A Conversation about the Public Trust in India: Public Participation, Climate Adaptation, and India's 2G Network

by Robert Verchick | December 03, 2012

Property lawyers in the United States love the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD). There’s such a rich history. The doctrine, which holds that important resources must be held “in trust” for public use, originated in Roman law. Centuries later it was forced on King John through the Magna Carta. During America’s industrial revolution, our Supreme Court invoked the doctrine to defend Chicago’s shoreline from hungry rail barons (the case is called Illinois Central Railroad), and we’ve had it ever since.

The PTD fascinates us at CPR too: we see it as a potentially powerful way to protect water resources in the United States. (Visit our Public Trust Doctrine page.) But some of the most interesting and expansive uses of the PTD are taking place on the other side of the world—in India. To learn more about those developments, I turned to Shibani Ghosh, a Research Associate at the Centre for Policy Research, where I am visiting for the semester. Ms. Ghosh is also a public interest lawyer and a visiting member of the faculty at TERI University in New Delhi. I asked Ms. Ghosh to help me understand how the PTD is used in Indian law. Our conversation—which touched on public participation, climate adaptation, and India’s 2G network—is set forth below.  

RV: How did the PTD makes its way to India?

SG: In the 1980s and ‘90s, the Supreme Court of India played a very active ...

What to Expect in the Logging Roads Case

by Holly Doremus | November 30, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. This coming Monday, Dec. 3, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the logging roads case. The case involves two consolidated petitions, Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Georgia Pacific v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center , both challenging the same decision of the Ninth Circuit, Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown, 640 F.3d 1063 (9th Cir. 2011). (Decker is brought on behalf of the state of Oregon, which owns the land and roads ...

Should We Revive an Extinct Galapagos Tortoise?

by Holly Doremus | November 29, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. The Washington Post reported this week that scientists think they can resurrect the Pinta Island subspecies of Galapagos tortoise whose last remaining member, “Lonesome George," died this summer. Scientists at Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park say they have found enough Pinta Island genetic material in tortoise on another nearby island that an intensive breeding program over 100 to 150 years could regenerate the pure Pinta Island subspecies. It’s all very cool and sci-fi to think we might ...

Too Big to Obey: Whether BP Is De-barred Up to DOD and (Hopefully) the White House

by Rena Steinzor | November 28, 2012
For a potentially earth-shattering move against one of the most notorious corporate environmental scofflaws in history, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sure hid its light under a bushel this morning. The agency’s scant three-paragraph press release announced simply: “BP Temporarily Suspended from New Contracts with the Federal Government,” adding that “EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, oil spill and response.” As ...

One Easy Agenda Item on Climate: OMB Should Release DOE Energy Efficiency Rules

by Wayland Radin | November 28, 2012
Action on climate change should be one of the first things President Obama takes on in his second term. There are countless steps the President might take, but perhaps one of the easiest things for him to do on that front is to instruct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to release eight Department of Energy (DOE) rules regarding energy efficiency currently under OMB’s review. Regular readers will know that OMB is a kind of regulatory purgatory where rules ...

Noah Sachs Op-Ed: Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act Would Further Politicize Rulemaking

by Ben Somberg | November 26, 2012
CPR Member Scholar Noah Sachs published an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning critiquing the Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act. That bill would allow the White House to review rules proposed by independent federal agencies. Writes Sachs: Imagine if important government agencies, purposely designed by Congress to be insulated from political pressure, suddenly had to bend to White House wishes. Campaign contributors might then try to influence Nuclear Regulatory Commission decisions on safety standards for aging nuclear plants. Big ...

Critical Food Safety Rules Still in Regulatory Limbo, Now Stuck at White House for a Full Year

by Thomas McGarity | November 21, 2012
One of the crowning legislative achievements of the Obama Administration’s first term was the enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act.  Like any safety statute, however, the new law will have no practical bite until the implementing rules are issued. In this case, that’s until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) promulgates regulations fleshing out the obligations of growers, producers and importers of food.  Unfortunately, after almost two years, the regulations for the three most critical programs enacted by the ...

More on BP's Guilty Plea: It's Not Just About the Money

by Holly Doremus | November 20, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As already noted by Rick and Megan, last week BP pleaded guilty to 14 criminal counts arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Megan provided a good basic overview of the terms of the agreement. Here is the plea agreement itself. The amount of money BP has agreed to pay, in criminal fines and additional payments, has been the focus of most of the news coverage so far. The terms of BP’s ...

U.S. Climate Disaster in Global Perspective

by Robert Adler | November 16, 2012
For those who have not been following the news lately, a recent article reported the following: A large tropical storm attributed to “unseasonable rainfall” slammed into the coast and moved inland, leaving many dead or missing, tens of thousands of residents evacuated or homeless, and government disaster response agencies struggling to provide food, shelter, and other critical services. According to the article, “[d]isaster response teams helped to move people to higher ground in rubber boats and nearly 100 shelters were ...

