Volume 37

Nuclear Power and New York City: Columbia's Forum on the Environmental Consequences and Catastrophic Risks of Indian Point

7th April 2012 By: Andrew Kirchner

The Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant located just thirty-four miles from New York City in Buchanan, New York, has recently been the subject of intense debate.  On March 1, 2012, the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School hosted a forum on the future of Indian Point.  Paul Gallay of Hudson Riverkeeper and Ashok Gupta of Natural Resources Defense Council spoke in opposition to Indian Point.  Arthur "Jerry" Kremer of the Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York) and John Kelly, the former Director of Licensing at Indian Point, spoke in support of relicensing the plant.  Michael Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, moderated the panel discussion at the forum.  This Report reviews and analyzes the claims made during the forum, highlighting the conclusion that Indian Point presents serious risks that must be addressed before the plant is relicensed.

Advocating for Local Exhaustion: The Amicus Brief Submitted on Behalf of the U.K. and Australian Governments in Sarei v. Rio Tinto

28th March 2012 By: Elizabeth Sheargold

Rio Tinto in Bougainville

On October 25, 2011, the Ninth Circuit handed down the latest decision in the Sarei litigation.  The British and Australian governments jointly submitted an Amicus Brief, which focuses on whether local remedies in the state in which the alleged wrongs occurred must be exhausted before a U.S. court can exercise jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute.  This report argues that the position of the British and Australian governments has significant merit as a matter of international law and as a question of policy.

"Get the Frack Out of Town:" Preemption Challenges to Local Fracking Bans in New York

20th February 2012 By: Andrew Meyer

Anti-Fracking ProtestorsNatural gas leaseholders and industry have sued at least two municipalities, challenging recently enacted zoning ordinances that remove natural gas extraction as a permissible land use-in effect banning fracking within municipal borders.  State courts are now poised to decide whether localities in New York have the power to ban fracking locally, or if ordinances banning fracking are preempted by state law.  The question presented is whether the Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Law (OGSM) preempts a generally applicable zoning ordinance that bans natural gas extraction.  This Field Report discusses the factual and legal context in which this question arises, and argues that the OGSM does not preempt a general zoning ban on natural gas extraction.

Onwards and Upwards: Space Tourism's Climate Costs and Solutions

18th November 2011 By: Jon Krois

Objects in DpaceThe world continues to step into space, but the rise of a commercial space tourism industry threatens our planet's climate.  The most recent research suggests that even a conservative estimate of the number of rocket launches possible in the coming years and decades will drastically affect the earth's climate.  Neither space law nor current environmental law respond sufficiently to the environmental threat posed by the nacent space tourism industry.  This Field Report discusses the threat and the United States' opportunity to problem-solve at the industry's birth, before the damage is done.