+Biber, Eric, Ann Carlson, Holly Doremus, Ethan Elkind, Dan Farber, Richard Frank, Sean Hecht, Cara Horowitz, Timothy Malloy, Cymie Payne, Steve Weissman, and Jonathan Zasloff, Legal Planet (UC Berkeley and UCLA blog)
"Legal Planet, a collaboration between UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law, provides insight and analysis on energy and environmental law and policy. The blog draws upon the individual research strengths and vast expertise of the law schools' legal scholars and think tanks."
Includes entries on a range of topics, including the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (see here, here, and here for example).
Papers in French and English based on four weeks of addresses, debates, and collective understanding of the law as it relates to international catastrophes at the Hague under the aegis of the Hague Academy of International Law in 1995.
"The study...surveys existing and future costs associated with climate change and the growing potential for abrupt, widespread impacts. The study reports that the insurance industry will be at the center of this issue, absorbing risk and helping society and business to adapt and reduce new risks."—Press release 200K
"This issue focuses on public health activities in Louisiana 1-2 months after Hurricane Katrina, during which time local authorities reopened portions of New Orleans and the pre-disaster population began to return. Reports in this issue describe a range of public health disaster-response activities, including morbidity surveillance, shelter-based surveillance, community health and needs assessment, environmental assessment, and infectious-disease case investigation. A second special issue, scheduled for March, will focus on the broader impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including public health activities in Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Florida."
"MMWR is highlighting the public health response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita with two special issues. The first issue, published January 20, 2006, focused on public health activities in Louisiana. This second issue focuses on activities in other states directly or indirectly affected by the two hurricanes."
"Climate change will increase risks significantly in many areas of society, and also will render far less measurable many risks that were previously calculable. If our society is to survive climate change without significant human costs, we must develop robust institutions and practices to manage these risks. The insurance industry is our society's primary financial risk manager, and needs to play a leading role in developing these institutions and practices. But climate change poses an unprecedented challenge to the insurance industry, because factors such as increasing uncertainty and the potential for highly correlated losses will make it difficult to insure against climate change-related risks and will strain capital markets' ability to compensate those who are affected. If the industry rises to the challenge, it stands to profit while facilitating our most successful responses to climate change-related threats around the world. If not, insurers will suffer along with everyone else. A report issued recently by a major financial firm identified climate change as the number one 'strategic threat' facing the insurance industry, noting that it is a 'long-term issue with broad-reaching implications that will significantly affect the industry.' To date, however, there has been relatively little effort to examine what supply- and demand-side barriers may be impeding development of insurance products that address climate change risk effectively. In this context, this Article examines the incentives that insurance products provide to influence the climate change-mitigating and adaptive capacity-building behavior of policyholders and other actors. It also looks at the reasons that insurers might or might not choose to provide those products and the reasons individuals and businesses may or may not choose to purchase those products. Finally, it examines the extent to which the insurance industry's products are likely to play a significant and effective role in affecting private actors' responses to climate change. The Article concludes that although it is not yet clear whether and how the insurance industry will be able to address climate change in a way that systematically creates solutions, the industry's future - and perhaps the rest of ours as well - may rest on the success or failure of its adaptation to a world with a changing climate." —Abstract.
"The global trade in wildlife provides disease transmission mechanisms that not only result in human disease outbreaks, but also threaten livestock, international trade, rural livelihoods, native wildlife populations, and the health of ecosystems. Global movement of animals for the pet trade is estimated at some 350 million live animals, worth approximately US$20 billion per year. Approximately one-quarter of this trade is thought to be illegal, hence not inspected or tested. Disease outbreaks resulting from trade in wildlife have caused hundreds of billions of dollars of economic damage globally. Rather than attempting to eradicate pathogens or the wild species that may harbor them, a practical approach would include decreasing the contact rate among species, including humans, at the interface created by wildlife trade. Wild animals are captured, transported, and sold either live or dead and commingled throughout the process in a system of scale-free networks with major hubs rather than random or evenly distributed supply systems. As focal points for distribution and sales, the hubs provide control opportunities to maximize the effects of regulatory efforts as demonstrated with domestic animal trading systems (processing plants and wholesale and retail markets, for example). Focusing efforts at markets to regulate, reduce, or in some cases, eliminate the commercial trade in wildlife could provide a cost-effective approach to decrease the risks for disease in humans, domestic animals, wildlife, and ecosystems."—Abstract.
