Posts tagged as:

environment

Or so a California Court of Appeals “proudly announced …because it took only 20 years from a developer’s application to build a housing tract under existing zoning, to the court’s EIR [environmental impact review] approval.” [Gideon Kanner, citing Clover Valley Foundation v. City of Rocklin, 197 Cal. App.4th 200 (2011), as well as a September 2014 land use roundtable in California Lawyer]

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Not clear that anything has been learned from the green-washer fiasco: “Spurred by President Obama’s climate action plan, the Department of Energy is pumping out new standards for refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, lamps and many more appliances…. critics argue the push to regulate household appliances is evidence of a nanny state.” [The Hill]

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Disparate impact by way of location? “Four environmental groups announced a federal complaint Thursday alleging that North Carolina’s hog farms discriminate against ethnic minorities because the stench and pollution from the swine operations disproportionately affect African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans who live nearby.” [Raleigh News & Observer]

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I’ve expressed skepticism before about William Langewiesche’s 12,600-word 2007 article in Vanity Fair on the Chevron-Ecuador dispute, which took a line relentlessly sympathetic to the case of plaintiff’s lawyer Steven Donziger. (As readers of this site know, Donziger has spent the past few years fighting off allegations as to the means by which he obtained an $18 billion judgment against Chevron; one federal judge has found “clear and convincing evidence” that the judgment was “obtained by corrupt means.”) I’m also pretty familiar with the ways trial lawyers use journalists to go after the companies they’re suing, having written on that topic many times before.

Still, like many others, I was floored by Glenn Garvin’s new column in the Miami Herald based on emails introduced into evidence in the endless litigation. Even knowing how writers habitually butter up key sources, I wouldn’t have expected Langewiesche to assure Donziger that “You and I are now firmly on the same side” and that writing the article had been “particularly satisfying to the extent that it supports your efforts, and you personally.” Nor would I have expected Langewiesche to have sent Donziger a copy of his article weeks before it was published, or for Vanity Fair’s editors to have allowed him to do this on a highly contentious topic of public controversy, assuming they knew.

The emails go on and on, as Garvin summarizes them, depicting

Langewiesche as Donziger’s camp follower at the best of times, his sock-puppet at the worst.

The reporter asks Donziger to prepare lists of dozens of questions to be asked of Chevron. And he begs Donziger to help him prepare arguments about why there’s no need for him to do face-to-face interviews with Chevron officials, as they’ve requested, even though he spent days meeting with Donziger and his legal staff.

“I want to avoid a meeting, simply because I do NOT have the time. But I don’t want to go on record refusing a meeting,” writes Langewiesche. “Perhaps I could say that my travel schedule is intense . . . ” He not only submits his emails to Chevron for Donziger’s approval (“What say, Steve. I gotta send this tonight”) and even lets him rewrite them.

In short, Vanity Fair, which positions itself as the glossiest of high-toned journalistic outlets, got played like a cheap ukulele. And I didn’t know this either, which I’ll quote Garvin on, parentheses and all: “(Department of Extraordinary Coincidences: Donziger’s wife at the time worked in corporate communications at Condé Nast, the magazine’s publisher.)”

By coincidence, I’m part way through an advance copy of the interesting new book by Paul Barrett of Business Week on the Chevron-Donziger-Ecuador mess, titled Law of the Jungle. Not to give away anything, but it fills in many areas of background that were new to me about this incredible (still-in-progress, attempted) legal heist (links to Barrett’s earlier coverage here). There’s also a new mini-book by Michael Goldhaber entitled Crude Awakening: Chevron in Ecuador, unseen by me.

P.S. Bonus Vanity Fair connection: journalist Kurt Eichenwald, whose trial-lawyer-assisted role in the Texaco Tapes affair left such a bad impression, has for some time been ensconced as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

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Dan Hannan on the EU’s new vacuum cleaner mandate [Daily Mail]. More: Simon Lester, Cato.

