Friday, April 29, 2011

James Smith, LLM Student Reviews “The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960” by Douglas Brinkley

The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960 by Douglas Brinkley is really quite good, and consequently it may be of interest to others at DU Law.

Brinkley is a prolific historian and this is his latest effort. It follows a great ecological book a few years ago focusing on Theodore Roosevelt’s conservationism (The Wilderness Warrior). The book starts with Roosevelt’s boyhood fascination of the recently acquired territory and John Muir’s early travels there and ends with statehood and the creation of the Arctic National Refuge.

Brinkley makes a great effort at reminding readers of the vast wonder of Alaska’s natural resources – boundless forests, endless coastlines, seemingly inexhaustible glaciers, millions of animals. Along the way, Brinkley introduces the reader to many interesting figures who helped preserve much of Alaska: Aldo Leopold, Justice William Douglas, Rachel Carlson, Ansel Adams, etc. Even Walt Disney makes an appearance. For Brinkley, these are the heroes of the story. Even the U.S. government manages to do far more good than bad in Brinkley’s eyes (playing against character in American stereotypes).

The book isn’t perfect. There is little said about Native Americans. And the limits of Rooseveltian conservation are stark: spying a snowy owl having made its way far south to Long Island, N.Y., the young naturalist, after staring in wonder at the magnificent creature, shoots it dead with a shotgun and takes its taxidermied corpse with him that year when he entered Harvard. Disney’s appearance in the story seems a bit forced. Yet, there is plenty that a reader might learn. I had no idea that Edward Teller tried seriously to convince the Eisenhower Administration to use nuclear bombs “to dig” an artificial harbor on the North Slope. Or that FDR was a huge forestry buff, once listing “tree farmer” as his occupation.

Alaska plays a large role in the conclusion of the evolution of America’s attitudes toward the environment and natural resources. Its exploration and assessment after purchase from Russia came at a critical fork in the exploitation of landed wealth. By then, Americans nearly had occupied the West and the last unrestricted opportunities to harvest timber, mine gold, and exploit animal or energy riches were underway (even if not yet complete).

The cycle of expansion--using up resources in one place and then moving on westward--was complete, but for Alaska. How easy it would have been simply to adopt the massive reach of northern treasure as the next chapter in this story.

Yet, at the same time, it was obvious to at least some Americans that what was once limitless bounty to the eyes of European explorers on the Atlantic coast, literally a cornucopia of resources offered by the hand of God, was in fact finite and limited. And, that the end was, if not at hand, at least foreseeable, again, but for Alaska. The Quiet World is the story of how the obvious and predictable depredation of Alaska never quite came (fully) into being and the individuals whose decisions made Alaska (mostly) an exception to the historical rule.

James Smith
LLM Candidate December 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

David A.O. Edward, Former Member of the Court of Justice of the European Union, Speaks at DU Law; Addresses EU Environmental Law & Policy Issues

David A.O. Edward, a member of the Court of Justice of the European Union from 1992-2004, visited Denver Law recently and spoke to students about the European Union in general and EU environmental law and policy specifically.

Judge Edward, from Edinburgh, Scotland, was also a member of the EU Court of First Instance (now called the General Court) from 1998-1992.

Judge Edward, who has been called one of the most influential Court of Justice judges in the history of the European Union, said that there two difficult issues when it came to deciding environmental-related issues.

First, he noted that in many instances the legislation that underlies a legal challenge is not entirely clear. The legislative branch "leaves it to the Court to resolve (ambiguities). Consequently, in some instances the ambiguity is deliberate on the legislature's part." This means that the Court is put in the position of clarifying what the legislation means.

Second, enforcing EU environmental law can be a problem in some instances. Typically enforcement is left to the 27 individual member states of the EU. However, where a member does not enforce legislation then the European Commission can bring action before the Court of Justice and seek an order of enforcement and a fine. Judge Edward noted that while he was a member of the Court, just such an action was brought against Greece and the Court imposed a fine against the country.

Judge Edward was also the guest of honor at a reception attended by students and faculty.

Don C. Smith, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program said that the College of Law was honored to host Judge Edward. "By many measures, the European Union has assumed a leading environmental role in the past decade. Having a former judge of the stature of Judge Edward speak to our students represented a great learning experience for all of us." Mr. Smith said that having visitors such as Judge Edward reflects Denver Law's commitment to exposing students to key environmental law figures from around the world.

Editor's note: The top picture includes students Ambika Chawla (on left) and Maha Kamal (on right); Judge Edward, to the left of Ms. Chawla, is next to Professor and Director of the International Law Program Ved Nanda. In the middle picture Don Smith is between Judge Edward and Professor Nanda. In the bottom picture, students (from left to right) Lauren Anderson, Eric Cheong, and Ms. Kamel are with Judge Edward.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Denver Business Journal Energy Reporter Cathy Proctor Speaks at Denver Law: Explains Industry Trends as well as Dealing With the Media

Cathy Proctor, reporter for The Denver Business Journal, recently spoke to 30 Denver Law students. Ms. Proctor addressed trends in the energy sector in Colorado. Featured as part of the school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program Speaker Series, Ms. Proctor has covered energy issues in the state and region for the Business Journal for more than 10 years.

The business audience in her readership, she said, is less interested in environmental issues per se, and more attuned to economic and financial dimensions arising from environmental concerns. She offered the example of a story she wrote portraying the smaller carbon footprint achieved by a building that was remodeled to become more green. The building manager reported to Ms. Proctor that the article inspired many readers to contact the manager to learn how they too might achieve the impressive energy savings that her story had reported were a product of the renovation.

She also noted that there are other state policy domains where legal expertise is needed. For example, the number of lawyers involved in drafting Colorado’s new oil and gas rules, passed in 2009, she said, was astounding.

She also impressed upon the law students the importance of regulatory regimes, such as Colorado State Amendment 37, passed in 2004, which caused utility companies to invest heavily in wind and solar power projects.

Ms. Proctor described a pair of ways in which the drive for renewable energy requires legal expertise. First, rules and regulations applied to “old energy” (e.g., natural gas and oil) are now being applied to the “renewable crew.” For example, siting windfarms on public lands has led the industry to anticipate potential impact on species important to the ecosystem and not yet on the endangered list; their goal in protecting these animals is to not add another species to the list. Second, she said, local owners don’t necessarily like solar panels or wind turbines today any more than they once liked oil rigs in the past—they represent change and naturally provoke a NIMBY (i.e., not in my back yard) response. Land use rules are key to siting these renewable technologies.

Lastly, Ms. Proctor offered advice about how companies in the news should respond to interest from the media. The typical journalist, she stressed, works on a deadline and is eager for information. An attorney answering a journalist’s call must be aware of and must establish clearly the ground rules guiding the conversation that follows: Are the comments “on-the-record,” for “background, or “off-the-record.” Once that is established, she urged the attorney not to deflect questions or refuse to answer them, rather to use the encounter to fashion the company’s response to the journalist’s inquiries about, for example, a lawsuit just filed against it.