Monday, November 26, 2012

Kill the Sharks, Destroy the Ocean

Over seventy-three million sharks are killed around the world to meet the demand for a product that is less than five percent of its body weight – their fins. The fins are used for “shark fin soup,” a delicacy so tasteless that chicken broth must be added to it in order to make it palatable. The soup has a lavish past as it was once reserved for Chinese emperors and noblemen who believed that shark fins increased vitality and possessed attributes capable of curing many diseases. It was later banned in China until the mid-1980’s because it was reminiscent of bourgeoisie imperialism. By the time the ban was removed, China’s middle class had exploded. The middle class embraced the soup for its symbolism of power and wealth, serving it at banquets and weddings to impress guests. The insatiable demand for the soup is met through the process of ‘shark finning.’ Fishermen catch the sharks, slice off their fins, and dump the shark back into the ocean. The shark itself has no value, so the fishermen do not want to waste their limited space storing the carcasses. This allows the fisherman to kill exponentially more sharks than they could if they were required to keep the rest of the shark. When thrown back into the ocean the sharks are almost always still alive. But without their fins, the sharks are unable to swim, a required activity to replenish the necessary oxygen to continue to live. Sharks that do not die in this manner are slowly eaten alive by other animals. But the cruelty involved in shark finning is not the only reason to regulate the practice. Sharks are apex predators, also known as the top of their food chain. When shark populations decrease, the balance of the ecosystem is thrown off as the uneaten prey vastly increase in numbers. For example, a large staple of the diet of some species of sharks are rays. In many waters were shark populations have decreased, ray populations have greatly increased. The rays then gorge on ‘bivalves,’ such as oysters and clams. This in turn has led to the closing of several clam and oyster fisheries. In addition, bivalves feed themselves by filtering through the ocean water and thus are imperative to the cleanliness and health of the ocean. Decreasing populations of bivalves in the ocean has been compared to removing the filter of a swimming pool. This causes algae to bloom, resulting in an oxygen-deprived dead zone and the end of most ocean life in the area. Recognizing the significant importance of sharks to the ocean’s health; laws and regulations both internationally and domestically have attempted to curve shark finning numbers. Recent international and federal laws aim at the shark finning process, requiring fishermen to carry the shark carcass as well as the fin to decrease the numbers of sharks harvested. Very recent state legislation in California, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, and Washington prohibit the possession and trade of shark fins altogether. Removing shark fins from the market of a state means less harvested sharks and a healthier ocean. But these efforts may be too late. The biology of most sharks prevents them from sexually maturing until they reach several years of age and even when they can reproduce, they give birth to only a few young. Therefore, it will take decades for shark populations to improve. Until then, the adoption of state laws parallel to those discussed above as well as uniform international agreements is of the utmost importance to the health of the ocean. -Corey Mishler, Legal Intern

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fracking 101

A recent article released by The Huffington Post ( discusses fracking in the state of Pennsylvania and some of the adverse impacts it is having on people and the environment. For those of you who have not yet heard of fracking, the term is shorthand for hydraulic fracturing. This is a process of drilling down to shale rock which contains natural gas and injecting water, sand, and chemicals in order to force the gas out of the shale and into the head of the well for extraction. The article tells the account of the McIntyre Family in Butler County, Pennsylvania who no longer drink the water piped into their home. Mrs. McIntyre stated that her family currently uses the water strictly for flushing the toilet and nothing more. She also alleges the water has caused her family to suffer health problems including vomiting and skin rashes. A group of 100 people, including the McIntyre family, was recently surveyed by the Oil and Gas Accountability Project at Earthworks, an environmental and public advocacy group based in Washington. A report was released by Earthworks suggesting that fracking has caused widespread water and air pollution and has led to many health problems including sinus, respiratory, and mood problems. One of the major concerns is that fracking activities have expanded quite rapidly, and there has been little time to study the impacts of its long term effects on the environment and people. These concerns are exacerbated by the growing demand for natural gas in the United States which has helped to drive down energy costs. Researcher’s biggest concerns regarding health effects are that there is so little information about how the chemicals and presence of natural gas in water supplies due to fracking adversely affect humans and the environment. Analysts of the science and surveys pertaining to fracking claim that there seems to be a heavy bias on both sides of the battle. While environmental groups urge to back the information that whatever is happening to the environment and people due to fracking is most likely harmful, the supporters of fracking argue that its track record is safe and the process is heavily regulated by applicable law. Earthworks stated that the lackluster government inspection of natural gas well operations, and the lack of imposition of fines for violations, is a loophole in enforcement that is necessary to change the behavior of the drilling companies. The McIntyre family has claimed that drinking bottled water and using a friend’s shower has reduced many of the symptoms affecting their family. They claim that there are still effects coming from the air by the drilling operations including breathing problems and headaches. The McIntyre family is among the 80 percent of survey participants who reported smelling foul odors from the drilling operations. Only time, scientific study, and objective analysis will be able to tell us what impacts fracking will have on the environment and people. Fracking is yet another example of the problems society must confront when engaging in energy, economic and human health policy. -Nick Porta, Legal Intern

