Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Lubar Center, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Water LawLeave a comment» on Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century

I have previously written in this space about the difficult water policy issues facing “megacities,” generally defined as cities with a population of over ten millA photo of the cover of Marquette Lawyerion people. Meanwhile, the Law School, working in partnership with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has taken an increasing role and interest in studying various aspects of the “Chicago Megacity,” the region stretching from the Milwaukee area, across metropolitan Chicago, and into northwest Indiana. For example, see hereherehere, and here for discussion of a variety of issues such as economic development, transportation, and education.

We are excited to announce that on April 17, the Law School and the Journal Sentinel will continue those efforts, hosting a conference titled “Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century.” The event is free and open to the public, but advanced registration is required; find out more and register at this link. More details about the conference follow.

Continue reading “Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century”

Supreme Court Navigates Two Water Disputes, With More On The Way

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Public, U.S. Supreme Court, Water LawLeave a comment» on Supreme Court Navigates Two Water Disputes, With More On The Way

On Monday the Supreme Court heard arguments in two interstate water allocation disputes, Florida v. Georgia and Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado. The Court has also accepted a third such case, Mississippi v. Tennessee, and assigned it to a special master. The cases will force the Court to examine the The Rio Grande River near the USA-Mexico borderbalance between economic development and environmental protection, the federal role in state water disputes, and whether groundwater and surface water allocation should be governed by the same decisional rules.

The trio of pending cases belies the Court’s expressed preference for such disputes to be resolved by interstate compacts entered into pursuant to the Compact Clause (Article I, Section 10, Clause 3). It has previously commented that it approaches interstate water disputes with caution given the “complicated and delicate questions” involved, and has advised “expert administration [via a compact] rather than judicial imposition of a hard and fast rule.”[1] Nevertheless, in these cases at least, an old adage often attributed to Mark Twain trumped the Court’s advice: “whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting over.”

Continue reading “Supreme Court Navigates Two Water Disputes, With More On The Way”

The quiet revolution in Wisconsin administrative law

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Public, Water Law, Wisconsin Law & Legal SystemLeave a comment» on The quiet revolution in Wisconsin administrative law

The late Justice Antonin Scalia, a former administrative law professor, once began an address on Chevron deference by warning his audience to “lean back, clutch the sides of your chairs, and steel yourselves for a pretty dull lecture.”[1] Perhaps that warning should preface this blog post, which also concerns administrative law. Of course Scalia’s comments that day turned out to be anything but “dull.” Broadly speaking, neither is the subject matter A view of EPA headquarters in Washington, DChe covered: as the discipline concerned with governmental decision-making, administrative law issues confront nearly every legal practice in areas as diverse as taxation, environmental permitting and litigation, labor relations, and countless others.

In Wisconsin, the past five years have seen an unprecedented makeover in longstanding principles of state-level administrative law. These changes shift power away from agencies and toward courts, the legislature, and the governor. In this post, I divide the changes into three categories: 1) reductions in agency authority; 2) additions to the rulemaking process that, among other things, allow the Legislature to indefinitely block new rules; and, perhaps most importantly, 3) fundamental revisions to the doctrine of judicial deference to agency interpretations of law. Taken together, these developments deeply change the balance of power between agencies and the three branches of Wisconsin government.

Continue reading “The quiet revolution in Wisconsin administrative law”

Protecting the Great Lakes Starts with Caring About Them, Author Says

Posted on Categories Public, Speakers at Marquette, Water LawLeave a comment» on Protecting the Great Lakes Starts with Caring About Them, Author Says

As a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and author of a new, acclaimed book, Dan Egan has been deeply immersed (I suppose the pun is intended) in issues involving the Great Lakes for well over a decade. Few people can talk or write with the depth and breadth he can about a long list of lakes-related subjects, from Asian carp to lake levels to the history of use of the lakes.

But when he was asked on Wednesday, during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School, what people can do as citizens to help the lakes, Egan’s answer was, by his own description, “deceptively simple.”

Sure, get up to speed on the issues. Speak up to politicians and policy makers. But the first thing Egan recommended: “Take your kids swimming at the lake or take them fishing, if you have the means to. Make sure they have a relationship with the lakes so they care about the lakes as they get older.” Continue reading “Protecting the Great Lakes Starts with Caring About Them, Author Says”

Revisiting recent posts on Great Lakes law and policy

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Public, Water LawLeave a comment» on Revisiting recent posts on Great Lakes law and policy

I have recently written in this space about several legal and policy matters of current importance to the Great Lakes, including the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin’s application for a diversion of Great Lakes water pursuant to the Great Lakes Compact; the potential invasion of the Great Lakes by a voracious non-native species of fish, the Asian carp; Great Lakes from spaceand President Trump’s budget proposal to completely defund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a federal program that enjoys strong bipartisan support and supports approximately $300 million in Great Lakes projects annually. There have been important developments on all three fronts over the past few weeks.

Waukesha diversion. The last remaining major barrier to Waukesha’s diversion of Great Lakes water for its public supply has fallen. Continue reading “Revisiting recent posts on Great Lakes law and policy”

The Uninvited

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Public, Water Law1 Comment on The Uninvited

The recent discovery of a voracious, non-native aquatic predator only nine miles from Lake Michigan is alarming but not particularly surprising, in light of the unappealing options for legal and political responses. However, when coupled with policy and budget changes implemented by the Trump administration, the new find may reignite a series of legal battles between the Midwestern states that the Seventh Circuit has dealt with twice in the past six yeAn invasive Asian carp jumps from the waterars. First, the factual background: Asian carp (shorthand for several species including grass carp, bighead carp, silver carp, and black carp) eat up to 20% of their weight per day and grow to several feet long and over one hundred pounds. Videos document their tendency to leap out of the water when startled, sometimes colliding with boaters and causing injury or damage. They have no natural predators and, by some estimates, would wreak havoc on the Great Lakes food chain and devastate the multi-billion dollar Great Lakes fishery. In 2006 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that “Asian carp pose the greatest immediate threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem.”

The story of the carp’s inexorable march to the doorstep of the Great Lakes is both a lesson in the law of unintended consequences and a cautionary tale of political and legal inefficacy. Beginning in the 1960s, southern fish farmers imported several species of carp to control vegetation in ponds. The carp entered the lower Mississippi River basin via accidental releases and flooding events, and have since rapidly migrated through nearly the entire basin, with their populations increasing exponentially. Even so, the carp could not have threatened the Great Lakes without the artificial connection between the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins created by the City of Chicago in the year 1900, which was originally constructed as a crude sewage treatment solution but now serves other purposes.

The Obama administration made some efforts to control the spread of the carp, and especially to keep them out of the Great Lakes. In 2010, the president convened a “carp summit” at the White House and appointed an “Asian carp czar” who led an effort to eradicate them. President Obama also proposed a $78 million plan to improve the federal response to the issue. Later, the United States Army Corps of Engineers developed a four-pronged strategy to prevent carp from becoming established in the Great Lakes, including the construction and operation of a large electric dispersal barrier between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the entry to the Great Lakes. And the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently developed a “Response Framework for Invasive Species,” which addresses invasive aquatic species without specifically mentioning the carp. None of these well-meaning efforts has successfully halted the carp’s progress.

The Trump administration has taken a different approach that may run afoul of two recent Seventh Circuit decisions and lead to additional legal maneuvering. Continue reading “The Uninvited”

Facing Extinction: Climate Migrant Crisis

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Human Rights, Immigration Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Public, Water LawLeave a comment» on Facing Extinction: Climate Migrant Crisis

Map showing the continents of the the planet Earth with coastal areas marked in red highlighting the effect of a 6 meter rise in sea level. In recent days, President Trump has declared that he would have the United States withdraw from the Paris climate accord.  Business leaders like Elon Musk of Tesla have said that this decision would ultimately harm the economy by yielding the jobs of the future in clean energy to foreign competitors. I argue that withdrawing from the Paris climate accord also serves to exacerbate the climate migrant crisis that will inevitably hit American shores.

