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Volume [field_article_intvolume_value], Issue [field_article_intissue_value] — January 2010


Environmental Contamination at U.S. Military Bases in South Korea and the Responsibility to Clean Up

by Young Geun Chae

Editors' Summary

U.S. Forces Korea recently began returning military sites to South Korea and, so far, has returned around one-half of the sites designated to revert back to the country. South Korea desperately needs this land, as urban development in the country progresses. However, the returned sites suffer from contamination to both soil and groundwater at well above threshold levels determined by the Soil Environment Preservation Act and the Groundwater Act of South Korea. Though U.S. Department of Defense policy has been to remedy contamination rising to the level of "known imminent and substantial endangerment," so far, the United States and South Korea have not been able to agree on who bears responsibility for cleanup.

Climate Change and Financial Markets: Regulating the Trade Side of Cap and Trade

by Jonas Monast

Editors' Summary:

An economywide cap-and-trade system to limit the nation's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would create a large new financial market. Unlike other markets that typically evolve over time, a national GHG capand-trade system would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars at the outset. A market of this size requires attention to both the market risks and the political risks associated with the design and operation of a new financial market. Congress has the opportunity to guide the development of the market, incorporating best practices in market regulation and building on lessons learned from recent market failures.

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program: Orchestrating the Federal Government's First Significant Step to Incentivize Biomass Production for Renewable Energy

by Jody M. Endres, Timothy A. Slating, Christopher J. Miller

Editors' Summary

Rapidly emerging renewable energy legislation in the United States will create unprecedented demand for biomass feedstock. In 2008, Congress created the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). Program implementation, however, has been fraught with delays. USDA has yet to designate project areas that govern establishment and annual production payments, the newly issued draft EIS leaves some important questions unanswered, and the federal government lacks an integrated biomass deployment strategy. Only timely and thoughtful deployment of BCAP funding, coupled with a coordinated federal strategy, will secure the commercialization of biomass so critical to America's future renewable energy needs.

The Next Generation of Mitigation: Advancing Conservation Through Landscape-Level Mitigation

by Jessica B. Wilkinson and Robert Bendick

Editors' Summary:

In coming years, the United States will experience significant loss of natural habitats due to population growth, infrastructure and energy development, and climate change. These trends will significantly impact natural systems, which provide habitat for plant and animal species and support the resources and processes that underpin human well-being. A more comprehensive approach to mitigation can effectively reduce and offset this damage and support significant conservation outcomes. Three fundamental changes are needed to advance this vision. First, existing, expanded, and future regulatory authorities must consistently and rigorously apply the mitigation protocol (avoid, minimize, compensate) to activities that will impact wildlife habitat. Second, federal conservation plans, such as State Wildlife Action Plans, fisheries and forest plans, and Endangered Species Recovery Plans, as well as regional plans should serve as the framework for the application of the mitigation protocol. Finally, compensatory mitigation expenditures should be prioritized based on landscape and watershed-scale planning.


Resolving Technical Issues to Realize the Promise of Geological Sequestration

by Tom Mounteer

Conventional wisdom suggests that the future of coal-fired power generation—from which the United States derives roughly one-half of its power—depends in no small part on the realization of geologic sequestration of carbon emissions in underground formations (for more on this, see Climate Change Deskbook § Two recent proposals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bring this issue to the fore: the Agency’s prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) tailoring rule and its geologic sequestration well rule.

EPA’s proposed PSD tailoring rule, 74 Fed. Reg. 55292 (Oct. 27, 2009), if taken to its logical extension and finalized, would subject some 14, of the greatest emitting sources of carbon to new control technologies. This rulemaking begs the question of what control technology is best for controlling carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants. Some environmental groups argue that the best control technology for coal-fired plants is to switch their fuel to natural gas, believing that the Agency can compel fuel switches pursuant to its authority to select control technologies under the Clean Air Act. Others think such a command would be too drastic and falls beyond the realm of what control technology is intended to be. The control technology refuge for coal-fired plants might lie in the geologic sequestration of captured carbon.

Rules of the Road for Space?: Satellite Collisions and the Inadequacy of Current Space Law

by Robert P. Merges and Glenn H. Reynolds

The February 2009 collision of a dead Russian satellite with an Iridium communications satellite left a cloud of debris in orbit and a number of questions on earth as to why and how it happened and who was responsible. Contrary to some popular impressions, outer space is not a lawless region, but an area governed by international law (and, in the case of U.S. spacecrafts and the U.S. parts of the International Space Station, by American law). Unfortunately, existing space law is inadequate to deal with the growing problem of space collisions and space debris. In this brief essay, we will note some of these problems and suggest some steps toward a solution, while drawing a few more general lessons regarding the state of international space law today.

Quiet So Far: A Muted Response to Allegations of the First Human Fatalities Linked to Nanoparticles

by Tracy D. Hester

Like the apocryphal dog that didn't bark, sometimes the most telling reaction is the one that doesn't happen at all.

In late August 2009, the European Respiratory Journal quietly circulated an embargoed study with potentially explosive news for nanotechnology: a team of doctors at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital had allegedly documented the first human fatalities linked to workplace exposure to nanoscale materials. The study reported that seven young Chinese women had suffered serious lung injuries after they inhaled fumes from polystyrene boards that were coated with a polyacrylate esther paste and then heated to 75-100 degrees Celsius. This paste contained particles that were 30 nanometers in diameter. The workroom had one door and no windows, and that door remained closed to keep the room warm. The room's ventilation unit had broken down five months before the workers began to suffer symptoms, and the workers themselves wore only cotton gauze masks on an "occasional basis."

The seven women all had pleural granulomas (small nodules of inflamed immunological cells), and their lungs contained excessive amounts of discolored fluid. Two of these women later died from their injuries. The embargoed report reflected the researchers' careful efforts to confirm the presence of nanoscale parties in the polyacrylate esther paste, in the workplace equipment, and in the lung fluid and cytoplasm of the victims' lung cells. It also pointed to laboratory studies where exposure to nanoparticles had caused similar injuries in mammals.


Air Pollution Standards for Stationary Sources--Next Moves

by Donald Stever, Rob Brenner, William Brownell, John Walke

Leslie Carothers: Donald Stever is an environmental lawyer with more than 30 years of civil and criminal environmental litigation and counseling experience. He is now a partner at the K&L Gates law firm in New York. In his earlier incarnations, he was chief of not one but two sections--enforcement and environmental defense--at the U.S. Department of Justice. And when he was even younger, in the 1970s, he was the primary, or perhaps the only, environmental lawyer in the Attorney General's Office in New Hampshire. It was during that time that I got to know him when I was enforcement director at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Boston. His boss at the time was the recently retired Justice David Souter, who was then the attorney general, and Don claims modest credit for the Justice's relatively friendly decisions on behalf of the environment. So, Don, welcome, and take it away.