For the second time, our library, the Cleveland Law Library Association, has been "Green Certified" by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. Our certification is effective for the next 2 years for the biennial period from 2010-2012. In addition to historical practices we employed that predated now-popular nationwide "green" initiatives, we have instituted many new policies over the last few years to reduce our energy consumption and use of paper products. We also recycle our e-wastes and constantly challenge ourselves by conducting informal "green" audits to see where we can continue to make our library a greener place to work and research.
An article on Cleveland.com chronicles the recent efforts of law firms that are taking the ABA's challenge to go "green." Apparently,�lawyers each generate about 100,000 sheets of paper�per year, second only to the publishing industry in our production of print copy. Some of the easy efforts firms have taken to counter-act this�waste�include printing on both sides, printing on paper made from Koala food (eucalyptus trees), delivering client copies on CDs, and�posting key documents to firm intranets. Although many smaller firms are probably doing the same things, some of the leaders in the "green" movement in the legal field appear to be Porter Wright, Thompson Hine, Squire Sanders & Dempsey & Jones Day.
At the request of the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Attorney General has sued the owners of the Garfield Hts. Shopping Center for alleged EPA violations. According to a joint press release from the OEPA and AG offices, the Shopping Center was built over the site of 2 former landfills with provisos and conditions imposed by the OEPA related to solid waste (including landfill gas) and water pollution. The complaint, which was filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court (Case No. CV-08-664197 on the civil docket), seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties, including daily fines of $10,000, and alleges the following violations: "improper construction of the solid waste cap, improper installation of engineered components at constructed buildings, failure to control leachate that has caused the leachate to infiltrate through unauthorized, unlined collection ponds and through uncapped exposed waste, and failure to control the migration of landfill gas."
The Ohio EPA and federal government have reached a proposed $13.75 million dollar settlement to restore the natural resources at the former Fernald, Ohio uranium plant. According to the EPA's press release, this settlement would end 22 years of litigation over damages to the site and grondwater below from uranium leakage at the plant. The notice also indicated that the funds will be used "to protect and improve surface water, ground water and ecological resources as well as to reimburse some of Ohio’s costs in assessing the damages to the natural resources." In addition, the goal of surface restoration at the site "is to help return the property to scientific estimates of the pre-settlement habitats." Apparently, the federal DOE has already spent over $14.4 million dollars on soil and water clean-up, as well as another $4.4 million on general site clean-up. Click here to read the proposed decree and browse a history of the Fernald site,
LegalNewsline.com reports that Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has been very busy in his first 6 months in office, filing almost 60 environmental cases. Click here for a list of all of the suits. According to legalnewsline, many of these cases had been languishing for years, and Dann was running up against a 5-year deadline that would have capped the civil penalties the state could ultimately collect.
A Plain Dealer article examines the new legal specialty of global warming law. The speciality was fueled by a recent Supreme Court decision which held that the EPA may regulate greenhouse gas emissions. See Massachusetts v. EPA (Apr. 2, 2007), Case No. 05-1120. Cleveland law firm McMahon DeGulis specializes in this area, and advises clients on federal, state and local regulations regarding carbon pollution. There are many other legal issues involved, such as how the risks associated with climate change can be insured.
Lawyers specializing in this new area can help answer legal questions concerning carbon "credits". At the Chicago Climate Exchange, businesses can buy and sell greenhouse gas units. Companies that are under their quota of carbon pollution may sell these credits, and companies that have exceeded their quota can buy them. Countries who have adopted the Kyoto Protocol require companies that have exceeded their standards to buy carbon offsets. The United States may adopt this "cap and trade" system. There are many legal issues involved in carbon trading, such as what kind of property rights attach to a credit.
The opinion is City of Akron v. State of Ohio (March 30, 2007), Summit County Common Pleas Case Nos. CV2006-05-2759, CV2006-05-2797. The appeals court case number is CA-23660. The documents filed in the common pleas case and the appeal can be viewed at the Summit County Clerk of Courts case search.
HB 92 provides for the creation of a database of properties and vehicles formerly used as Meth labs. The bill also creates procedures by which a property or auto owner can obtain EPA certification that the meth residue has been removed, and have the property or vehicle removed from the database. See New Bill Will Set Guidelines for Clean Up of Meth Labs by Karen Schaefer, WKSU News, Mar. 6, 2007.
In an executive order issued last week, President Bush mandated that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a White House appointee. See Executive Order, Jan. 18, 2007. The policy office will supervise the development of regulations and policy statements. Moreover, any significant guidance documents must be submitted to the White House for review. In order to warrant new agency regulation, agencies must articulate the "specific market failure" or "problem that justifies intervention". While business groups favored the executive order. Consumer, labor and environmental groups said it will interfere with agencies' ability to protect the public. Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation by Robert Pear, New York Times, Jan. 30, 2007.
The Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas recently upheld 125th General Assembly HB 278, enacted in 2004. This law abolished municipal home rule power to regulate gas wells and declared that the Division of Mineral Resources Management in the Department of Natural Resources has exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells in the state. Seven suburbs and a group of residents sued the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, claiming that the statute was invalid because there were insufficient regulations in place. Regulations were adopted one year later, and the judge found these regulations cured any defect in the statute. The cities can still enact ordinances to regulate drilling, if they do not conflict with the state's regulations. Cuyahoga Judge Upholds State's Right to Regulate Gas Well Drilling in Suburbs by Tasha Flourney, The Plain Dealer, June 21, 2006. The case is RICHARD KELLNER, ET AL vs. MIKE SPONSLER, ET AL (June 21, 2006), Cuyahoga Common Pleas Case No. CV-05-561362. To see the court docket, go to Cuyahoga County Court Docket. For a discussion of home-rule powers in relation to H.B. 278, see Testimony of Herbert Brown before the House Energy and Environment Committee, Nov. 5, 2003.