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Alaskan Village Denied Standing to Sue

The Alaskan village of Kivalina is a small town at the tip of a barrier reef about seventy miles north of the Arctic Circle. The Village is feeling the devastating effects of climate change which is shrinking the sea ice that once protected the Village against seasonal coastal storms. In recent years, waves that used to be blocked by the sea ice have caused devastating erosion and the land beneath the Village is literally disappearing. The Village, faced with imminent relocation or destruction sued several oil, coal, and power companies claiming that their greenhouse gas emissions at least in part led to the warming of the planet and thus their injury. The Village also used a federal public nuisance law to claim that the companies had together violated the law by “[C]ontributing to global warming and misleading the public about its consequences.” The Village sought damages to assist in their relocation efforts which are estimated to cost $400,000,000. U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong dismissed the case ruling that the Village did not have standing. Generally, standing is a legal concept in which a party must demonstrate to the court that it has suffered an injury from the other party and a favorable court decision will redress that injury. Armstrong’s ruling meant that the Village did not adequately demonstrate that their injury was a direct result of the energy companies’ emission of greenhouse gases. Since greenhouse gases are released by a variety of companies and individuals, the Village could not hold these particular parties accountable. The Village appealed and on September 21, 2012 the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the ruling, stating that the Village did not have standing to sue the companies. In addition, Judge Sidney Thomas stated that a fairly recent Supreme Court decision holding that “[F]ederal common law addressing domestic greenhouse gas emissions has been displaced by Congressional action” defeated the Village’s federal public nuisance claim. Judge Thomas remarked that "Our conclusion obviously does not aid Kivalina, which itself is being displaced by the rising sea . . . . But the solution to Kivalina's dire circumstance must rest in the hands of the legislative and executive branches of our government, not the federal common law." -Corey Mishler, Legal Intern

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Zealand Grants Personhood to a River

With corporations having been granted legal personhood in the United States a few years ago, you may be asking yourself whether or not non-human animals or parts of the environment could be granted such a vast array of rights and protection. Although not in the United States, a designation of a river as a legal person was recently requested and granted in New Zealand. The Whanganui River is the third largest river in the nation of New Zealand. The River is of mass significance to the local iwi, indigenousness people, who have not only relied on the River as a resource for generations but have also enjoyed the River’s natural beauty and use for recreation. The iwi have been fighting to have the River protected by the government from relentless pollution and unauthorized exploitation since 1837. Recently, New Zealand’s longest-running legal case celebrated a huge victory. In late August the iwi and New Zealand’s Parliament reached a preliminary settlement agreement which recognized the River as a legal entity enabling it to have legal standing and its own independent voice. The River will be recognized as “Te Awa Tupua,” the name given to it by the iwi and will be recognized in the same way a company is, which will give it protectable rights. The agreement also appointed two guardians – one from Parliament and one from the iwi – to represent the interests of the River. The New Zealand Minister of Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson, said the agreement recognizes the “inextricable relationship of iwi with the River.” He notes that the “iwi have not sought to have their relationship with the river defined in these settlement negotiations in terms of ownership of the riverbed or water, but have focused on recognizing the mana of the River from which the iwi’s mana flows, and on its future health and wellbeing.” This appears to be the first time in history a single river has ever been granted legal personhood anywhere in the world.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Environmental Justice for the Navajo?

