Articles


A Fracking Mess: Just Compensation for Regulatory Takings of Oil and Gas Property Rights

Kevin J. Lynch – The law of takings receives much attention from courts and scholars.  Yet much of that attention focuses on the questions of whether or not a taking has occurred, or whether the taking was for a public use.  Less attention has focused on the appropriate measure of just compensation.  This is understandable, because in many cases the requirement to pay just compensation would be too burdensome on the government, particularly in the more recent line of regulatory takings cases, and so if a taking is found, the government simply abandons its regulation and pays no or reduced compensation.   Nevertheless, courts have attempted to grapple with the just compensation question and developed a variety of approaches that might be used to determine damages for takings on a case-by-case basis.  Yet the lack of clear guidance from the courts and the potential for high damages awards due to the […]


Corrupt at Its Core: How Law Failed the Victims of Waste Dumping in Côte d’ Ivoire

Rebecca Bratspies – On August 19, 2006, citizens of Côte d’ Ivoire woke to suffocating odors. Overnight, five-hundred tons of hazardous waste had been illegally dumped across the country’s largest city, Abidjan.  Thousands were sickened.  The incident stands as one of the most flagrant environmental crimes in recent memory.  Now, more than a decade later, it is past time to examine the tragedy as an act of environmental corruption and to use the incident to draw lessons about the failures of global environmental governance.  The case is particularly instructive because the multi-national oil-trading company involved, Trafigura, has recently been back in this news; this time because of South Korean allegations that the company was involved in oil shipments to North Korea in violation of United Nations (“UN”) Sanctions. With regard to the dumping in Côte d’ Ivoire, Trafigura “strenuously maintains that it did nothing wrong and its staff acted in […]


Executive Review and the Youngstown Categories: Vulnerability of Environmental Regulations to Unbounded Executive Review

Lee C. Rarrick – [C]omprehensive and undefined presidential powers hold both practical advantages and grave dangers for the country . . . . -Justice Jackson The power of executive review remains imperfectly limited and defined—it therefore holds such potential dangers and advantages.  By executive review I mean the power of the President to interpret the law and determine for himself whether a given law or provision is constitutional.  Most commentators agree that this power exists legitimately in one form or another.  But some argue that it is virtually unbounded, save for the president’s own sense of deference to the other branches and his self-interest to remain in office.  Such a comprehensive power surely is as dangerous as that of which Justice Jackson warns in his concurrence in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, if not more so.  Moreover, if fully utilized, executive review would leave the judiciary with no […]


Linking Across Borders: Opportunities and Obstacles for a Joint Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative-Western Climate Initiative Market

Augusta Wilson – Despite the strong consensus in the scientific community that anthropogenic climate change requires urgent attention, neither the United States nor Canada has implemented a comprehensive national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Into this void have stepped two regional cap-and-trade programs that regulate greenhouse gas emissions in parts of both countries.  One, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”), is a partnership of nine states in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S.  The other, the Western Climate Initiative (the “WCI”), is a partnership between California and the Provinces of Québec and Ontario.   Both programs have been operating for several years, demonstrating that cap-and-trade programs can achieve cost- effective emissions reductions.   Nonetheless, both markets have faced difficulties at various points, including volatility of allowance prices and the withdrawal of partner jurisdictions. One often-cited mechanism for improving the functioning of cap-and-trade markets is to link them with other markets.  In this […]


To Negotiate a Carbon Tax: A Rough Map of Interactions, Tradeoffs, and Risks

Justin Gundlach – This Article assumes that the federal government will assign a price to carbon dioxide emissions via legislation by the early 2020s for one or more of myriad reasons.  This Article’s purpose, however, is not to substantiate that assumption, but to explore a particular aspect of the adoption of such legislation.  The contents of that legislation will reflect negotiated agreements—built on various political tradeoffs—over a host of policy issues, ranging from taxes to energy efficiency standards.  These tradeoffs would implicate not only the tax’s scope and rate, but also the policies with which the tax would interact.  This Article describes interactions between a carbon tax and various existing and proposed policies relating to climate change, energy, and environmental protection.  It proceeds in five parts: Part II highlights three key points of background; Part III summarizes the universe of policies that can be expected to interact with a carbon […]


Reserving a Place for Nature on Spaceship Earth: Rethinking the Role of Conservation Easements

Sean M. Kammer & Sarah E. Christopherson –   It has been over half a century since Kenneth Boulding introduced the metaphor of the Earth as a “spaceship.” In his compelling analogy he argued that, due to increasing human demands, the Earth was becoming more like a spaceship carrying limited supplies (and limited capacity to receive pollution) than an open prairie spreading endlessly to the horizon.  In what he called the “cowboy economy,” “consumption is regarded as a good thing and production likewise,” with the economy’s success being measured solely “by the amount of the throughput from the ‘factors of production.’”  Boulding pointed out that a portion of this throughput is necessarily “extracted from the reservoirs of raw materials and noneconomic objects” and that another part consists of “output into the reservoirs of pollution.”  In the “spaceman economy,” in contrast, “throughput is by no means a desideratum, and is indeed […]


Environmental Personhood

Gwendolyn J. Gordon – Parks are people too, my friend.  So quipped an August 2016 headline making reference at once to Mitt Romney’s flip commentary on corporations and to recent developments in New Zealand law enabling landscapes to be named as legal persons—that is, as entities possessing juridical rights akin to those of corporations.  In the wake of this and other developments of the concept, legal personhood has struck observers as a promising tool for protecting nature—an idea overdue given the now seemingly unexceptional nature of corporate personhood in protecting corporate rights.  Far from being the settled, stolid doctrine that its long tenure might have it appear to be, however, corporate personhood is quicksilver; it seems an endlessly adaptable concept.  How might we come to understand the environment as a similarly flexible rights-holder in a way that is robustly protective of environmental interests?  This Article argues that, as an example […]


Tackling the Tenure Problem: Promoting Land Access for New Farmers as Part of a Climate Change Solution

Carrie A. Scrufari, Esq. – While agriculture is a main contributor to climate change, it can also be part of the solution if we can capitalize on agriculture’s mitigation potential.  For example, agriculture can assist with removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via carbon sinks—a process called soil carbon sequestration.  Through photosynthesis, plants assimilate carbon and return some of it to the atmosphere through respiration, but the remaining carbon resides in plant tissue and returns to the soil when the plants die.  Experts have recognized that building the capacity of soils to continue storing carbon (through the use of cover cropping, crop rotation, and other organic practices) can be an important ally in battling climate change.  Soil sequestration could substantially relieve our atmospheric impact, with some estimates predicting that soils have the capacity to mitigate climate change by matching anthropogenic emissions at an equal rate for the next forty years.  […]


A Carbon Fee As Mitigation For Fossil Fuel Extraction On Federal Lands

Michael Burger – Since the enactment of the Mineral Leasing Act in 1920 and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in 1953 the United States federal government has leased onshore and submerged public lands to private companies to mine coal and drill for oil and gas, often at a steep discount, and often with little or no accounting for the broad scope of these fossil fuels’ environmental externalities.  The raft of environmental legislation that passed through Congress in the 1970s addressed these issues to some degree.  For example, the Federal Coal Leasing Amendment Act required the United States to, among other things, recover “fair market value” of each lease; the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act established a system for controlling local environmental impacts from coal mining; the National Environmental Policy Act required the federal government to assess, analyze and disclose potential adverse environmental impacts from federal actions, including cumulative […]


Think Global: International Reciprocity as Justification for a Global Social Cost of Carbon

Peter Howard & Jason Schwartz – U.S. climate regulations present a special case of federal agencies applying a global, rather than exclusively domestic, perspective to the costs and benefits in their regulatory impact analyses.  Since 2010, federal agencies have emphasized global valuations of climate damages for policies that affect carbon dioxide emissions, using a metric called the “Social Cost of Carbon.”  More recently, agencies have also begun to use a global valuation of the “Social Cost of Methane,” for methane emissions.  Yet lately, these global metrics have come under attack in courtrooms and academic journals, where opponents have challenged the statutory authority and economic justification for global values.  This paper defends a continued focus on the global effects of U.S. climate policy, drawing on legal, strategic, and economic arguments. International reciprocity presents the strongest justification for a global focus.  Because the world’s climate is a single interconnected system, the United […]


