Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pace Environmental Notes -- March 2009

The latest issue is Pace Environmental Notes (PEN) is now available. PEN provides citations to the latest literature on environmental law, energy and land use, including recent library acquisitions, law review articles, legislation, and other scholarly papers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Improved management Controls Can Enhance Effectiveness of Key Conservation Programs

This Government Accoutability Office Report (GAO-09-528T), dated March 25, 2009, finds that the USDA does not have adequate management controls in place to verify that farm program payments, including those for conservation programs, are made only to individuals who do not exceed income eligibility caps. As a result, USDA cannot be assured that millions of dollars in farm payments are proper. GAO found that $49.4 million in farm payments were made to about 2,700 potentially ineligible individuals between fiscal years 2003 and 2006. About 6 percent of this amount was for EQIP payments; 29 percent was for the Conservation Reserve Program, a program that pays farmers to retire environmentally-sensitive cropland.

The need for management controls will remain critical, since recent legislation lowered the income eligibility caps and makes the number of individuals whose income exceeds these caps likely to rise. In March 2009, USDA announced that it has begun working with IRS to ensure that high-income individuals and entities who request farm payments meet income limits as set forth in law, and that once this verification system is fully operational, it should identify inappropriate payments before they are disbursed. As GAO has previously reported, ensuring the integrity and equity of farm programs is a key area needing enhanced congressional oversight. Such oversight can help ensure that conservation programs benefit the agricultural sector as intended and protect rural areas from land degradation, diminished water and air quality, and loss of wildlife habitat.

Federal Land Management: Additional Documentation of Agency Experiences with Good Neighbor Authority Could Enhance Its Future Use

This Government Accountabiliyt Office Report (GAO-09-277), dated February 2009, reviews Fifty-three projects conducted under Good Neighbor authority through fiscal year 2008, including 38 in Colorado and 15 in Utah, with most of the projects (44 of 53) conducted on U.S. Forest Service land. These projects included hazardous fuel reduction on about 2,700 acres of national forest and about 100 acres of BLM land, mostly in Colorado, and the repair of firedamaged trails and watershed protection and restoration in Utah. Together, the two agencies spent about $1.4 million on these projects, split almost evenly between the two states. Although most projects involved contracting for services such as fuel reduction, some projects involved timber sales in which contractors purchased timber resulting from their fuel reduction activities. These timber sales occurred only in Colorado and totaled about

Federal and state officials who have used Good Neighbor authority cited project efficiencies and enhanced federal-state cooperation as its key benefits. For example, the agencies cited their ability to improve the effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments in areas that include federal, state, and private ownership. Federal and state agencies have also encountered challenges such as a lack of understanding of the authority and complicated processes for approving Good Neighbor agreements. Agency officials and others also noted several factors to consider when conducting future Good Neighbor projects, whether in Colorado, Utah, or other states that may be granted the authority—including the type of projects to be conducted and the type of land to be treated. While the agencies are not required to document their
experiences in using the authority, officials contemplating future use of the authority could benefit from such documentation—including information on successes, challenges, and lessons learned to date.
This Report from the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General (Report Report No. 09-P-0125), dated March 23, 2009, finds that while EPA has issued air emissions regulations for most port sources, EPA’s actions to address air emissions from large oceangoing vessels in U.S. ports have not yet achieved the goals for protecting human health.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) provides EPA with the authority to regulate emissions from oceangoing vessel engines when these emissions cause significant harm to human health. For over 14 years, EPA has acknowledged that human health has been significantly harmed by emissions from these sources. Thus far, EPA has only regulated nitrogen oxides emissions from U.S.-flagged vessels. EPA has chosen to defer taking a position on whether it has authority to regulate emissions from foreign-flagged vessels, although these vessels account for about 90 percent of all U.S. port calls. However, after many years, EPA’s efforts with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have the potential to significantly reduce these emissions. In October 2008 the IMO adopted new international standards for oceangoing vessel engines and fuels. Still, EPA must work to establish Emissions Control Areas for U.S. ports if significant emissions reductions are to be realized from oceangoing vessels.

Climate Change: Observations on Federal Efforts to Adapt to a Changing Climate

This Government Accountability Office report (GAO-09-534T), dated March 29, 2009, provides observations on federal efforts to adapt to a changing climate. Changes in the earth’s climate attributable to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases may have significant environmental and economic impacts in the United States and

Among other potential impacts, experts agree that climate change could threaten coastal areas with rising sea levels, alter agricultural productivity, and increase the intensity and frequency of floods and tropical storms. Federal, state, and local agencies are tasked with a wide array of responsibilities, such as managing natural resources, that will be affected by a changing climate. Furthermore, climate change
has implications for the fiscal health of the federal government, affecting federal crop and flood insurance programs, and placing new stresses on infrastructure. The effects of increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and temperature on ecosystems and economic growth are expected to vary across regions, countries, and economic sectors

Summit on America's Climate Choices

The National Academies is hosting a Summit on America's Climate Choices on March 30 and 31, 2009, to develop the groundwork for a national response to climate change. America's Climate Choices is a congressionally requested suite of studies that will produce five expert consensus reports to be released in late 2009 and 2010.

•Watch the LIVE Web cast. Video and audio from the summit will be broadcast through the America's Climate Choices web site on March 30th and 31st, and will be archived on the site.
•Join the Summit on America's Climate Choices group on Facebook.
•Sign up for America's Climate Choices e-Update to get news about the America's Climate Choices suite of studies.
•Submit your input on the questions and content to be considered by the America's Climate Choices committee and panels.