During World War II the United States needed uranium ore to ensure the success of the Manhattan Project. To meet their demand the United States reached out to the Navajo Nation to build five uranium mines. This was a dual benefit at the time because the United States received the uranium ore they needed to win the war and the Navajo received increased employment rates as their members worked, lived and raised their families at and near the mines. Now, over five decades later the Navajo Nation is feeling the unintended consequences of the uranium mines. The Navajo are mostly located in the Four Corners Area of the Southwest, along with the abandoned uranium mines, and the people are now feeling the effects of the mines. Navajo homes in the area have reported high levels of radiation in their drinking water and the adverse health affects resulting from radiation in the water supply include lung cancer, bone cancer, and kidney disease, to name a few. The United States tried to address the contamination problem in 1978 by enacting the Uranium Mill Trailings Radiologic Control Act. However, this Act required the tribe to waive its rights to hold the United States accountable for any future damages resulting from contamination in exchange for groundwater management by the U.S. Department of Energy. Although the United States enacted and implemented this Act followed by many other studies and attempts at cleanups (the most recent being the five-year plan beginning in 2012 to clean up the 520 known mines), there is still contamination in the water, which affects the livelihood of the Navajo people, their livestock, and their health. Recent federal actions concerning environmental justice may turn the tables for the Navajo. In September of 2010 the federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice met and the following year the seventeen agencies that compromise the working group signed a “Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898” which hopes to ensure all Americans the right to live in communities not burdened with pollution or toxic chemicals. This will ensure enforcement and remediation for the Navajo and hopefully help to clean up the Navajo communities polluted with radiation. The only concern with the cleanup action is who will bear the costs. After a fraudulent corporate reorganization by the Ker-McGee Corporation and Tronox Incorporated (the current owners of the mines), the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice initiated a settlement in which the government will receive $270 million plus 88% of Tronx’s interest in another pending fraudulent conveyance lawsuit against the corporation Anadarko. Hopefully with a favorable lawsuit outcome and the $270 million upfront the EPA will have enough funds to finally cleanup the Navajo lands from contamination. -Ashley Geary, Legal Intern

Friday, May 25, 2012

Corporate Social Responsibility

As our global market continues to expand, it seems countries are stressing the need for sustainable development. Sustainable development encourages economic growth by utilizing resources to meet human needs while preserving the environment for present and future generations. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one area where countries are particularly focused when it comes to sustainable development. CSR is a practice that encourages companies to act in a responsible manner, in order to protect social, environmental, and economic interests of the public. There has been a recent progression throughout the world, formally adopting CSR requirements and encouraging companies to practice environmentally responsible decision making. In the U.S. the “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) certification system is utilized to encourage companies to meet specific “environmental benchmarks” in their development and manufacturing process. The U.S. Green Building Council gives a specific certification to companies depending on the level of environmental achievement. The New York Times reports that companies such as Volkswagen have strived to achieve this certification. Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee received platinum (the highest) certification in 2011. Other auto companies such as Chrysler, G.M. and Honda have also achieved certification for their plants throughout the U.S. This is just one example of programs in the U.S. encouraging corporations to implement environmental awareness into their business plans. Corporate social responsibility is not just a trend in the U.S., but has seen developments in other areas in the world as well. The LEED system is an internationally recognized certification and G.M. is also seeking to achieve LEED certification for its manufacturing plant in Brazil. The plant seeks to use environmentally innovative automobile manufacturing practices to achieve LEED certification at the end of 2012. The EU has also made progress with their “Renewed EU Strategy 2011-2014 for Corporate Responsibility,” issued by the European Commission. The EU has set objectives that include transparency and reporting requirements for corporations’ environmental activities and information. The EU has also set corporate social responsibility commitments that companies should strive to achieve. The EU, like the U.S. with its LEED program, encourages environmentally friendly behavior by creating an awards program for industries who meet certain objectives. Spain has adopted a law that requires state owned enterprises and businesses with over 1,000 employees to compile and submit an annual sustainability report. China has also shown an interest by issuing a corporate social responsibility guide for state owned enterprises so that these companies can initiate a socially responsible management system. Corporate social responsibility plans are one way in which countries implement sustainable development and these development programs continue to be hot topic issues in the global environment. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. At this conference over 130 heads of state and government and approximately 50,000 business leaders, mayors, activists and investors will review the progress of sustainable development programs and address the issues countries have faced in implementing these programs. As the New York Times reports, “Rio offers a generational opportunity to hit the reset button: to set a new course toward a future that balances the economic, social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human well-being.” -Whitney Wilson, Legal Intern

