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Volume [field_article_intvolume_value], Issue [field_article_intissue_value] — July 2011


Reducing Carbon Emissions Through Compensated Moratoria: Ecuador's Yasuni Initiative and Beyond

by Thomas M. Gremillion

A proposed alternative for reducing GHG emissions—payiing developing countries to forego fossil fuel exploitation in tropical forests, or "compensated moratoria"—could serve an important role in future climate change regulation. Ecuador's proposal to impose a moratorium on oil exploitation in the Amazon rainforest—the Yasuní-ITT Initiative—illustrates how compensated moratoria could help to improve the shortcomings of prevailing policy mechanisms for mitigating GHG emissions in developing countries. Compensated moratoria should receive serious consideration as a tool to both lower the growth of GHG emissions in developing countries and to facilitate future climate change negotiations bewteen developed and developing countries.

Incidental Extinction: How the Endangered Species Act's Incidental Take Permits Fail to Account for Population Loss

by Patrick Duggan

Section 9 of the ESA boldly declares that any harm perpetrated upon a listed species, even a single animal, is illegal. Yet, the Incidental Take Permit provision of the ESA expressly allows nonfederal landowners to harm thousands, possibly millions, of listed species every year. Despite this obvious statutory contradiction, the system makes sense—if executed correctly. Unfortunately, changes within the Incidental Take Permitting process have made it such that these permits, originally small in number and scope, may now be significantly contributing to the decline of our most precious species. A close examination of relevant regulations shows that crucial components of the approval process lack the scientific clarity and regulatory direction to deal with modern Incidental Take Permits. Specifically, current and future populations are grossly overestimated because of regulatory deficiencies.

Valuing the Future: Intergenerational Discounting, Its Problems, and a Modest Proposal

by Stephen Marks

Competing theories exist for how intergenerational investment projects, such as investments related to global warming, natural resources, energy, etc., should be undertaken. In particular, there are two popular prescriptions: (1) In making intergenerational investments, policymakers should use a zero discount rate; and (2) In making intergenerational investments, policymakers should use the market rate. Neither of these prescriptions is correct. Indeed, using present-value discounting at all is extremely problematic. Instead, the best we can probably do is to adopt a simple algorithm: set certain minimal goals for future generations: clean air; potable water; sufficient energy supplies; a nontoxic environment; etc.; and then analyze the most cost-effective way of achieving those goals.

Consistency Conflicts and Federalism Choice: Marine Spatial Planning Beyond the States' Territorial Seas

by Michael Burger

Offshore areas are under pressure to industrialize for renewable energy. To plan for offshore wind development, Rhode Island engaged in a marine spatial planning process that resulted in the Ocean Special Area Management Plan (O-SAMP), a regulatory invention of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Notably, the Rhode Island O-SAMP maps and plans for uses in federal waters beyond the three-mile line dividing state and fedeal jurisdiction, as well as within the state's territorial sea, posing a challenge to the boundaries of offshore federalism. Conceiving of the question of how to balance federal, state, and local interests in siting offshore renewable energy facilities as one of "federalism choice," there are sound theoretical and pragmatic rationales that weigh in favor of encouraging other states to adopt the O-SAMP model.


Nuts and Bolts of Marcellus Shale Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing

by Joel Burcat (moderator), Elizabeth A. Nolan, Terry Bossert, and Deborah J. Nardone

Abundant, inexpensive, and lower in emissions than traditional coal power sources, natural gas is expected to play an enormous role in our energy future. Although the drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has made it possible to extract natural gas from "plays," such as the Marcellus Shale Play, some members of the public have become increasingly concerned about problems alleged to be associated with fracking and drilling, such as groundwater contamination and air pollution. The economic, energy, and environmental implications of natural gas are amplified by fast-moving legal developments, including many proposals for new studies, regulations, and legislation. Added to federal developments are efforts by some state and local governments to ban drilling within their jurisdictions or to require disclosure of the contents of fracking fluid. On April 14, 2011, ELI brought together an expert panel to discuss these developments in Marcellus Shale, where the issues mirror those of other gas fields across the country.