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Science and Technology

Science and Technology


Welcome From Committee Co-Chairs



The Science & Technology Committee of SEER is an exciting cross-practice committee that provides lawyer and non-lawyer members with interesting opportunities to participate in various programs offered by our Committee and with other SEER committees and ABA Sections. Among the upcoming highlights are:


Our Committee Vice Chairs are developing a webinar designed to provide a practical explanation of GIS mapping software and its application to the legal as well as non-legal communities, such as regulators, real estate developers, lenders, borrowers, tenants, and environmental professionals.


Also, our Committee is working on another webinar to discuss recent trends in environmental cost recovery litigation, specifically California Court of Appeal's opinions drastically altering the standard of liability under the California cost recovery statute known as the Carpenter-Presley-Tanner Hazardous Substances Account Act (HSAA) and implications across the Country.


We are excited to cosponsor a session at SEER's Spring 2018 Conference entitled "Science On Trial." The working description, to be finalized at a later date, is that recently, an Executive Order called for the use of “best available” science, EPA dismissed members of its science advisory board, and the Administrator suggested a scientific debating panel be held on climate science issues. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed the Honestand Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017 (HONEST, HR 1430) and American scientific organizations organized a “march for science.” What does all of this mean for the environmental law practitioner? This panel will summarize the scientific method, in contrast with “applied science,” and discuss science in current policy and legal applications. The panel will compare methodology focusing on the implications for rulemaking under the Administrative Procedures Act and best practices for a lawyer appearing before the EPA, FERC, or other federal agencies. Discussion will also focus on the potential impacts of the current debate on the Supreme Court’s Daubert decision.


If you have any questions about our Committee, then please contact our Committee Co-Chairs: JadDavis of Kutak Rock LLP at jad.davis@kutakrock.com or Allison Stock, PhD MPH of Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc. at astock@rimkus.com.


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


Jad Davis and Allison Stock, 2017-2018 Co-Chairs
Science and Technology Committee
ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources


Focus Topics

Daubert Cases and Credible Science Issues

http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-03/documents/epa_annual_report_scientific_integrity_2014.pdf

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: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2569113

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: http://www.carbontracker.org/report/eu_utilities/.

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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Committee Chair(s)

Co-Chairs:

Davis, Jad
Stock, Allison

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Modified by Peter Clark on September 20, 2017

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