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Green is a Golf Course?

Each May the Jacksonville area becomes the center of the golfing world when the PGA Tour’s flagship event, The Players Championship, makes its annual stop at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. Golf enthusiasts from around the region descend on Ponte Vedra Beach to get a glimpse of the game’s greats amongst a natural setting of lush pine forests, sparking lakes, and rugged swampland. Although it may appear that golf is a sport dependent on a pristine natural environment, there are many aspects of golf course construction, maintenance, and management that are not very green—regardless of the color of the fairways themselves. The construction of hundreds of new courses across America during the last real estate boom, beginning in the 1990s, required the destruction of thousands of trees located in formerly undeveloped, natural areas. The subsequent installation of non-native grasses preferred by the golfing industry requires heavy maintenance to keep healthy. This means a lot of water. As fresh water becomes scarcer it is becoming more and more difficult to supply the heavy demands of golf course irrigation systems. In addition, course superintendents use large amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and other contaminants to keep the grasses green. This may lead to pollution of groundwater systems, as well as adverse health effects for those handling the chemicals. Chemical usage may also have negative impacts on wildlife around the course. Fortunately, growing concern for sustainability is starting to bring serious changes in the golf community. Golf course superintendents and the PGA Tour are adjusting practices to help decrease their environmental footprint. “Organic” golf courses that attempt to use no pesticides or fertilizers are emerging. Superintendents have massively changed their irrigation systems to limit freshwater usage on the course. Some courses designed recently have been constructed atop brownfield sites, such as the TPC Scottsdale, which was built over a trash dump. The PGA Tour now provides recycling programs at all its tournaments, and events such as The Players Championship support environmental causes as part of their charitable efforts. TPC Sawgrass is also a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. The program stresses the idea that courses should be used as a place for people and wildlife alike to enjoy the resources of our shared natural surroundings. These green initiatives are a positive step in making golf a sport that adds to, rather than retracts from, a healthy sustainable environment. -Nick Barshel, Legal Intern

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hug a Tree This Earth Day, It's Saving You Money

Urban trees account for millions of dollars in benefits by promoting energy savings, air and water filtering, moderating climate, improving air quality through carbon storage, and conserving water. According to the U.S. Forest Service, a single urban tree in Florida returns over $90,000 of direct benefits during the lifetime of that tree. The city of Jacksonville operates the largest urban park system in the U.S. with roughly 80,000 acres located throughout the City. Given Jacksonville’s extensive park system, its urban trees are doing a lot to give back to citizens. Trees can help us save energy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the net cooling effect of a healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day and can save 15%-50% in air conditioning and heater costs. Trees can increase residential property values by 20%. Local businesses benefit too. It has been found that the public preferred to patronize commercial establishments and spend up to 12% more where those structures and parking lots were beautified with trees and other landscaping. Urban trees serve as mini retention ponds by helping to control runoff as the rain falls, increasing infiltration and storage of rainwater and reducing soil erosion. Jacksonville's urban trees provide stormwater storage of 928 million cubic feet, as found in a 2002 study by American Forests. Without these trees, the cost of building stormwater retention ponds and other infrastructure to handle the City’s stormwater runoff would be in the billions of dollars. Jacksonville's urban trees are helping to fight climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The National Tree Benefit Calculator ( indicates that a 12-inch diameter live oak can generate $107 worth of benefits annually. In Jacksonville, trees sequester 69,000 total pounds of carbon a year. This carbon storage may not solve climate change in its entirety, but it shows that trees can be a part of the solution. In 2007, a study commissioned by the city of Jacksonville determined that for every dollar invested in tree planting by the City, there was a $4.51 return in benefits from storm water retention, energy conservation, cleaner air and increased property values. And these valuations don't even consider the aesthetic value of having streets and parks lined with live oaks, dogwoods, and crape myrtles. But, Jacksonville’s urban trees are more than just ornaments. The services they provide are invaluable. -Elizabeth Barron, Legal Intern

