Environment

Will Sodsaver Save the Prairie Pothole Region?

Joe McCartin, MJLST Staff

In recent years, high crop and farmland prices, in combination with technological advances in agriculture, have pushed crop producers to convert virgin prairie at an alarming rate. Minnesota, for example, was once covered in prairie. Yet, today only 1% remains of the 18 million acres that once covered the state, and that too has come under threat. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that federal subsidies and crop insurance treated crops equally even if they were being grown in an ecologically destructive manner. A crop producer received taxpayer support even for corn and soybeans grown on virgin prairie that had just been plowed-under. These were often areas once considered marginal for crop production, but they held enormously high value for wildlife and helped protect water quality from other agricultural erosion and pesticide and fertilizer pollution.

The recently passed Farm Bill, the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act of 2014, included a new program, Sodsaver, proposed by Ducks Unlimited and advanced by a diverse array of organizations, from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited to the Union of Concerned Scientists and the World Wildlife Fund. The program aims to shift the incentives that make the plowing of virgin prairie so appealing. It works by preventing farmers from enrolling virgin prairie, land that has not been planted with crops previously, in the federal crop insurance program. Since subsidies will slowly be phased-out for most crops, preventing access to crop insurance will prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for the ecologically damaging process of planting on virgin prairie. By forcing farmers to rely entirely on free-market forces for crops grown on this land, Sodsaver hopes to make the often lucrative decision to plow the prairie riskier for crop producers. Unfortunately, the program was only implemented in a limited number of states that make up the Prairie Pothole Region – Minnesota, Montana, the Dakotas, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Because the program does not mandate that crop producers preserve their native, virgin prairie, but merely withholds taxpayer support if the decision is made, it is forecast to save taxpayers nearly $120 million over 10 years. These savings could grow substantially if the program had not been limited to a handful of states. However, the important question remains unanswered, will this change the behavior of crop producers. While removing crop insurance coverage seems to be a logical first step in stemming the tide of prairie loss, it is only a first step. Whether it will be enough will depend heavily on crop prices and actions by grassland states to protect and restore these priceless ecological resources. A diverse array of migratory waterfowl and songbirds very survival depends on the success of Sodsaver in these trial states, and the program’s expansion into all grassland states.

The author served on the Policy Council of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, one of the supporters of the Sodsaver program.


BP’s Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Litigation Drags on in the Eastern District of Louisiana

Daniel Schueppert, MJLST Staff

With the recent celebration of Mardi Gras not long past, Louisiana and other southern coastal states are once again making national news. Meanwhile, in the background of these festivities, lawyers and the courts are toiling away at ongoing litigation arising from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill: a spill that began almost four years ago, lasted at least eighty-seven days, and caused the deaths of eleven people.

In 2012 Daniel Farber published an article titled The BP Blowout and the Social and Environmental Erosion of the Louisiana Coast in vol. 13 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology. In his article, Professor Farber analyzed the pre-spill, post-spill, and anticipated condition of the oil-affected coastal states. Many of the issues identified in his paper continue to be troubling in light of the disruption caused by the oil spill. In addition to the environmental and regulatory issues that face these states, the Eastern District of Louisiana is embroiled in a prolonged legal battle related to destruction of digital evidence that might have made a difference before or during the well blowout.

Kurt Mix was a drilling engineer for BP assigned to the Deep Water Horizon at the time of the blowout off the coast of Louisiana in April, 2010. In the course of his work, Mix had access to, and a degree of control over the production of, internal BP data about the rate and amount of oil flowing out of the damaged Macondo Prospect well upon which the Deep Water Horizon was sited. BP publicly issued statements that the well had a flow rate at the time of about 5,000 barrels daily, but during the same period, BP and Mix’s team allegedly knew that the rate was closer to 64,000 to 146,000 barrels per day, according the government’s related complaint against BP directly.

