Monday, August 21, 2017

Oil, competition, and Martians

The Public Domain Review recently posted (courtesy of a fascinating and entertaining animated short from 1956 by the American Petroleum Institute, entitled "Destination Earth". As the Review explains:
Produced at the height of the Cold War, and made at the behest of the American Petroleum Institute (still the biggest lobby for the U.S. oil and gas industry), this great little promotional film from John Sutherland Studios champions not only the wonders of oil as might be expected, but also free-market capitalism. The surprisingly humorous cartoon tells the story of how the suspiciously Stalin-like leader of Mars, named Ogg, sends a rather calamity-prone citizen to Earth to find a better power source for his poorly-running “state limousine”. The exploring Martian, of course, lands in the United States and soon discovers the many and myriad delights of petroleum, and that, in contrast to his home planet, competition between companies is rife. His take-home lesson (and one drilled into the viewer on numerous occasions) is that “competing for the customer’s dollar” is key to the success of the oil industry and, of course, the thriving country as a whole. Delivering the news to Ogg back on Mars, the leader replies defiantly that “competition is downright un-Martian”, but the ordinary Martians are not to be deterred and soon rise up to overthrow Ogg and set up a thriving oil industry (and capitalist culture) of their own — the short ending with the slogan “destination unlimited” writ proudly across the screen.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tort and environmental regulation

Douglas Kysar recently posted "The Public Life of Private Law: Tort Law as a Risk Regulation Mechanism", which, among other things, takes issue with the supposed inability of tort law to deal with complex environmental issues; or as the New York Court of Appeals put it in the leading case of Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Co., "the judicial establishment is neither equipped... nor prepared to lay down and implement an effective policy for the elimination of air pollution".

Kysar argues that "rather than common law litigation being displaced by more sophisticated regulatory approaches, the latter instead may well have depended on the former for their sophistication", and backs up his claim with a case study (in order not to spoil the suspense in his article, after the jump):

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Drainage, law, and statebuilding

New Book Network recently posted an interview with Eric Ash about his new book, The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England (JHU Press, 2016). NBN writes:
Today “The Fens” is largely a misnomer, as the area of eastern England is now largely flat, dry farmland. Until the early modern era, however, it was a region of wetland marshes. Eric Ash‘s book... describes how The Fens was transformed into the environment we know it as today. As Ash explains, the marshes supported a population that took advantage of the lush grasses produced by the regular flooding to engage in animal husbandry, with flood control managed locally through appointed commissions of sewers. In the late 16th century, however, a combination of environmental change and political shifts led the royal government to support proposals for large-scale drainage projects that would turn the wetlands into farmlands. Though the plans’ advocates argued that drainage would improve the value of the lands in the region, the locals resisted such efforts to disrupt their ways of life through a variety of legal and extralegal means. In response the crown moved from efforts to develop consensus for the plans to asserting royal authority in environmental management in order to start the projects, beginning by the 1620s the first of a series of efforts that over the course of the next half-century drained many of the fens in the region.

Friday, August 4, 2017

American regulation of water pollution

Water filtration plant at Lake Montebello, Maryland, 1915
This Day in Water History recently posted a Municipal Journal and Engineer article from 1909, "Stream Pollution in America", which surveys some of the state-level regulation of water pollution going on at the time. The blogger notes that "we know from other sources that these laws were seldom enforced or had penalties that were too lenient, so they were ignored", but I'm not sure the situation today is so different. Some excerpts from the 1909 article:
At a Conference of State and Provincial Boards of Health of North America, held in Washington last June, the Committee on the Pollution of Streams appointed last year presented a report in which it gave some data concerning the extent to which the pollution of streams was being regulated by the various States. Ohio, New Jersey and Kansas have, according to this report, passed laws during the last few years which ”are especially worthy of note as indicating advancement and the confidence which the Legislatures of these States must feel in these State Boards of Health.” From the reports of the secretaries of the Boards of Health of the several States they abstract a number of statements showing what is being accomplished by them.
In New Jersey there are 54 sewage purification plants in operation or ready for operation by municipalities and large public institutions. The policy of that State is to allow no untreated sewage to be discharged from new systems into waters of the State. The Board of Health is also compelling municipalities to install purification plants on existing sewerage systems, and 22 are now under orders to cease pollution of the streams, these including all municipalities on the Delaware River.
The Ohio State Board of Health has been asked to investigate 18 complaints under the act prohibiting stream pollution, and has ordered sewage disposal works to be installed in four of the cities before Jan. 1, 1910. The constitutionality of the law under which they act has been questioned, but if decided in their favor they hope to prevent the pollution of all the streams in the State.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Canadian water law

The McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law recently published an article by Jamie Benidickson, "The Evolution of Canadian Water Law and Policy: Securing Safe and Sustainable Abundance". The abstract:
Canadian water law has evolved over an extended period of time as a complex mixture of federal and provincial legislation and case law with provincial arrangements influenced by both riparian and prior appropriation doctrine as well as by the civil law tradition of Quebec. The article reviews highlights from the long-term evolution of Canadian water law, policy and institutions following a chronological path from Confederation in 1867 to the present. Three key shifts that have more recently begun to appear in background assumptions of Canadian water law are then identified. In particular, it is noted (1) that general confidence in the abundance of water is giving way to concerns over security and occasional scarcity, (2) that the primacy of human water uses is gradually being moderated by acknowledgement of the importance of environmental flows, and (3) that international considerations may be relevant to a greater degree than previously contemplated. The concluding section of the paper presents emerging policy directions in relation to the legacy of historic water law and policy decisions and the shifting assumptions previously reviewed with emphasis on sustainability, conservation initiatives and watershed frameworks.
Vermillion River, Kootenay National Park
For pre-1867 Canadian water law, see the recent series beginning here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

500th post - Historical analysis in environmental law

This is the 500th post on this blog!

Though I've just finished a series based on an article of mine, this seems like as good an opportunity as any to mention a new piece I just posted, "Historical Analysis in Environmental Law", forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Historical Legal Research. It's particularly appropriate for this occasion, as working on this blog was extremely helpful to me both in getting a sense of the field and in bringing important work to my attention. So thanks to all of you writing in the intersection of environment, law and history!

Here's the abstract of the chapter, I'll probably do a series of posts later:
Environmental law has no history. This is not to say environmental law has no past; indeed, scholars are beginning to uncover its historical roots. What I mean by having no history is, first, that there is a general feeling, common to legal historians and environmental lawyers (particularly in the United States), that environmental law is something new under the sun. Modern environmental law lacks of connection both to earlier periods and to the great themes and trends of legal history. Environmental law has no history in a second, sense, too; it lacks history as a mode of argument or analysis. In legal cultures in which precedent and history are often what make a winning argument, the unavailability of historical analysis as a mode of legal discourse — as it is, for instance, in constitutional and property law (two fields in which environmental legal disputes are often entangled) — means that environmental values often are forced to retreat in the face of others. For these reasons environmental law needs both heightened historical analysis and a sense of its own historical roots. This essay aims to sketch current, possible, and desirable directions for future research into the history of environmental law. Before doing so, it notes a current scholarly pathology.
Lesser Ury, Siblings (1883)