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Cinco De Mayo River City Challenge

On Saturday, May 5th 2012, Jacksonville will be holding its first paddle race to benefit the North Florida Land Trust. The event will take place in downtown Jacksonville on the St. Johns River. There will be a three-mile race as well as an eight-mile race, along with a festival and some great music! There are three divisions based on age and six race categories. The cost to paddle in the race is $40 per person which gets you entry into the race along with a T-Shirt and a goodie bag. There will also be a cash prize of $500 awarded to the fastest overall boat, and a cash prize of $200 to the fastest boat in the remaining two age divisions. Not only will there be a race, but there will also be something for everyone, from kids to seniors to bystanders! Friday, May 4th will kick off the celebrations with a captain’s party at River City Brewing Company. The day of the race will be filled with paddle races, festival vendors, fly-fishing clinics, a MOSH kids animal clinic, a stand up paddle board clinic, and a Guana Preserve presentation. After the last racers pass the finish line River City Brewery will feature the sounds of Mobros and the local band Saltwater Grass. There will also be an awards ceremony at the end of the day and a sea kayaking clinic. Parking will also be available at River City Brewing Company so you don’t have to hassle with trying to find a parking spot downtown! Want to get involved but aren’t too keen on joining the racers? Volunteers are always needed! To learn more about the event and to sign up to volunteer or paddle visit -Ashley Geary, Legal Intern

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Earth Day - 2012

When is Earth Day? Every day is Earth Day! But, it’s officially celebrated on April 22nd. It is hard to believe, but prior to 1970 it was perfectly legal for a factory to spew clouds of black smoke into the air or dump toxic waste into a nearby stream. A polluter could not be taken to court because there were no legal or regulatory mechanisms in place to protect the environment. Recognizing the need to force this issue onto the national agenda and inspired by the student anti-war movement and the effects of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, Senator Gaylord Nelson established Earth Day with the intent to create a mass environmental movement. The idea for the day began as a "national teach-in on the environment" and was held on April 22, 1970, to maximize the number of student participants. The intent was to raise public awareness of air and water pollution and bring environmental causes into the national spotlight. As a result, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive nationwide rallies. Senator Gaylord’s efforts to force environmental issues into the national agenda worked. In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since Earth Day started, environmentalism has moved from a fringe issue to a mainstream concern. The focus of Earth Day now is to “think globally, act locally” as environmental stewards have never been more timely or important. Every person shares the responsibility to ensure that finite natural resources are protected for today and for future generations. So, what can you do for Earth Day? Earth Day is about uniting voices in support of a healthy planet. Make a public commitment to take environmental action and attend an Earth day event, organize your own Earth Day event, organize a day of service, or pledge an act of green on April 22, 2012. Earth Day Jacksonville, a pre-Earth Day event that features more than 80 booths of educational and interactive displays and live entertainment throughout the day, begins at 10:00 a.m. on April 21, 2012, and takes place at the Jacksonville Landing. In coordination with Earth Day Jacksonville, Earth day Inc. will award grants of up to $500 to groups who implement environmental education programs. Visit for more information on both the annual Earth Day event and the Earth Day Mini Grants. -Elizabeth Barron, Legal Intern

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Can Affordable Housing Be Green?

