This presentation on Food Waste was part of our 2015 Community Fair and is an introduction to the issue of food waste. Even as people continue to struggle with food insecurity, massive amounts of food are wasted during production, distribution, and by consumers. This presentation examines these issues and takes a look at some creative solutions to the problem of food waste at local, regional, and national levels.
There is a pervasive myth in America that individualized estate planning is only available to the very wealthy. For some, the message has even been that these services are only appropriate for the rich. Still others may know that individual planning is available, but believe that they and their loved-ones cannot benefit. They believe that because they do not have sufficient assets, nothing can be done.
This presentation, recorded as part of Fair Shake’s 2015 Community Fair, provides an introduction to my practice as a sharing economy lawyer. The sharing economy is a general trend towards sustainable economic and community development in a way that facilitates community ownership, localized production, cooperation, small-scale enterprise, and the regeneration of economic and natural abundance.
Looking at environmental concerns through a reproductive justice lens (and looking at reproductive concerns through an environmental justice lens) can help attorneys articulate needs that might otherwise go unaddressed and unnoticed in conversations about legal concerns and potentially available remedies. Recent statements from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics on environmental justice, concerns surrounding the spread of Zika virus, and the impact of black lung on Appalachian families all demonstrate the unique way our environment impacts our reproductive health and the impact that has on our ability to plan and provide for our families. These scenarios demonstrate the way an individual’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights and gain access to reproductive healthcare can contribute to how successfully that individual navigates the environmental concerns they may be facing. They also demonstrates the way economic and social factors impact an individual’s exposure to harm and access to justice.
A fellow attorney once told me that what I am saying boils down to “nothing happens in a vacuum.” However, I think working at the intersection of environmental and reproductive justice means much more than that. As an attorney committed to serving modest-means clients and an attorney committed to addressing the environmental legal concerns of women and families in particular, using these lenses to tackle a legal problem brings unique counseling and fact-gathering skills and provides an opportunity for novel approaches to legal action.
To counter the market forces favoring development, the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act, often referred to as “Clean and Green” or Act 319, provides preferential tax assessments for qualifying farmland and forestland. The question is: Can a landowner maintain Clean and Green status while also implementing a renewable energy project on the property?
I have to stretch my memory to recall a time when I have heard the word “jurisdiction” used outside of the realm of legal beagles. The best I can do is to think of various times when a police or fire vehicle appears in a completely different city or town than the one displayed on the side of the vehicle. When that happens, we’ll often say: “I wonder what she’s doing outside of her jurisdiction?” As a general matter, most people seem to understand, then, that jurisdiction refers to the area where that governmental actor has power to do something.
Over the weekend, the American Red Cross and other volunteers distributed water to the residents of Sebring, Ohio following concerns about elevated lead levels in the Sebring Public Water System. In response to the concern, Sebring’s schools cancelled classes on Friday and held a lead screening clinic for children under 6 and pregnant and breastfeeding women on Sunday. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children receiving water from the Sebring Public Water system remain advised to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, and formula preparation, and the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency continues to distribute water through the Sebring Community Center.
More than ever, for-profit businesses today are striving to highlight their ethical sourcing, environmental consciousness, and positive influence on society. For consumers, the question of whether they are supporting a true social enterprise or being misled by savvy marketing is sometimes difficult to answer. But, it is a question that businesses can take steps to address upfront. One way businesses do this is through Benefit Corporation designation. For clarity, there are two different types of B Corp designation. The first is a third party certification, similar to Fair Trade. The second is a state-created business entity that requires meeting environmental and social standards not required of a typical corporation. Both types of Benefit Corporation are explored further below.
Lately we have heard a great deal about the lead poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, which may have some wondering about lead in their own communities. According to Ohio’s Department of Health, lead poisoning is the greatest environmental threat to children in Ohio, and in the past 15 years 40,000 children have suffered lead poisoning in Cuyahoga County alone.
In 2015, the toxic cyanobacterial algal bloom in Lake Erie was the worst in recorded history. You may not be aware of this, simply because the situation received much less press than in previous years, such as 2014 when enormous clouds of microscopic bacteria clogged Toledo’s public water treatment system. A lot has been done in recent years in Canada and the United States, as well as here in Ohio, to strengthen the laws and regulations designed to protect surface water, in an effort to slow the contributions of chemicals that feed these algal blooms. It is too early to say whether these efforts have succeeded; due to the pollution storage capacity in the lake, it will take years to understand how much effect these efforts have had.
