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Weekly Update Volume 34, Issue 6

02/23/2004

LITIGATION

Note: The cases listed are available from the ELR Document Service.

CERCLA, STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS, REMEDIAL ACTION COSTS:

The Ninth Circuit held that the limitations period for bringing a suit for recovery of remedial action costs under CERCLA does not accrue until after the final adoption of the remedial plan. The case arose after the state of California filed suit against a chemical company under CERCLA §107. The company argued that California's suit was barred by the statute of limitations. Specifically, it maintained that the statute of limitations began to run in April 1994 when it started excavating the extraction wells at the site. CERCLA §113(g)(2) provides that the "initiation of physical on-site construction of the remedial action" triggers the statute of limitations. The plain meaning of the definition of "remedial," read together with the statute of limitations in §113(g)(2) and the use of that same term in the rest of the statute, supports the conclusion that "the initiation of physical on-site construction of the remedial action" can only occur after the final remedial action plan is adopted. This conclusion is consistent with the results reached by every court of appeals that has considered the onset of the limitations period for recovery of remedial action costs under CERCLA, if not with all the reasoning of those cases. Therefore, the statute of limitations in this case could not have begun to run until the final remedial action was approved on May 8, 1995. Because the state's suit was brought within six years of the approval of the remedial action plan, it was not barred by the statute of limitations. In addition, the district court correctly held that the company could not raise equitable defenses to liability under CERCLA. Nor did the district court err in finding the company responsible for all of the state's response costs. The company failed to show that the response costs were inconsistent with the NCP.California v. Neville Chemical Co., No. 02-56506 (9th Cir. Feb. 10, 2004) (22 pp.).

CERCLA, CONTRIBUTION COSTS:

The Ninth Circuit held that oil companies were properly found to have arranged, during the early years of World War II, for the disposal of acid sludge on land now owned by a development corporation. Because the nonpolluting corporation knew about the sludge when it bought the land, it was not an innocent landowner under CERCLA but a PRP and thus only entitled to seek contribution from the oil companies, not complete cleanup cost recovery. The district court's findings of fact that the oil companies arranged for waste disposal is not clearly erroneous since a reasonable jurist might have gone either way as to the preponderance of evidence. The court, however, vacated and remanded the case for equitable allocation of the corporation's costs. The district court imposed 100% of the corporation's costs on the oil companies, jointly and severally, on the theory that the corporation was a nonpolluting innocent landowner. A nonpolluting PRP landowner, however, may not sue under §107(a) for full recovery, jointly and severally, without regard to the limitations of §113. Because the district court's judgment did not use equitable factors as required by §113(f)(1) in determining the respective liability of each PRP, including the corporation, and because it imposed joint as well as several liability for the amount due, that portion of the decision was vacated and remanded. Also on remand, the district court may, if it determines it appropriate, consider whether any delay by the corporation (or its predecessors in title) in bringing suit was unreasonable and, if so, whether the delay prejudiced the oil companies' ability to defend themselves and, if so, to what extent.Western Properties Service Corp. v. Shell Oil Co., No. 01-55676 (9th Cir. Feb. 13, 2004) (25 pp.).

LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE, DISPOSAL:

The Eighth Circuit upheld a district court decision awarding a $151 million judgment against the state of Nebraska for failing to carry out its licensing obligations under the Central Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact in good faith. The Compact was created and entered into by five member states and was enacted into law by Congress in order to "promote the development of regional low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities." The Compact members agreed to build a disposal facility in Nebraska despite its objections. After a lengthy licensing process, Nebraska denied the application and this suit followed. The district court did not err in striking Nebraska's demand for a jury trial because the action is not analogous to one tried at law in the English courts of the 18th century. Further, the district court did not err in finding that Nebraska breached its good faith obligation under the Compact. The evidence shows that Nebraska was prepared to do whatever was necessary to avoid hosting a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility--even if that meant ignoring its own consultants and denying the license on pretextual grounds. In addition, given the voluminous record of Nebraska's bad faith and antagonism to the disposal facility ever since the state was chosen for the site, the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding monetary relief when injunctive relief was no longer feasible. Nor did the district court err in its awards of damages and interest under the circumstances of this case. Entergy Arkansas, Inc. v. Nebraska, No. 02-3747 (8th Cir. Feb. 18, 2004) (45 pp.).

