Saturday, May 2, 2009

Earth Day in the Southern Hemisphere: Feliz Dia de la Tierra!

Last Saturday I was in Buenos Aries on the final day of a visit that had involved participating in the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation International Institute as well as meeting with various key natural resources lawyers and law firms.

On my final afternoon, I took a long walk around the city, which can only be described as gorgeous and fascinating at the same time.   One of my "stops" was at a park just adjacent to the University of Buenos Aries School of Law where the Floralis Generica Monument is located.

Much to my delight, the park was the setting for the Feliz Dia de la Tierra celebration, which was organized by the group TuVerde.  There was a live band (lower left part of the photo) as well as a screen (on the left side of the photo) where various videos of dancers were being shown.

It was a wonderful way to finish my trip to Argentina as well as a reminder that a clean and healthy earth is a priority for all of us -- whether we are from Buenos Aries, Brussels, Beijing, Delhi, Denver, or Lagos (just to name a few).  When it comes to issues such as climate change or energy, oftentimes arcane (in my view) political boundaries should give way to how our collective imaginations can be harnessed to address these great challenges.    

Friday, May 1, 2009

Emissions Trading Scheme Coming to Airlines Operating in Europe

Airlines operating within the European Union will soon be subject to the EU emissions trading scheme.

Recently the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, published its "Monitoring and Reporting Guidelines for Emissions and Tonne-Kilomtere Data From Aviation Activities." Familiarity with the guidelines will be essential to any airlines flying into or out of the EU. Moreover, it is likely that the EU guidelines will inform how the U.S. eventually looks at greenhouse gas emissions associated with the aviation sector.

The EU is the world leader on limiting greenhouse gas emissions and is hoping that its "first mover" status will ultimately provide an advantage for its technology and energy efficiency businesses. Only time will tell...aided perhaps by a lot of praying in Brussels.

Brazilian Companies Embrace Sustainability

Brazilian companies have embraced the concept of sustainability according to a new report from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

"The Sustainability Chain: A Survey of Views and Practices of Brazilian Companies That Influence the Future of the Planet" reports that:
  • "Sustainability has taken its place on the agenda of companies doing business in Brazil and is already perceived as an essential factor in relations with various stakeholders;
  • "Concern for the theme permeates all stage of the production chain;
  • "The current economic scenario has not affected the investment decisions of the majority of companies in relations to actions involving sustainability."

With Brazil posed for dramatic economic growth, local trends there will become even more visible throughout the world.

Interwest Energy Alliance: A Strong Advocate for the Renewables Sector

This morning I had coffee with one of the Rocky Mountain West's most knowledgeable renewable industry leaders, Craig Cox.

Craig is the executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, a non-profit trade association that represents the nation’s leading companies in the renewable energy industry, bringing them together with regional non-governmental organizations in the Rocky Mountain region (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming). Interwest performs outreach and representational activities and seeks to build collaborative, consensus-based approaches to new project development and transmission siting throughout the West. Anyone interested in renewable energy in this region should know about Interwest.

Craig has been active in renewable energy public policy development since working for Congressman Dan Schaefer (R-Colo) in Washington, D.C., where he formed the U.S. House Renewables and Energy Efficiency Caucus on Schaefer’s behalf in 1996. Craig is currently a member of the Western Governors’ Association’s Energy Working Group. In 2008, he received the first annual “Governor’s Excellence in Renewable Energy” individual award from Colorado Governor Bill Ritter.

A conversation with Craig is extremely illuminating since he has a clear understanding of the industry's perspective as well as policies at state and federal levels and how these policies promote (and in some cases discourage) development. This morning Craig voiced his enthusiasm for the business opportunities that lie ahead. However, he cautioned that there are challenges as well. One particular challenge involves transmission of electricity -- how can electricity generated in sparsely populated areas be transported to population centers. He and his organization are directly involved in discussions about how to address this issue.

From time-to-time I will be checking back with Craig to get a sense of how the renewables industry is feeling about state and federal policy-making. In the meantime, anyone who is interested in renewables should visit the Interwest Energy Alliance website.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ground-Breaking Comparative Global Study on Environmental Courts & Tribunals Undertaken by DU Professor

A fascinating and cutting edge new study, the "DU Environmental Courts & Tribunals Study," which compares environmental courts and tribunals across the world, is being undertaken by Prof. George (Rock) Pring, an expert on U.S. and international environmental law and a professor in the graduate program.