In short, yes! Many assume that green homebuilding, which often costs more at the outset, is not appropriate for affordable housing. However, the greening of affordable housing can actually be more economical because over time homeowners will benefit from lower utility bills, fewer maintenance costs, and healthier environments. Affordable housing developers and operators also benefit from higher quality, more efficient, and more durable buildings. Buildings that are integrated to the site, use energy, water and materials wisely, minimize and recycle construction waste, create their own energy, are durable and easily maintained, and promote good health for both workers and residents enhance housing affordability as well.

One of the initial hindrances to affordable housing is that developers of affordable housing face financial hurdles before most homes are built to environmental standards. Housing affordability is usually measured by the initial construction costs. Green building often requires additional upfront costs and so does not appear to promote affordability from the outset. The Natural Resources Defense Council found that the upfront costs of contracting a LEED certified green building project tend to match or only slightly exceed those of comparable non-green buildings.

To assess the true affordability of green building practices, proponents argue for a life-cycle approach that accounts for both upfront capital costs and long-term operating expenses to measure affordability. Case studies conducted by New Ecology found that energy and water costs for green housing were significantly lower than for conventional housing. Total development costs for the green projects reviewed ranged from 18% below to 9% above (about $34,800 less per unit to $9,700 more per unit) the costs for comparable conventional affordable housing. This wide range was mostly attributable to whether the developer retained a long-term ownership interest and whether the owners or residents were responsible for utility costs. From a life-cycle valuation perspective, the studies showed that the benefits of green affordable housing are real and, in some cases, substantial.

For developers to be successful implementing green features into affordable housing they must incorporate and integrate green features into a project early, and assemble an experienced green team which will employ an integrated design approach and utilize life-cycle costs in evaluating the economics of the project. For policymakers, creating innovative funding mechanisms that recognize the long-term value of green projects, instituting higher mandatory standards for energy efficiency in building codes, and adopting a minimum green standard for affordable housing, are the important elements to better implement green, affordable housing. A better understanding of the costs and benefits of green affordable housing projects will ensure that greening affordable housing is cost effective and will be pursued.

-Elizabeth Barron, Legal Intern

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sunshine not just in the Sunshine State: The Freedom of Information Act

In March of 2011 the Department of Justice launched its new website,, which hopes to make all information about the Freedom of Information Act easy to access and user friendly. This website was launched as part of the Department of Justice’s Open Government Plan and hopes to be “a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” The Open Government Initiative, commenced during Obama’s first year of office, strives to require federal agencies to become more transparent to the public and to encourage public participation. takes Florida’s government in the sunshine law one step further by giving citizens all over the United States access to information at the federal level in an easy to use and easy to understand format. The website includes video lessons, advice to the public concerning use of the Freedom of Information Act, an explanation of the Act, the number of Freedom of Information requests received and how to submit a request. Additionally, the site contains a frequently asked questions page including useful information, as well as compilations regarding each agency’s Freedom of Information Data at a glance or through a detailed report complied by the agency or complied by the user. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the site contains contact information for every federal agency, including which agency to request information from and where that information should be sent.

This website is a milestone for the Freedom of Information Act and for information accessibility in general. By compiling all this information in a single website the Department of Justice has illuminated this previously unknown or impossible to access area of the government and has increased access for not only attorneys and practitioners but for the public as well. Not only is this site innovative and user friendly but it leaves room for improvement and public comments on the accessibility of the website, how easy it is to navigate, and up to date contact information for Federal agencies is welcomed.

-Ashley Geary, Legal Intern

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Renewable Energy the Big Winner in Super Bowl XLVI

While the New York Giants may have beaten the New England Patriots 21-17, the overall winner in Super Bowl XLVI was renewable energy. Electricity at all six major Super Bowl facilities was generated by wind farms located in North Dakota. Everything from the computers in the Motorola Super Bowl XLVI Media Center to the lights on the field were powered by green energy!

Green Mountain Energy Company was selected to supply 15,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset greenhouse gas emissions associated with the electricity used at the major NFL venues. RECs provide an additional revenue stream that can help build future renewable energy facilities. In total the RECs will avoid more than 14,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions associated with Super Bowl electricity consumption.

