Posts tagged as:

environment

Saltwater incursion and wetlands loss associated with industrial use of coastal Louisiana have worsened the exposure of populated areas to flooding, according to official reports and scientific studies. Now a flood protection board representing much of the New Orleans area is suing energy companies demanding a contribution of “billions” of dollars, though its spokesman acknowledges that government actions were also responsible for weakening the natural environmental buffer. John Schwartz quotes me in his New York Times report today, though without the chance to study the suit’s contentions it was hard for me to make any more than the most preliminary observations.

P.S. More details emerge in an expanded version of the story as well as in a Thursday Washington Post report. The agency is suing “about 100″ energy companies. Canal construction and other actions taken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were important contributors to the environmental losses, but principles of sovereign immunity restrict suits against the Corps. Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said “that the levee agency had usurped his authority and that the suit would enrich trial lawyers” and demanded that the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority “cancel contracts with the four law firms that had agreed to handle the case on a contingency basis.”

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on July 22, 2013

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No food gathering is allowed in the Chicago-area Cook County Forest Preserve, and that extends to dandelions. A spokeswoman does not exactly argue that America is at risk of running out of the notoriously prolific wind-borne weed, but says foraging might take food away from animal or insect species that might otherwise eat the yellow-topped invaders, besides which “some native plants resemble dandelions and could be mistaken for them.” [ABA Journal]

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The Supreme Court had already ruled that disproportionate “exactions” levied on property owners in exchange for the right to develop are an unconstitutional taking if they consist of demands for land. Now, in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District, the Court confirms that the rule also applies to exactions of money and effort — in this case, a demand that a landowner develop a government property miles away from his own holdings. It also confirms that the principle applies to denials of permits as well as approvals. [Roger Pilon, Tejinder Singh/SCOTUSBlog, Ilya Somin, Damon Root/Reason] Background: Cato brief and summary, Timothy Sandefur and Ilya Shapiro. More: Richard Epstein, Gideon Kanner, Randal O’Toole, Rick Hills, Ilya Somin.

Illinois isn’t exactly a state known as hospitable to liability reform, but here’s this: “The Illinois House and Senate recently passed SB1042, a bill that protects property owners from liability if they allow the public on their land to hike, fish, watch birds or participate in other forms of outdoors recreation. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.” [State Journal-Register]

More, via Free-Range Kids, a surprisingly good insurance-company ad, from Allstate:

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on June 13, 2013

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Both houses of the legislature in Connecticut have approved legislation aimed at requiring the labeling of (near-ubiquitous) foodstuffs with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. The Senate’s version includes an “all jump off together” clause preventing it from going into effect until at least four states have joined in on the idea, which must cumulatively have a population of at least 20 million, and must include at least one state adjacent to Connecticut. [Greenwich Time, Ron Bailey, related ("food companies should just go ahead and slap labels on everything they sell reporting: 'This product may contain ingredients derived from safe modern biotechnology.'")] Earlier here (NY Times is surprisingly sensible on subject), here, here, here, etc.

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Esther Wrightman, who opposes the construction of wind turbines near her Ontario home, made some YouTube videos taking a dim view of NextEra, a leading wind-power company. Now the company is suing her, alleging among other things that she infringed on its intellectual property rights by publishing satirical altered versions of its logo. [Ezra Levant, Sun; Bayshore Broadcasting]

“Air quality regulators, citing pollution and health risks, have proposed removing more than 800 fire pits that dot the coastline of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.” [Ian Lovett, New York Times]

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…2. The new front-loading washers turn out to have novel maintenance issues. In particular, they may develop musty smells unless owners practice some combination of leaving doors open to vent, wiping down surfaces, and other steps. Some consumers are irritated at this and regret the purchase, others not.

3. Trial lawyers sue all the major makers in class actions saying the new designs are defective, even though Consumer Reports rates the new category of washer “best in class” despite its drawbacks.

4. One of these class actions lands before Judge Posner at the Seventh Circuit, and he rules for letting it go forward on a theory of “predominance” (do these plaintiffs all belong in the same suit, when many are experiencing no problem at all?) that varies interestingly from what people assumed the Supreme Court’s thinking was on that subject.

5. The U.S. Supreme Court decides (coming up momentarily) whether to grant certiorari in Sears v. Butler.

There isn’t actually a strong logical chain linking 1) through 5); it’s kind of happenstance that the case threw up an issue involving predominance that the Supreme Court might find worth its attention, as opposed to merely presenting an overall profile of “hasn’t the whole system just become a crazy way to enrich lawyers?” Because “hasn’t the whole system just become a crazy way to enrich lawyers?” doesn’t count as a well-formed question for certiorari. [Ted Frank, more, Daniel Fisher] (& cross-posted, adapted, at Cato at Liberty) Update: Court vacates and remands in light of Comcast.) (& thanks to Marissa Miller, SCOTUSBlog, for roundup link)

Land use regulations “seem to be the bane of their existence.” Shouldn’t they perhaps draw a wider lesson? [Prof. Bainbridge]

P.S. “Also their bane includes the estate tax and attempts in DC to repeal LIFO accounting” [@sggunase]

Back to the gravel walk? A new environmental program pressures populous Maryland counties to levy assessments on property owners based on their square footage of impervious surfaces such as roofs, patios or driveways that prevent rainwater from sinking into the soil [Blair Lee, Gazette; Maryland Reporter; Frederick News-Post; Anne Arundel County]

P.S. While some of the Maryland commentary has treated the idea as new and experimental, thanks to commenters for pointing out that it’s already a familiar part of the scene elsewhere.

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One of Lenore Skenazy’s readers, a kindergarten teacher in Wisconsin, says the list of things not allowed in the classroom without a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) at her school includes dish soap and baby wipes [Free-Range Kids; MSDS for dish soap from lakeland.edu and for baby wipes from schoolhealth.com]

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on March 26, 2013

  • Doughnut oil and the environment: NYT misses a story of unintended consequences [Ira Stoll, SmarterTimes]
  • N.C.: “Guy Who Runs Wilderness Camp Told to Install Sprinklers, Use County Approved Lumber” [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
  • “With Proposed Policy Change, EPA Fully Embraces Role of ‘Environmental Justice’ Advocate” [Cory Andrews, WLF]
  • “While the taxes… are irritating, what has really killed my interest in expanding in California is the regulatory burden.” [Coyote on SLOLeaks blog; another California Coastal Commission horror story]
  • Natural crop breeding = safe, biotech-assisted breeding = unsafe? Tale of the toxic potato teaches otherwise [Maggie Koerth-Baker, BoingBoing] (broken link fixed now)
  • Peak Oil? Welcome instead to Trough Oil, as titanic new fossil fuel supplies begin coming online [Andrew Sullivan]
  • Deregulation of accessory dwellings is a reform both free-marketeers and New Urbanists in search of density can get behind [David Alpert, Greater Greater Washington]

OMG NYT OKs GMOs

by Walter Olson on March 25, 2013

“[T]here is no reliable evidence that genetically modified foods now on the market pose any risk to consumers,” says an editorial in, of all places, the New York Times. ["Why Label Genetically Engineered Food?"]

And while on the subject of publications outperforming expectations, Slate features a sober look at “cancer clusters,” with George Johnson reviewing a new book on the Toms River, N.J. episode.

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on March 20, 2013

  • Legislature won’t pass dram shop liability, lawyers ask Maryland high court to do so instead [Frederick News-Post]
  • In St. Mary’s County, new visitor rules for elementary schools ban hugging or giving homemade food to any but own kid [Southern Maryland News]
  • Progress: Maryland Senate votes to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana [NBC Washington]
  • If it’ll take $1 million for Somerset County (pop. 26,000) to cut stormwater nitrogen runoff by 145 pounds, how’s it going to manage to cut 37,000 pounds? [AP]
  • “Fracking Moratorium Falls One Vote Short of Passing Key Senate Committee” [Chestertown Spy] “Bill was more about preventing fracking than studying it.” [@ToddEberly]
  • Department of Truly Dreadful Ideas: Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery) continues to push bill to establish state-owned bank [Baltimore Business Journal]
  • Website attacking Montgomery County’s Valerie Ervin has some union fingerprints [WaPo] Sen. Brinkley blasts union bill to make all Md. teachers pay agency fees [Maryland Reporter]
  • Video interview with Hudson attorney George Ritchie on Waterkeeper v. Hudson Farm case [Center Maryland, earlier]
  • Added: “Md. Senate votes to outlaw smoking in cars with young children as passengers” [WaPo just now]

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A highly placed Democrat in Sacramento is acknowledging the problems with the state’s environmental-review law, which empowers complainants to stop, slow down or drive up the cost of new development projects. Among those who’ve learned to turn CEQA to their own uses: NIMBY-minded neighbors, business competitors seeking to hobble rivals, and unions looking for a shakedown tool. [Los Angeles Times]

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on March 1, 2013

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