Thursday, December 10, 2009

LLM Student and Environmental Law Clinic Bluemel Scholar Leandra Zanqueta Appears Before Inter-American Commission in Washington, D.C.

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 Gonz├íles 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."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adjunct Prof. William J. Brady Featured in RePowerAmerica Web Site

Adjunct Prof. William J. Brady is featured in a posting on the RePowerAmerica website where he wishes the attendees at the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference "Godspeed and good luck."

Prof. Brady, who is a partner at the Denver firm of Grimshaw & Harring PC, is shown here on horseback in a picture taken with his daughter Stephanie several years ago at his family's farm.

In his posting, Prof. Brady writes:
The world's eyes are upon Copenhagen. The importance of your discourse and recommendations will provide policy direction to nations and NGOs for our future, and that of our children's children. Colorado and Denver joins the world in standing shoulder to shoulder with you as you wrestle with the challenge of providing a safe planet for all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

DU Externship Program: Working With Dynamic Leaders and Organizations in the Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Fields

One key aspect of the DU graduate program experience is the opportunity students have to work as externs in the environmental, natural resources, and energy fields. In many instances, students work with key leaders and organizations who are helping shape future policies and law. Students make great contacts while they are learning about the day-to-day work that goes on in these dynamic fields. In short, externship experiences complement what students learn in the classroom.

Ann Vessels, Director of the College of Law Externship Program and formerly in-house counsel at a major U.S. natural resources company, has worked hand-in-hand with Prof. George (Rock) Pring to carry on the highly-respected externship program that he developed over many years. Today Prof. Vessels and I constantly talk about about new externships.

Among the organizations that have recently had DU interns include:

  • Colorado State Attorney General's Office
  • Department of the Interior
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Conference of State Legislatures
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Non-governmental Organizations
  • Private Law Firms

    And there are many, many more.

    Recently Prof. Vessels and I spoke about the externship program. After watching Prof. Vessels (click here to see the video), I believe you will agree that the availability of the externship program is yet another reason the DU graduate program is widely regarded as a premier environmental and natural resources program.
  • Monday, December 7, 2009

    Special Section About Climate Change in The Economist

    Those of you preparing to follow the events at the UN Climate Change Conference, which begins in Copenhagen today, may want to take a close look at a special report in this week's Economist magazine (Dec. 5-11).

    "Getting warmer: A special report on climate change and the carbon economy," contains a great deal of information and analysis about where the world finds itself as the Copenhagen discussions begin. To be sure, from an editorial standpoint The Economist makes clear that it thinks that climate change is taking place and that it is caused (in large measure) by humans. But on the other hand, no one (at least no reasonable person) is going to effectively make the case that somehow The Economist is a tool of environmental campaigners. In fact, many people in the UK (where it is based) see The Economist as a reliable (and somewhat stuffy) voice for business interests.

    In any case, it is well worth having this special report in your library if climate change is a matter of interest.

    And speaking of Copenhagen, in the next few weeks this blog will include postings from Anita Halvorssen, a DU adjunct professor, who is attending the meetings. Stay tuned for Dr. Halvorssen's commentary. Beginning in January 2010, Dr. Halvorssen will be teaching "Global Climate Change" at DU.