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We’ve occasionally taken note that relators stepping forward under whistleblower laws are not always the public benefactors implied by the term whistleblower. Now here’s this from a suit that a former contractor filed, teaming up with well-connected environmental group Food and Water Watch [Bloomberg]:

“BP never misrepresented — much less knowingly distorted what it was doing,” U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes in Houston said today in a 10-page summary ruling, finding that the case was ultimately about “paperwork wrinkles” instead of engineering shortcuts.

Abbott and the environmentalists “have not blown a whistle,” he said. “They have blown their own horn.”

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on August 27, 2014

  • “Fine for killing birds” is susceptible of two meanings, you know [Coyote on energy production]
  • Lacey Act criminal provisions, of Gibson Guitar raid fame, owe much to influence of domestic forest products companies, and that’s just one of the links between crony capitalism and overcriminalization [Paul Larkin, Heritage]
  • Why California shut down its local redevelopment agencies, all 400+ of them [Shirley Svorny, Regulation]
  • “EPA’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Proposal: Coming Soon to a Back Yard Near You?” [Scott McFadin, WLF]
  • Taxpayers shell out handsomely to be sued under Endangered Species Act [Higgins]
  • “How Land Prices Obviate the Need for Euclidean Zoning” [Emily Washington]
  • Casting a skeptical eye on Vandana Shiva’s anti-GMO crusade [The New Yorker]

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“On the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the threat of $500 fines, the Southern California couple received a letter from their city threatening a $500 penalty for not watering their brown lawn.” [AP]

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on July 14, 2014

  • California resists idea of charging market-clearing rate for water — too much like economics — and instead encourages tattling on neighbors [New York Times, Coyote]
  • Academia smitten by notion of “climate reparations” [Peter Wood, Minding the Campus]
  • Costly market intervention: “Minnesota doubles down on nation’s top biodiesel law” [Watchdog]
  • Reusable grocery bags have their problems for sanitation and otherwise, but California contemplates banning the alternatives [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Steven Greenhut, Reason]
  • Coming: film about Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case [Nick Gillespie, Ilya Somin]
  • 45 years later: the famous 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga became a fable for its age [Jonathan Adler on the Cuyahoga]
  • Should beachfront owners have to open their land to all comers? [NY Times "Room for Debate"]
  • Plus: “EPA has no business garnishing wages without due process” [Examiner editorial, earlier]

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After intense political controversy in Louisiana, a controversial environmental suit is apparently on its way out. [KATC] Earlier here and here.

The feds’ insane war on antiques and musical instruments continues. “Orchestra spokesman Adèl Tossenberger said in an e-mail that the seized bows did not contain any ivory and the orchestra received a certificate from a Hungarian expert verifying this.” It is unclear why they had to pay a $525 fine anyway. A few days earlier, according to a German publication, “the Munich Philharmonic nearly cancelled three performances at Carnegie Hall in April after that orchestra’s string players could not produce CITES certificates for their bows.” [WQXR, The Violin Channel] Earlier on the old-ivory ban here, here, and here; on musical instruments here, here, and here.

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They wouldn’t show him the warrant because it was sealed [Bill Frezza, Forbes]:

While 30 men in SWAT attire dispatched from Homeland Security and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cart away about half a million dollars of wood and guitars, seven armed agents interrogate an employee without benefit of a lawyer. The next day [Gibson Guitar CEO Henry] Juszkiewicz receives a letter warning that he cannot touch any guitar left in the plant, under threat of being charged with a separate federal offense for each “violation,” punishable by a jail term.

Up until that point Gibson had not received so much as a postcard telling the company it might be doing something wrong….

Juszkiewicz alleges [federal prosecutors] were operating at the behest of lumber unions and environmental pressure groups seeking to kill the market for lumber imports. “This case was not about conservation,” he says. “It was basically protectionism.”

Earlier on the extraordinary Gibson case here.

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From a September New Yorker profile by writer Ryan Lizza of Tom Steyer, the billionaire political donor promoting environmental causes:

Steyer is, at first glance, an unlikely leader of the environmental movement. He is rangy and square-jawed, and he has exquisite establishmentarian credentials, to say nothing of a vast pile of money. He honed his raffish sense of humor at Phillips Exeter Academy, and went on to get degrees from Yale and Stanford business school. Before starting his own fund, he worked at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley….

