ill and many will die, and we know now that this will occur. No fancy moral theory is required to condemn, and to make every attempt to avert, this large-scale knowing killing."—Abstract.

  • Justice Talking: The Public Radio Show about Law and American Life, Revisiting New Orleans: Katrina's Effect on the Legal System (September 17, 2007)

    "Two years after the largest natural disaster in U.S. history, New Orleans has been forced to redevelop neighborhoods, schools and most of its urban infrastructure. But what has happened to the city’s criminal justice system? Join us on this edition of Justice Talking for a detailed look at how Hurricane Katrina has affected police practices, the state and federal court systems, jails and alternative sentencing plans, and what the changes mean for citizens of and visitors to this famous city."—Overview.

  • National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA), NASA Finds Greenland Snow Melting Hit Record High in High Places (September 25, 2007)

    "A new NASA-supported study reports that 2007 marked an overall rise in the melting trend over the entire Greenland ice sheet and, remarkably, melting in high-altitude areas was greater than ever at 150 percent more than average. In fact, the amount of snow that has melted this year over Greenland could cover the surface size of the U.S. more than twice."

  • National Parks Conservation Association, Unnatural Disaster: Global Warming and Our National Parks (September 24, 2007)

    National park"Hot, dry conditions generated by global warming can cause highly destructive wildfires in the national parks. At Yosemite National Park, warming and drought have made the wildfire season longer and more damaging. Higher temperatures at Saguaro National Park are enabling invasive grasses to displace native plants and fuel wildfires, which used to be rare.

    "Wildfires strain the budget of the already severely under-funded National Park Service, risk the safety of visitors and park staff, drastically alter natural ecosystems, and contribute harmful smoke to the atmosphere—making it harder to breathe in already polluted parks like Sequoia.

    "Congress and the Administration should act now to slow or halt global warming. If we take meaningful steps now, future generations of Americans should be able to fully experience the shared history and natural wonders protected by our national parks. If we wait too long, much will be lost."—Press release.

  • Eric A. Posner & Cass Sunstein, University of Chicago Law School, Climate Change Justice (U. of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 354; U. of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 177) (August 2007)

    "Greenhouse gas reductions would cost some nations much more than others, and benefit some nations far less than others. Significant reductions would impose especially large costs on the United States, and recent projections suggest that the United States has relatively less to lose from climate change. In these circumstances, what does justice require the United States to do? Many people believe that the United States is required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions beyond the point that is justified by its own self-interest, simply because the United States is wealthy, and because the nations most at risk from climate change are poor. This argument from distributive justice is complemented by an argument from corrective justice: The existing stock of greenhouse gas emissions owes a great deal to the past actions of the United States, and many people think that the United States should do a great deal to reduce a problem for which it is largely responsible. But there are serious difficulties with both of these arguments. Redistribution from the United States to poor people in poor nations might well be desirable, but if so, expenditures on greenhouse gas reductions are a crude means of producing that redistribution: It would be much better to give cash payments directly to people who are now poor. The argument from corrective justice runs into the standard problems that arise when collectivities, such as nations, are treated as moral agents: Many people who have not acted wrongfully end up being forced to provide a remedy to many people who have not been victimized. The conclusion is that while a suitably designed climate change agreement is in the interest of the world, a widely held view is wrong: Arguments from distributive and corrective justice fail to provide strong justifications for imposing special obligations for greenhouse gas reductions on the United States. These arguments have general implications for thinking about both distributive justice and corrective justice arguments in the context of international law and international agreements."—Abstract.

  • Qin Chen, Lixia Wang, Haihong Zhao, & Scott L. Douglass, Prediction of Storm Surges and Wind Waves on Coastal Highways in Hurricane-Prone Areas, Journal of Coastal Research, v.23, pp.1304-17 (September 2007)