Prof. Pring and his wife Catherine are putting the final touches on their study, which has taken them to nearly 30 countries where they have interviewed more than 125 officials.  The process of undertaking the study and their findings will, no doubt, be shared with Prof. Pring's students at DU.

In the picture, Rock and Kitty Pring are on the right and one of the individuals they interviewed, former Brazilian Federal Court Judge Vladimir Passos de Freitas, a pioneer in the development of environmental courts in Brazil, and his wife Sandra are on the left.

I recently conducted an interview with Rock and Kitty Pring that can be accessed by clicking here.   They have an amazing and thoroughly interesting story to tell about their project, which is sure to have a major impact all across the globe.

Rock Pring is a "star" in the environmental law and policy field, and this innovative and thought provoking new study clearly demonstrates that once again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Final Few Words About My Visit to Argentina

Times passes quickly, particularly when one returns from a trip and faces many things awaiting on his "to do" list at his office!

However, a few final observations to wrap up my observations about my recent visit (April 19-26) to Buenos Aires. First, the members of the legal community who I met with are extremely talented and perceptive individuals, not only about natural resources and environmental issues in Argentina and South America but also in their views about the world. My visit to the firm of Perez Alati, Grondona, Benites, Arntsen & Martinez de Hoz, where I spoke about the LLM/MRLS program, is an example. The attorneys there are very knowledgeable about issues surrounding climate change and carbon credit-related projects. In fact, they are among the most well versed on the matter of these projects of anyone I've ever spoken with.  I enjoyed an enjoyable session with their young attorneys, some of whom I hope to see in our program someday.  

Second, there is a sense of pragmatism combined with optimism about the future development of South America. On one hand, those who I spoke with are agreed that for the most part the region has been "underdeveloped" in terms of natural resource projects. On the other hand, however, there is also a recognition that natural resource development must be undertaken in a manner that benefits local communities, regions, and countries in which it takes place. Development for development's sake is no longer (if it ever was) considered beneficial per se.

Third, there is a shared sense of optimism about the western hemisphere, particularly in light of the election of President Obama. Are the expectations involving one man too high? Time will tell, but to be sure the president must take care not to elevate hopes so high that only disappointment results when his achievements fall short. Interestingly enough, President Obama faces nearly exactly the same challenge at home as he does abroad.

Finally, there is much to be gained by everyone in the western hemisphere from a relationship that is marked by respect and shared benefit. It is not enough for one region to benefit while another region does not. What binds us together is much greater than individual differences. That is not to suggest that countries in this hemisphere need to agree on everything. But (and my study of the European Union is showing through here) to the extent that countries share in the benefits of trade and economic growth, the hemisphere will be a stronger, more enduring part of the world.

"Re-Envisioning Electricity in the United States:" Special NPR Report

For the United States -- and all other energy-hungry countries for that matter -- successfully integrating more renewable sources into national electricity portfolios will require improved and more flexible electricity grids.

Put another way, it doesn't make a great deal of sense to generate vast amounts of wind power in say North Dakota or solar power from Arizona if there is no way to transport it to where it is needed (i.e., the population centers).

Recently, National Public Radio broadcast a series of reports on the challenges related to improving the American grid.  "Re-Envisioning Electricity in the United States" is a multi-part series that reports on the challenges and related opportunities.  It is well worth a listen if you are interested in this topic.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Universidad Austral: A Leader in South American Legal Education

Last Friday, I had the great pleasure of speaking to a group of law students at the Faculty of Law at Austral University in Buenos Aires.

Specifically, I spoke about "Las nuevas politicas ambientales de la administracion Obama" ("The new environmental policies of the Obama administration"). The kind invitation to speak was extended by Fernando Horacio Paya, a professor who heads a new department of environmental law at Austral. Prof. Paya also practices environmental law at Estudio Nicholson y Cano in Buenos Aires.

My remarks, and later the question time, flew by in what seemed like just half an hour or so when in fact I was there for nearly two hours. My objective was to explain the current situation President Obama finds himself in, and how his administration is trying to develop a clean-energy program that will support a restoration of the economy. I also said that forging a better and more mutually beneficial relationship with South America needed to be a priority in the new president's administration.

In particular, it is essential that the U.S. and Cuba re-establish normal diplomatic and trade relationships. My view comes in large part from my study of the European Union and its remarkable success in redefining the long-standing contentious relationship between Germany and France. Surely if Germany and France can "take the next step" the U.S. and Cuba ought to be able to do the same thing.