DOL and HHS Secretaries Should Press USDA to Put Brakes on Poultry Rule that Would Harm Workers' Safety

by Matt Shudtz | November 15, 2012
In January, USDA issued a proposed rule that would allow poultry slaughter facilities to increase the speed of their slaughter and evisceration lines as part of an effort to “modernize” the slaughtering process.  Today, I attended a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) and asked for the committee’s help in stopping the rule, given its threats to workers’ health and safety. The gist of the rule is that it would remove most USDA inspectors ...

The Nuclear Option: Debar BP, End $2 Billion Fuel Sales Now

by Rena Steinzor | November 15, 2012
This post is based on an article I wrote with Anne Havemann entitled “Too Big to Obey: Why BP Should Be Debarred,” published in the William & Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review. Attorney General Eric Holder and his lead prosecutor, Lanny Breuer, are deservedly running a victory lap in the immediate aftermath of their criminal settlement with BP.  The amount of money paid to settle the charges, $4.5 billion—is considerably larger than anything paid by past bad actors, although ...

Help Wanted: Regulatory Czar with Commitment to Protecting Public Health, Worker and Consumer Safety, and the Environment

by Rena Steinzor | November 14, 2012
Judging from President Obama’s first term, the job of White House “regulatory czar” could prove of out-sized importance these next four years, with the head of an office few know exists ending up with the power to trump the authority of Cabinet members throughout the government.  Cass Sunstein, the former occupant of the position, was perhaps the most influential overseer of the regulatory process ever, and it's not hard to imagine that his replacement will be equally powerful.  But I'd ...

Delhi Blues

by Robert Verchick | November 13, 2012
Last weekend my son took part in a set of Boy Scout activities with his local Delhi scout troop. On the grounds of the former residence of the U.S. ambassador, the boys prepared a kabob lunch, practiced fire making, and even built a Medieval-style trebuchet. But all I could think about were the little striped mosquitoes that seemed to follow the kids everywhere—Asian Tiger mosquitoes, to be exact, the kind that carry dengue fever.  In New Delhi, dengue (DEN-gay) has ...

(Puget) Sound Science

by Catherine O'Neill | November 08, 2012
The current debate surrounding Washington State’s sediment cleanup and water quality standards provides another example of regulated industry calling for “sound science” in environmental regulation, yet working to undermine it.  Industry has worked to delay updates to water quality standards based on the most recent scientific studies, despite the fact that the current standards are based on decades-old data  and don’t adequately protect human health.  Most recently, industry has sought to weaken any forthcoming standards by misrepresenting scientific studies of ...

Obama 2.0: Looking Forward, Mindful of the Past

by Rena Steinzor | November 07, 2012
President Obama’s reelection holds the possibility of great progress for public health, safety, and the environment — if, and only if, he recognizes the importance of these issues and stops trying to placate his most implacable opponents. The weeks leading up to the election brought powerful reminders of two of the challenges at hand:  rising sea levels and more severe storms that scientists say we should expect as a result of unchecked climate change, and a meningitis outbreak that sickened ...

The Ugly Side of Interagency Review: Non-Expert Federal Agency Commenters Tried to Tell Expert EPA That Ozone Doesn't Actually Kill People

by James Goodwin | November 05, 2012
Internal EPA emails obtained by CPR though a FOIA request reveals that representatives from one or more of the EPA’s peer agencies second-guessed a critical scientific finding undergirding the EPA’s then-pending draft final rule to tighten the ozone standard, claiming that ozone is not associated with mortality impacts. The EPA’s final proposal rightly disregarded the unsound comments and included information on how reducing ozone pollution saves lives.  The rule, estimated to save thousands of lives, was later blocked by the ...

Obama on Clean Energy: Actions Speak

by Lesley McAllister | November 02, 2012
Cross-posted from Environmental Law Prof Blog. Unlike climate change, clean energy policy has received a fair bit of attention in the presidential campaign. Obama made clear that he supports renewable energy as part of his "all of the above" approach, while Romney would end an important federal subsidy for wind power and otherwise increase reliance on coal, oil and gas. But for those who are disappointed that Obama didn’t say more about our need to transition away from fossil fuel ...

Gotham Gets It: Mayor Bloomberg Calls for Government Action on Climate Change

by Robert Verchick | November 02, 2012
The most solemn commitment borne by an elected official is to promote the public welfare and keep the citizenry safe. As New York City struggles to rebound from one of the fiercest storms in memory, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg rose to that occasion with an urgent call for government at all levels to forcefully address climate change.    Yes, folks, Gotham gets it. In an editorial for Bloomberg View, the mayor wrote: The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New ...

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