Posts tagged as:

environment

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In exchange for relief from a state-mandated stormwater remediation fee, and direct government subsidies to pay for property improvements intended to reduce runoff, some churches in Prince George’s County, Maryland have made an unusual commitment to the authorities. I explain, and raise questions, at Free State Notes. Since when does government get the power to cut churches tax breaks in exchange for their agreement to preach an approved line? (& Bader, CEI)

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on November 11, 2014

  • In Utah prairie dog case, federal judge finds Endangered Species Act regulation of intra-state property impacts exceeds scope of enumerated federal powers [Jonathan Adler, Evan Bernick, Jonathan Wood/PLF] Certiorari petition on whether economic considerations should enter into ESA measures on behalf of delta smelt in California [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
  • “While Smart Growth as a whole is maligned by some advocates of the free market, many Smart Growth tenets are actually deregulatory.” [Emily Washington, Market Urbanism; related, obnoxious-yet-informative Grist]
  • Economic logic should be enough to halt suburban Maryland Purple Line, but if not, says Chevy Chase, hey, let’s find a shrimp [Washington Post; Diana Furchtgott-Roth on economics of Purple Line]
  • SCOTUS should review Florida-dock case in which lower courts held property rights not “fundamental” for scrutiny purposes [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
  • “The Problem of Water” [Gary Libecap, Cato Regulation]
  • Paul Krugman and others hyped the rare earth crisis. Whatever happened to it? [Alex Tabarrok]
  • Louisiana judge strikes down state law prohibiting levee boards’ erosion/subsidence suit against oil companies, appeal likely [New Orleans Times-Picayune]

A bad idea still isn’t catching on with voters, although those on the island of Maui approved an agricultural GMO moratorium, supposedly temporary. [NPR, earlier]

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on October 8, 2014

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News reporters, nature lovers, scientists and Western lawmakers are in an uproar over the Forest Service’s plans to finalize a ban on taking photographs in federally designated wilderness areas without permission of the service. A spokeswoman “said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.. … ‘We have to follow the statutory requirements.'” [Oregonian, Coyote and followup, ABA Journal]

Update: Service backs down, at least to the extent of acknowledging that it needs to clarify the scope of the ban.

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Piano keys descending

by Walter Olson on September 24, 2014

Further reading on the federal regulations forcing destruction of ivory keys when old pianos are sold across state lines [Sally Phillips, Piano World, Piano Buyer (Sen. Alexander, Rep. Daines introduce relief bills), Doug Bandow, Cato, earlier here (violin bows), here, etc.] Miscellaneous on ivory and antiques: John Leydon/WSJ (“Grandma’s Cameo Becomes Yard Sale Contraband,” related here (raid on auction by “heavily-armed” California agents) and here.

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Via p.r. agent Karen Hinton, William Langewiesche has now responded in our comments section (as well as elsewhere) to Glenn Garvin’s critical Miami Herald column (linked here) regarding Langewiesche’s 2007 Vanity Fair piece on the Chevron-Ecuador litigation. Garvin has in turn contributed a rejoinder.

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.

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.”

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]

“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.