    "A recent study reveals that more than 60,000 miles (96,500 km) of coastal roadways are in the 100-year floodplain in the United States and vulnerable to the attacks of water surges and storm waves generated by hurricanes. Mitigating the effects of coastal flooding requires accurate predictions of the destructive hydrodynamic forces. This study demonstrates a methodology for integrating state-of-the-art storm surge and wave prediction models as an effective tool for engineering design of coastal infrastructure and facilitation of hurricane emergency management. The methodology has the capability of resolving complex geometry and topography typical of coastal road flooding. The surge model incorporates moving shoreline conditions associated with flooding and allows for nonlinear interactions among astronomical tide, storm surge, and wave setup. The wave model takes into account the unsteadiness of wind forcing, currents, and water levels. A historical hurricane event is simulated for the landfall of Hurricane Georges (1998) on the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Good agreement between the modeled and measured surge hydrographs in Mobile Bay, Alabama, has been found. The advanced surge model (ADCIRC), coupled with the wave model, successfully simulates the inundation and measured high water marks along two highways adjacent to the bay. The thirdgeneration wind wave model (SWAN) coupled with the hydrodynamic model reveals the temporal and spatial variability of wave heights and wave periods in the Mobile Bay estuary and on the flooded highways. Numerical experiments were carried out to examine the response of the estuary to various forcing agents, including the offshore surge hydrograph, local wind forcing, and wave thrust."—Abstract.

  • Martha G. Roberts, Timothy D. Male & Theodore P. Toombs, Environmental Defense, Potential Impacts of Biofuels Expansion on Natural Resources: A Case Study of the Ogallala Aquifer Region (2007)

    Ogallala outcrops"Biofuels are getting a lot of attention as a way to slow global warming. But not all biofuels are created equal. Whether they help the environment depends on how they are produced. A new Environmental Defense report recommends polices that will ensure that renewable fuels live up to their promise. Specifically, our study shows that we need:

    • a low-carbon fuel standard to spur production of biofuels with low greenhouse gas emissions and

    • better protections for water and land resources that are vulnerable to increasing production of biofuel feedstocks."

  • Brian Seasholes, National Center for Policy Analysis, Bad for Species, Bad for People: What's Wrong with the Endangered Species Act and How to Fix It (September 2007)

    "The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, was designed to recover species to a level at which they are no longer considered endangered and therefore do not require the Act's protection. Unfortunately, the law has had the opposite effect on many species. The ESA can severely penalize landowners for harboring species on their property, and as a result many landowners have rid their property of the species and habitat rather than suffer the consequences.

    "Over 1,900 species of plants and animals—1,351 domestic and 570 foreign—are currently considered by the federal government to be in danger of extinction. Once a species is listed, they are subject to a variety of conservation efforts, including federal recovery plans that can include a wide variety of measures including habitat protection. However, these conservation efforts rarely, if ever, consider the total costs of species recovery to federal, state or local governments, and especially to private landowners."—Executive Summary.

  • Bernice Steinhardt, Director, Strategic Issues, United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Influenza Pandemic: Opportunities Exist to Clarify Federal Leadership Roles and Improve Pandemic Planning (Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology, Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives) (September 26, 2007)

    "An influenza pandemic is a real and significant potential threat facing the United States and the world. Pandemics are unlike other emergencies because they are not a singular event nor discretely bounded in space and time.

    "This testimony addresses (1) federal leadership roles and responsibilities for preparing for and responding to a pandemic, (2) our assessment of the Strategy and Plan, and (3) opportunities to increase clarity of federal leadership roles and responsibilities and improve pandemic planning. GAO used its characteristics of an effective national strategy to assess the Strategy and Plan."—Why GAO Did This Study.

  • United Nations, Gateway to the UN System's Work on Climate Change

    A consolidation of news, reports, and information about UN instruments and agencies that deal with climate change.

  • United States Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Audit Division, Superfund Activities in the Environment and Natural Resources Divisions for Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005 (Audit Report 07-43) (September 2007)

    "As required by CERCLA, the DOJ Office of the Inspector General conducted this audit to determine if the cost allocation process used by ENRD and its contractor provided an equitable distribution of total labor costs, other direct costs, and indirect costs to Superfund cases during FYs 2004 and 2005. We compared costs reported on the contractor-developed Accounting Schedules and Summaries for FYs 2004 and 2005 to costs recorded on DOJ accounting records to review the cost distribution system used by ENRD to allocate incurred costs to Superfund and non-Superfund cases.

    "In our judgment, ENRD provided an equitable distribution of total labor costs, other direct costs, and indirect costs to Superfund cases during FYs 2004 and 2005. However, we make three recommendations to improve ENRD operations and ensure compliance with DOJ directives."—Executive Summary.