"Hurricane Katrina's overriding lesson for environmental law is no less than our environmental lawmaking institutions require fundamental reformation. Otherwise, the nation's tragic failure not only to enact laws that anticipate the obvious risks presented to the Gulf Region by hurricanes, but perversely to increase those risks by destroying the ecosystem's natural protections, will inevitably be repeated with even more devastating results." —Abstract.
"Section 502 of the Labor-Management Relations Act (LMRA) allows employees to stop working if they face 'abnormally dangerous conditions,' and a rule under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act creates an employee right to refuse work because of 'apprehension of death or injury.' Using a hypothetical scenario, I show that neither law would assist emergency workers who lack protective gear while responding to a terror attack.
"I propose an NLRB rule to strengthen Section 502, a 1947 law that is dormant but appropriate for these abnormal workplace dangers. Although part of my proposal draws on the experiences of 9/11, it is mainly founded on fundamental changes in job duties and government employment regulations that recognize a permanent threat to domestic security. The growing list of affected occupations includes dockworkers and doctors, subway and airport workers, power plant and postal employees, and more. However, my proposal excludes police, firefighters, and most paramedics. They perform immediate lifesaving services, and in any event, are excluded from the NLRB's jurisdiction because they are public employees.
"My proposal draws from the fruitless experience of appellate court decisions on Section 502. This caselaw is conflicted because courts disagree as to whether an employee must present proof in fact of an extreme risk, or be motivated by good faith belief. My proposal is also based on the intent of the drafters of Section 502. The two sponsors of this law were Republican senators who strongly opposed union interests. However, when proposing this law in the midst of enacting strike controls, they said 'it would be very unfair and very unjust to employees in any industry to penalize them, if, because of abnormal or unusually dangerous conditions, they should refrain from working.'
"Using evidence from recent GAO reports and other studies, I show that new types of emergency workers are poorly trained and equipped. For the few who train for a cataclysmic attack, their simulations are unrealistic. These employees— who, in their routine jobs do little or no life-threatening work— are not trained for their own fear and panic. Thus, there is too little attention to the possibility that these essential workers will refuse orders when their lives are endangered.
"By breathing life into Section 502, the NLRB would join the large circle of federal and state agencies that are currently immersed in this emergency planning. The purpose of my Article is not to spare a few careers that might otherwise be lost in a poor response to an attack. If these newly designated or de facto emergency workers are not extended a work refusal right, their employers will continue to be lax in improving protective equipment, communication systems, bio-terror inoculations, and work procedures. In the final analysis, proper training and protection of these new emergency workers is essential to deter, prevent, respond to, and mitigate an attack." —Abstract.
This document outlines a collaborative plan developed on the federal, state, and local levels to "address Louisiana’ s massive coastal land loss problem and provide for a sustainable coastal ecosystem by the year 2050." -Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Louisiana
"The Disasters Roundtable convened its 15th workshop on Law, Science, and Disaster on October 18, 2005. It is recognized that science and technology can provide part of the basis for more effective hazard-related laws and regulations, including zoning laws, building codes, and hazard disclosure requirements. It is also clear that issues unrelated to science and technology also drive the development of hazard and disaster law. This workshop examined recent developments and trends in hazard and disaster law and its implementation, and drew on the September 11, 2001 experience to discuss the related issue of victim compensation."—Summary.
"The argument against crafting federal regulations for problems stemming from development in disaster-prone areas (nation-on-edge problems) assumes that these types of problems are essentially local problems requiring unique local solutions. In this Article, Jeffrey G. Miller challenges this assumption, reasoning that a flexible framework of federal regulations would indeed be effective at remedying these problems. He suggests that such a framework could be modeled after the Clean Water Act's (CWA's) point source pollution control regime. A permitting system similar to that set out in the CWA would promote best management practices while still allowing local entities
the freedom to determine which particular practices are most effective for them. He recommends that we reexamine our conception of federalism before abandoning hope of federal solutions to nation-on-edge problems." —Executive Summary.