Emerging Legal and Institutional Responses to Sea-Level Rise in Florida and Beyond

David L. Markell – The legal environment for local government in Florida (the “State”) is beginning to change when it comes to sea-level rise (“SLR”).  Innovations in institutional structure and governance strategies are underway in the State as well.  This Article reviews three recent developments, which relate primarily to comprehensive planning in the State, and explores their implications for Florida’s local governments, among others.  It begins, in Part II, with the State’s decision, in 2011 legislation, to give local governments a new, optional tool—referred to as “Adaptation Action Areas” (“AAAs”)—to address sea-level rise and related issues in local comprehensive plans.  Part III turns to a second piece of Florida legislation, the State’s 2015 “Peril of Flood” legislation, which mandates that local governments begin to address sea-level rise and other causes of flood-related risks through their comprehensive planning processes.  Part IV discusses a third initiative, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change […]


Losing Ground: A Clarion Call for Farm Bill Reform to Ensure a Food Secure Future

Laurie Ristino & Gabriela Steier – Soil and water are inextricably related, a fragile and complex system upon which agriculture and, in turn, our species, depend.  Yet we tend to regard this relationship and its criticality in the singular dimension of drought, hindering progress in policy and law to improve agricultural sustainability.  Without necessary policy reforms designed to protect the delicate balance between soil health, water conservation, and agricultural yield, we are foreclosing a food secure future for our nation.  America’s agriculture and farm policy, as embodied in the Farm Bill, has devastated natural resources and, thereby, nature.  Single resource advocacy and land management, such as water or soil conservation, fails to address this systems-based challenge, which is inextricably tied to the farm bill safety net.  American agriculture, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), commands the majority of the land mass of the lower forty-eight states.  Agriculture […]


Michigan: An Intrusive Inquiry into EPA’s Rulemaking Process

Lauren Packard – In 2015, the Supreme Court decided Michigan v. EPA, finding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) interpreted section 112 of the Clean Air Act unreasonably when it decided to regulate toxic mercury emissions from power plants without first considering compliance costs.  Justice Scalia, writing for a 5-4 majority, found that the term “appropriate and necessary” in section 112 “naturally and traditionally” includes a consideration of costs.  Consequently, the Court found that EPA’s decision to regulate mercury emissions did not warrant deference under Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council because EPA did not predicate its determination on an analysis of compliance costs.  Rather, EPA decided to regulate emissions from power plants because such emissions pose a public health hazard, pre-existing regulations did not adequately address this hazard, and control technologies exist to mitigate it.  In her dissent, Justice Kagan pointed out that the agency had considered costs […]


The Natural Gas Act, State Environmental Policy, and the Jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Courts

Channing Jones – Market pressures will likely drive a continued push for the build-out of natural gas infrastructure in the form of pipelines, compressor stations, storage facilities, and liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) terminals (collectively, “natural gas facilities”).  Where these facilities would transport natural gas in interstate or foreign commerce, their siting, construction, and operation are generally governed by the Natural Gas Act (“NGA” or the “Act”) and fall within the regulatory jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or the “Commission”). Natural gas project proposals commonly encounter controversy and resistance, indicating a considerable amount of future litigation as proposals to construct or expand natural gas facilities grow with supply and demand pressures.  One area this litigation may center around is the limited but sometimes decisive range of authority states hold to regulate natural gas facilities with respect to certain environmental matters, chiefly in certifying state water quality standards compliance under […]


Building an Effective Climate Regime While Avoiding Carbon and Energy Stalemate

By:  Michael Wara The world needs a new approach to achieving international progress on climate change. Despite prodigious diplomatic efforts over two decades aimed at limiting emissions of climate change pollutants, relatively little in the way of effective global governance has been achieved. This lack of progress has led some, including the U.S. government, to seek climate deals outside of the climate negotiations, leading to fragmentation of the Climate Regime. In Part II, I present one of the key dilemmas faced by U.S. climate negotiators over the past decade—whether to pursue reductions of a super-greenhouse gas within the Ozone Regime or within the Climate Regime. In Part II, I also argue that this dilemma is a symptom of a larger problem—the structure of climate negotiations. The negotiations currently place a narrow legal, economic, and political focus on the hardest part of the climate change problem—energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. This focus […]