WATER LAW, SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY, CONTRACTS:

The Ninth Circuit held that sovereign immunity bars individual landowners and water users of a water district in California from suing for alleged violations of a water delivery contract between the United States and the district. The case arose after the Bureau of Reclamation reduced the district's allocation of water for 1993 to 50% of its contractual supply. The Bureau made this reduction pursuant to the ESA, which required federal agencies to avoid jeopardizing threatened species, and pursuant to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which sought to protect the requirements of fish and wildlife in the use of Central Valley Project water. The landowners' and water users' claims are barred by sovereign immunity. They do not qualify for the waiver of sovereign immunity under the McCarran Amendment because the McCarran Amendment does not apply to this suit for money damages. Nor do they qualify for the waiver of sovereign immunity under 43 U.S.C. §390uu. The contract does not evince a clear intent to make them third-party beneficiaries. Thus, they are not a contracting entity under §390uu. Further, they have not met the requirements for suing in the shoes of the district as beneficiaries. Because the United States never waived its immunity from suit, the district court's rulings on the merits of the claims was vacated. Orff v. United States, No. 00-16922 (9th Cir. Feb. 18, 2004) (21 pp.).

CIVIL PROCEDURE, INTERVENTION:

The Seventh Circuit granted a coal-fired power plant builder's motion to intervene in a petition for review challenging EPA's issuance of a permit to construct the plant, but denied the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's motion to intervene in the same case. Rule 15(d) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure does not provide standards for intervention. Appellate courts have thus turned to rules governing intervention in the district courts under rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that persons whose legal interests are at stake are appropriate intervenors. Here, the builder's legal interests are clearly at stake. By contrast, the chamber of commerce does not have an interest relating to the transaction or property that is the subject of the petition. Its concern is not a legal interest but a political or programmatic one, namely, it favors more business and less environmental regulation. This concern does not justify intervention.Sierra Club, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 03-4174 (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2004) (4 pp.).

NATIONAL PARKS, SNOWMOBILING, SHOW CAUSE ORDER:

A district court issued a show cause order asking the National Park Service (NPS) to explain why it should not be held in contempt for allowing more snowmobiles into Yellowstone National Park than were allowed by the court's order of December 16, 2003. The court had ordered in December that only 493 snowmobiles be allowed in the park per day, pending further order of the court. Nonetheless, relying on a recent order by another court in Wyoming that simply instructed the NPS to develop "fair and equitable" snowmobile rules, the NPS began permitting 780 snowmobiles to enter Yellowstone per day. Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Norton, No. 02-2367 (EGS) (D.D.C. Feb. 17, 2004) (Sullivan, J.) (2 pp.).

HAZARDOUS MATERIAL, STATE ENVIRONMENTAL FEES:

A California appellate court held that the California State Board of Equalization properly denied a company's request for a refund of environmental fees imposed against it under California Health and Safety Code §25205.6, which is used to fund the costs of removal and disposition of hazardous material. It is undisputed that the company falls within the ambit of §25205.6. Nevertheless, it argued that the state's view that all business activities covered by the SIC codes involve the generation, storage, or use of hazardous material is void as an underground regulation subject to the APA. The state's view, however, simply involves a factual application of §25205.6 to the activities of modern business establishments. Further, the purpose of the assessment is to raise revenue to pay for a wide range of governmental services and programs relating to hazardous waste control. It is therefore a tax The environmental fee is not regulatory because it does not seek to regulate the use of hazardous material but rather to raise money for its disposal. Likewise, the court rejected the company's equal protection, due process, and takings claims under the deferential standard of review used to assess the constitutionality of a tax. Morning Star Co. v. State Board of Equalization, No. C033758 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 9, 2004) (29 pp.).

Copyright© 2004, Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved

THE FEDERAL AGENCIES

Note: Citations below are to the Federal Register (FR).

AGRICULTURE:

  • USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service revised its guidelines for state work plans for agricultural research and extension formula funds.69 FR 6244(2/10/04).