"The Corps' decisions to acquire the 34 hydraulic pumping systems were focused on satisfying its commitment to have pumping capacity on the drainage canals in place by June 1, 2006—the start of the 2006 hurricane season. In order to increase the likelihood that pumping capacity would be in place when needed, the Corps utilized several tools to expedite and streamline the acquisition process. The Corps appears to have had a valid reason for each of the iterative decisions it made at each stage of the procurement process. The cumulative effect of these decisions resulted in one supplier—Moving Water Industries Corporation—being in the strongest competitive position to receive the contract for the pumping systems."—Summary.
"America builds on the edge of disaster prone areas: on moveable barrier islands, fragile coastal ecosystems, shorelines subject to inundation, and next to flammable forests. Ferocious storm events focus local and national attention in the tragic moment and during short-term recovery efforts; then, too often, we return to business as usual, continuing to build and rebuild on the edge. 'Losing Ground' provides effective perspectives and prescriptions for longer-term disaster mitigation planning and action. Authors from a variety of disciplines (including law, history, geography, environmental science, and urban planning) review past policies and practices, the lessons learned from previous disasters, current approaches to disaster planning and recovery, an assessment of the proper roles and responsibilities of various levels of government in the federal system, new legal and technological tools, and a review of innovations in disaster mitigation.
"Oliver A. Houck, a renowned professor of law from Tulane University, provides a preface from the perspective of a post-Katrina New Orleans: 'Perhaps, the most striking aspect of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, from Alabama to Texas, is the rush to rebuild in exactly the same places, a few feet back, a few feet higher, more high priced investment than ever before. Two lane bridges are replaced by six lane bridges. Modest beach homes are replaced by condominiums. The hurricane has led to a construction boom. As the Gross National Product measures these things, the hurricanes were a huge success. What is wrong with this picture?.' "—Publisher's Description.
"Historically, regulatory approaches to natural disaster mitigation have been created in the aftermath of specific disasters. For instance, the world's first city building code was created in the wake of the Great Fire of
London, and the U.S. Congress enacted flood control rules for the Lower Mississippi after the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. In this Article, Rutherford H. Platt discusses how natural disasters have informed society's
understanding of natural resource management and land use planning over the last several centuries. He examines the evolution of single use policies into multiple use management, deconstructs federal disaster policies, and advocates for ecological cities. He concludes with a reminder to address natural disaster
mitigation—indeed, all of modern urban planning—with comprehensive policies addressing the full range of urban needs."—Editors' Summary.
"Emitters of greenhouse gases externalize the true costs of their contribution to climate change. Efforts to recover these costs, which manifest both through the costs of impacts and the costs of efforts to prevent impacts, can take the form of insurance claims as well as legal remedies. The most widely discussed insurance-related consequences of climate change are the impacts of property damage from extreme weather events. However, there is increasing awareness of the relatively subtle but equally important dimension of liability. Liability insurance risks - risks to insurers from claims of third-parties who allege injury or property damage that may be the fault of the insured - are rising as scientific uncertainty surrounding climate change declines. This Article explores three major dimensions of the issue: (1) sources of climate-change-related legal liability to third parties and their nexus with insurance and law, (2) new liabilities associated with potential technological responses to climate-change, and (3) potential roles for insurers, reinsurers, and other industry actors in proactively managing climate change-related liability insurance risks for themselves and their customers. Because the insurance sector is the world's largest industry, the response of insurers to the broader climate-change challenge will no doubt be key to the ultimate success of society's overall response."—Abstract.
"The 1997 flood on the Red River was one of the worst natural disasters in recent history for many people and communities in the Red River of the North Basin. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), one of the principal Federal agencies responsible for the collection and interpretation of water-resources data, works with other Federal, State, local, tribal, and academic entities to ensure that accurate and timely data are available for making decisions regarding public welfare and property during natural disasters and to increase public awareness of the hazards that occur with such disasters."
This web page links to a 209MB PDF full-color poster depicting images and data regarding the April 1997 flood in North Dakota.
"The traditional link between disaster mitigation and local land use planning was highlighted by the Disaster Mitigation Act (DMA) of 2000, which emphasizes the need for mitigation coordination among state and local entities. In this Article, Patricia E. Salkin looks at the role of local governments in natural disaster mitigation, specifically, how local governments may use traditional land use powers, such as the police power, to protect against disasters. She cites DMA provisions that offer financial incentives to states that
work with local governments to plan for growth and disasters; she also sets forth case studies to illustrate how states can create vertical links among federal, state, and local entities to coordinate disaster mitigation strategies."—Editors' Summary.
