Monday, December 23, 2013

Chengdu Visit

I was in China last week for some meetings/lectures and had the opportunity to visit the Giant Panda Research Station in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.  This was my first time there, and it is an impressive facility. I must have seen at least 20-25 Giant Pandas, ranging from the very young to adults.  The animals were mostly individually housed in large enclosures that mimicked their natural habitats.  The entire station was large enough for me to wander around for more than a couple of hours.  Here's a picture of me with several adult Giant Pandas in the back.

Of course, also lots of air pollution in Chengdu, mostly because of vehicle emissions and coal use.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

John Cruden to be nominated to be Assistant Attorney General for Environment Division at US DOJ

Here is some great news for the environment.  The President is going to nominate John Cruden, currently President of the Environmental Law Institute, to be the next Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the US Department of Justice.  Here's the White House announcement:

John will be taking the position previously held by Ignacia Moreno.  At Santa Clara Law School, we are particularly proud because John is a SCU Law grad.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

United States is first state to become a party to the Minamata Mercury Convention

Something highly unusual occurred last week, on November 11.  The U.S. became the first state to join the Minamata Mercury Convention, a comprehensive agreement addressing the trade, disposal, mining, and air emissions of mercury.  Mercury is, of course, a very serious neurotoxin. Mercury poisoning came to worldwide attention in the 1950s and 60s with Minamata disease in Japan.

The act of the US, deposition of an instrument of acceptance of the Convention by Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and International Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones, is remarkable for at least three reasons:  First, the US is the first state to become a party.  (Check out the list of signatures/ratifications, which has a map showing only the United States as a party, as of today, November 15).  Second, it is also remarkable because it is the first Multilateral Environmental Agreement in many years that the US has actually joined as a party, rather than only signing.  There are many MEAs where US status is in limbo -- signed by the US, but not ratified.  Finally, the instrument deposited by the US was not a ratification, but rather an acceptance.  In other words, the State Department chose to forego Senate advice and consent on this agreement, which has been the traditional pathway for the US joining a treaty regime, and joined the treaty based on existing legal authority and in the nature of an executive agreement.

According to the State Department's press release:  "The United States has already taken significant steps to reduce the amount of mercury we generate and release to the environment, and can implement Convention obligations under existing legislative and regulatory authority. The Minamata Convention complements domestic measures by addressing the transnational nature of the problem."

This is important recognition of significant authority the federal government and the President have already to address international problems like mercury pollution and it is not necessary to go to Congress for additional implementing authority.  The most important practical benefit of this approach, of course, is that it skips Congress, the most significant bottle-neck for more active engagement by the US on a number of important environmental treaties.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Brand New Earthjustice Board Member

Just this past Friday, the Earthjustice Board of Trustees elected me as a new member of the Board.  I am honored and excited to join this amazing organization, which has fought for the communities, the environment and the public interest for over 4 decades now.  With its 80+ lawyers, it is probably not just the largest public interest environmental law firm in the country, but also internationally.  For more info on Earthjustice, see

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A feature in Santa Clara Law Magazine

A link to the Santa Clara Law Magazine, featuring a big image of yours truly on the cover and an essay on climate change law.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

EPA Confirmations and Other

Congratulations to my former EPA colleagues  Avi Garbow and Jim Jones, who were confirmed by the Senate to their positions as EPA General Counsel and as EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, respectively, last Thursday.  Yay!

As part of the same Senate confirmation vote, Daniel Baer, previously Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor was confirmed to become US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  I worked with Dan while I was EPA and look forward to hearing about the great work he'll do at OSCE.

A few weeks ago, Gina McCarthy was confirmed as the new EPA Administator.  Another Yay!

Finally, also a public congratulations to Howard Shelanski, who was confirmed some weeks ago to become Administrator for the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.  Howard was a classmate of mine at Berkeley Law and, I am sure, will do great work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Magazine Cover

Here I am as the "covergirl" for the latest issue of the Santa Clara Law School magazine.  Surprising honor, as I did not know that I was going to grace the cover! I hope my complexion is Ok.

another EPA/Washington DC gossip item

Avi Garbow was nominated to be the next EPA General Counsel last week.  He is currently Deputy General Counsel.

Good luck with the confirmation hearings, Avi!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to join Apple as VP for Environmental Initiatives

What a great move for Apple! With her reputation and skills, she'll do amazing things for them.  I am pretty excited to have her out here in Silicon Valley.

