Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Community Expectations for Sustainable Development in Natural Resources Projects" Short-Course to be Held Aug. 9-13; Course Registration Still Open

The Sturm College of Law has pioneered a cutting-edge series of courses that involve sustainable development in natural resources development projects. The next course in the series will be "Community Expectations for Sustainable Development in Natural Resource Projects."

The "short course" will be held from Aug. 9-13. The daily schedule for the three-credit course calls for class to begin at 8 a.m. and run through 5 p.m. each day with several breaks throughout the day.

For students interested in the intersection of development, international, environmental, natural resources, and sustainability law and policy this will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about this emerging and important field of study. The course will be led by two outstanding practitioners, Luke J. Danielson and Cecilia M. Dalupan. Mr. Danielson is a Gunnison, Colorado, attorney with a great deal of experience in the subject area. Ms. Dalupan, who is a licensed attorney in the Philippines and Colorado, has spent much of her career examining these issues. Together, Mr. Danielson and Ms. Dalupan, who are principals in the Sustainable Development Strategies Group consultancy, combine to form perhaps the world's strongest teaching team on these timely and oftentimes vexing issues.

In the August course, Mr. Danielson and Ms. Dalupan will be joined by Dr. Tony La Vina, who is dean of the Ateneo School of Government in the Philippines. Before taking his current position, Dr. La Vina worked at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C. He is the lead negotiator for the Philippines in climate change negotiations, and in 2009 in Copenhagen he chaired the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation negotiation that he led to near agreement.

The following description from the course syllabus offers more details about the upcoming course:
Through much of human history, we were not overly concerned about whether natural resource development was good for local populations, or whether they liked it. Indeed, in some places and times, mining was done by conquered people forced into slavery. The fundamental issues in the industry were geological (finding minerals, timber or oil; and gas), or in the case of dam development, finding good hydroelectric sites; engineering (learning the physical processes to produce and obtain the resources efficiently) and processing (finding more useful products and more diverse and creative ways to use resources). The social, cultural, and environmental dimensions, and the local economic impact, were in the back seat, and whether local people felt they were receiving benefits was rarely considered an issue.

By contrast, we are now at a point where local opinion is extremely important. Whether local people accept and want natural resource development is not at the bottom, but at the top of the list of critical issues in the natural resource industries. Our growing world population and the demand for a higher standard of living have created an unprecedented demand for materials and energy. The different avenues of communication in this internet age make it more and more possible for local developments, voices, and stories to reach a wider and even global audience, which has profoundly changed the way development occurs. And the move from authoritarian regimes to open societies has put a premium on decisions reached by consensus processes rather than imposed by force.

The spread of democracy, the rapid development of open information regimes, and the internet means that it is increasingly important what local communities want, and how they view natural resource production. There has been a movement from coercion to consent as a basis for making these decisions, which is one of the principal themes of this class.

At the same time, the increasing number of people in the world makes it harder to find places that minerals and energy can be produced in the “wide open spaces,” and are forcing us to produce natural resources as more immediate neighbors to local communities.

The natural resource industries have been hit hard by a new challenge, and one they are just starting to understand how to confront: community expectations. This is probably where we seem to have the farthest to go, and the least idea what to do. This is symbolized by the fact that we have not yet fully developed a shared vocabulary to talk about these critical concerns. We talk about the “social license to operate” or “community development” or “community consent,” and use a lot of other words as well, but we are often not entirely clear what we mean. As lawyers, we are struggling with the legal concepts, structures and systems to regulate these processes and encourage peaceful outcomes.

“Globalization” means many things in different contexts. Among them are these: we have reached the point where the decisions of company executives in a boardroom in someplace like London or Toronto have an enormous impact on the future of a traditional community halfway around the world. In turn, the reactions of people in that traditional community now routinely determine whether projects succeed or fail, whether companies survive, and whether executives are promoted, or lose their jobs. The Managing Director in the company boardroom and the village elder in a rural part of Africa thus determine each others’ fate, even though they almost certainly do not speak the same language, share the same religious world view, have the same understanding of what property rights are, or share many cultural values. That is another theme of this course.

In short, while most of us acknowledge that communities need to have some kind of voice in the decisions that affect them, we do not have a clear idea of how to incorporate the desires of communities into the decision making process. That is yet another principal thread of this class.

Industry has a clear idea of what it wants: the ability to develop projects without obstacles risk and delays, and to be appreciated as a positive contributor to the communities in which it works. But we have very little idea in many cases how to achieve that, or of what the other actors want. This is the great visible challenge of the future, and is one we still in most cases do not know how to approach with confidence of success.

If we are just guessing at what local communities want, and we have no rigorous way of measuring what we are in fact delivering, or whether that corresponds to what communities want, we are simply wandering in the dark. Any progress will be an accident.

Perhaps the light that can lead the way is a set of ideas we call “sustainable development.” Sustainable development is a set of concepts that attempts to harmonize a number of seemingly competing goals. These include providing better conditions of life and more opportunity for people, especially the poor. They also include bringing production and consumption within limits that ecosystems can tolerate in the long run.