The global environment has long impacted migration patterns. For instance, humans have historically left places when deteriorating conditions threatened their survival. However, accelerated effects from climate change are expected to bring about significant and unprecedented changes to global migration patterns. Climate change is rapidly destabilizing global environments,(1) resulting in increasingly more common rising oceans, longer and more frequent droughts, and higher temperatures.(2)  Consequently, changes to global environments will inevitably dislocate people from their homes and nations. In fact, many communities have already started to suffer from the disastrous consequences of climate change. For example, in Gabura, Bangladesh, many of the three thousand people who live in this coastal region have been forced to move their homes onto skinny, man-made embankments to flee the rising ocean.(3)  Yet because of increasingly cramped conditions and dwindling resources, villagers are unable to work, farm, and live as they traditionally have.(4)  Unfortunately, there is no relief in sight, as scientists predict rising waters will completely submerge Gabura and at least seven percent of all Bangladesh before the end of the century.(5)  Parallel stories of growing displacement caused by rising sea-levels,(6) more frequent droughts,(7) and retreating sea ice(8) are found in ever increasing numbers all around the globe.

As nations debate the causes and treatments for climate change, people everywhere are struggling to adapt to new environmental realities. Regrettably, for many adaptation will mean leaving their countries to survive. Such people who are induced to leave their home country because of the climate change are referred to as “climate migrants”.(9)  Presently there is little empirical research to provide anything more than a rough prediction of population displacement that will occur because of climate change.(10)  In fact there is a wide variety of predictions; however this does not undermine the urgency to address the climate migrant crisis. For example, Christian Aid, a British organization that actively provides refugee assistance, predicts that the global number of displaced people may rise to more than one billion by the year 2050, in large part due to climate change.(11)  In comparison, ecologist Norman Myers reports that up to 200 million people may be become climate migrants by the end of this century.(12)  Despite the lack of empirical research, what is certain is that global warming will lead to massive population displacements and climate migration at numbers never before witnessed.(13)  Such displacement will almost certainly lead to extinction of peoples and cultures. Continue reading “Facing Extinction: Climate Migrant Crisis”

A Day of Insight on Major Environmental Topics — and Proper Garbage Disposer Use

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Water LawLeave a comment» on A Day of Insight on Major Environmental Topics — and Proper Garbage Disposer Use

The sharing of thoughtful expertise on matters of great long-term importance – that was the virtue and strength of a conference at Marquette Law School on May 16. “Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus” brought together about 75 professionals and academic figures from across Wisconsin and the country who work in these tightly related fields. 

The day-long session, organized by David Strifling, director of the Water Law and Policy Initiative at Marquette Law School, and an organizing committee, had a broad theme of how leaders and researchers in these crucial fields could work together and stretch their vision to serve the best and broadest sense of the public good.

Speakers at the event covered a variety of topics including energy recovery at wastewater treatment facilities, the importance of groundwater, ethical aspects of decisions about natural resources, and the deep links between agriculture, water, and energy. Yet for the handful of people in the audience who were less technical in their backgrounds — and for a larger audience such as this one – the most practical piece of wisdom may well have been a bit of advice on how to use a garbage disposal.

In the question and answer session at the end of a panel discussion on environmental issues, one of those non-technical people in the audience (no, it wasn’t me, but I had the same question on my mind) asked if it was better for the environment to put your food waste into your garbage disposer, sending it to a wastewater treatment facility, or into your garbage, sending it to a landfill. She said her garbage disposer sometimes got clogged, causing flooding in her basement, so she stopped using it.

One of the panelists was Michael Keleman, manager of environmental engineering for InSinkErator, a leader in the garbage disposal field. The company is headquartered in Sturdevant, in Racine County. Not surprisingly, Keleman is partial to garbage disposer units and putting most food waste down the sink.

He told the questioner, “It seems like people, when they have problems, it’s probably from improper use. That’s this: They’ll load up the chamber or the sink and say, ‘Oop, it’s time to use the disposer, my sink’s getting full, it’s running over the top.’ They’ll turn the disposer on and then they’ll turn the water on and then, as soon as they see the food and water disappear, they’ll turn the water off and the disposer off.

“What you really want to do is turn your water on first, then turn your disposer on second, and then add your food waste gradually. Let it grind until you don’t hear any food waste any more. Turn the disposer off and let the water run for a few seconds.”

So is it better to do that than throw your waste in the garbage can? Keleman said food waste is 70 to 90 percent  water. “Why are we handling this as a solid waste?” he asked. “It’s not really solid any more if you’re using the disposer right.” Its density is about the same as water and it will be successfully transported to a treatment facility that can recover resources – including clean water and energy – from it, and simultaneously avoid land use problems.

Keleman had less cheerful advice on a second matter raised by the questioner, avoiding disposing of unneeded drugs by flushing them down the toilet or sink.

While saying programs to dispose of pharmaceuticals by other means are “great,” Keleman was skeptical of how much difference they make.

“We take in these pharmaceuticals, we excrete back over 90% of it,” he said. “The bottom line is, as long as pharmacy is the way it is, we’re going to excrete most of these endocrine disrupters and birth control pills, even caffeine, all the things – the pain killers, benzodiazepines. These are all things our society is taking and we’re excreting. So no matter how good a job we do at take-back programs, they’re still going to be this in the waste water stream.“

In Keleman’s accounting, score one for proper use of a garbage disposer. And do what you can about disposing of drugs – but don’t have illusions about I in a society where drug use is so extensive.

To read the program for the conference, click here. To watch video of the entire conference, click here. The exchange with Keleman starts at 5 hours and 14 minutes into the video.  ##

 

Insights on Judiciary and Tech Industry Highlight New Marquette Lawyer Magazine

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Environmental Law, Federal Law & Legal System, Marquette Law School, Public, Speakers at Marquette, U.S. Supreme Court, Wisconsin Criminal Law & ProcessLeave a comment» on Insights on Judiciary and Tech Industry Highlight New Marquette Lawyer Magazine

Marquette Lawyer Summer 2017 CoverTwo pairs may not be the most powerful hand in poker, but they are definitely a winning combination for the Summer 2017 edition of Marquette Lawyer, the Marquette Law School magazine.

One pair in the magazine focuses on how long U.S. Supreme Court Justices should serve and, more broadly, how to assure confidence in the judiciary. Judge Albert Diaz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit focused on this in the E. Harold Hallows Lecture he delivered at Marquette Law School in 2016. The magazine offers a lightly edited text of the lecture by Diaz, including his advocacy of ideas he presumes that few of his fellow judges would support. Paired with the text is a comment from Diaz’s colleague on the Fourth Circuit, Judge James Wynn, L’79. An interview and profile of Wynn accompany his comment. The Diaz text may be read by clicking here and the Wynn comment (and interview) here.

The other pair in the magazine offers provocative insights from two people who play leading roles in the tech world. Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, made two appearances at Marquette Law School on November 15, 2016, delivering the Helen Wilson Nies Lecture on Intellectual Property and participating in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program. A selection of his thoughts may be found by clicking here.