Monday, March 23, 2009

World's Major Rivers: An Introduction to International Water Law With Case Studies

This book by the Colorado River Commission, dated November 2008, collects the laws and river governance of these rivers and reviews major international treaties and agreements, as well as the law of water allocation among nations and the principles of international environmental law and international dispute resolution.

Laws of the Rivers: The Legal Regimes of Major Interstate River Systems in the United States

This book by the Colorado River Commission, dated Octeber 2006, contains a detailed collection of information about the laws and physical infrastructure of 14 interstate river systems.

Friday, March 20, 2009

High Speed Passenger Rail: Future Development Will Depend on Addressing Financial and Other Challenges and Establishing a Clear Federal Role

This Government Accountability Office Report (GAO-09-317) dated March 2009 examines several proposed high speed rail routes and analyzes problems that may hinder implementation of the program.

Factors affecting the economic viability of high speed rail lines include the
level of expected riders, costs, and public benefits (i.e., benefits to non-riders
and the nation as a whole from such things as reduced congestion), which are
influenced by a line’s corridor and service characteristics. High speed rail
tends to attract riders in dense, highly populated corridors, especially where
there is congestion on existing transportation modes. While some U.S. corridors have
characteristics that suggest economic viability, uncertainty associated with
rider and cost estimates and the valuation of public benefits makes it difficult
to make such determinations on individual proposals. Research on rider and
cost forecasts has shown they are often optimistic, and the extent that U.S.
sponsors quantify and value public benefits varies.

Creating and Implementing Great Green Regulations

This ABA teleconference seminar is designed for state and local representatives looking to craft successful green regulatory schemes and representatives of the regulated community who are or will be subject to new green building laws.

Date: Thursday, April 2, 2009
Format: Teleconference and Live Audio Webcast
Duration: 90 minutes

$90 Section of State and Local Government Law Members
$130 ABA Members
$150 General Public
$60 Each additional registrant using the same phone line

Condemnation Hot Topics CLE

This ABA teleconference will examine new and important condemnation cases and trends, and also review eminent domain as a backdrop for land use regulation.

Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Format: Teleconference and Live Audio Webcast
Duration: 90 minutes

$90 Section of State and Local Government Law Members
$130 ABA Members
$150 General Public
$60 Each additional registrant using the same phone line

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Geothermal Heat Pump Manufacturing Activities 2007

This Report by the Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration finds that for the past four years, the U.S. Geothermal Heat Pump (GHP) industry has seen double digit growth each year, fueled in part by the soaring energy prices for traditional fuels as well as the desire for reliable and clean energy alternatives. In 2007, total geothermal heat pump shipments surged 36 percent to 86,396 units, while capacity shipped rose 19 percent to 291,300 tons.

While 2007 capacity growth was substantial, it was below growth in 2006, which was 53 percent. Total rated capacity of geothermal heat pumps shipped in 2006 was 245,603 tons, compared to 160,402 tons in 2005 (Table 4.2 and Figure 4.1). Despite costing more initially than traditional heating and cooling systems, the high efficiency and ongoing cost-saving potential of GHP has resulted in GHP becoming the heating and cooling system of choice for many consumers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments Harper's Ferry National Historical Park

This Report by the National Parks Conservation Association describes the historical importance of the site and modern threats to its existance.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has been the site of a number of historical events. It was a point of supply for Meriwether Lewis’s Corps of Discovery, the site of John Brown’s abolitionist raid in 1859, a key Civil War battlefield, and the meeting place for the Niagara Movement, a 1906 gathering of civil rights leaders. Its position at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers not only set the stage for such historical events but also makes the park a haven for rare native plants.

According to an assessment by the Center for State of the Parks, cultural resources at the park are in “good” condition, although the park needs adequate on-site museum collection storage space, archaeological surveys, cultural landscape documentation, and historic resource studies. The park also faces an overall lack of funding and staff to care for cultural resources.

In that same assessment, natural resources rated a “fair” score of 75 out of 100. Of primary concern is incompatible development around the park boundaries that impacts the local ecosystem and affects the park staff’s ability to interpret historic events for visitors. Non-native invasive plant species are also a concern.

Recent projects have improved services for the park’s 250,000 annual visitors. These include new trails and wayside exhibits, as well as restoration of the historic Baltimore and Ohio Harpers Ferry Train Station

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): Problems in the Past, Potential for the Future

This Report by the Majority Staff of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology U.S. House of Representatives
to Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller dated March 10, 2009 finds that Protecting the public’s health from potential exposures to toxic substances is not an easy task. It can be scientifically challenging, time consuming and resource intensive. The Subcommittee staff suggests that legislative fixes may be necessary to address longstanding structural, procedural and technical issues that appear to have hampered
ATSDR’s effectiveness and harmed the communities it is supposed to protect.

ACToR: Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource

ACToR (Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource) is a collection of databases collated or developed by the US EPA National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT). More than 200 sources of publicly available data on environmental chemicals have been brought together and made searchable by chemical name and other identifiers, and by chemical structure. Data includes chemical structure, physico-chemical values, in vitro assay data and in vivo toxicology data. Chemicals include, but are not limited to, high and medium production volume industrial chemicals, pesticides (active and inert ingredients), and potential ground and drinking water contaminants.