Posts tagged as:

environment

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]

{ 1 comment }

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]

{ 6 comments }

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]

Last month Charleston, W.V. suffered one of the worst American environmental calamities in years when coal-scrubbing chemicals burst from a tank farm and into its water supply, which had to be shut down for several days. So, you ask, given a great big injury for which it’s extremely likely that someone bears legal responsibility, how’s the litigation system helping out? Well, the operator of the tank farm having almost immediately declared bankruptcy in anticipation of massive legal claims, the net is naturally being cast wide for other defendants to sue, with some suits, for example, naming the water company as sole defendant.

According to Derek Lowe (crediting ChemJobber), one law firm’s suit drops the ball on identifying the exact chemical nature of the contaminant 4-MCHM, or (4-methylcyclohexane)methanol:

The court filing, by the law firm of Thompson and Barney, says explicitly:

30. The combination chemical 4-MCHM is artificially created by combining methylclyclohexane (sic) with methanol.

31. Two component parts of 4-MCHM are methylcyclohexane and methanol which are both known dangerous and toxic chemicals that can cause latent dread disease such as cancer.

Sure thing, guys, just like the two component parts of dogwood trees are dogs and wood.

Lowe also accuses an expert hired by the same law firm of “irresponsible fear-mongering” for encouraging alarm about a finding of just over 30 nanograms per milliliter of formaldehyde in the Charleston water, not a high level by many standards.

{ 9 comments }

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on January 31, 2014

  • Behind costly EPA crackdown on wood-burning stoves, a whiff of sweetheart lawsuits? [Larry Bell]
  • Reminder: California’s Prop 65 doesn’t actually improve public health, makes lawyers rich, and harasses business [Michael Marlow, WSJ]
  • “What I learned from six months of GMO research: None of it matters” [Nathanael Johnson, Grist]
  • Eminent domain threatens store owner in Fire Island’s Saltaire [NYP]
  • In case you haven’t seen this one: chemical content of all-natural foods [James Kennedy Monash]
  • “The court ordered that the county pay the turtles’ attorneys fees.” [Dan Lewis, Now I Know]
  • “On the government’s books, the switch [from steel to aluminum in Ford's new F-150 pickup] is a winner because MPG goes up.” [William Baldwin, Forbes]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on January 8, 2014

  • “A Milestone to Celebrate: I Have Closed All My Businesses in Ventura County, California” [Coyote, earlier]
  • “Louisiana Judge Ends Katrina Flooding Lawsuits Against Feds” [AP/Insurance Journal]
  • “Some shoppers who reuse plastic bags to dispose of animal waste will miss them” [L.A. Times via Alkon]
  • Alameda County, Calif. conscripts out-of-state drugmakers into product disposal program: public choice problem, constitutionality problem or both? [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
  • “Connecticut, Drunk on Power, Uses Bottle Bill to Steal Money” [Ilya Shapiro]
  • “If successful, the New York lawsuits would extend the scope of the [habeas corpus] writ to an undefined array of nonhuman creatures.” [Jim Huffman, Daily Caller]
  • Clean Water Act citizen suits never intended to be race to courthouse between officialdom, bounty hunters [Lammi, WLF on Eleventh Circuit ruling]
  • Let’s stop measuring congestion, it just makes our environmental plans look bad [Randal O'Toole, David Henderson on California policy]

The disappearance of the cheap, popular incandescent bulb “has become a fitting symbol for the collusion of big business and big government…. the market didn’t kill the traditional [low-profit-margin] light bulb. Government did it, at the request of big business.” [Tim Carney]

{ 5 comments }

Great moments in NIMBY-ism

by Walter Olson on December 28, 2013

A group in Iceland has sued to block construction of highway arguing (among other things) that it would disturb the ancient elves or “hidden folk” of the Icelandic countryside. “The group also claims the area the new highway would run through is of particular importance because it contains an elf church. A 2007 survey by the University of Iceland found that while only 8 percent of the population believe in elves, 54 percent would not actually deny their existence.” [PBS]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on December 4, 2013

“There’s plenty of money. The problem is interminable environmental review.” That’s Philip K. Howard in the Wall Street Journal [summarized here; related Common Good forum with Regional Plan Association] Excerpt:

Canada requires full environmental review, with state and local input, but it has recently put a maximum of two years on major projects. Germany allocates decision-making authority to a particular state or federal agency: Getting approval for a large electrical platform in the North Sea, built this year, took 20 months; approval for the City Tunnel in Leipzig, scheduled to open next year, took 18 months. Neither country waits for years for a final decision to emerge out of endless red tape.

{ 10 comments }

Following through on earlier rumblings, New York City’s mayor proposes a citywide ban on Styrofoam cups and plates [New York Post, earlier, Baltimore, suburban Boston]

{ 5 comments }

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2013

{ 1 comment }

“A new analysis from the Brookings Institution’s Ted Gayer and Emily Parker found that the program was fairly inefficient as economic stimulus and mostly pulled forward auto sales that would have happened anyway. It also cut greenhouse-gas emissions a bit — the equivalent of taking up to 5 million cars off the road for a year — but at a steep cost. … ‘In the event of a future economic recession,’ they conclude, ‘we would not recommend repeating the [Cash for Clunkers] program.’” [Brad Plumer, Washington Post; earlier]

{ 5 comments }

A chance for left-right policy alliance might have been missed here ["David Hume," Secular Right; Coyote]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on October 11, 2013

Ronald Coase, 1910-2013

by Walter Olson on September 3, 2013

The immensely influential scholar and winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Economics was 102 years of age and a productive scholar to the end. An excellent short introduction to Coase’s work is found in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, edited by David Henderson.

Coase’s famous, seminal article The Problem of Social Cost, while the most widely cited in the law and economics canon, is also persistently misunderstood and misrepresented by both friends and foes, as Robert Ellickson shows devastatingly in this essay (h/t Jonathan Adler). Many, even most popular attempts to formulate the “Coase Theorem” veer far from what Coase intended and sometimes into the reverse, above all when they idealize the power of negotiation to overcome the problems of externalities in a highly fictional world that assumes away transactions costs.

As Coase himself pointed out: “The world of zero transactions costs has often been described as a Coasian world. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the world of modern economic theory, one which I was hoping to persuade economists to leave.” Precisely because across a wide range of circumstances the transactions costs of negotiation are too high to permit reallocations of rights between parties, some initial assignments of liability or property rights do impair real output compared with others.

The University of Chicago’s well-meaning notice, I fear, is among those that misstate the Coase Theorem. “Coase believed the incentives of private parties to resolve disputes in their own best interests, even if there needs to be adjudication by courts, should result in an efficient, mutually beneficial solution that is always preferable to government intervention.” (No, that’s not at all what he wrote, even if one succeeds in disentangling the court adjudication from the “government intervention.”) Likewise Bloomberg: “Holding the [polluting] company liable and ordering it to pay money to an affected property holder is less likely to yield an optimal result than having the parties negotiate, he wrote.” (No, that’s not it at all either. At most, his theory implies that the optimal liability rule is fact-contingent and should not invariably be assumed to be the one that makes the smokestack owner pay)

I also have a notion that Coase’s other greatest paper, “The Nature of the Firm” made a huge difference in the real business world in ways that have not been fully reckoned. In that era and on until some time after World War Two, it was widely imagined that the telos of a firm was just to grow and grow without limit, which meant one saw elaborate attempts at vertical integration such as Henry Ford trying to grow rubber trees for tire supply, and antitrust authorities could imagine themselves the only obstacle to the eventual agglomeration of the whole economy into a small number of firms. By the time Coase’s insights had been absorbed, executives had come to see the logic of outsourcing, no one expected the hundred largest firms to account for a higher share of employment or sales or profits each year than last, and antitrust mania went into remission, at least temporarily.

More from Stephen Bainbridge, Lynne Kiesling, Don Boudreaux, David Henderson (a Coase contra Friedman anecdote), Kevin Bryan, David Friedman, Coase interview with Tom Hazlett excerpt via Geoffrey Manne, and Jonathan Adler with much more on what Coase actually thought about the correction of putative externalities. Don’t miss Richard Epstein’s reminiscences, either. [and cross-posted with some additional links at Cato at Liberty]

{ 3 comments }

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on August 23, 2013

  • California officials profess surprise: fracking’s been going on for decades in their state [Coyote]
  • Taxpayers fund Long Island Soundkeeper enviro group, affiliated with RFK Jr.’s Waterkeeper network, and a Connecticut state lawmaker does rather nicely out of that [Raising Hale]
  • Backgrounder on Louisiana coastal erosion suit [New Orleans Times-Picayune] “Lawsuit Blaming Oil Companies For Wetland Loss Might As Well Blame The Plaintiffs” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • US ties for worst of 25 countries when it comes to delay in mining permits [Sharon Koss, NTU] “Number One in DataMining” [@sonodoc99]
  • “BP Is Rapidly Becoming One Giant Law Firm” [Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week]
  • “Mann v. Steyn — Mann wins round one” [Adler]
  • An insider’s view of EPA and how it uses power [Brent Fewell]

Using outdoor recreation as a jumping-off point, Warren Meyer compares construction that genuinely conserves inputs over the long term with the sorts of fussy, maintenance-intensive designs that tend to win architectural sustainability awards, “which generally means they save money on one input at the expense of increasing many others. … I briefly operated a campground that had a rainwater recovery system on the bathrooms, which required about 5 hours of labor each week to keep clean and running to save about a dollar of water costs.”

{ 5 comments }