AIR:

  • EPA announced the availability of information on the locations, dates, and schedules associated with upcoming public hearings on the Agency's proposed rule to reduce interstate transport of fine particulate matter and ozone (the "interstate air quality rule") and the proposed NESHAPs and associated, alternative proposed performance standards for new and existing stationary sources classified as electric utility steam generating units (the "utility mercury reductions rule").69 FR 5944(2/9/04).
  • EPA announced the availability of applicability determinations, alternative monitoring decisions, and regulatory interpretations made under the new source performance standards (NSPS), NESHAPs, and the Stratospheric Ozone Protection Program.69 FR 7926(2/20/04).
  • EPA granted the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control authority under CAA §112(l) to implement and enforce alternative state permit terms and conditions that substitute for federal NESHAPs from the pulp and paper industry.69 FR 7372(2/17/04).
  • EPA decided that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) has sufficient and effective procedures for enforcing and implementing NSPS after ODEQ submitted a request for an updated delegation of authority of the standards.69 FR 7148(2/13/04).
  • EPA reviewed updated regulations from requests of the Washington Department of Ecology, Benton and Yakima Clean Air Authorities, Northwest Air Pollution Authority, Olympic Regional, Puget Sound, and Southwest Clean Air Agencies, and Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority, and decided that these local and state air agencies have sufficient and effective procedures for implementation and enforcement of the NSPS.69 FR 7135(2/13/04).

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY:

  • DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration extended by four additional model years the alternative fuel incentive (the CAFE incentive) created by the Alternative Fuel Act of 1988 to encourage production of motor vehicles capable of operating on alternative fuels.69 FR 7689(2/19/04).

HAZARDOUS AND SOLID WASTES:

  • EPA requested public comment on definitions of "solid waste", "commercial and industrial waste", and "commercial and industrial solid waste incineration unit" to be considered in EPA's review of these definitions as they are used in new source performance standards and emission guidelines for commercial and industrial solid waste incineration units under CAA §129.69 FR 7390(2/17/04).
  • EPA entered into a proposed prospective purchaser agreement and covenant not to sue under CERCLA and RCRA with the state of Colorado and the Union Pacific Railroad Company concerning five industrial, former industrial, and/or railroad sites in Colorado: the Broderick Wood Products site in Adams County, the Sand Creek site northeast of Denver, the Chemical Sales site in Denver, the Woodbury Chemical site in Commerce City, and the Koppers site in Adams County.69 FR 7480(2/17/04).
  • EPA granted three site-specific treatment variances from land disposal restriction (LDR) treatment standards for selenium-bearing hazardous wastes generated by glass manufacturing industries because the chemical properties of the wastes generated by the affected facilities in Indiana and California differ significantly from the properties associated with the waste used to establish the current LDR selenium standard and petitions have demonstrated that the wastes produced by the three facilities cannot be treated to meet the current standard.69 FR 6567(2/11/04).
  • EPA proposed to exclude from RCRA hazardous waste regulations certain F006 hazardous waste sludge generated by the treatment of wastewater produced by electroplating processes at a Bekaert Corporation facility in Dyersburg, Tennessee, after determining that the facility's treatment process renders the waste non-hazardous at the point of generation and minimizes environmental and health threats associated with the waste.69 FR 7888(2/20/04).

PESTICIDES:

  • EPA granted an experimental use permit to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission that allows the use of .220 pounds of the sea lamprey migratory pheromone petromyzonol sulfate on 16.7 acres of river water to evaluate the pheromone's use in controlling the species.69 FR 7636(2/18/04).
  • EPA granted an experimental use permit to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission that allows the use of .220 pounds of the male sea lamprey sex pheromone ketopetromyzonol sulfate on 33 acres of river water to evaluate the pheromone's use in controlling the species.69 FR 7635(2/18/04).
  • EPA announced the availability of court orders associated withWashington Toxics Coalition v. EPA, No. C01-0132C (W.D. Wash. Jan. 22, 2004), a citizen suit filed under the ESA that resulted in interim injunctive relief enjoining, vacating, and setting aside EPA authorization of the use of certain pesticides within 20 yards (for ground applications) and 100 yards (for aerial applications) of salmon supporting waters in California, Oregon, and Washington, effectively establishing buffer zones around those waters.69 FR 7478(2/17/04).