  • United States Government Accountability Office, Natural Hazard Mitigation: Various Mitigation Efforts Exist, but Federal Efforts Do Not Provide a Comprehensive Strategic Framework (Report to the Ranking Member, Committee on Financial Services, House of Representatives, GAO-07-403) (August 2007)

    "The nation has experienced vast losses from natural hazards. The potential for future events, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, demonstrates the importance of hazard mitigation—actions that reduce the long-term risks to life and property from natural hazard events. GAO was asked to examine (1) natural hazards that present a risk to life and property in the United States, areas that are most susceptible to them, factors that may be increasing these risks, and mitigation activities that reduce losses; (2) methods for encouraging and impediments to implementing mitigation activities; and (3) collaborative efforts of federal agencies and other stakeholders to promote mitigation."—Why GAO Did This Study.

  • WeatherBill, Inc., Temperature Trends in Major U.S. Cities (September 12, 2007)

    "WeatherBill analyzed 30 years of daily temperature data from the nation's most populous cities to determine longterm trends in daily average temperatures in major US cities. The study is restricted to weather data from 130 cities which, as of the 2006 Census, had more than one hundred thousand residents and maintained a National Weather Service weather station with a clean historical record of at least 30 years of daily data, either within the city proper or at a nearby location.

    "To isolate seasonal temperature trends for each city in question, daily average temperature data is studied for both winter (November through February) and summer (June through September) seasons. Daily average temperature is defined as the midpoint of the high and low temperatures of the day. For each city, the mean (or average) and standard deviation (or volatility) of daily average temperature are calculated for winters and summers from 1977 through 2006. A Mann-Kendall test is used to determine the statistical significance of seasonal trends in the means and standard deviations of temperature over time."—Introduction.

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Harvest moon

Harvest moon
Behold the Harvest Moon, in the fullness of its beauty, light, mystery, and splendor.

The scientific explanation isn't bad, either:

Moon chart

Full moons in myth and folklore
JanuaryWolf moon
FebruaryIce moon
MarchStorm moon
AprilGrowing moon
MayHare moon
JuneMead moon
JulyHay moon
AugustCorn moon
SeptemberHarvest moon
OctoberHunter's moon
NovemberSnow moon
DecemberWinter moon

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)

Bobby Fuller's version is still the best variation on the theme of the much-covered I Fought the Law (and the Law Won).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Constitution Day at the University of Louisville

Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinal Eye

Dispatches from the UofL and Louisville Law

The University of Louisville celebrated Constitution Day in style. This video memorializes a 90-minute program consisting of the following presentations:

James Ming ChenIntroduction: First Person Plural
Cedric Merlin PowellBong Hits 4 Jesus: The Implications of Morse v. Frederick
Samuel A. MarcossonThe Role of Punitive Damages: Philip Morris USA v. Williams
Enid F. Trucios-HaynesFunding Faith-Based Community Initiatives: The Hein Case
Russell L. WeaverThe Perils of Pragmatism: Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's Legacy

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The ABA Gets Involved in Disaster Law

ABALast month, at the annual meeting, the ABA adopted Principles for Rule of Law in Times of Major Disaster . A lot of the credit for making this happens belongs to Stephen Landsman, who spearheaded the project for the Litigation Section. Here is an overview of the principles:
The twin blows of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the August 29-30, 2005, devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, clearly demonstrated that major disasters pose a multitude of challenges to the people and governments of the United States. The challenges not only threaten the lives of Americans but the legal fabric that binds our society together. The Section of Litigation of the American Bar Association convened a Task Force to evaluate whether the legal system operated effectively in these situations and whether changes could be recommended that would more completely insure adherence to the rule of law. Neither the Task Force nor the Section of Litigation considers ourselves to be experts in disaster planning. An array of professionals, with substantial talent and expertise, has contributed valuable insights on how governments, businesses and families should prepare to respond to, and overcome, a major disaster.

It is the purpose of these Principles to preserve the rule of law in times of major disaster. The Principles are intended to help insure that justice will continue to be dispensed despite the damage and disruption caused by a major disaster. The Principles are also intended to foster reliance on legal mechanisms when the effort is undertaken to restore a disaster-torn community through programs designed to compensate for loss or render assistance in recovery.
Some of the key issues covered in the Principles include maintaining a viable criminal justice system, compensation for disaster victims, and management of disaster response. The ABA's interest in this subject is a very welcome development.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Literary Warrant [18]

Here are some recent publications of interest. In future posts, I'll catch up with some of the aging ones.