Whether you are considering installing solar panels on your residential home, a wind turbine at your commercial manufacturing facility, or a biodigester on your farm, one of the biggest hurdles is often developing a plan for financing your renewable energy project. An attorney, accountant, or specialized consultant can help you develop this plan. To jump-start planning, this post outlines three major financial resources available for renewable energy projects in Pennsylvania, including: tax incentives, loan programs, and grant programs.
On November 9, 2015, we welcomed the first of our second corps of Resident Attorneys, Megan McLaurin Hunter. Even before news outlets were reporting on studies linking the close proximity of shale gas development to premature births, Megan had applied to the Fair Shake Residency Program proposing a practice that brings together her interconnected interests in environmental and reproductive justice. Like the start-up of Fair Shake and the work of the first set of Resident Attorneys in our program, Megan hopes to create a space where a diverse client base can affordably access necessary services, but Megan hopes to consistently practice at the crossroads of women’s health and environmental issues. We couldn’t be more excited that she’s up to the entrepreneurial challenge of forging (read “inventing”) a new access to justice path.
Few issues pit neighbor against neighbor more often, or more vehemently, than proper maintenance and care of their lawns. On one side, a manicured turf lawn is good for public health and neighborhood uniformity. On the other side, a natural yard cuts down on pollution, captures stormwater, offers wildlife habitat, and provides an expressive outlet for individual creativity. Around the early 20th century, many local governments sided with advocates of the uniformly mowed lawn by enacting “vegetation control statutes” or “weed ordinances” restricting the height of “weeds or similar vegetation.” Today, as the benefits of natural yards are popularized, outdated weed ordinances seem to limit a property owner’s choice to mow or to grow. The issue is so pervasive that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently weighed in on the issue with an opinion, written by Judge Richard Posner, addressing the constitutionality of the City of Chicago’s weed ordinance. With proper research, planning, and maintenance though, the natural yard proponent can minimize risk of violating these ordinances and in areas with enough support and resources, may even be able to update the ordinance.
Many oil and gas leases are approaching their 5 and 10 year primary terms, and landowners in Pennsylvania and Ohio may find themselves confused about the duration of their lease once the primary term expires. The habendum clause of an oil and gas lease separates the duration of the lease into a primary term and a secondary term. Understanding the habendum clause, or the clause that bridges the primary and secondary terms, is crucial not only when negotiating a lease, but also in understanding whether an existing lease has expired after the primary term instead of entering the secondary term. The primary term is set for a certain number of years, typically 5 or 10. The duration of the secondary term is often indefinite, but usually requires some continued action on the part of the lessee in order to keep the lease in effect.
Fair Shake is looking for bright, motivated, and entrepreneurial attorneys who want to build or join small or solo environmental law practices for modest means clients in the Appalachian Basin region. We are hiring attorneys interested in increasing access to justice in environmental matters and public participation in environmental decision-making.
Equal access to justice for all simply doesn’t happen when attorneys do not make a space for modest means clients in their practice. It’s not easy to make that space and it requires thoughtfulness and the will to create change. Yet, having watched Fair Shake’s young attorneys take that challenge and continuously work to mold a space for modest means clients, I think that attorneys of all background and practices (that means you too, government attorneys) can step up to the plate.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently issued a major decision, unanimously holding that the primary term of an oil gas lease is not extended or tolled during the pendency of litigation by a lessor seeking a declaratory judgment. The decision is contrary to decisions in many other jurisdictions, which allow a prevailing lessee an extension of time beyond the primary term to gain production.
Fair Shake has a summer internship program in our Pittsburgh, PA and Akron, OH locations. We are looking for bright, motivated, and creative law students to join us for the summer to help us increase access to justice in environmental matters and public participation in environmental decision-making.
The basics of business are the basics of the law surrounding water quality: you have to set a budget and limit your spending to accomplish that budget. For Lake Erie and other nutrient-impaired water bodies, we face the same need: our budget is only so large for the amount of nutrients that Lake Erie can take before we’ve exceeded our budget. In the Chesapeake Bay, such a basic scheme has been put into place in the form of a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL, which is a legally-required and nondiscretionary “budget” put into place by the Clean Water Act when a water body is not meeting its desired uses, such as being fishable and swimmable. Similar to a budgeting process, the U.S. EPA has called the Chesapeake TMDL a “pollution diet.”
Among the many possible ways to manage industrial waste is underground injection in what are called Underground Injection Control wells. As the name suggests, underground injection is the process of injecting liquid waste into a porous subsurface geologic layer in a manner that attempts to keep the waste isolated and to prevent harm to drinking water sources. UIC wells provide the conduit for the waste to reach the subsurface layer.