See this link for story in Politico, a Washington political gossip/news organization.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Changes in Obama Administration re Environment Officials

Ignacia Moreno, currently the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Justice Department, just announced that she is leaving her post by early next month.  ENRD represents EPA, Interior, and other federal agencies on environment and natural resources issues, both enforcement as well as defensive litigation. I understand that it's not clear yet what Ignacia will be doing  after she leaves, but I am sure that she would be a prime prospect for many position, both in the private as well as the public sector.

In addition, David Hayes, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Interior, is leaving soon to take on a teaching position at Stanford Law School and other work with the Hewlett Foundation. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Nominations sought for 2014 Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize, deadline June 30

The Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize Committee is seeking nominations for the 2014 recipient of the annual Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize. The Committee also encourages the sharing of this message with friends and other contacts for additional Prize nominations.

As you may be aware, Katharine and George Alexander created the Prize in 2008 to bring recognition to lawyers who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity. Along with the recognition associated with the award, each recipient also receives a generous cash prize.
Nominees for the Prize must be lawyers who have used their abilities in the field of law and shown bravery and commitment to alleviating injustice and inequity. The past recipients of the Prize are Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese civil-rights attorney (2013); Almudena Bernabeu, attorney with The Center for Justice & Accountability (2012); Paul Van Zyl, former executive secretary of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2011); Shadi Sadr, an Iranian human-rights attorney (2010); Mario Joseph, managing attorney of Haiti’s Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (2009); and Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (2008).

Nominations should be prepared on the form found at  Supporting materials explaining the merits of the nominee for the Prize can also be provided through that form.
The deadline for submission of nominations is June 30, 2013. If you have any questions regarding the nomination process, please contact Noelia McKeever at

Katherine and George Alexander Law Prize Committee
(Kyle Graham, Cynthia Mertens, Don Polden, Margaret Russell, Alan Scheflin, Beth Van Schaack, Tseming Yang)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

New Dean for Santa Clara Law School

Santa Clara University has selected a new Dean for the Law School - Lisa Kloppenberg.

Her term starts July 1, 2013.  Welcome!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leading Chinese Lawyers at SCU recently

In the past few weeks, we've had some of China's leading public interest lawyers pay visits to Santa Clara University. 

At the beginning of March, Prof. Wang Canfa of the China University of Political Science and Law paid us a visit.  In addition to his academic position, Prof. Wang is also the director of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV).  

Prof. Wang is both one of the leading legal scholars in China on the environment as well as arguably the most important legal advocate in that country working on the environment.  In 2007, Time Magazine hailed him as an environmental hero. Much of his reputation derives from his work through the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, which he founded and still directs.  The Center litigates cases on behalf of pollution victims and has been remarkably (and uniquely) successful in recovering compensation for his clients.  In addition, his Center also engages in environmental law training for lawyers and judges. 

While at SCU, Prof. Wang met with Dean Polden and gave a guest lecture in an undergraduate environmental studies course about his work with CLAPV.  He was also accompanied by Professor Zhu Xiaoqin from Xiamen University Law School who is currently a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard Law School.   I ended up taking both of them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we got a wonderful tour from Dr. George Matsumoto, a scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. 

The other Chinese lawyer we had at SCU recently was Mr. Chen Guangcheng, the blind "barefoot lawyer" who created a diplomatic stand-off last spring in seeking refuge at the US Embassy.  And this all happened while Secretary Clinton was in Beijing for the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. 
Chen was at Santa Clara University to receive the Law School's Catherine and George Alexander Prize, where he gave nice acceptance speech to a packed audience.  Chen was introduced by SCU President Father Engh.  NYU Law Professor Jerry Cohen, probably the best known American law professor focused on Chinese law issues, provided valuable background on Mr. Chen's past. 

(From left to right:  Dean Don Polden, SCU President Father Engh, Cheng Guangcheng, Chen's wife (Yuan Weijing))

I ended up on the Santa Clara welcoming committee for Chen, his wife Weijing, and two young children - fancy description of me, Prof. Cynthia Mertens (SCU Law's Academic Dean), and law student Nathan picking them up at SFO to bring them to their hotel on the preceding Friday.  Interestingly, there were many people (especially Chinese) at the airport  who recognized Chen and expressed their support for his work.  I personally was struck by how unassuming he and his wife were even though they have gone through a tremendous personal ordeal in China and have gotten quite a bit of attention from the media.  But it was an honor for Santa Clara to have them come to our campus.  I understand from him that he is working on a book(in English), which should be out later this fall.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

