Friday, February 26, 2010

A report issued last week by the United Nations "calls for greater efforts to advance environmentally sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which has witnessed the constant reduction of forest areas and the sustained increase of carbon dioxide emissions."

The report, "Millennium Development Goals: Advances in Environmentally Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean", says that the region's deforestation is nearly twice the world's average.

Moreover, carbon dioxide emissions have grown more than 40 percent from 1990 to 2005. The primary factors in the growth have been the production of cement and the use of fossil fuels.

(Thanks to Joan Policastri, Foreign, Comparative & International Law Librarian at DU's Westminster Law Library for calling this to our attention.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Announces Five-Day "Mining Law Short Course--Domestic and International Issues" Set for May

The Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, one of the world's preeminent organizations when it comes to natural resources policy and law, is sponsoring a five day "Mining Law Short Course: Domestic and International Issues" in Boulder, Colorado, May 17-21, 2010.

Several of our program's graduates have attended this short course, and their reviews have always been glowing. And to make things even better, the regular course tuition of $1,195 is reduced for students to $95 if you register before March 24 and $195 if you register after March 25.

The event is an important one for several reasons:
  • It is a great place to hear about the state-of-the-art when it comes to mining law in the U.S. and internationally.
  • The speakers are outstanding.
  • The ability to network with leaders in the mining sector is exceptional.
This event is beneficial in many ways, and consequently it should be on your radar if mining is an industry that interests you.

The program can be accessed by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Maria Carolina Crespo, LLM Student, Attends 40th ALI-ABA Environmental Law Course in Washington, D.C.

Maria Carolina Crespo, an LLM student from Argentina, recently attended the 40th ALI-ABA Environmental Law Course in Washington, D.C.

The advanced course of study provided a broad overview of the latest developments arising in each of the major areas of U.S. environmental law, thus providing attendees an understanding of the “big picture,” as well as an opportunity to learn about the changes in other intersecting facets of environmental law that may affect their practices.

The course featured over 16 hours of instruction, particularly looking at legislative initiatives, regulatory changes, and new presidential-related issues arising from the first year of the Obama administration.

The first day involved a series of introductory lectures on the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Superfund, and the Toxic Substances Control Act. The second and third days involved presentations from more than 30 seasoned practitioners, federal government representatives (including the EPA, DOJ, State Department, etc), law professors and counsel and other professionals from advocacy organizations.

This year’s top-flight faculty included EPA’s General Counsel Scott Fulton and Assistant Administrator Steve Owens, as well as Counselor to the Secretary of Interior Steve Black.

"The course offered a very good overview about environmental law in an effective format," Ms. Crespo reports. "Also the course provided a good diversity in topics especially in water and air issues, climate change, and the challenges the Obama administration will face in the near future."

By the way, you have no doubt noticed the pictures of Ms. Crespo in front of the White House as well as the picture (just to the left) of one of the White House entrances. Her stay in Washington was prolonged a week longer than she had expected by the heavy snowfalls that the nation's capital experienced during the early days of her visit. So she had "extra" time to explore the city. But she was a good sport about it, and never mentioned to anyone that while the temperatures were cold and snowy in Washington, the weather in her home city -- Buenos Aires -- was sunny and hot!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Cap-and-Dividend:" A Realistic "Replacement" for Cap-and-Trade?

In contrast to one year ago, few people in the U.S. now believe that the U.S. Congress will be able to agree anytime soon on a greenhouse gas emissions-limiting bill that focuses on cap-and-trade.

Last summer, with the passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of the Waxman-Markey Energy bill there was some expectation that the Congress might be able to cobble together something. However, in the wake of the Obama Administration's inability to push through a health care bill, no one is holding their breath now in anticipation of a cap-and-trade measure.