In May, 2012 “Mix was charged by the United States in a two count indictment with obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(1). . . . based on his allegedly deleting certain iPhone texts to BP’s then-Drilling Engineering Manager . . . .” for the region and a third party contractor who was assisting with the spill and blowout response. U.S. v. Mix, 12-171, 2012 WL 2420016 (E.D. La. 2012). Mix was found guilty on this obstruction charge despite having previously released that information to U.S. government representatives, and according to a Forbes article, Mix’s disclosures were a primary source comprising the basis of the government’s claims against BP. He is the only natural person to have had claims related to the oil spill stick. The content of the texts themselves have so far not been recovered despite his conviction, which raises questions about the procedural management and prosecutorial discretion used in this collection of cases related to the Deep Water Horizon blowout. Following Mix’s conviction, there has been a procedural dance of more than twenty actions between the United States and Mix, touching on issues of attorney privilege, judicial conflicts of interest, criminal and civil procedure, and proportional liability for allegations based on extinct digital evidence.


Guest Commentary – Climate Change: Is Anyone Ever Going to Do Anything about it?

by Myanna Dellinger, JD, MA – Associate Professor at Western State College of Law and Director of the Institute for Global Law and Policy

Extremely cold weather conditions still haunt the American North and Northeast. Meanwhile, California is suffering through July temperatures in January and the worst drought since 1895. No doubt about it, we are witnessing ever more frequent extreme weather events. Since nations still can’t agree on what to do about this urgent problem, it may be up to local actors such as cities, states, companies, and NGOs to take the required action now.

Nations have agreed to “try” to limit global warming to 2° C and to agree on a new climate treaty by 2015 to take effect by 2020, but in reality, we are headed towards a 5.3° C increase. Even if the 2° degree target were to be met, vast ecological and economic damage would still occur in the form of, for instance, severe economic disruptions to our food and water supply.

Disregarding climate change is technologically risky too: to meet the target of keeping concentrations of CO2 below the most recently agreed-upon threshold of 500 ppm, future generations would have to literally pull CO2 out of the air with either machinery that does not yet exist and may never become technically or economically feasible, or with bioenergy crops that absorb CO2, which would compete with food production.

My article “Localizing Climate Change” argues that effective and urgent action is likely to come from the local and not the national or international levels.

In fact, the parties to the climate treaty framework UNFCCC similarly recently agreed that cities, other subnational authorities, and the private sector must play a role in future treaty-making contexts. This makes sense. Local actors may be the ones best situated to find out what can be done technically and politically in each location. Meanwhile, nations are almost unbelievably playing two fiddles at the same time, subsidizing fossil fuel development much more than cleaner energies. That’s right: although renewable energy policies are becoming more prevalent, they are financially and politically outcompeted by the rapid growth of fossil fuels in the USA and elsewhere. Perhaps indicative of the true state of affairs is the fact that climate adaptation talks are intensifying as mitigation agreements seem to be stalling. It doesn’t help that a secretive network of conservative billionaires is pouring billions of dollars into a vast political effort attempting to deny climate change and that–perhaps as a consequence–the coverage of climate change by American media is down significantly from 2009, when media was happy to report a climate change “scandal” that eventually proved to be incorrectly reported. Little wonder that the most recent IPCC report concluded that it is “extremely likely” (i.e. with 95-100% certainty) that human activity is the principal cause of climate change.

If you think all this is driving you crazy, you may be right. Shifts in climate have been strongly linked to human violence around the world, such as spikes in domestic violence in Australia, increased assaults and murders in the United States, land invasions in Brazil, police violence in Holland, and civil conflicts throughout the tropics.

What are we, as a nation, doing about this? In the summer of 2013, President Obama announced the first-ever United States Climate Action Plan. This relies on a number of Executive Orders, as the Senate is still unlikely to ratify a climate treaty. As with other recent Congressional gridlock, this highlights the importance of local action. If the United States was willing to ratify a new climate change treaty, this could spur much-needed action by the relatively low number of nations needed to make a big impact on the problem. After all, the world’s top ten emitters account for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

This leads to my questions: Where is the most likely and substantively effective action going to come from: local or national/supranational entities? If you think climate change must be countered at the national and international levels, who is then responsible? For instance, should it be the historically largest emitters (among them, the USA and China), the most capable (the industrialized world), the most progressive (arguably the EU), or . . . ? Is anything even going to happen at all, or are we as human beings simply incapable of worrying about the future as a recent study indicated?


