Saturday, November 14, 2009

DU's Environmental Law Clinic Files Suit Against National Park Service to Protect White-tailed Deer

On Thursday, the DU College of Law Environmental Law Clinic filed an action against the National Park Service on behalf of Friends of Animals. The suit alleges the Park Service’s White-tailed Deer Management Plan for the Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania violates federal law, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Organic Act and Valley Forge enabling legislation.

Prof. Mike Harris, director of the clinic, said, "Under the park’s current plan, administrators plan to shoot nearly 80 percent of the deer in the Valley Forge park. Friends of Animals asserts the Park Service plan is not only extreme and short-sighted, but also reflects neither the careful reasoning required by NEPA nor the ideological purpose of National Parks. Under NEPA, the Park Service is required to consider alternatives before taking action that may affect the environment."

The suit has generated a great deal of media interest, particularly in Pennsylvania. In an article published yesterday in The Philadelphia Inquirer ("Animal Groups Oppose Shoot, Want Coyotes to Kill Deer," Nov. 13, 2009), Prof. Harris was paraphrased as saying that coyotes can play an effective role in reducing deer populations in urban centers. He also noted that coyotes can harass deer herds, thus inhibiting deer grazing in cities and reducing their ability to reproduce.

If you are interested in reading the complaint, click here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

LLM Student and Environmental Law Clinic Bluemel Law School Scholar Leandra Zanqueta Appears Before Inter-American Commission in Washington

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently held a public hearing about the impacts on human rights and the environment caused by large dams in Latin America.

Leandra Zanqueta, a Brazilian lawyer and DU LLM student (second from right in the picture), was one of six presenters at the hearing. Ms. Zanpueta appeared at the hearing in her capacity as the "DU Environmental Law Clinic-LLM International Scholar.

Ms. Zanqueta's summary of the hearing follows:
The hearing was requested by the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), an organization that the DU clinic represents, and International Rivers with the support of more 40 other organizations. The AIDA’s presentation was based on its report, “Large Dams in the Americas: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?” which explores the environmental and social damage caused by large dams that do not comply with international standards required to protect the environment and human rights.

The presenters’ objective was to advise and educate the IACHR, governments, international financial institutions (because of their financial support of dam projects), and policy-makers about the violations. In addition, the hearing represented a public tool to alert the international community to the importance of the environmental and social impact assessments that have been disregarded in these infrastructure projects. As a result, the petitioners were hoping to convince the global community – and the IACHR in particular – to pay more attention to the matter, while also delivering strong recommendations to the states in order to encourage them to respect the international rules.

We spoke about the most common environmental problems generated by large dams, such as inundation of strategic ecosystems, alteration of the natural flows of water, disruption of wildlife habitat, obstruction the migratory paths of diverse fish species, contribution to the climate change and global warming through the emission of greenhouse gases, contamination of potable water, and seismic effects among others. Meanwhile, from the human rights side, the most common violations identified were forced displacement of vulnerable communities (usually indigenous, of Afro-descendant, and poor farming populations), the loss of food sources and livelihoods, health risk, lack of access to information, lack of public consultation, failure in
giving fair compensation, criminalization of social protests, threats, among others.
The other members of the delegation were:
  • Rafael Gonzáles Ballar, Costa Rican lawyer with many years of experience in environmental protection and human rights, AIDA’s vice-president.
  • Shannon Lawrence, International assessor for the International Rivers (International ONG) who works on promoting social and environmental standards, as well alternatives to development of water and energy.
  • Gabriel Espinoza, a Catholic priest who lives in an affected area by the Zapotilho Mega Dam in Mexico.
  • Astrid Puentes, Colombian lawyer and co-director of AIDA since 2004.
  • Jacob Kopas, lawyer graduated from Harvard who works for AIDA.
Prof. Mike Harris, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic, said, "Leandra's work is vitally important to AIDA's mission to protect the environment in Latin American by assisting local indigenous communities. As the first Erik B. Bluemel International Environmental Law Scholar at the University, her work is also improving the reputation of law school's environmental and natural resources programs on the international stage."