  • American Rivers, 1,333 Unsafe Dams Threaten Nation's Communities: Unsafe High Hazard Dams Litter the US (September 6, 2007)

    Hoover Dam"Congress will soon consider the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act of 2007 (H.R 3224) which would direct $200 million to states for improving the safety of publicly-owned dams, through either repairing or removing problem dams. To date, only 11 members have signed on to co-sponsor the bill introduced by Congressman John Salazar (D-CO).

    "'Dams across the country are living on borrowed time, and many of our communities are at risk,' said American Rivers’ President Rebecca Wodder. 'Closing our eyes to the problem doesn’t make it disappear; Congress needs to take action now.'"—Press release.

  • Stephen L. Caldwell, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Radiation Exposure Compensation Act: Program Status (September 7, 2007)

    "From 1945 through 1962, the United States conducted a series of aboveground atomic weapons tests as it built up its Cold War nuclear arsenal. Around this same time period, the United States also conducted underground uranium-mining operations and related activities, which were critical to the production of the atomic weapons. Many people were exposed to radiation resulting from the nuclear weapons development and testing program, and such exposure is presumed to have produced an increased incidence of certain serious diseases, including various types of cancer. To make partial restitution to these individuals, or their eligible surviving beneficiaries, for their hardships associated with the radiation exposure, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was enacted on October 15, 1990.1 RECA provided that the Attorney General be responsible for processing and adjudicating claims under the act. The Department of Justice (DOJ) established the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program (RECP), which is administered by its Civil Division’s Torts Branch. RECP began processing claims in April 1992."

  • Green Party of England and Wales, Greenprint for a Renewable Energy Policy That Works (September 2007)
    "The Green Party has a comprehensive set of policies that will guarantee we achieve reductions in carbon dioxide, year-on-year, that will enable us to reduce UK emissions by 90% by 2030. As part of this programme, the best way to support and develop the renewables industry is to adopt a simple framework of guaranteed prices for exported renewable energy. Feed-in tariffs have been a runaway success in Germany and other countries, stimulating both large- and small-scale projects and kick-starting a profitable industry that supports many thousands of jobs."

  • Insurance Information Institute, Facts and Statistics: Catastrophes (2007)

    Figures for the ten most costly world insurance losses, the ten most costly catastrophes in the United States, the top fifteen most costly hurricanes in the United States, and related phenomena.

  • Jessica Milano, Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), Spoiled: Keeping Tainted Food Off America’s Tables (Policy Report) (September 2007)

    Spinach"Currently, Americans are protected against tainted goods by a system of redundant, inefficient programs that let too many dangerous products through the cracks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulate different categories of food with disparate resources and authority. While 80 percent of the nation's overall food supply falls under the authority of the FDA—including recently recalled foods such as spinach and peanut butter—80 percent of America's food safety budget is allocated to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that the FSIS—which regulates domestic and imported meat, poultry, and certain egg products—requires that each exporting country have a food and safety system roughly comparable to that of the United States, while the FDA—which regulates all other foods—evaluates each individual company that applies to import food."—Press release (September 7, 2007)

  • David Owen, The Dark Side: Making War on Light Pollution, New Yorker (August 20, 2007)

    "The stars have not become dimmer; rather, the Earth has become vastly brighter, so that celestial objects are harder to see. Air pollution has made the atmosphere less transparent and more reflective, and high levels of terrestrial illumination have washed out the stars overhead—a phenomenon called 'sky glow.' Anyone who has flown across the country on a clear night has seen the landscape ablaze with artificial lights, especially in urban areas. Today, a person standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building on a cloudless night would be unable to discern much more than the moon, the brighter planets, and a handful of very bright stars—less than one per cent of what Galileo would have been able to see without a telescope."

  • United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Climate Change and Tourism.

