American Bar Association
Science and Technology

Science and Technology

Monthly Update from the Chair

For Science & Technology members, here are additional items of interest and opportunities to participate more directly in your Committee and with other SEER committees and ABA Sections. Among the highlights of this month’s activities are:

  • Opportunity to write on a topic of increasing concern to the western and southwestern parts of the United States—new technologies and science that might allow drought plagued areas to reuse existing water sources. Please submit abstracts by November 19 to so that we can select and gather completed articles by early December.

  • Nerds can be hacked too! As the Washington Post recently reported, even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s computer data for weather prediction was the subject of a recent attack. Read More.Think that your company is too small (or too big) to be the subject of hacking? Join your fellow committee members and others for a December 2 webinar sponsored by SEER and the ABA Science & Technology Section on the topic of Cybersecurity. Register Now.

  • In one of the Committee’s focus areas, the science of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its Fifth Assessment report on November 2. A summary of the IPCC’s report for policymakers can be found at here.

  • Are you a lawyer who is challenged by the often complex science of environmental investigations and remediation work? One of our program vice-chairs, Ravi Arulanantham, is busy working with members of the Environmental Transactions & Brownfields Committee to put together a set of basic science programs. Watch for further details and dates on this webpage, or contact Ravi directly at

  • Participants Needed: The Science & Technology Committee needs your writing skills for two publications, the Committee newsletter (contact and the Committee’s annual contribution to the Section publication, Year-In-Review (contact We invite you to write for either (or both) publications by your Committee.

We look forward to your continued participation and interest in SEER's Science & Technology Committee.

Norm Dupont
2014-2015 Chair, Science and Technology Committee
ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources

Focus Topics

Daubert Cases and Credible Science Issues

Climate Change—Science and Issues

Bitter cold in parts of US in 2015, but overall NASA tells us its Warmer in 2015 than ever before: Despite a winter in the U.S. that created new records for “snow days” even in snow ready Boston this year and was blamed for a decline in economic growth, overall NASA reports that 2015 is headed on a global basis for the unenviable record of “warmest year yet.” A summary of the current data is contained in an article available at The Guardian: Read more.

Canadian national, provincial and local efforts on climate change discussed in new chapter of environmental law treatise. For those interested in how our northern neighbor is faring with climate change efforts, see: Benidickson, Jamie, Climate Change: Canadian Legal and Policy Responses (February 24, 2015). Benidickson, Jamie Environmental Law, 4th (Irwin Law, 2013). Available for download at SSRN:

Other Science and Technology Issues

Fracking Fluid Injection and Earthquakes: A recently published study in Science suggests a link between a high rate of injection of fluids and earthquake activity. The new study, led by Matthew Weinstein, a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. suggests that there is a correlation between the rapidity with which fluids (including those used for fracking) are injected into the subsurface soil and seismic activity. A summary of the new study by Julia Rosen is available here. A copy of the complete study is available here.

Are Humans Causing An Accelerated Loss of Animal Species? In a recent article co-authored by famed Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb), the authors conclude that human-caused species extinction of animals, particularly vertebrates, is a real problem and that there is a narrow window of time to avert further extinctions. The article, Accelerated modern human-induces species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction, is available here.

Dutch Court Rules that Netherlands has Obligation to reduce green-house gases by 25% within five years. A summary of the Dutch decision, which appears to be based in part upon EU legal principles, is available here.

EPA Issues Final Technical Guidance for Evaluating Potential Vapor-Intrusion Risks from Subsurface: On June 16, 2015, EPA’s Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response, more commonly known as OSWER, released its TECHNICAL GUIDE FOR ASSESSING AND MITIGATING THE VAPOR INTRUSION PATHWAY FROM SUBSURFACE VAPOR SOURCES TO INDOOR AIR. The document is intended to provide non-binding guidance for CERCLA or RCRA investigations and may be of value to environmental scientists and consultants in other applications as well. It is available on-line here.

Is Science or the Economic Marketplace Leveling Coal Companies? In a new study by an organization known as The Coal Tracker, the share-prices of five major European utilities with heavy reliance upon coal are reviewed. In perhaps the most telling example, the German utility RWE witnessed a significant drop in share values from 2009-2013, a time when the overall German stock market showed an overall increase of 18%. RWE in its 2014 Annual Report blamed in part subsidies for renewable energy-based projects that impacted the “margins” of its conventional fueled plants. A copy of the Coal Tracker report is available at:

NOAA scientists report that in fact additional data shows that there was no slow-down or “hiatus” in the increase of global temperatures during the last 15 years. Contrary to some early data from the International Panel on Climate Change suggesting a slow-down in the rate of increase in temperatures, the new study suggests that “that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a ‘slowdown’ in the increase of global surface temperature.” The report is contained in the on-line version of Science and available here.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a review of procedures EPA uses to respond to congressional inquiries about scientific issues lacked certain procedural guarantees. GAO recommended that EPA implement additional procedures to be used in requests for information from both its Science Advisory Board and its Clean Air Science Advisory Committee to ensure appropriate responds in the future. A copy of the GAO report is available here.

How Many Breaths do You Take Each Day? New EPA Article on Air and Human Health Impacts: An EPA web article entitled: “How Many Breaths do You Take Each Day”? discusses the impact on human health (focused in the U.S.) of air pollutants. The article, written by Ann Brown, an EPA communications officer, also has a hyperlink to EPA research on air quality and air monitoring research. The article can be accessed at here.

Toxic Release Inventory Update Issued. EPA issues 2013 Toxic Releases Inventory for over 650 chemicals reported to the agency under the Emergency Planned & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The complete report is located here.

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Modified by Peter Clark on October 1, 2015

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