Foreign LLM Students Present About Their Home Countries' Legal and Judicial Systems

There are a multitude of benefits associated with studying in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy graduate program at DU. One of the most important benefits is the opportunity to meet, work with, and ultimately become friends with and learn from the widely diverse group of students who study here. This semester the graduate program has students from 12 different countries.

The wide diversity of students was on full display Wednesday when graduate students from five foreign countries made presentations about the legal and judicial systems of their home countries: Argentina, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, and Russia.

Let me share a bit about our five presenters:
  • Charles Afeku presented about his home country, Ghana. He graduated from the University of Ghana with a Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B) and was called to the Ghana Bar in 2004. He has worked for the Minerals Commission of Ghana as in-house counsel since 2005. Charles is scheduled to earn his LLM in May 2010. To access his Powerpoint presentation, click here.

  • María Carolina Crespo, who hails from Argentina, spoke about her home country. She is a graduate of the Universidad de Buenos Aries in Argentina. Carolina has been working for the past five years at the Estudio Beccar Varela. She is part of their corporate law department where she uses her expertise in the natural resources and environmental law field. She plans to earn her LLM degree in May 2010. To access Carolina's Powerpoint, click here.

  • Olga Fomina presented about her home country, Russia. She has a law degree from Mordovia State University and is currently pursuing a PhD degree from Lomonosov Moscow State University. (While technically Olga is not part of the graduate program, she is an important member of our community.) To access Olga's Powerpoint, click here.

  • José Henriquez presented about Chile, which is his home country. He is a graduate of the Universidad Central De Chile. Before coming to DU he worked at the firm Henriquez Cia., where he practiced civil and labor law. He will earn his LLM degree in December 2009. To see Jose's Powerpoint, click here.

  • Mochamad Kasmali, a citizen of Indonesia, talked about his home country. He is a graduate of Sarjana Hukum from Airlangga University in Surabaya, Indonesia. From 1996-2000 he worked as an Associate at Soemadipraja & Taher, one of the leading law firms in Jakarta, Indonesia. Currently he is a senior corporate counsel for Newmont Mining Corporation in Indonesia. To view Kasmali's PowerPoint, click here.

The panel presenters, who were organized and introduced by Assistant Program Director Lucy Daberkow, provided a fascinating overview of five foreign legal and judicial systems. The presenters explained the various levels of courts and, in many cases, described how environmental and natural resources issues are handled. For the most part, the countries presented about are civil law systems, a matter of significant interest for Americans who are more familiar with the common law system.

In addition to the five presenters, students from five additional countries -- China, Iran, Mexico, Peru, and the U.S. -- attended the event.

All of us know that e-mail, Skype, cell phones, texting, and so on have brought untold opportunities to expand our personal and professional horizons. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for seeing someone in person, watching how they speak, and asking them questions about their views. There is no electronic means of really doing this.

That's why the graduate program has a history of commitment to seeking a highly diverse range of students from all across the globe. Clearly there are disagreements from time-to-time...never make the mistake of asking an Argentinian or Brazilian (where both are present) about who has the better football (soccer) team!On a more serious note, all of us in the graduate program are extremely proud of our students, be they from as close as Denver or as far away as Argentina or Indonesia. This group will make a substantial contribution to our world in the years ahead. Just watch. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009-2010 Named Graduate Program Scholarship Winners Announced

The graduate program annually awards two "named scholarships." In both cases, the scholarship has been established by an individual who believes in the value of education as a means of helping support students seeking a graduate degree.

The Marilyn G. Alkire Scholarship for 2009-2010 has been awarded to Claudia Ayonote, a Nigerian lawyer who is seeking her LLM at DU. During her legal career in Nigeria before coming to Denver, Ms. Ayonote was an untiring voice for women's rights in her home country. Today at DU she is learning about the roles of government and NGOs in the formulation, implementation, and enforcement of environmental policies. Ms. Alkire, a JD graduate of the University of Denver, has practiced in the environmental field.