Making it Personal: The Key to Climate Change Action

by Brandon Palmen, UMN Law Student, MJLST Executive Editor

Climate change is the ultimate global governance challenge, right? It’s an intractable problem, demanding a masterfully coordinated international response and a delicate political solution, balancing entrenched economic interests against deeply-discounted, diffuse future harms that are still highly uncertain. But what if that approach to the problem were turned on its head? We often hear that the earth will likely warm 3-5 degrees centigrade (+/- 2 degrees), on average, over the next hundred years, and we may wonder whether that’s as painful as higher utility bills and the fear of losing business and jobs to free-riding overseas competitors. What if, instead, Americans asking “what’s in it for me?” could just go online and look up their home towns, the lakes where they vacation, the mountains where they ski, and fields where their crops are grown, and obtain predictions of how climate change is likely to impact the places they actually live and work?

A new climate change viewing tool from the U.S. Geological Survey is a first step toward changing that paradigm. The tool consolidates and averages temperature change predictions based on numerous climate change models and displays them on a map. The result is beautiful in its simplicity; like a weather map, it allows everyday information consumers to begin to understand how climate change will affect their lives on a daily basis, making what had been an abstract concept of “harm” more tangible and actionable. So far, the tool appears to use pre-calculated, regional values and static images (to support high-volume delivery over the internet, no doubt), and switching between models reveals fascinatingly wide predictive discrepancies. But it effectively communicates the central trend of climate change research, and suggests the possibility of developing a similar tool that could provide more granular data, either by incorporating the models and crunching numbers in real time, or by extrapolating missing values from neighboring data points. Google Earth also allows users to view climate change predictions geographically, but the accessibility of the USGS tool may give it greater impact with the general public.

There are still challenging bridges to be crossed — translation of what “N-degree” temperature changes will likely have on particular species, and “tagging,” “fencing,” or “painting” of specific tracts of land with those species — but it is plausible that within a few years, we will be able to obtain tailored predictions of climate change’s impact on the environments that actually matter to us — the ones in which we live. Of course those predictions will be imprecise or even wholly incorrect, but if they’re based on the best-available climate models, coupled with discoverable information about local geographic features, they’ll be no worse than many other prognostications that grip everyday experience, like stock market analysis and diet/nutrition advice. Maybe the problem with public climate change debate is that it’s too scientific, in the sense that scientists know the limitations of their knowledge and models, and are wary of “defrauding” the public by drawing inductive conclusions that aren’t directly confirmed by evidence. Or maybe there’s just no good way to integrate the best climate models with local environmental and economic knowledge … yet.

Well, so what? Isn’t tackling climate change still an intractable global political problem? Maybe not. The more that people understand about the impacts climate change will have on them personally, the more likely they are to personally take action to ameliorate climate change, even absent meaningful top-down climate change policy. And while global governance may be beyond the reach of most individuals, local and state programs are not so far removed from private participation. In her recent article, Localizing Climate Change Action, Myanna Dellinger examines several such “home-grown” programs, and concludes that they may be an important component of climate change mitigation. Minnesotans are probably most worried about climate change’s impact on snow storms, lake health, and crop yields, while Arizonans might worry more about drought and fragile desert ecosystems, and Floridians might worry about hurricanes and beach tourism. If all of these local groups are motivated by the same fundamental problem, their actions may be self-coordinating in effect, even if they are not coordinated by design.


Mucking Up the Clean Air Act

by David Tibbals, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff

When does “mobile” mean “stationary”?

Noah Webster’s response should be obvious. But it appears the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to weigh in on that very question.

Just last week, the Court granted certiorari in the case of Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, an amalgam of six separate lawsuits questioning the authority of the EPA to broaden its regulation of greenhouse gases. At issue is the EPA’s decision to begin enforcing regulatory and permitting programs against stationary producers of greenhouse gases, such as coal-fired power plants.

The case can be viewed as a direct descendant of 2007’s Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the Court held that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gases, despite the fact that they weren’t actually recognized as “air pollutants” covered under the Clean Air Act. The Court’s ruling, however, was limited to greenhouse gases emitted by mobile sources, namely new automobiles.

Although the Court’s grant doesn’t challenge the general characterization of greenhouse gases as “air pollutants,” it poses a single question, the answer to which could effect a dramatic change in agency rulemaking. Is the EPA allowed to “trigger” permitting requirements for stationary sources based solely on its past regulation of mobile sources?

In essence, does “mobile” mean “stationary”?

The only prudent answer to that question is an emphatic “no.” Allowing the EPA–or any agency, for that matter–to premise broadened jurisdiction in such a manner vests an inordinate amount of power in a body well-nigh immune from the political process. Although it’s heretical to mention in a post-Chevron world, Locke and Montesquieu urged the incompatibility of such extra-legislative lawmaking power with democratic principles.

But a more eye-opening reason for answering in the negative is the adverse economic blow such expanded regulation will strike. Expanding regulation to “stationary” sources–an incredibly equivocal characterization–will inevitably result in increased compliance costs. This increase is already being realized by producers and consumers alike; a power company in Mississippi has raised electricity rates by 15% this year to fund a new, fully-compliant plant.

By the way, that new plant has already run $1.4 billion over budget.

The Court is expected to announce its judgment next summer. If it is interested in relying on democratic principles and catalyzing a languid economy, it will overrule expanded regulation and prevent the EPA from further soiling the Clean Air Act.


The Bayou Corne Sinkhole: A New Test for the Gulf Region’s Post-Deepwater Strategy?

by Chris Evans, UMN Law Student, MJLST Executive Editor

Thumbnail-Chris-Evans.jpg Less than 200 miles from the site of 2010’s Horizon Deepwater blowout, another environmental disaster threatens a community in the Gulf Coast region. In early August, 2012, a massive sinkhole opened up beneath the Bayou Corne near a small residential community in Assumption Parish, Louisiana. Filled with brine, oil, and natural gas, the sinkhole has since grown to 8 acres, forcing the evacuation of 300 residents, and officials apparently don’t know when (or if) the area will again be habitable.

Assumption-Parish-Sinkhole-large.jpg

Below the Bayou Corne, the country’s largest independent brine (used in a variety of industrial processes) producer, Texas Brine, had been removing brine from an underground salt cavern for over twenty-five years up until June 2011, when it plugged the cavern. Texas Brine also, with the permission of Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, deposited naturally-occurring radioactive material in the cavern. The USGS has determined the collapse of the cavern caused the sinkhole. Although Texas Brine has been working with authorities to monitor and remedy the disaster, the company sought an injunction against an order to drill new wells to install additional monitoring equipment. Texas Brine dropped that lawsuit when Louisiana agreed to instead require the company to perform 3D seismic imaging to evaluate the cavern.

This unprecedented disaster and the torpid response by state officials and Texas Brine is an example of what Daniel Farber called the Gulf region’s “witch’s brew of chronic environmental harm, acute pollution, and threatened communities.” In The BP Blowout and the Social and Environmental Erosion of the Louisiana Coast, Farber described the threats to the region posed by both the Deepwater oil spill and the chronic unpreparedness of the region for such catastrophes.

Farber notes hopefully that “the acute crisis of the spill has helped mobilize attention to the Gulf, which may help catalyze responses to the Gulf’s chronic ills.” Indeed, in October 2010, President Obama established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to develop a regional response to the Deepwater spill, which it released in December 2011. The strategy–one of several post-Deepwater reforms discussed by Farber–is built around four main goals: restore and conserve habitat, restore water quality, replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources, and enhance community resilience.