The NFL Environmental Program, now in its 18th year, has developed a series of initiatives to minimize the impact of Super Bowl activities on the local and global environment. These initiatives include:
1. A comprehensive solid waste management and recycling program at major NFL event facilities;
2. Incorporation of wind and solar renewable energy certificates to provide green power for major Super Bowl XLVI event venues and team hotels;
3. Use of carbon offset credits to address the transportation emissions created by Super Bowl team travel;
4. Reforestation projects that involve the planting of several thousand trees in local neighborhoods as part of the overall "greening" of Super Bowl XLVI.

Certainly we can all root for this!

-Elizabeth Barron, Legal Extern

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How will Northeast Florida grow?

The Northeast Florida Region faces challenges including growth, preserving valuable eco-systems, improving economic viability, and maintaining the quality of life that makes this region unique. The region is at a critical juncture, expected to grow by 1.6 million people and 650,000 jobs by 2050. Rapid change and recent economic challenges have heightened awareness that growth related issues are best addressed on the regional level.

Nearly two years ago leaders from the non-government sector, business, and government, participated in a regional visioning exercise called Reality Check First Coast. The visioning process resulted in the publication of First Coast Vision, released in October, 2011. First Coast Vision details the process that looked at current growth trends and worked to build a unified vision for future growth over the next 50 years. Of the nearly 500 people who participated in the visioning exercises their visions focused on the following:

-Using less land than what would be required to grow as the region has currently been growing; --Protecting and conserving open spaces, agricultural lands, and natural resources;
-Promoting compact and sustainable mixed-use development that allows for a balance of people and jobs that could reduce commute times;
-Increasing density and promoting infill in existing developed areas, which could reduce infrastructure demands and make transit a viable option;
-Promoting economic vitality and competiveness while capitalizing on regional assets and promoting community identity.

As Northeast Florida’s visioning plan is codified for the next 50 years, its importance is even greater now that state growth management has been effectively gutted. With no state oversight local communities will be in charge of growth management and Northeast Florida is poised to face future growth challenges and preserve the region’s natural and scenic resources.

-Elizabeth Barron, Legal Intern

Friday, January 6, 2012

EPA Finalizes Standards to Reduce Mercury!

On December 16, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first ever national standards to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal and oil-fired power plants. These standards, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, are long overdue as more than 20 years after the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments some power plants still do not control emissions of toxic pollutants, even though pollution control technology is widely available. These standards, which fall under Sections 111 (new source performance standards) and 112 (toxics program) of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, are not only overdue, they are also behind the curve as since 1990, two of the three industry sectors which make up approximately two-thirds of total U.S. mercury emissions: medical waste incinerators, municipal waste combustors, have been subject to emissions standards for years and as a result have reduced their mercury emissions by more than 95%. The third sector which hasn’t been subject to emissions standards is power plants, but not anymore. Thus the MATS, which set standards for all Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) emitted by coal- and oil-fired EGUs with a capacity of 25 megawatts or greater, finally place standards on the dominant emitters of mercury (50%) acid gases (over 75%) and many toxic metals (20-60%) in the United States.

The MATS requires plants to use maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards which for new sources must be at least as stringent as the emission reduction achieved by the best performing similar source. The MACT standards for existing sources must be at least as stringent as the emission reductions achieved by the average of the top 12 percent best controlled sources. In setting the MACT standard for each source costs may not be considered, and the EPA may regulate beyond this standard where justified, in which case costs and other issues must be considered. Existing sources generally will have up to 4 years to retrofit their facilities if they need it to comply with MATS.

The regulations issued on December 16th, 2011 were done so under a Consent Decree of the D.C. Court of Appeals requiring EPA to issue a proposal by March 16, 2011, and a final rule by December 16, 2011.

It has been projected by the EPA that the new standards will avert up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year. If one were to put a monetary value on these improvements for people's health alone it would total $37 billion to $90 billion each year. That means that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans will receive $3-9 in health benefits.

The Public Trust will remain on the lookout for local violators of these new rules, as The Northside Generating Station on Hecksher and the St. Johns River Power Park on New Burlin are two of the local plants affected by the rules.

-Andrew Miller, Executive Director