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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mike Boals, interviews c/o Megan Lovett
Ohio Man Sued for Speaking Out Against Fracking
COSHOCTON, OH - A local Coshocton man excercising his right to free speech by speaking out against fracking waste in his community is being sued by a Texas company for voicing his concerns.
Land owners and small farmers are an important Fair Shake constituency, so I listened with interest to a recent radio story on WHYY’s News Works about how the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture closed a local seed library. According to the story, the seed library was started by the Cumberland County public library to allow people to take seeds at the beginning of the season and replace them after harvest. But, according to the source story in the Cumberland Sentinal, this practice violates the 2004 Pennsylvania Seed Act, which requires seeds to be tested in various ways. This is due to concerns including the spread of invasive species and agri-terrorism. According to the Sentinal story, the Ag Department’s lawyer also indicated an intention to crack down on other seed libraries around the state.
There’s a movement afoot to do what we set out to do a long, long time ago: provide access to justice for all. You would think that we would have figured out how to at least make justice accessible for all since “Equal Justice Under Law” is a phrase chiseled into the building housing our highest court and we often recite the words “justice for all” when prompted to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Yet, the task has proven daunting.
After years of planning, we're ready to roll with the Nation's first environmental legal services residency program. We're excited and want to kick things off by celebrating with an open house in our Pittsburgh office. You'll be able to meet our staff, many of the members of the Board of Directors, and the design gurus who came up with our logo.