The Bayou Corne sinkhole has remained mostly unnoticed by national media, so despite its impact on the local community and lack of historical precedent, this disaster is unlikely to mobilize new attention to the Gulf region. But Bayou Corne presents a useful test for the Restoration Task Force’s strategy: can this framework help mitigate the effects of the sinkhole? The strategy’s focus on the coast, the Gulf, tourism, fishing, and oil and natural gas drilling make it a less than optimal source of salvation for the unusual problem of the Bayou Corne sinkhole. But displaced residents would be wise to tap any available Deepwater-related resource aimed at the region. Even if the Deepwater-inspired reforms provide no relief for Bayou Corne, local pressure will improve the state, regional, and federal framework for dealing with (or preventing) the next disaster


Juggling GMOs: Balancing Benefits, Risks, & Unknowns

by George Kidd, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff

Thumbnail-George-Kidd.jpgThe recent multi-billion dollar loss as a result of the 5th worst drought ever recorded in U.S. history adds fuel to an already raging debate over genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”). Amanda Welters, in “Striking a Balance: Revising USDA Regulations to Promote Competition Without Stifling Innovation,” delivers a fantastic overview of key issues in the GMO debate while also introducing novel legislative ideas garnered from the pharmaceutical industry. Ms. Welters’ article provides important insights into the continuing struggle to provide society with an optimal outcome.

While recent documentaries such as “Food Inc.” and “King Corn” give informative, although one-sided, analyses of the GMO debate, GMO’s may indeed be necessary for the future. The recent drought only emphasizes why utilizing GMO crops may be so necessary. Benefits of using these crops could include increased resistance to severe weather, increased food production from less land, and decreased pesticide use. With so many benefits it is easy to see why these types of crops may have a lasting future.

But the road to societal riches as a result of using GMOs may be a tightrope walk with a long fall. Most of the pushback comes from the fact that the effects of consuming GMO products are largely unknown. Further, when all farmers use GMO seed, biodiversity is reduced, opening up problems if a disease were to effectively eradicate a particular GMO crop. Lastly, while Monsanto has done a good job of creating essentially “self-destructing” seed, reducing the crop yield of further generations of their soybean to encourage farmers to purchase new yearly seed, introduction of modified genetic material may have an irreversible environmental impact.

In light of the World Bank issuing a global hunger warning, perhaps we should accelerate our efforts in moving toward a legislative balancing act in either moving forward with GMO crops or looking elsewhere for innovative ideas. Producers of new GMO technology need to remain adequately incentivized to make GMOs more effective and safer for human consumption. But competition also plays an important role in improving GMO’s future viability. Expiration of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean patents in 2014 will allow generic brand competition to spur price drops and competitive innovation.

In the end, when we do find that optimal balance between innovation and competition, the only winners are us.


Wasted Places Report Elucidates Key Problem in Current Environmental Legal and Regulatory Infrastructure

by David Hanna, MJLST Lead Article Editor, UMN J.D./M.S. in Chemistry Joint Degree Candidate

Thumbnail-David-Hanna-II.jpgDuring a time when environmental issues flood the headlines of newspapers, magazine covers, and television broadcasts, it is hard not to come across sustainable efforts by concerned companies and institutions trying to proactively tackle these environmental issues. While these pointed campaigns and programs deserve some recognition, there is plenty of room for improvement and this improvement needs immediate legal and regulatory acknowledgment.

Recently, in her article “Wasted Places: Slow, Underfunded EPA Program Falls Short in Toxic Site Cleanups,” Kate Golden attributed limited funds, lack of federal oversight, and complex approval processes as the reasons for the hundreds of thousands of abandoned and polluted properties referred to as “brownfields” that continue to exist all over the country. Despite billions of dollars in federal grants and loans provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are still brownfields that are contaminating groundwater. While EPA funds are arguably one part of the sustainability puzzle, legal and regulatory infrastructure is another piece of the puzzle that has apparently fallen under the table. It should come as no surprise that the current legal and regulatory infrastructure is the root of the brownfields problem, as evidenced by current environmental issues stemming forth from insufficient legal and regulatory governance.