This must represent the New Yorker editors’ special idiomatic use of the word “unlikely” to signify “clichéd, stereotypical, and exactly as you would expect.” William Tucker has written at more length about the subject.

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on May 21, 2014

  • Julie Gunlock, from her new book, on killer garden hoses [Free-Range Kids]
  • “EPA and the Army Corps’ ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Proposal: Will it Initiate Regulatory Overflow?” [Samuel Boxerman with Lisa Jones, WLF]
  • Federal rules governing land ownership on Indian reservations ensure waste and neglect [Chris Edwards, Cato]
  • “Zoning’s Racist Roots Still Bear Fruit” [A. Barton Hinkle]
  • Victor Fleischer: Pigouvian taxes on externalities beloved of economists, not so great as actionable policy [TaxProf]
  • So economically and so environmentally destructive, it’s got to be federal ethanol policy [Hinkle]
  • “Regulation Through Sham Litigation: The Sue and Settle Phenomenon” [Andrew Grossman for Heritage on a consent-decree pattern found in environmental regulation and far beyond; Josiah Neeley, The Federalist]
  • “A Poster Child for Overcriminalization: The History of the Lacey Act” [Jarrett Dieterle/Point of Law; earlier] “Strict Obama administration ivory ban infuriates musicians” [Bluegrass Nation/Daily Caller]
  • California business didn’t think nutty Prop 65 warning regime could get worse, Brown administration might prove them wrong [Michael Feeley et al., JD Supra]
  • “We’re definitely asking a judge to make a leap of faith here”: profile of Steven Wise, who files suits on behalf of chimps and other non-human “plaintiffs” [New York Times Magazine, earlier on Wise]
  • Quin Hillyer gives thumbs down to Louisiana coastal wetlands suit [Baton Rouge Advocate, earlier]
  • James Huffman on the public trust doctrine [Hoover]
  • John Steele Gordon on California drought [Commentary]
  • “It’s easier to engage and organize people around ‘fracking’ than a complicated list of practices.” [L.A. Business Journal]

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Under an environmentalist banner, the city of Los Angeles plans a scheme to wipe family-owned trash haulers and replace them with unionized monopoly providers [L.A. Times, Scott Shackford/Reason]

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on March 26, 2014

  • Oklahoma attorney general goes to court claiming private litigant manipulation of endangered/threatened species petition process [Lowell Rothschild & Kevin Ewing; NPR "State Impact"; Oklahoman, auto-plays ad video; press release, Oklahoma AG E. Scott Pruitt; ESA Watch site from oil riggers; more on the topic]
  • New Yorker mag backs tale of frogs/atrazine researcher who claims conspiracy. Someone’s gonna wind up embarrassed [Jon Entine]
  • Does gas company lease of subsurface rights entitle it to seek injunction excluding protesters from ground level? [Paul Alan Levy]
  • California: “Abusive Coastal Agency Demands Even More Power” [Steven Greenhut]
  • Mr. Harris, you embarrass: “recreational burning of wood is unethical and should be illegal” [Sam Harris from 2012]
  • Harrisburg Patriot-News series on flood insurance [TortsProf, R Street Institute on recent bill]
  • Kansas, Louisiana, and Indiana named top states on property rights freedoms [Mercatus]

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on March 12, 2014

  • Environmental advocates and their fans in the press come off badly in Chevron/Ecuador litigation scandal [Coyote, earlier]
  • Drought disaster unfolds in California’s Central Valley, where project water is allocated by fiat, not bid for in market [Allysia Finley, WSJ; San Jose Mercury-News]
  • Other large democracies resist the idea of packing environmental terms into trade treaties, and maybe they’re right [Simon Lester, Cato]
  • “A Tough Day in Court for the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations” [Andrew Grossman]
  • R.I.P. leading environmental law professor Joseph Sax [NYT, I discussed his work in Schools for Misrule]
  • Lawyers have hijacked Endangered Species Act [Congressional Working Group report via Washington Examiner editorial]
  • When science begins bringing extinct animals back to life, watch for unintended legal consequences [Tyler Cowen]