This report "analyzes how Gulf Coast roads and highways, transit services, oil and gas pipelines, freight handling ports, transcontinental railroad networks, waterway systems, and airports are likely to be harmed by heat waves, extreme precipitation events, sea level rise, increased hurricane intensity, and storm surge damage associated with climate change. The report outlines why changes must be incorporated in transportation planning now in order to avoid serious future problems."—Docuticker Summary
"This report examines the impact of these hurricanes on three important factors affecting the U.S. agricultural sector: marketing infrastructure based on the Mississippi River waterway and Gulf ports; production losses for major crop and livestock producers in the affected region; and potential consequences for agricultural production as a result of high energy costs. It also discusses the federal government response to agricultural concerns."—Summary.
"The term natural disaster is a misnomer. As Anna K. Schwab and David J. Brower note in this Article, disasters do not occur naturally,
they occur only where humans have placed themselves in the way of natural hazard events. Therefore, decisions about the way human environments are initially constructed can mitigate the effects of natural hazard events. They distinguish between resistance and resilience, explaining that attempts to resist forces of nature by trying to contain or control nature itself have largely been
unsuccessful. By contrast, resilience efforts, such as hazard avoidance, environmental
preservation, and education and outreach, reduce vulnerability to natural hazard events. The authors explain a range of resilience techniques and discuss hazard mitigation planning under the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000."—Executive Summary.
"As an aid to policy makers, scientists, and the public in understanding the large-scale forces and smaller-scale scientific, social, political background to the disaster, we are making available, free to all visitors via this page, this selection of past Science articles related to hurricanes, coastal disasters, and disaster policy."
"The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) welcomes this report as a concrete response to its call for work to promote understanding that: protection of vital ecosystem services is fundamental to reducing vulnerability to disasters and strengthening community resilience.
"Although there is a growing recognition that natural habitats can help to mitigate disasters caused by vulnerability to hazards, we still have a great deal to learn about how to maximise the potential benefits and about what this means in terms of landscape-scale management approaches. Clear evidence linking habitat degradation to a series of so-called 'natural' disasters have added urgency to the need for further research and monitoring efforts. These problems are likely to increase as a result of the disturbance caused by climate change. Research shows that the poorest members of society consistently fare worst when disaster
"At the same time, natural ecosystems continue to be degraded at an alarming rate, so that in many countries we can no longer assume they exist in good enough condition to provide the environmental services upon which many people depend. In response, governments and local communities are setting aside and where necessary restoring natural habitats
deliberately for their protective role. Although protected areas such as national parks and nature reserves are primarily designed to conserve biodiversity, most also supply important environmental services, including disaster mitigation. Whilst this is understood and acted upon by many protected area managers, it has never been systematically assessed and the current report makes a first attempt to provide a global overview.
"By focusing the case studies on major disasters in the new millennium, the authors have deliberately chosen a fairly narrow data set rather than choosing 'best case' examples. They have found cases where protected areas clearly play a major role in disaster mitigation and cases where the links are not so clear cut or where changes in management approaches within protected areas are needed.
One clear result of this study is a need for specialists in disaster risk reduction, environmental management and protected areas to work together far more closely than they have in the past. There is already much that could be done through better collaboration to increase the role of natural habitats in disaster mitigation and these opportunities will continue to increase as we learn more. We call on both communities to develop talks and to take the necessary steps to ensure that natural safety measures are maintained and enhanced."—Foreword.
"Hurricane Katrina's disastrous flooding of the Gulf Coast confirmed three decades of warnings by scientists. Most of New Orleans is below sea level, and South Louisiana's coastal wetlands, which once helped buffer the city from giant storms, have been disappearing at a spectacularly swift pace. Now some researchers are calling for restoration of wetlands and barrier islands to help protect New Orleans the next time a hurricane strikes."
+Times-Picayune (New Orleans), Washing Away (June 23-27, 2002)
"It's only a matter of time before South Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day."