For example, the current controversial discussion of the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is one area where environmentalists have recognized and commented on the lack of EPA monitoring in regulating potential public health hazards. In “Notes from Underground: Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale,” Joseph Dammel examined the effect of fracking on our energy portfolio, national security, and capacity for technological innovation. Dammel proposes that courts, Congress, and regulatory agencies take reformative legal and regulatory action to address the current environmental issues posed by a technology that seems to have outpaced our lawmakers. Ultimately, this vicious, inescapable cycle is the result of insufficient legal and regulatory governance. Without intervention, the history of brownfields is likely to repeat itself through fracking.

Chemical waste management and minimization in university teaching and research laboratories is another area where legal and regulatory reform is needed. In my upcoming article, “Do Educational Institutions Score High on Their Sustainability Efforts?: A Case Study (and Grade) on Chemical Waste Management and Minimization in Teaching and Research Laboratories at the University of Minnesota,” that will be published in Volume 14, Issue 1 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, I utilize the University of Minnesota, one of the largest institutions by student enrollment in the United States, as a case study to elucidate how universities and colleges have missed key areas of development and improvement of sustainability in their sustainability campaigns and programs. By evaluating the legal and regulatory framework currently in place, the article suggests ways to move forward in managing and reducing chemical waste at educational institutions like the University of Minnesota.

Whether the issue concerns brownfields, fracking, or chemical management, a big reason these environmental issues exist is a lack of legal and regulatory governance. This lack of governance might be due to key players not carrying out their delegated responsibilities. Or, perhaps, the problem stems from the laws themselves. Regardless, while funding is certainly a piece of the environmental puzzle, a legal and regulatory reformative approach at both the federal and state levels is needed to move forward and achieve a more complete picture.


Being Green by Helping the Giants Beat the Eagles

by Nathanial Weimer, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff

Thumbnail-Nathanial-Weimer.jpgSporting events are a nightmare in terms of the environment. The vast number of spectators involved–over 16 million paying fans attended NFL games last year, according to NBC Sports–leave behind massive amounts of trash, while stadiums face huge challenges with water conservation and electricity consumption on game days. Fans also have to transport themselves to and from the event, using large quantities of fuel. And, of course, the problem extends to all stadium events, whether professional or college, football or a different sport. Such a widespread problem needs a powerful solution, one that goes beyond merely suggesting that teams “do the right thing”. The fact is, teams that effectively deal with this problem must be rewarded, and those rewards must contribute to on-field success. By linking sustainability to team performance, the green movement can benefit from the competitive spirit that drives sports.

Many sports teams have already taken steps toward making their stadiums green. SustainableBusiness.com lists professional sports teams with effective environmental strategies, while the EPA has organized waste reduction competitions between collegiate football programs. The University of Minnesota became a leader with the construction of its new football field; upon completion, TCF Bank Stadium became the first collegiate or professional football facility to achieve LEED Silver Certification for environmental design.

Several motivations have contributed to this move towards sustainability. Some owners have used environmental campaigns as a way to strengthen community ties, or improve a team’s brand image to attract sponsors, according to Switchboard. Reductions in energy consumption, often through the installation of solar panels, can greatly reduce utility costs. Groups such as the Green Sports Alliance, a non-profit originating in the Pacific Northwest, have collaborated with professional teams across different sports to incite a higher level of environmental responsibility. Still, the greatest motivation in sports is noticeably missing–winning.

