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Category Archives: Environmental Law

ProPublica, Satellites and The Shrinking Louisiana Coast

At the heart of the story is the fact that the Louisiana coastline loses land at a rate equivalent to a football field each hour. That comes to 16 square miles per year. The land south of New Orleans has always been low-lying, but since the Army Corps of Engineers built levees along the Mississippi after the huge 1927 floods, the delta has been losing ground. Previously, the river carried sediment down and deposited it to gradually build up dry land throughout the delta. The same levees that protect upstream communities also block that sediment from reaching the upstream river and floating down to become Louisiana coastline. Environmental researchers say that the energy industry’s canal-dredging and well-drilling have accelerated natural erosion. Together, the constricted river and the oil extraction have exacerbated the effect of sea level rises from climate change. The loss of ground endangers people: The dry land used to provide protection to New Orleans’ people and businesses, because when storms like Hurricane Katrina sweep in from the Gulf Coast, they lose power as they move from the water to land. It’s therefore crucial to have a wide buffer between the sea and the city. Now, with 2,000 fewer acres of protective land, the state will have to spend more money building tougher, higher walls, flood insurance will be more costly, infrastructure could break and the people inside those walls risk death and injury at much higher rates. If the land-loss isn’t slowed the costs will get higher.”

NOAA lists 20 coral species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act

News release: “NOAA announced [August 27, 2014 that] it will afford Endangered Species Act protections to 20 coral species. All 20 species will be listed as threatened, none as endangered. Fifteen of the newly listed species occur in the Indo-Pacific and five in the Caribbean. “Coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystemsContinue Reading

World Water Week Seeks Solutions to Water and Energy Challenges

World Bank: “Water is needed in almost all energy generation processes. At the same time, the water sector needs energy to extract, treat and transport water. These inextricable connections between water and energy – and how best to manage them for the benefit of the poor – will be the focus of this year’s WorldContinue Reading

Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future

CRS - Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future. Robert Meltz, Legislative Attorney. August 20, 2014. “This report surveys existing law for legal issues that have arisen, or may arise in the future, on account of climate change and government responses thereto.The reader interested in proposals for new laws to deal withContinue Reading

Rarest Native Animals Find Haven on Tribal Lands

Nate Schweber, New York Times: “More than 70 percent of tribal land in the Northern Plains is unplowed, compared with around 60 percent of private land, the World Wildlife Fund said. Around 90 million acres of unplowed grasses remain on the Northern Plains. Tribes on 14 reservations here saved about 10 percent of that 90Continue Reading

New GAO Reports – Federal Real Property, Regulatory Impact Analysis

FEDERAL REAL PROPERTY: GSA Should Better Target Its Use of Swap-Construct Exchanges, GAO-14-586. Published: Jul 24, 2014. Publicly Released: Aug 25, 2014: “The swap-construct approach can help GSA address the challenges of disposing of unneeded property and modernizing or replacing federal buildings, but various factors could affect future use of the approach. For example, swap-construct can require developersContinue Reading

Ozone-Depleting Compound Persists, NASA Research Shows

“NASA research shows Earth’s atmosphere contains an unexpectedly large amount of an ozone-depleting compound from an unknown source decades after the compound was banned worldwide. Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), which was once used in applications such as dry cleaning and as a fire-extinguishing agent, was regulated in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol along with other chlorofluorocarbons thatContinue Reading

NOAA analysis reveals significant land cover changes in U.S. coastal regions

“A new NOAA nationwide analysis shows that between 1996 and 2011, 64,975 square miles in coastal regions — can area larger than the state of Wisconsin — experienced changes in land cover, including a decline in wetlands and forest cover with development a major contributing factor. Overall, 8.2 percent of the nation’s ocean and Great LakesContinue Reading

Record decline of ice sheets: scientists map elevation changes of Greenlandic and Antarctic glaciers

News release: “Bremerhaven, 20th August 2014. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have for the first time extensively mapped Greenland’s and Antarctica’s ice sheets with the help of the ESA satellite CryoSat-2 and have thus been able to prove that the ice crusts of both regions momentarily declineContinue Reading

China’s Dirty Pollution Secret: The Boom Poisoned Its Soil and Crops

He Guangwei is a staff writer and investigative reporter with The Times Weekly, a national Chinese newspaper based in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Via Yale environment 360: “There are now signs that gravity of the soil pollution problem is belatedly forcing the Chinese government to begin to deal with a problem that has accumulated over many decades, and to reconsiderContinue Reading

The Next Generation of Trade and Environment Conflicts: The Rise of Green Industrial Policy

Wu, Mark and Salzman, James, The Next Generation of Trade and Environment Conflicts: The Rise of Green Industrial Policy (August 15, 2014). Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 108, No. 2, 2014. Available for download at SSRN:  http://ssrn.com/abstract=2481209 “A major shift is transforming the trade and environment field, triggered by governments’ rising use of industrial policiesContinue Reading

Flood Vulnerability Assessment

“Flood hazard information from FEMA has been combined with EIA’s energy infrastructure layers as a tool to help state, county, city, and private sector planners assess which key energy infrastructure assets are vulnerable to rising sea levels, storm surges, and flash flooding. Note that flood hazard layers must be zoomed-in to street level before theyContinue Reading