The students were engaging and thoughtful in their questions. We covered lots of ground including GMOs and the EU's generally anti-GMO stance; the U.S. stand on climate change and how the Obama administration is beginning to redefine this country's approach to climate change; and issues related to development projects and how best for communities to voice their concerns about these projects. They also shared with me their hopes for the success of President Obama, a sentiment I told them that was shared by millions of people in the U.S.

It was an enormously enjoyable afternoon for me and I hope the Austral professors and students as well. Environmental, energy, and economic issues tie the western hemisphere together in a way that is perhaps more important than ever before in our respective regional histories. To a growing degree, an environmentally conscious and economically strong western hemisphere benefits all of us from the very southern tip of South America to the northern most regions of North America. We have much in common and a great deal to learn from one another.

My hosts at Austral -- which included Profs. Mariano Augusto Sapag and Maria Cecilia Amiel along with Prof. Paya -- could not have been more gracious. My hope is that in the coming months and years, the DU LLM and MRLS programs (as well as the JD program) will establish a closer relationship with con amigos a la universidad de Austral.

Tomorrow's environmental challenges will obviously test the ingenuity of all of us, but looked at another way the potential opportunities are also limitless. To achieve our potential as a world, however, we must work together in a collaborative and respectful fashion. Potential partnerships between organizations such as Austral and DU may well serve as a model for the future. It is time to prepare for the world's future.

Latin American LLM Graduates Excelling in Their Careers

Historically, Latin American-based DU LLM graduates have thrived on their return to their home countries. This pattern was conclusively proven yet again at the recent Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation International Institute, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Let me briefly share some highlights from our program's graduates that I spoke with in Buenos Aires:

This is a very impressive group indeed! Each is making his or her own important contribution to environmental and natural resources law in South America, and each is already among the continent's (and the western hemisphere's for that matter) "best and brightest" young lawyers.

I hasten to note that there are many other LLM graduates all across South America; these just happen to be the ones I met with in Buenos Aires.

Buen suerte a todos desde Denver a nuestros graduados en sud america! (Y perdon por mi espanol; yo estoy aprendiendo espanol!)

Reception for May 2009 Graduates: "Singing & Snow!"

Sometimes it may seem that it is all study and no play at the Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Graduate Program, but that's not the case at all.

In fact, as a community -- students, graduates, professors, and friends of the program -- we meet regularly and enjoy the company of others in the group. Our most recent gathering recognized the May 2009 LLM and MRLS graduates. It was quite an event with nearly 45 people in attendance on a night that was marked by a spring blizzard!

Despite the cold weather, everyone had a great time. Dean Beto Juarez spoke to the gathering and I recognized alumni and current students from the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. I also pointed that the 2008-2009 year has marked the most diverse class ever for the program. This year we have had students from Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, and the United States. It's been a terrific group of students.

Entertainment was provided by Diego Parravicini (of San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina, 2008 LLM graduate) and Marcelo Olivares (of Santiago, Chile, 2009 LLM graduate), who played their guitars and sang folk songs from their native countries. Lucy Daberkow, our assistant program director, did her usual wonderful job in organizing la fiesta!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Friends of the Graduate Program at Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES -- Graduates and supporters of DU's Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Graduate program extend around the world, but perhaps that support is no stronger than here.

Argentina, and Buenos Aires in particular, have seen a steady stream of talented young lawyers who have studied in Denver. This is due to the program's excellent support by many leading lawyers in the best firms in Argentina.

Pedro Serrano Espelta (on the right side in photo), partner in the well-known law firm of Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal and a leading South American oil and gas lawyer, has provided a great deal of support and encouragement to several members of his firm who have studied in Denver. One lawyer who has studied in Denver is Leonardo Rodriguez (left in photo, LLM graduate, May 2008), who was recognized as the Outstanding Student of the Year in 2008.

I (middle in photo) had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Serrano Espelta and Mr. Rodriguez about natural resources-related opportunities in Argentina, which is the 8th largest (in size) country in the world and has a multitude of resources -- oil and gas, mining, and renewables -- that will be developed in the coming years.

The warm relationship between DU and Argentinian law firms such as Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal is destined to become even closer, I think, as more lawyers and businesses from across the globe come to more fully understand the tremendous development opportunities in Argentina. In short, South America represents a fertile region for development for those who are looking ahead and planning for the future.