+Tomain, Joseph P., Katrina's Energy Agenda(provided by: SSRN) (U of Cincinnati Public Law Research Paper No. 06-18) (Natural Resources & Environment, Vol. 20, No. 4, Spring 2006)
"Hurricane Katrina is a warning for the United States not only about disaster response but also about planning for a healthy and productive energy economy. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed into law only months before Katrina, continues a policy that has dominated our energy thinking for over a century. Neither the United States nor the world can continue on a path of increased fossil fuel burning without acknowledging the long-term, global, difficult to manage, and complex to understand consequences of climate change. This article advocates a significant energy transition away from that path to become less dependent on fossil fuels and more dependent on cleaner renewable and alternative fuels. An alternative energy policy has been developing over the last three decades that is based on the assumption that energy production has a direct impact on the quality of the environment, on national security, and on global relations, as well as on a healthy pro-growth economy. Katrina presents an opportunity to reevaluate the traditional policy and to engage in a transition to this new "smart" energy policy for a strong economic future." —Abstract.
"This national scientific assessment integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) and draws from and synthesizes findings from previous assessments of the science, including CCSP Synthesis and Assessment Products and reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It analyzes the effects of global change on natural and human environments, agriculture, water resources, social systems, energy production and use, transportation, and human health. It analyzes current trends in global change, both natural and human-induced, and it projects major trends for the future. It is intended to help inform discussion of the relevant issues by decisionmakers, stakeholders, and the public. As such, this report addresses the requirements for assessment in the Global Change Research Act of 1990." -Website.
"FEMA needs to prepare a single comprehensive document for monitoring debris removal operations. FEMA also needs to define better the requirements for contracting debris-removal monitoring services.
"We reviewed the adequacy of FEMA guidance for monitoring Hurricane Katrina debris removal operations in Louisiana (LA) and Mississippi (MS). Debris removal monitoring is a process of observing and documenting debris removal operations to ensure that FEMA funding is provided for only those activities that conform to and are consistent with requirements of FEMA's public assistance program."
Final rule published by the EPA on March 22, 2007, which excuses violations of air quality standards for major air pollutants that are due to "exceptional events," including natural events, such as hurricanes and other natural disasters.
"While EPA provided useful environmental health risk information to the public via flyers, public service announcements, and the EPA Web page, the communications were at times unclear and inconsistent on how to mitigate exposure to some contaminants, particularly asbestos and mold. Further, the usefulness of three key reports on EPA's environmental sampling in New Orleans—developed with, among others, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to address potential health risks from exposure to floodwaters, sediments, and air—was limited by a lack of timeliness and insufficient disclosures about EPA's sampling program. For example, EPA did not state until August 2006 that its December 2005 report—which said that the great majority of the data showed that adverse health effects would not be expected from exposure to sediments from previously flooded areas—applied to short-term visits, such as to view damage to homes.
"Mitigating several challenges EPA faces addressing Hurricane Katrina could better protect the environment in the future. First, EPA did not remove hazardous materials from national wildlife refuges in a timely manner as part of its response in part because disaster assistance funding generally is not used for debris cleanups on federal lands. Second, because states generally have authority over landfill decisions, EPA does not have an effective role in emergency debris disposal decisions that could cause pollution. Finally, lack of clarity in federal debris management plans and protocols precluded the timely and safe disposal of some appliances and electronic waste."—What GAO Found.
"GAO prepared this testimony to highlight past work on government programs related to Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, and to provide information on plans and coordination among the accountability community—GAO, the Inspectors General, and other auditors and the state and local level."—Why GAO Did This Study.
"Six years after the attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC), concerns persist about health effects experience by WTC responders and the availability of health care services for those affected. Several federally funded programs provide screening, monitoring, or treatment services to responders. GAO has previously reported on the progress made and implementation problems faced by these WTC health programs."—-Why GAO Did This Study
"In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, concerns over a potential 'toxic gumbo' in New Orleans and concerns for public safety were paramount for state and federal agencies. This concern was evidenced by the unprecedented nature of the investigation of residential floodwater sediment contamination. Looking at the Environmental Protection Agency's residential sediment and soil sampling results, the authors attempt to place these results in the appropriate scientific context, to provide some preliminary suggestions concerning the lessons learned, and to examine policy issues that have arisen in this situation and that may arise in a future disaster. The authors believe the compressed risk management approach used by EPA may be useful in other large scale contamination events."