The Col. Jan Laitos Scholarship for 2009-2010 has been awarded to Jeremey Mikrut, candidate for the Master's of Resource Law Studies degree. Mr. Mikrut worked at an environmental consulting firm and later was a regional planner at the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council before being admitted to the graduate program. The late Col. Laitos was the father of Prof. Jan Laitos, a DU faculty member and an internationally known expert in natural resources law.

The awarding of any scholarship is a wonderful experience since it recognizes students who are seeking to improve their understanding of environmental and natural resources issues. However, these two named scholarships are particularly important since the individuals who established them -- Ms. Alkire and Col. Laitos -- have demonstrated in such a tangible manner their commitment to helping others learn and develop.

Congratulations are in order to Claudia and Jeremey, and a big thank you as well to Ms. Alkire and Col. Laitos.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LLM Student Jason Bell To Teach Environmental Law at the U.S. Military Academy

LLM student Jason Bell, a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, has been selected to teach environmental law at the United States Military Academy at West Point beginning next fall.

According to Jason, "It's a great opportunity to introduce future officers and leaders in the U.S. Army to environmental law, policy and the Army's role in being a steward of our national resources and environment. The environmental law course gives cadets a timely opportunity to see how the law is addressing the challenges that face our nation and the entire world. As I can attest to, the West Point undergraduate law program is a feeder for future uniformed attorneys in the Judge Advocate General's Corps."

This is wonderful news for Jason, and all of us in the graduate program wish him well in his upcoming role at West Point. As Jason so clearly described it, "When I was selected they asked me to teach environmental law and to get an LLM. I looked at several programs and of course selected the best!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Energy News From China: Plans for 4th Generation Nuclear Power Plant and Investing in the U.S.

Last week brought two major energy-related announcements from China. The country announced plans to build the first "fourth generation" nuclear power plant in two to three years time. Second, a Chinese-based wind turbine manufacturer has gained exclusive rights to supply a huge wind farm in west Texas. No one should pretend that China does not face enormous energy-related challenges, but it is also worth bearing in mind that China is hardly standing still when it comes to these challenges.

The potentially more interesting of the two announcements involved the wind farm in west Texas. The U.S. Renewable Energy Group and Cieclo Wind Power LP have signed a joint venture framework agreement with China's Shenyang Power Group, which will supply 240 2.5 megawatt wind turbines that will be manufactured in China. The 600 megawatt wind farm will spread over 36,000 acres in west Texas. The wind farm is expected to generate enough electricity for 180,000 homes. Shenyang Power is expected to begin shipping turbines in the first quarter of 2010.

It is expected that the $1.5 billion project cost will be financed through commercial banks in China.

The historic agreement marks the first time that Chinese and U.S. firms have agreed to jointly develop a utility-scale wind power project. The agreement, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, is "a sign of how Chinese firms are aggressively capitalizing on America's clean-energy push ("Chinese-Made Turbines to Fill U.S. Wind Farm," Oct. 30, 2009)."

While this is the first announcement of its kind, it seems likely that it will not be the last. The need for clean energy knows no political boundaries. And, it is worth noting, clean energy will be at the top of the agenda when President Obama visits China later this month.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall 2009 Newsletter About DU's Environmental and Natural Resources Programs Available On-Line

DU's impressive Environmental and Natural Resources Fall 2009 newsletter is now available.

The newsletter calls attention to the individuals and projects that make DU's graduate program one of the finest (our graduates routinely tell me it is the best program in the world) in the world.

In the newsletter you will find information about events and announcements, what our faculty is presenting and publishing about, and an overview of DU's outstanding externship program directed by Prof. Ann Vessels. Many graduate students have had externships with state and federal environmental and natural resources agencies, private law firms and businesses, and some of the nation's leading research organizations.

The DU Sturm College of Law is committed to preparing students for the challenges and opportunities in the years ahead. Check out the newsletter to see what we are doing.