Ted Ullyot is currently a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, and he was formerly general counsel for Facebook—indeed, the lawyer who led the company in the process of going public. An edited version of Ullyot’s remarks at the Law School in a Helen Wilson Nies Lecture in April 2016 may be found by clicking hereContinue reading “Insights on Judiciary and Tech Industry Highlight New Marquette Lawyer Magazine”

What President Trump’s “Budget Blueprint” Could Mean For The Great Lakes

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Water LawLeave a comment» on What President Trump’s “Budget Blueprint” Could Mean For The Great Lakes

At a recent Law School event, several panelists (including me) discussed the potential for the Trump administration to make important changes to the law in our respective areas of concentration. I said at the time that environmental law has proven quite resistant to previous efforts that would have weakened or erased it. Part of this resiliency is due A photo of a wetlandto the lengthy time horizon typically involved in repealing and replacing statutes and rules; another major factor is longstanding public opposition to such changes. With that said, major attempts are underway that, if implemented, would seriously undermine bulwarks of environmental law such as the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Antiquities Act. The Trump EPA has also recently begun the long process of repealing and replacing the Clean Water Rule, under direction from President Trump to rewrite it in a manner consistent with one of Justice Scalia’s previous opinions.

Whether or not those efforts succeed, the executive branch has a major impact on the day-to-day operation of environmental law even in the absence of major statutory or regulatory reforms. The most direct avenues for this are through budgeting decisions and enforcement discretion. With debates over spending engulfing Washington, it’s worth examining the potential impact of President Trump’s recent “America First – Budget Blueprint” on the Great Lakes region. Several features of the proposal have generated controversy and may be especially significant in the Great Lakes region: Continue reading “What President Trump’s “Budget Blueprint” Could Mean For The Great Lakes”

Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Marquette Law School, Public, Water LawLeave a comment» on Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus

I have previously written in this space about the importance of policy innovation at the food-energy-water nexus. On Tuesday, May 16, Marquette Law School will host an interactive and interdisciplinary workshop to explore those issues, drawing from engineering, legal, scientific, and policy spheres. The workshop format and accompanying discussions will (1) provoke conversations about overcoming barriers to the implementation of innovative water solutions, (2) A circle graph showing how water and energy are relatedstimulate ideas for focused academic research in the nexus, and (3) drive the development of organizational policy and technology roadmaps. The event incorporates sessions on energy use, recovery, and minimization at water and wastewater utilities; on groundwater; on agricultural sustainability and food waste; and on ethical considerations for stakeholders, a topic often absent from similar events. A working lunch and roundtable discussion as well as breakout sessions will invite and encourage broad-based attendee participation. Attendees will also have numerous opportunities to network with experts, researchers, and students. This event is sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation I/UCRC for Water Equipment and Policy. More details, including an agenda and registration information, are available here. Confirmed participants include: Continue reading “Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus”

Water: 2016 Retrospective (and Issues to Watch in 2017)

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Public, Water Law1 Comment on Water: 2016 Retrospective (and Issues to Watch in 2017)

At this time of year it seems appropriate to both examine the year just ended and look forward to the one to come.[1] 2016 brought numerous developments in the water law and policy sector at the national and state levels, and also here at Marquette University Law School’s Water Law and Policy Initiative. 2017 promises more of the same.

Nationally, the Flint drinking water crisis continued to dominate headlines. While the quality of Flint’s drinking water is slowly improving, it’s certainly too early to declare the crisis over. As a stark reminder of that, an ongoing investigation led to a series of criminal charges against those at the heart of the disaster.  Here at Marquette, drinking water issues also took center stage. The Water Law & Policy Initiative’s September Public Policy and American Drinking Water conference, organized in combination with the Law School’s larger Public Policy Initiative, drew widespread attention and brought together national experts in a variety of water-related fields. It was at this event that Mayor Barrett spoke of the pressing risks of lead in Milwaukee because of the 70,000 lead laterals serving City of Milwaukee residences. The mayor’s comments at and after the conference provoked intense media coverage and quickly resulted in the City making numerous policy changes. For example, Mayor Barrett agreed to provide free water filters to affected citizens, and ultimately budgeted to pay a substantial part of the cost to replace (privately owned) lead service lines.

Many other stories also captured headlines in 2016.

Continue reading “Water: 2016 Retrospective (and Issues to Watch in 2017)”