    "The World Tourism Organization has created an information gathering web resource called Climate and Tourism Information Exchange Service, which displays data, studies, policy papers, videos and other materials as part of its effort to combat climate change. Registration (free) is required. The organization has spearheaded the study of linkages between climate and tourism, having convened the first-ever International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism in Tunisia in 2003. The second Conference will be held in Davos, Switzerland, in October."—UN Pulse (September 7, 2007)

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Inspector General, Federal Facilities in Chesapeake Bay Watershed Generally Comply with Major Clean Water Act Permits (Evaluation Report no. 2007-P-00032) (September 5, 2007)

    "Overall, EPA and the States are doing well managing how major Federal facilities comply with their NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permits. In EPA’s last reporting period (2004), major Federal facilities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed had a lower rate of Significant Noncompliance than other Federal and non-Federal major-permit facilities nationwide."—What We Found.

  • United States Geological Survey (USGS), Future Retreat of Arctic Sea Ice Will Lower Polar Bear Populations and Limit Their Distribution (September 7, 2007)

    "Future reduction of sea ice in the Arctic could result in a loss of 2/3 of the world's polar bear population within 50 years according to a series of studies released today by the U.S. Geological Survey....

    "The newly-released USGS information, presented to the Service in the form of nine administrative reports to be open for public comment, will now be considered within the context of the Fish and Wildlife Service's one-year review. The Service will analyze it and other information provided by scientists, government agencies and the public in order to arrive at an informed and scientifically justifiable decision. That decision is due in January."—Press release.

  • United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Influenza Pandemic: Further Efforts Are Needed to Ensure Clearer Federal Leadership Roles and an Effective National Strategy (Report to Congressional Requesters, GAO-07-781) (August 2007)

    "An influenza pandemic is a real and significant potential threat facing the United States and the world. Pandemics occur when a novel virus emerges that can easily be transmitted among humans who have little immunity. In 2005, the Homeland Security Council (HSC) issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza and, in 2006, an Implementation Plan.

    "Congress and others are concerned about the federal government’s preparedness to lead a response to an influenza pandemic. This report assesses how clearly federal leadership roles and responsibilities are defined and the extent to which the Strategy and Plan address six characteristics of an effective national strategy. To do this, GAO analyzed key emergency and pandemic-specific plans, interviewed agency officials, and compared the Strategy and Plan with the six characteristics GAO identified."—Why GAO Did This Study.

  • United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Maritime Transportation: Major Oil Spills Occur Infrequently, but Risks to the Federal Oil Spill Fund Remain (Report to Congressional Committees, GAO-07-1085) (September 2007)

    Oil spill"On the basis of cost information collected from a variety of sources, GAO estimates that 51 spills with costs above $1 million have occurred since 1990 and that responsible parties and the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (Fund) have spent between about $860 million and $1.1 billion for oil spill removal costs and compensation for damages (e.g., lost profits and natural resource damages). Responsible parties paid between about 72 percent and 78 percent of these costs; the Fund has paid the remainder. Since removal costs and damage claims may stretch out over many years, the costs of the spills could rise. The 51 spills, which constitute about 2 percent of all vessel spills since 1990, varied greatly from year to year in number and cost."—What GAO Found.

  • United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Water Resources: Four Federal Agencies Provide Funding for Rural Water Supply and Wastewater Projects (Report to the Honorable Gordon Smith, U.S. Senate, GAO-07-1094) (September 2007)

    "Rural areas generally lack adequate funds for constructing and upgrading water supply and wastewater treatment facilities. As a result, they typically rely on federal grants and loans, primarily from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), Economic Development Administration (EDA), Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), to fund these projects. Concern has been raised about potential overlap between the projects these agencies fund. For fiscal years 2004 through 2006 GAO determined the (1) amount of funding these agencies obligated for rural water projects and (2) extent to which each agency’s eligibility criteria and the projects they fund differed."—Why GAO Did This Study.

  • United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), NRC Issues Mid-Cycle Letters for Nation’s Nuclear Plants (September 6, 2007)

    "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued mid-cycle assessment letters to the nation’s 104 operating commercial nuclear power plants. The agency’s most recent assessments show all the plants continue to operate safely....

    "If a nuclear power plant’s performance declines, the NRC assigns additional resources to ensure the plant operator is taking the steps necessary to correct the situation. Only one plant, Palo Verde in Arizona, requires the NRC’s highest level of attention, which will include additional inspectors this fall to confirm the plant’s performance issues are being addressed. Ten plants require significant NRC attention, and another 19 plants get some additional attention. These numbers are generally comparable to last year’s mid-cycle assessments."—Press release.