PUBLIC HEALTH:

  • The National Toxicology Program's Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction announced the availability of and requested comment on sections of a draft expert report on acrylamide, a neurotoxicant used in the production of polyacrylamide, a substance used in water treatment, pulp and paper production, mineral processing, scientific research, and the synthesis of dyes, contact lenses, skin creams, and other products.69 FR 7977(2/20/04).
  • The Public Health Service of the Department of Health and Human Services announced the availability of a report entitledBiennial Progress Report of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, which describes activities carried out in the past two years by the referenced committee and the National Toxicology Program's Interagency Center on the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods.69 FR 7777(2/19/04).

RISK ASSESSMENT:

  • EPA announced the 2004 agenda for the Integrated Risk Information System, a database that contains EPA's scientific consensus positions on human health effects associated with environmental exposure to chemical substances, and requested scientific information on health effects potentially associated with exposure to the chemicals EPA will be assessing this year.69 FR 5971(2/9/04).
  • EPA announced the availability of a final report entitledIntegrating Ecological Risk Assessment and Economic Analysis in Watersheds: a Conceptual Approach and Three Case Studies, prepared by EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment.69 FR 5979(2/9/04).

SMCRA PROGRAM:

  • OSM proposed and requested public comment on an amendment to Texas' regulatory program under SMCRA; the amendment describes mine permit implementation activities not considered permit revisions by the Railroad Commission of Texas and therefore not subject to the Commission's review and approval.69 FR 5942(2/9/04).

WATER QUALITY:

  • EPA approved the ColitagTM method, which provides water utilities and certified laboratories another option to test for total coliforms and E. coli in finished drinking water, supporting previously established requirements for national primary drinking water regulations.69 FR 7156(2/13/04).
  • EPA announced the availability of guidelines for awarding CWA §319 nonpoint source grants to Indian Tribes in FY 2004.69 FR 6662(2/11/04).
  • EPA requested public comment on revisions to Delaware's NPDES program that concern issuance and administration of NPDES permits, update regulations on the construction and operation of wastewater and pollution control facilities, adopt regulations formalizing periodic assessments of municipal treatment plant performance and infrastructure, and adopt regulations specifying administrative procedures for evaluating and issuing state certification of non-violation of surface water quality criteria or standards.69 FR 6289(2/10/04).
  • EPA announced the opportunity for public comment on administrative record files for four total maximum daily load determinations and associated calculations prepared by EPA Region Six for waters listed under CWA §303(d) in Louisiana's Barataria river basin.69 FR 5985(2/9/04).

WILDLIFE:

  • FWS proposed to list the southwest Alaska population of the northern sea otter as threatened under the ESA; the population segment once contained more than half of the world's sea otters but has experienced a decline of 56%-68% since the mid-1980s.69 FR 6600(2/11/04).
  • FWS issued its 90-day finding on a petition to list the desert cymopterus, a member of the carrot family, as endangered under the ESA; the Service found that the petition presents substantial scientific and/or commercial information to potentially warrant listing and therefore has initiated a species status review that will result in a 12-month finding on whether listing is in fact warranted.69 FR 6240(2/10/04).
  • FWS announced that it issued two permits for the taking of endangered species and five for the taking of marine mammals after determining that the permits would not disadvantage the species in question and would be consistent with the purposes and policies of the ESA and the Marine Mammals Protection Act (MMPA).69 FR 5999(2/9/04).
  • FWS issued three permits for takings of endangered species after determining that each permit would not disadvantage the species in question and would be consistent with purposes and policies of the ESA and the MMPA.69 FR 7980(2/20/04).
  • FWS announced the availability of a draft conservation plan for the Alaska Peninsula Refuge and the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge that describes how the Service plans to manage these Alaskan refuges over the next 15 years.69 FR 7788(2/19/04).
  • FWS announced the availability of a draft conservation plan for the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge that describes the Service's plan for the Colorado refuge's management after it is established; establishment is expected between 2006 and 2008.69 FR 7789(2/19/04).
  • NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) renewed its affirmative finding for Mexico under the MMPA that allows importation into the United States of yellowfin tuna harvested in compliance with the International Dolphin Conservation Program by Mexican purse seine vessels in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.69 FR 5966(2/9/04).
  • The NMFS announced public hearings and opportunity for comment on proposed prohibitions and restrictions on Virginia pound net leaders, described in the proposed rule issued on February 6, 2004 (69 FR 5910), that are intended to protect sea turtles.69 FR 7719(2/19/04).
  • NOAA requested public comment on the city of Key West's request for a permit to construct an artificial reef within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.69 FR 7620(2/18/04).
  • The Department of State's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs announced that Costa Rica and Honduras have been certified under §609 of Pub. L. 101-162 as having adopted programs comparable to those in effect in the United States to reduce the incidental capture of sea turtles in shrimp fisheries; the Department withdrew certification for Nigeria due to concerns over the effectiveness of that country's program.69 FR 6715(2/11/04).
  • EPA published its response to comments on the final draft of the Strategic Plan for North American Cooperation in the Conservation of Biodiversity, a plan adopted in June 2003 by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to guide representatives of the United States, Canada, and Mexico who serve on the CEC Council, the U.S. Biodiversity Conservation Working Group, and the CEC Secretariat in their attempts to cooperatively define and implement mutually beneficial biodiversity conservation activities.69 FR 5976(2/9/04).

DOJ NOTICES OF SETTLEMENT:

  • United States v. Aervoe Industries, Inc., No. C-04-00382 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 29, 2004). Ten settling private defendants under CERCLA and the U.S. Navy must pay $4,200,000 to reimburse past U.S. response costs associated with cleanup at the Lorentz Barrel and Drum site in San Jose, California.69 FR 6690(2/11/04).
  • United States v. AFG Industries, Inc., No. 1:04-cv-172 (D.N.J. Jan. 13, 2004). Settling defendants under CERCLA must reimburse certain past and future U.S. response costs associated with response actions at the Cinnaminson Groundwater Contamination Superfund site in Burlington County, New Jersey.69 FR 6690(2/11/04).
  • United States vs. Exelon Mystic, No. 04-10213-PBS (D. Mass. Jan. 29, 2004). A settling defendant who committed various violations of the CAA at a power plant in Everett, Massachusetts, must pay a civil penalty of $1 million and pay at least $5.1 million to fund supplemental environmental projects in the greater Boston area.69 FR 6691(2/11/04).
  • United States v. Manville Sales Corp., No. 88C 630 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 11, 2004). A settling defendant under CERCLA who agreed under a consent decree entered with the state of Illinois in 1988 to perform a remedial action addressing contamination at the John Manville Waukegan Disposal Area in Waukegan, Illinois, now is required by this amended decree to perform four additional types of response actions and processes for reimbursing past U.S. response costs associated with the release or threatened release of hazardous substances at the site.69 FR 7982(2/20/04).

Copyright© 2004, Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. 

THE CONGRESS
BILLS INTRODUCED:

  • S. 2058 (Boxer, D-Cal.) (minerals), would direct the Secretary of the Interior to cancel certain BLM leases that authorize extraction of sand and gravel from the federal mineral estate in land in Soledad Canyon, California. 150 Cong. Rec. S792 (daily ed. Feb. 10, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
  • S. 2066 (Snowe, R-Me.) (Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act), would authorize appropriations to the Secretary of Commerce for the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act for fiscal years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. 150 Cong. Rec. S1017 (daily ed. Feb. 11, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
  • S. 2067 (Boxer, D-Cal.) (mining; forests), would withdraw the Los Padres National Forest in California from location, entry, and patent under mining laws. 150 Cong. Rec. S1017 (daily ed. Feb. 11, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
  • S. 2070 (Hagel, R-Neb.) (Animal Health Protection Act), would amend the Animal Health Protection Act to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to implement the United States Animal Identification Plan. 150 Cong. Rec. S1285 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
  • S. 2085 (Reid, D-Nev.) (land conveyance), would modify the requirements of the land conveyance to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas Research Foundation. 150 Cong. Rec. S1286 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
  • S. 2086 (Thomas, R-Wyo.) (SMCRA), would amend SMCRA to improve the reclamation of abandoned mines. 150 Cong. Rec. S1286 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
  • S. 2095 (Domenici, R-N.M.) (energy conservation), would enhance energy conservation and research and development and would provide for security and diversity in the energy supply for the American people. 150 Cong. Rec. S1286 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 2004).
  • H.R. 3785 (Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.) (Everglades), would authorize the exchange of certain land in the Everglades National Park. 150 Cong. Reg. H433 (daily ed. Feb. 10, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Resources.
  • H.R. 3787 (Peterson, D-Minn.) (livestock), would amend the Animal Health Protection Act to require the establishment of an electronic nationwide livestock identification system, to prevent the unauthorized release of information collected under the system, to promote an objective review of USDA responses to livestock disease outbreaks, and for other purposes. 150 Cong. Reg. H433 (daily ed. Feb. 10, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
  • H.R. 3796 (Cubin, R-Wyo.) (SMCRA), would amend SMCRA to reauthorize and reform the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program. 150 Cong. Rec. H514 (daily ed. Feb. 11, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Resources.
  • H.R. 3804 (Brown, R-S.C.) (beaches), would amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to make beach nourishment projects eligible for inclusion in mitigation plans and for hazard mitigation assistance. 150 Cong. Rec. H514 (daily ed. Feb. 11, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
  • H.R. 3805 (Capps, D-Cal.) (mining; forests), would withdraw the Los Padres National Forest in California from location, entry, and patent under mining laws. 150 Cong. Rec. H514 (daily ed. Feb. 11, 2004). The bill was referred to the Committee on Resources.
  • H. Res. 527 (Rodriguez, D-Tex.) (Falcon International Dam), would celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Falcon International Dam, recognizing the dam's importance as a source of water and power and as a symbol of friendship and cooperation between the United States and the United Mexican States, and urging Mexico to honor all of its obligations under the 1944 Treaty Relating to the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande. 150 Cong. Rec. H515 (daily ed. Feb. 11, 2004). The resolution was referred to the Committee on International Relations.

Copyright© 2004, Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. 

IN THE STATES

Click on a state name below to see its information in ELR UPDATE. Or go to http://www.elr.info/State/stateupdate.cfmto view the complete section.

Copyright© 2004, Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.

INTERNATIONAL

GENERAL:

  • United Nations (U.N.) Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Klaus Toepfer, speaking at a conference on biodiversity in Kuala Lumpur, said that thousands of animal and plant species face extinction due to the failure of signatories to meet conservation targets agreed to at the 1992 Earth Summit. Seehttp://www.biodiv.org/meetings/cop-07/
  • UNEP issuedDesk Study on the Environment in Liberia. The study concluded that 15 years of internal warfare have profoundly damaged the country's environment, and that drinking water and sewage systems pose urgent threats to human health. Electricity shortages are leading to deforestation and destruction of fragile habitats such as mangrove swamps. Waste collection and sanitary disposal have virtually ceased. "In Liberia, as is the case in many other African countries, resource abundance or scarcity is all too often the catalyst for war and suffering. The Liberian people have been forced to pay a high price for living in a country rich in prized timber and mineral resources," Klaus Toepfer said.
  • An International Plant Genetic Resources Institutestudy, released during the conference, concluded that as many as 800 million people living in developing countries could remain "chronically underfed" unless biodiverse crops are emphasized.
  • Astudyreleased as part of the Pew Global Shark Assessment concluded that oceanic white tip sharks have almost completely disappeared from the Gulf of Mexico and probably are in a similar decline in other areas. From the 1950s through the late 1990s, the population in the Gulf decreased by 99%. Overfishing is to blame. Shark fins are a delicacy in some countries.
  • The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development released guidelines, entitledManual for the Preparers and Users of Eco-efficiency Indicators, to assist in standardizing of reporting on corporate environmental performance. Seehttp://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=9773&Cr=unctad&Cr1=
  • The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants will enter into force on May 7, following ratification by France. Fifty countries have ratified the Convention, which requires bans (total or partial) on the use of aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenols, hexachlorobenzene, dioxins and furans. Production, import, export, disposal and use of the pollutants is also addressed. Seehttp://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=9808&Cr=Pollutants&Cr1=
  • The World Health Organization issuedWHO Guidelines on Good Agricultural and Collection Practices for Medicinal Plants.
  • Delegates to a U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Kuala Lumpur (the Seventh Conference) discussed the issue of developing an "access and benefit-sharing" framework on the commercialization of biological resources. Seehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3498173.stm
  • Scott McGraw, a professor at Ohio State University, reported that he had seen the skin of a recently killed Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey, a species of Africa monkey that was declared likely extinct in 2000. McGraw also said that he had heard of sightings by hunters and farmers.
  • Conflict Tiger, a conservation group, said that endangered Amur tigers, facing a loss of natural habitat in the Vladivostok area of far eastern Russia, are increasingly attacking livestock and encountering humans. "One of the main reasons why tigers are driven to human villages is the decreasing numbers of deer in the taiga, depleted by the snow winters of 2001-2002 and 2002-2003," Conflict Tiger's Boris Litvinov said. Seehttp://www.phoenix.vl.ru/events.htm
  • The Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telepak, an Indonesian environmental group, accused Malaysian officials and traders of being involved in illegal trading of ramin, a rare type of Indonesian timber that is threatened with extinction. In areport, the groups asserted that the amount of ramin smuggled through Malaysia each year is twice the amount produced in that country. According to a press release accompanying the report, "EIA/Telapak investigators filmed and observed stacks of smuggled ramin, and port officials said that every month around 4,500 m3 of illegal Indonesian sawn ramin passes through Pasir Gudang en route to China. This amount of stolen Indonesian sawn ramin exceeds Malaysia’s 'legal' domestic production. With illegal ramin logs selling in Sumatra for as little as $20 per cubic meter, compared with a price of around $700 for sawn ramin in Peninsular Malaysia, the profits run into tens of millions of dollars." In 2001, Indonesia banned almost all ramin exports and listed the species with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Malaysia signed the convention but objected to the ramin designation. "This shocking evidence highlights Indonesia's continuing failure to bring to justice timber barons who supply and transport this illegal timber and Malaysia's callous complicity in protecting its own ramin-processing industry," the report contends.
  • Indonesia called for a global boycott of Malaysian wood products. Indonesian Forestry Minister M. Prakosa said that Malaysia had consistently ignored the problem; "the Malaysian government even says that illegal logs in Indonesia are legal in Malaysia," he said. "As far as Malaysia is concerned, illegal logging is not an issue ... the onus is on Indonesia to upgrade their laws," replied Malaysia's Primary Industries Deputy Secretary General Suboh Mohamed Yassin. "I am angry and running out of patience of trying to work with Indonesia. They are not doing anything and their agency is pointing their finger at us," said Malaysian Primary Industries Minister Lim Keng Yaik. Malaysia's logging trade association admitted that some smuggling goes on but claims that the groups have exaggerated its extent. "It is libelous and mischievous to even suggest that Malaysia is undermining CITES," it said. Ramin is found only in Malaysia and Indonesia. The hardwood is typically sold to the European Union (EU), the U.S., and Japan. Seehttp://www.eia-international.org/cgi/news/news.cgi?a=184&t=template.htm
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, Rainforest Action Network, Earthjustice, and the Orangutan Foundation International joined with EIA/Telepak and other groups in urging the U.S. to raise the issue with Malaysia and impose trade sanctions under the U.S. Pelly Amendment.