As governments, companies, researchers, and others attempt to understand what kinds of actions and policies are needed to move us individually and collectively onto such a track, it has become clear that the drive for better conditions of life requires a much broader vision of what constitutes well-being than traditional numerical economic measures. It is also clear that achieving development on a sustainable path requires us to build more effective structures of governance, within which market competition can create greater abundance without damaging the other values we consider important.

Improving the condition of the poor, creating more opportunities, protecting the productivity of the ecosystems on which we all depend, and establishing more accountable and efficient institutions of governance are goals that seem hard to object to. At the same time, they seem to some to be very abstract and far removed from the daily concerns of business and industry.

But on a strategic level, these are the central issues that are likely to determine the industry’s future: whether it has adequate access to the resource base, access to capital, a steady supply of skilled specialists, a sympathetic ear for its policy concerns: in short whether it is a healthy, profitable industry, or one at the margins of the economy, barely able to meet its cost of capital, unsafe to work in, and adding inexorably to the already considerable environmental legacy of past centuries of mining, smelting, oil production and refining, timbering and dam building.

They are also among the key drivers of legislation, regulation, voluntary standards and a host of policies that lawyers working for any kind of clients in the natural resource sector need to understand. Lawyers, legal scholars, and consultants in allied disciplines such as anthropologists, sociologists, and conflict management specialists, have an important role in the dramatic shift that is occurring in how natural resource development is conducted, regulated and governed.

The new legal challenges need to be understood on a variety of levels:

o The emerging set of international standards and requirements governing foreign direct investment;

o Changing national priorities in mineral legislation and the laws governing extraction and use of mineral products; and

o Meeting community expectations for development.

This class is designed to explore the issues of sustainable development at the third of these levels: the community. And it will proceed on these major themes:





Sturm College of Law students may register for the class the same way they register for any JD class, just keep in mind that this is an interterm course (semester code 201065, CRN 1001). The course is also open to other University of Denver students as well as other professionals who are associated with the natural resources industries. For more information on the course, please contact Don Smith at or Lucy Daberkow at

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

United States Overtaken by China as World's Largest Energy Consumer

The Paris-based International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization that compiles research information about energy generation and usage, has announced that preliminary data show that China is now the world's largest consumer of energy. The U.S., which had for many years held the number one stop, dropped to number two.

According to the IEA:
"For those who have been following energy consumption trends closely, this does not come as a surprise. What is more important is the phenomenal growth in demand that has taken place in China over the last decade; also prospects for future growth still remain incredibly strong. Since 2000, China’s energy demand has doubled, yet on a per capita basis it is still only around one-third of the OECD average. Prospects for further growth are very strong considering the country’s low per-capita consumption level and the fact that China is the most populous nation on the planet, with more than 1.3 billion people.

"China’s demand today would be even higher still if the government had not made such progress in reducing the energy intensity (the energy input per dollar of output) of its economy. It has also very quickly become one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy, particularly wind power and solar energy, and paved the way for a big expansion of nuclear power."
The importance of this announcement was underscored by Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist, who told The Wall Street Journal ("China Tops U.S. in Energy Use," July 18, 2010) that China's rise to number one energy consumer marks "a new age in the history of energy"

However no sooner had the IEA made its announcement than the Chinese government denied its accuracy. According to the Financial Times ("Beijing Denies Energy Use Claim," China called the report "not very credible."

Regardless of whether the IEA report is completely accurate, all agree that China is now consuming enormously more energy than ever before and that the policy and economic implications associated with this development are huge.

In November the World Energy Outlook 2010 will consider the implications of these new trends.

Meanwhile, a story in The Wall Street Journal ("Chinese Firms Snap Up Mining Assets," July 21, 2010) reported on Chinese firms aggressive pursuit of mining assets. "In the global hunt for mining assets," the Journal reported, "China has emerged as the buyer to beat: Just a few years after suffering high-profile failures to close big acquisitions, Chinese buyers of all sizes are sealing more sophisticated deal deals at a higher rate of success."

China is one of the countries that is examined in the Sturm College of Law course "Comparative Environmental Law." China is also discussed in many other environmental and natural resources courses.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Master's Student Darren Morris Reports on his Summer Externship at the U.S. EPA in Washington, D.C.

I am currently interning in the Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI), in the National Center of Environmental Innovation. This office is the policy arm of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and serves under the Office of the Administrator.

For the past month, I've been assigned to the Sustainable Products Team. The office is currently addressing Executive Order 13514, which states that all federal agencies must:
“(h) advance sustainable acquisition to ensure that 95 percent of new contract actions for products and services are energy- water-efficient, bio-based, environmentally preferable, non-ozone depleting, contain recycled content, or are non-toxic or less toxic alternatives...”
We are working with two groups, The Sustainability Consortium, and the Green Products Roundtable, in an effort to create inter and intra-agency cooperation, and defining the characteristics of a sustainable product. In order to define this very complicated term, the team is currently engaged in analyzing current labeling standards and life cycle analysis.

OPEI is also coordinating a Sustainable Products Network that involves offices from all over the EPA. I am currently working on a paper with an AAAS Fellow (PhD) addressing these issues. I am also researching Federal Advisory Committees, and other international sustainability standards.

The work is very exciting and extremely relevant towards reducing environmental damage caused by the extraction, use, and disposal of our everyday products.

-Darren Morris
MRLS Student