  • World Resources Institute & World Business Council for Sustainable Development, The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: Guidelines for Quantifying GHG Reductions from Grid-Connected Electricity Projects (2007)

    "As concern about climate change has grown, one of the key challenges facing energy-project developers, as well as legislators and other key decision-makers, has been to accurately quantify the reduced GHG emissions that result from these projects.

    "'These are the best guidelines available to calculate meaningful numbers for quantifying emissions reductions,' said Lars Kvale at the Center for Resource Solutions, a national nonprofit working to establish consumer-protection standards for greenhouse gas offsets. 'This will really help energy-project developers and offset-program designers who do not have the resources to run detailed grid-emissions models.'"—News release.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Journal ISO Env. Crimes Articles

Berkeley's criminal law journal is seeking articles about environmental crimes. Here's a blurb about the journal and some contact information:
The Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law is one of the premier criminal law reviews in the country. Berkeley is the highest ranked institution that produces a criminal law review, and our journal is at the core of Berkeley’s vibrant criminal law community, which includes the newly-formed Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice and an intellectual student body that is ideologically diverse but uniformly dedicated to excellence in criminal law. BJCL publishes articles on topics of national and international significance and is available in print and on LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Hein Online. We are currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2007 issue. We are seeking in particular to encourage articles addressing environmental crimes. Please send any submissions to, or direct any questions to the Submissions Editor, Keramet Reiter, at
It's a good sign that "non-environmental" law students are taking an interest in environmental issues -- maybe it indicates a trend toward understanding the relevance of the environmental to lawyers who practice in diverse areas.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Virginia State Bar's disaster page

Virginia State Bar
The Virginia State Bar has posted a disaster page for its member attorneys in the event of a disaster. It would be good to know whether other states have made similar efforts.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Peering into the Future of Law

Most legal scholarship is aimed at the realm of the possible and therefore focuses on problems that seem imminent and solutions that seem reasonably feasible in the short-to-middle run. Who is thinking deeper into the future about law? A fairly random search revealed some interesting sites.

A posting for a conference on "the rights of transhuman purposes." If you want more detail:
The stated purposes of the meeting were to

1. provide the public with informed perspectives regarding the legal rights and obligations of "transhuman persons" via audio/video webcast (including transcripts) of expert presentations, challenges and discussions.

2. begin development of a body of law covering the rights and obligations of conscious computers, cryogenically-revived persons and other entities that transcend, and yet encompass, conventional conceptions of humanness.
Another interesting find: a book on Star Trek and the law. Here's a description of the book from an Amazon review:
An eclectic variety of learned authors draw upon ideas presented in Star Trek as a model of the future, and scrutinize the possible fallout for all-too-prevalent legal dilemmas of today and tomorrow. Essays include "The Law of the Federation", "What Color is an Android?", "Star Trek as a Pedagogical Vehicle for Teaching Law and Justice", and much more. Extensively researched in law codes as surely as episode references, Star Trek Visions is thoroughly serious in its examination of evolving human law systems and may even appear a bit dry to television fans, but applies just the right mix of popular culture to as a very effective metaphor and illustration for issues whose universality that far transcend even the most widespread TV show.
There must be a lot more out there! Please add any "finds" of your own.

Image from

A Call for Ingenuity

EdisonThe desire for clean energy is prompting an influx of talent and resources into the field of clean energy, says the Washington Post:
As policymakers promote alternative energy sources to reduce the United States' emissions of greenhouse gases and its dependence on foreign oil, entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly inventive about finding novel ways to power the economy.

Beyond solar power and wind, which is America's most developed renewable-energy sector, a host of companies are exploring a variety of more obscure technologies. Researchers are trying to come up with ways to turn algae into diesel fuel. In landfills, startups are attempting to wring energy out of waste such as leaves, tires and "car fluff" from junked automobiles.
From the admittedly narrow perspective of those of us in the legal academy, this also opens the prospect of interesting collaborations between IP and environmental scholars.

Reservation Road

Herewith the trailer for Reservation Road:

And as a special treat for Guy-Uriel Charles, the trailer for Lost in Translation:

Web Jurisdynamics