EUROPE:

  • The 4th Annual Report on CO2 Emissions from New Cars, adopted by the European Commission (EC), showed that carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars sold in the European Union (EU) decreased by 10.8% between 1995 and 2002. Seehttp://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/co2/co2_home.htm
  • Findings from an online comment database, GM Nation?, suggested that the degree of opposition in the United Kingdom (U.K.) to the use of genetically modified organisms has been overstated. Seehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3500743.stmandhttp://www.gmpublicdebate.org/
  • Meanwhile, the government appears ready to approve the use of genetically modified maize, with Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said to have argued that there is no scientific justification for a ban. Seehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3502949.stm
  • Following a vote by the EC Regulatory Committee on the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, the decision to authorize the import and processing of the genetically modified maize known as NK603 will pass on to the EU Council of Ministers. The Committee, which is set up under Directive 2001/18 and represents the Member States, did not reach the qualified majority necessary to support the Commission proposal. The Commission will now, in the coming weeks, formally adopt the proposal to be sent to the Council of Ministers. The Council can either adopt or reject the proposal with a qualified majority. If no decision is taken after three months, the file returns to the EC, which can then adopt it.
  • The EC issued a communication entitledTowards a Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment.

CLIMATE CHANGE:

  • The Union of Concerned Scientists released a statement signed by over 60 prominent scientists accusing the Bush Administration of distorting science, including that involving climate change, to achieve policy or political objectives. Scott McClellan, President George W. Bush's spokesman, said "I can assure you that this is an administration that makes decisions based on the best available science." Seehttp://www.ucsusa.org/global_environment/rsi/index.html
  • A study presented the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science concluded that half of the world's global reefs could die by the end of the century, victims of global warming, pollution, and overfishing. "More than half will be ruined or degraded certainly by 2100 ... assuming we don't do anything about it," said study co-author Richard Aronson, of Alabama's Dauphin Island Sea Lab. "The changes are unprecedented in thousands of years. On a 4,000-year time scale, things are substantially different now from the way they were before. They are substantially different in a bad way."
  • A UNEP report concluded that tropical mountain habitats (also known as "cloud forests") are threatened by climate change. UNEP's Philip Bubb, a co-author of the report, noted that "[i]If temperatures rise one degree in the lowland this equates to two degrees in the mountain and can result in the clouds lifting and the forest drying out. The El Nino of 1987, which some researchers have suggested was more intense as a result of global warming, caused several weeks of dry weather in the Monteverde cloud forest of Costa Rica. As a result, 25 of the 50 frog and toad species disappeared and only five have returned." Seehttp://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=383&ArticleID=4355&l=en
  • Cambridge Econometrics, a U.K. group, published a study which, according to a consultant to the group, concludes that "forecasts suggest the UK will comfortably meet the Kyoto [Protocol] target for a 12.5 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2008-2012." The group determined, however, that the U.K. will have a more difficult time meeting its domestic target of reducing carbon emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2010, because of increased emissions from households and road transport.
  • Loyola de Palacio, the EU energy commissioner, continued to say that the EU should reconsider its Kyoto pledge if Russia does not ratify the Protocol. Margot Wallstrom, the EU environment commissioner, purportedly called de Palacio's comments "a disgrace" and said she had acted "disloyally."
  • The reportCoral Reefs & Global Climate Change: Potential Contributions of Climate Change to Stresses on Coral Reef Ecosystemswas released by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
  • In Germany, industry representatives boycotted negotiations on upcoming emissions trading legislation. German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin said the objectors probably wished to "avoid answering uncomfortable questions" regarding what he asserted was a failure to reduce emissions between 2000 and 2002. Coal and electric producers say that thousands of jobs will be lost if the government follows through with its plan.
  • An article published in the journalEarth Science Reviewsconcluded that reserves of gas hydrates on the sea floor are much lower than previously estimated.
  • Alberta and the Canadian government continued to squabble over Kyoto Protocol implementation; the province sent out letters cautioning companies operating there "to carefully consider any suggested new federal-industry agreements. We think it is only fair to advise you that costs related to a federal-only system will not be deductible for provincial royalty or corporate income tax purposes," wrote Environment Minister Lorne Taylor and Halvar Jonson, Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations. The province has objected to an agreement struck between the federal government and the Forest Products Association of Canada, which was reached without Alberta's consent or participation.
  • Australian Institute of Energy spokesperson Martin Thomas, testifying before the Australian senate, said that Australian energy firms were losing business to European competitors due to the absence of Kyoto ratification. Seehttp://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/02/13/1076548213783.html
  • The environmental group Greenpeace said there has been a "dramatic" decline in glaciers in southern Chile due to climate change.

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