Despite the palpable disappointment of many "greens," a cap-and-trade approach -- similar to what the European Union has agreed on -- may be a nonstarter. What might replace it, however, is a measure that has been characterized as "cap-and-dividend." Introduced in December 2009 by United States Senators Maria Cantwell, Washington state Democrat, and Susan Collins, Maine Republican, the cap-and-dividend measure has begun to attract a growing amount of attention.

The cap-and-dividend concept works in this manner:
  • In 2012 the president will set an initial target amount of carbon from fossil fuels that can be emitted without disrupting the economy. The cap will gradually decline.
  • Revenue generated by "carbon permits" comes from producers and importers of coal, natural gas, and oil. In other words, a power plant that burns coal does not buy carbon permits; they are paid for by the mining company that mined the coal. Using this approach, the "upstream" point of regulation means that only 2,000 to 3,000 fossil fuel producers and importers will face any new compliance obligations.
  • Carbon price permits will be determined by a bidding process among fossil fuel companies participating in monthly auctions. Only entities with a compliance obligation are eligible to participate -- no Wall Street traders or speculators will be allowed in.
  • Seventy-five percent of revenues will be returned to consumers (as a "dividend") directly each month on an equal per capita basis to offset energy cost increases. Average annual refunds for a family of four are estimated to be about $1,000. According to Senator Cantwell, "Sending auction revenues directly to consumers means 80 percent of the American public will incur no net costs and the lowest income population will receive net positive benefits."
  • Twenty-give percent of revenues will go into the Clean Energy Reinvestment Trust Fund to pay for additional greenhouse gas emissions reductions, low-carbon energy investment, climate change adaptation, and related regional economic adjustment projects.
Publications ranging from The Economist to The Denver Post have written positively about the concept. For example, The Economist ("A Refreshing Dose of Honesty," Feb. 4, 2010) wrote that the bill "is refreshingly simple. At a mere 40 pages, it is one thirty-sixth as long as the monstrous House bill (known as 'Waxman-Markey' after its co-sponsors), which would regulate everything from televisions to 'bottle-type water dispensers' and is completely incomprehensible to a layman." Similarly, The Denver Post editorialized ("Fresh Start on Carbon Battle," Feb. 16, 2010), "[T]he structure of the system would encourage conservation and give Americans a big incentive to burn cleaner fuel...We very much like that it would avoid the creation of a vast energy-trading market such as the one envisioned in the Waxman-Markey bill."

Will the bill succeed? Good question and one not readily answered at this early stage. But nevertheless, a few observations:
  • Wall Street bankers are not going to like the measure since it cuts them out "of the action" associated with permit trading.
  • Fossil fuel companies are not likely to support it either for obvious reasons.
  • The current simplicity of the measure means that all of the back room deals that were cut in putting the Waxman-Markey bill together will be gone, thus disappointing many Representatives who had worked hard to battle for their districts' interests (real and perceived).
  • Some sectors of the economy won't like it either since they have been granted hugely favorable treatment in the House bill.
On the other hand, in Washington's current partisan stalemate the fact that a Democrat and a Republican senator have signed on to the bill is worthy of mention, but this in and of itself probably doesn't mean a great deal right now.

There are many difficult legislative issues on the 2010 political agenda -- jobs, financial sector regulation, health care -- so don't expect too much time devoted to cap-and-dividend. Only time will tell whether it is a game changer or merely another legislative idea destined to hit the scrap heap of other "good ideas" that came to naught. But it is a concept that all of us should keep in mind.

Click here to see the bill as originally introduced, and click here to see an in-depth overview of the measure.

Don C. Smith

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hiring News: LLM Graduate Josh German Begins Work at the Bureau of Reclamation

Josh German, 2009 LLM graduate, has started work at the Bureau of Reclamation in the Denver Federal Center.

Josh develops, implements, and oversees three programs: WaterSMART Grants; Title XVI; and Basin Studies. According to Josh, his duties include "drafting Funding Opportunity Announcements, editing program related materials, and participating in the application review process."

The website for these three programs can be accessed by clicking here.