Achieving environmental sustainability requires continuous improvement. In order to ensure that sports teams continue to innovate and strive for improvement, their waste management accomplishments must be able to contribute to their on-field success. In professional leagues, this could easily be accomplished through a salary-cap bump. An NBA team with a model sustainability program could be allowed to spend, say, $5 million more a year on its roster than a team without such a program. Alternatively, draft odds could be adjusted. Instead of losing 59 games in the hopes of landing number one draft pick Anthony Davis, the Charlotte Bobcats could have installed low-flush, dual flush toilets and aerated faucets like those at Target Field. College programs, “arguably the next frontier for the sports greening movement” according to Switchboard, could be rewarded for their environmental initiatives through postseason considerations. Bowl Games could be allowed, or even encouraged, to take a program’s sustainability accomplishments into consideration. NCAA basketball tournament seeds could be similarly tweaked.

While going green might save money on utilities and attract corporate sponsors, the fastest way to make money in sports is to put a successful product on the field. Connecting greenness to on-field benefits would boost community involvement as well–an NBA fan is far more likely to volunteer to sort recycling when she thinks her efforts might help her team find cap room to sign a Dwight Howard. By the same token, collegiate boosters are more likely to donate money towards sustainability projects when those projects earn benefits that would otherwise go to a bitter rival. Sports, after all, are about competition, and winning feels better when you defeat somebody. Giants owner John Mara, when asked about the competitive outlet provided by greening efforts, agreed: “Most of all, I want to beat the Philadelphia Eagles.” It shouldn’t matter that by bringing competition into the quest for sustainability, we all win.

The environmental responsibility of sports events has come a long way. Many stadiums feature technology aimed at tackling the challenging problem of waste management. Still, the fight for sustainability remains an uphill battle, and teams must strive to find new ways to improve their stadiums. Rewarding committed teams with performance-related benefits not only preserves this commitment to innovation, it strengthens it.

Interested in law and sports? You might also like:
Fantasy Baseball Litigation: “C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, LP: Why Major League Baseball Struck Out and Won’t Have Better Luck in its Next Trip to the Plate” by Daniel Mead


Got GMOs?

by Ude Lu, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff.

Ude-Lue.jpgGMOs, genetically modified organisms, have long been a part of our daily diet. For example, most of the soybeans and corn on the supermarket shelves are GMOs. Currently, the issue of whether these GMOs should be labeled so that customers can make informed purchases is in a heated debate in California. California Proposition 37, which would require labeling of GMOs, will soon be voted in November this year. Proponents from both sides have poured millions of dollars into the campaign.

GMOs are plants that have been genetically engineered to be enhanced with characteristics that do not occur naturally, so that the harvest can be increased and the cost can be lowered. One example of a prominent GMO is soybean. Monsanto–a Missouri based chemical and agriculture company–introduced its genetically modified soybean, Roundup Ready, in 1996. Roundup Ready is infused with genes that resist weed-killers. In 2010, 93% of soybeans planted in the United States were Roundup Ready soybeans.

Although GMOs are one of the most promising solutions to address the sustainability of food supply in view of the growing global population, there are concerns in the public regarding their safety, and confusion as to which federal agency has responsibility for regulating them.

Amanda Welters in her article “Striking a balance: revising USDA regulations to promote competition without stifling innovation” published in the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science, and Technology explains the current regulatory scheme of GMOs. Three primary agencies regulate GMOs: the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The FDA regulates GMOs in interstate commerce that are intended to be consumed by animals or humans as foods, the EPA monitors how growing of GMOs impacts the environment, and the USDA assesses the safety of growing GMO plants themselves.

Specifically, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the USDA is responsible for ensuring crops are free of pests and diseases. APHIS is currently in the process of revising its regulations for GMOs in an attempt to improve transparency, eliminate unnecessary regulations and enhance clarity of regulations. Under the proposed regulations there will be three types of permits for GMOs: interstate movement, importation, and environmental release.

Taking the position that GMOs are generally beneficial and unavoidable, Welters suggests that the USDA should frame a regulatory structure similar to the Hatch-Waxman Act and the Biosimilar Act to promote both innovation and competition. Readers interested in the regulatory issues of GMOs and the balance between the interests of patent innovators and generic follow-ons would find Welters’ article informative and insightful.