New Environmental Appeals Board Judge at EPA

Effective April 21, 2013, Randy Hill has been appointed by Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe to join EPA's Environmental Appeals Board.  Randy is currently the Acting Director of the Office of Waste Water Management under EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water (Nancy Stoner).  He'll be a terrific addition to the EAB with his amazing resume of experiences as a senior manager in EPA's major components, the Office of Water, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, and the General Counsel Office.  I am personally excited about his new role as he has been a friend and colleague for many years (since my Justice Department days), and I know him as an experienced, thoughtful, smart, and capable lawyer.  He'll be joining the current set of EAB judges, Kathie Stein, Catherine McCabe, and Leslye Fraser.

The EAB is an internal administrative tribunal that allows regulated entities to seek review of administrative decisions, including permits and administrative enforcement actions, by various parts of the Agency.  As the delegatee of the Administrator's final authority on such matters, its decisions are theoreticallystill subject to the review (and reversal)  of the Administrator.  However, as a practical matter, as far as I know, that has never happened in its 20-something year history.  Thus, the EAB's decisions are the Agency's final word on such issues, before they might be the subject of judicial review. 

Some have described the EAB as a type of environmental court/tribunal similar to environmental courts in other countries even though it is not part of the judiciary unlike the environmental court division in Vermont's state court system, for example.  For additional background on the EAB, see Anna Wolgast, Katie Stein, and Timothy Epp, The United States Environmental Adjudication Tribunal, Journal of Court Innovation, vol. 3, no. 1, winter 2010; and Nancy Firestone, The Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Appeals Board, Environmental Law, vol. 1, no. 1 (1994-95).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"New" Environmental Protection Minister of China

Xinhua, the Chinese government's official news outlet, noted that the National People's Congress, at the end of its annual session today, endorsed the new line-up of China's Central Government ministers.    Turns out that the new Minister is also the old one -- Zhou Shengxian, who has led China's MEP since 2005.  (He had been re-nominated as part of the new set of ministers by new Premier Li Keqiang.)  For purposes of continued US-China (MEP-US EPA) environmental cooperation, that should be welcome news, since he and former Administrator Lisa Jackson had a positive and strong relationship.  However, Zhou is currently just shy of 64 and will be required to leave his post when he reaches the mandatory retirement age in a few years.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Santa Clara University Law School Dean Search

As many already know, Dean Don Polden is stepping down from his position at the end of this academic year.  Here's the Dean Search announcement.

Santa Clara University
Dean, School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law invites nominations, applications, and inquiries for the position of Dean.

JOB DESCRIPTION: Santa Clara University seeks an energetic, strategic leader to serve as the next Dean of its School of Law. For the past century, the School has dedicated itself to providing students with a rigorous education that inspires, transforms, and helps build a better, more just world. Through its prolific faculty, robust clinical programs, broad range of summer programs abroad, and extraordinarily diverse student body, the School of Law cultivates practice-ready lawyers who can represent clients effectively and ethically in an increasingly complex legal environment. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the School has garnered a strong national reputation for its Centers in High Tech Law, Global Law and Policy, and Social Justice and Public Service. The successful candidate will embrace and pursue the School's distinctive mission within a Jesuit University, will guide and support the development of high-quality academic programs, and will creatively lead the School's fundraising initiatives.

To review the full position description, please visit:

APPLICATION PROCEDURE: The confidential review of applications, nominations, and expressions of interest will begin immediately. The starting date for the position is July 1, 2013. Applications and nominations are encouraged by February 21, 2013, though the search will remain open until the position is filled. Candidates should submit a letter of application summarizing their qualifications, and how those qualifications speak to the needs of the position, as well as a curriculum vitae to:

Korn/Ferry International
c/o John F. Amer, Esq.
1900 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 2600
Los Angeles, California 90067

Electronic applications are preferred. Please e-mail documents to John F. Amer at:

Santa Clara University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer committed to excellence through diversity and, in this spirit, particularly welcomes applications from persons of color and members of historically underrepresented groups. On request, the University will provide reasonable accommodations in the application process to individuals with disabilities.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Speech Reference to Climate Change

In his inauguration speech earlier, the President devoted part of his remarks to climate change.  I wonder whether this will portend a change in the priority that the White House will put on this issue.

Here's the relevant excerpt from the speech transcript:

"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared."