Archive | Water Pollution

Supply Side Environmentalism

Environmentalism today is generating more interest in the world than at any time since the 1970′s, but environmentalism today is very different from the modern movement that began on Earth Day nearly 36 years ago.

When comparing the environmental movement today to environmentalism back then, two things are evident: First, important goals have been accomplished in the last thirty years. Our air and water are cleaner, wilderness and wildlife have been preserved in great abundance, land development has become a far more thoughtful process, pollution from all sources is drastically reduced, and impressive gains in energy conservation and energy efficiency have occurred. Overall, environmentalism has been a huge success.

The second thing to recognize about environmentalism now as compared to then is that today environmentalism is an institution. It is taught in our schools, it is a given in political campaigns, it is a value that pervades every public bureaucracy, and the fledgling environmental nonprofit groups of thirty years ago are now powerful organizations. Their budgets, collectively, amount to hundreds of millions per year, and their influence within our public institutions amounts to power over public opinion and policy that is immense and defies valuation.

This is where we find ourselves in 2007 – environmentalism has become a powerful force with a legacy of improvements to our quality of life, our health, our planet. But what direction should environmentalism take today – with energy independence becoming an important priority for all nations, new concerns about global warming, ongoing challenges to preserve wilderness, and unfinished business with respect to air and water pollution?

At a time like this, where the momentum to do anything to achieve energy independence dovetails fitfully with the momentum to do anything to reduce CO2 emissions, policymakers pressured by environmentalists may enact sweeping legislation that could completely change our way of life. But there are two ways environmentalists can go to pursue their core values in the 21st century, and they represent very, very different choices. One of the most fundamental areas where these two choices diverge concerns energy and water policy.

A “supply side” environmentalist – for lack of a better term – would argue that the priority should be to achieve energy and water abundance. To do this, for example, they would advocate construction of nuclear powered desalinization plants, as well as pumping stations and aqueducts. They would advocate increased production of fresh water from seawater, and they would advocate distributing this water to restore every depleted aquifer on earth.

A “demand side” environmentalist, by contrast, would argue that conservation of energy and water is the only approach that could possibly make sense. They would argue that it isn’t possible to produce enough energy for everyone at current levels of consumption. They would fight for energy and water rationing, with punitive fines and even criminal penalties for overuse of these resources.

The supply side environmentalist, in rebuttal, would argue that anyone overusing water and energy could simply pay a small but fair premium for their excess consumption, causing more revenues to accrue to the water and energy companies, who could then use those surpluses to invest in additional energy and water production facilities. A supply side environmentalist would argue there is abundant energy and always will be, because the market sets the price, and as soon as one energy source becomes scarce, the price of all energy rises somewhat, stimulating more investment in these energy alternatives.

Another critical choice for environmentalists is what sort of land use to advocate. A demand side environmentalist would say we don’t have enough land for new homes, so everyone must live in high-rises, or if they’re lucky, “cluster homes.” A demand side environmentalist would say we don’t have enough land for freeways, or enough energy for personal transportation devices (cars), so road construction must be curtailed in order to force people to choose mass transit.

A supply side environmentalist would say we have plenty of land, and the problem with suburban sprawl is it doesn’t sprawl enough – if homes on the outskirts of cities were “ranchettes” with very large lots, then wildlife could pass through these neighborhoods, and big trees could grow, and the roads would be uncongested, and sprawl would be beautiful instead of ugly. A supply side environmentalist would say there are now cars that emit virtually no pollution and are incredibly energy efficient, and eventually cars will use energy from cheap photovoltaics mounted on everyone’s roof, so build more cars, and double the mileage of roads to encourage car travel.

A demand side environmentalist would say that we need to ration energy and water and land because there are too many people on earth, and that we’ve outgrown our planet’s “carrying capacity.” A supply side environmentalist would say it is rationing that perpetuates poverty, and poverty delays female emancipation, and prosperity accelerates female emancipation, which always results in dramatic lowering of birthrates.

Obviously both approaches – managing demand while also increasing supplies of clean water and energy – is the solution to environmental challenges today. But it is vital to maintain this balance, and not dismiss the perspective nor the projects coming from the supply side.

Posted in Cars, Conservation, Consumption, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Nuclear, Organizations, Transportation, Water Pollution2 Comments

China's Canals & Coal to Provide Water & Energy for Over a Billion People in an Industrializing Nation

Editor’s Note: Using very rough numbers, during 2003, human civilization consumed roughly 400 quadrillion BTU’s of energy (affectionately known as “quads” among economists and the like) and they consumed roughly 3,500 cubic kilometers of water. If you define the nations of the “Global North” as all nations where the average GNP per capita is over $15,000 US, you would have found, in the late nineties, 26 countries numbering 781 million persons. These wealthier nations comprised 14% of the world’s population and they consumed over half of the world’s total energy production and about one-quarter of the world’s water withdrawals.

Table Comparing Water and Energy Use in China and the United States
In the late ’90′s Americans used, on average, 12 times as much energy and 4 times
as much water per person, compared to the Chinese during the same period.

What if China, which alone numbers 1.2 billion citizens, were to join the 781 million people in the Global North? It is certainly plausible that soon another 1.2 billion people in the nations of the “Global South” will attain the lifestyle of the wealthier more economically developed nations, whether or not they live in China.

Using China, however, as an example of the results of projecting her imminent energy and water needs this way are sobering. For each of China’s 1.2 billion inhabitants to consume as much energy and water as someone in America or Western Europe and a few other places, her energy production and water usage would have to increase by 800 percent and 250 percent, respectively. Eight times as many power plants and 2.5 times as many reservoirs and canals. Taking comparisons one step further, if in the late-nineties each Chinese person were to consume as much energy and water as Americans, they would have consumed 12 times as much energy per person, and four times as much water. China will have to build as many power plants and water diversion projects as they possibly can if they wish to develop their economy to the level of the major industrialized nations, and that is exactly what they are doing.

Hopefully China will take the chance to leapfrog the nations that have already attained high per capita wealth, insofar as she can build today’s high-tech cars that don’t pollute, and develop today’s clean sources of energy generation, and harmonious water withdrawals. Hopefully China’s quality of life and standard of living, by leveraging today’s advanced technology as she goes to the next stage of industrialization, will be just as high as can be, but using far less resources and creating far less pollution.

- Ed “Redwood” Ring

China now ranks second globally to

the United States in installed electricity capacity (338 gigawatts in 2000) but its use of electricity is just 38 percent of the world’s average. If by 2050 its population peaks at 1.6 billion and per capita energy use reaches the world average, it will be adding the generating capacity of Canada every four years.

China currently burns more than a
billion tonnes of coal a year
to produce 75 percent of its energy. Even the most optimistic assumptions foresee coal consumption growing by about 5 percent a year. The country has unveiled ambitious plans to cut its reliance on coal to about 55 percent of its energy needs. By 2030 coal is expected to provide 62 percent, oil 18 percent, natural gas 8 percent, hydropower 9 percent, and nuclear power 3 percent of China’s energy consumption. By 2050, Chinese planners believe coal consumption should be down to 35 percent of consumption, with oil and natural gas accounting for 40-50 percent and primary energy sources such as nuclear, hydro, solar and wind power accounting for 15-20 percent.

Yangtzee River in China
The Mighty Yangtzee River
An Ancient Highway Into China’s Heartland

To attain that hydropower goal, and to deliver water to parts of China that are now suffering badly from the effects of centuries of mismanagement of the environment…

China has embarked on its biggest water-diversion plan ever.

On August 14, Premier Wen Jiabao announced that work on the eastern and central canals of a south-north water-diversion project are to start this year.

These canals would carry water from the Three Gorges Dam hundreds of kilometers away.
One of the most important parts of the project is reducing water pollution in northern China, bringing water from the south to what is now a virtual desert. If the project fails, China might well have to move its capital from Beijing, which sits in the middle of a desert. Wen was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying that plans are being made to protect the water from pollution along the diversion.

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The River Dragon Has Come Book Cover
The River Dragon Has Come!
The Three Gorges Dam and
the Fate of China’s Yangtze
River and Its People

Eight projects are soon to be initiated, including a canal from Shijiazhuang in Hebei province to Tuancheng Lake in Beijing, the reinforcement of the dam of Danjiangkou Reservoir, a tunnel under the Yellow River, which is now dry 1,000km from its mouth, and construction of sewage-treatment plants in cities along the eastern canal. Wen said that by 2008, 295 water-pollution control projects will have been built along the east canal, one of three south-to-north water-diversion canals running about 1,300km across the eastern, middle and western parts of the country.

Flags of China and Canada
State Environmental
Protection Administration

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) acknowledged that water pollution along the east canal is still worrisome. All seven spots that are monitored by SEPA were reported to be polluted in varying degrees. New rules to charge enterprises and residents for disposing of wastewater will also be adopted. On the east canal alone, 24 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) will be invested in reducing pollution and protecting the environment, one-third of the budget for the canal.

The south-to-north water-diversion project formally started last December and aims to divert 44.8 billion cubic meters of water from the Yangtze to the north, Wen said. Emergency water supply to Beijing, Tianjin and north Hebei province will be a priority of the project, he said.

China is thus choosing between environmental hazard in its waters and environmental hazard in its air. The Worldwatch Institute, an international environmental watchdog, estimates that China is poised to overtake the United States as the world’s largest source of air pollution within 10 years. Less than 20 percent of the 1.4 billion tonnes of coal that China mined in 1996 (when coal output peaked) was washed, so that 23.7 million tonnes of sulfur dioxide was discharged into the air that year.

Map of China
China’s Energy Consumption Is Just Beginning

In 1999, only a third of China’s 338 monitored cities were in compliance with the nation’s ambient-air-quality criteria – which are far lower than international standards. Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, where a quarter of the country’s coal is mined, has the worst air-pollution record of any city in the world, with particulate concentrations often seven times World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

World Health Organization Logo
World Health

A World Bank report estimates that air pollution costs the Chinese economy $25 billion a year in health expenditure and lost labor productivity alone. As many as 700,000 premature deaths per year are attributed just to indoor air pollution from burning coal for heating and cooking. Throughout China, respiratory diseases are blamed for a quarter of all early deaths, a figure that has increased by nearly 25 percent over the past decade. Then there are the 10,000 miners who lose their lives each year, largely from coal-face accidents. Moreover, acid rain affects 40 percent of China. In Chongqing, which burns 15 million tonnes of coal each year, acid rain is so severe that bus signs have to be changed every few years. The municipal government says acid rain costs 1.6 billion yuan a year.

Given this story, anything that China does to cut its reliance on coal is to be welcomed. Beijing plans to ban production of coal containing more than 3 percent sulfur by the end of 2005. Moreover, two transcontinental gas pipelines and half a dozen smaller ones are being built that would supply the big cities with clean energy for heating and cooking. In many cities such as Beijing and Taiyuan, people are already installing new gas-fired boilers to replace coal-fired ones. China is also promising to clean up its smokestacks and halve sulfur-dioxide emissions by 2010.

Flag of China
Flag of China

The continuing reliance on old and inefficient industrial technology means that China must burn 50 million tonnes of coal more than a developed country for the same amount of energy. Much of the bill of $46 billion is being footed by Japan, which suffers from Shanxi air pollution. Hitachi is even providing smokestack scrubbers to Shanxi plants. But despite these attempts to clean it up and reduce dependence on it, coal will remain central to fulifilling China’s energy.

By 2030 oil is scheduled to supply 18 percent of China’s needs – making it as important a consumer of Middle Eastern oil as Japan or the United States – yet coal consumption will remain the most pressing issue.

By 2020, China’s coal-fired generating plants will alone be emitting each 10.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 152,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide and nearly 500,000 tonnes of dust and fly ash. So, on the face of it, the Three Gorges Dam and all the other hydropower schemes offer big benefits, which contribute 20 percent of China’s electricity consumption from non-polluting energy that is vastly preferable to coal. Even so, the giant dams and reservoirs China is building at such a furious rate remain a poor investment and should be discouraged, because their construction entails big hidden human and environmental costs.

Map of Rivers in China
China intends to build dams and canals to divert hundreds of cubic kilometers of
water per year from the Yangtzee basin to the arid north of their country.

The past 50 years of water conservancy has been achieved at a gigantic cost in human suffering, which is little known even within China. By 1982 China had forcibly evicted 10.2 million people to make way for 70,000 dams and 80,000 reservoirs; even this may be an underestimate. In the past 20 years, an additional 3 million people have moved, bringing the total to 13 million.

Resettlement for dam building is, of course, only one part of a bigger story of forced movement. In the Mao Zedong era, 170 million people were shifted around the country. Soldiers, prisoners, Red Guards or miners were sent into hitherto remote areas such as the forests of Yunnan or the mountains and valleys of former Manchuria. More than 20 million “educated youth” were sent from the cities into the countryside. Another 16 million were sent into the interior to build Mao’s “Third Line”, a military-industrial complex scattered in remote locations to enable his regime to survive a Soviet nuclear attack and invasion.

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China: The RaceTo Market

Since 1949, 45 million people have been moved to make way for all kinds of infrastructure projects. One consequence of these population movements is a form of colonization. Areas that were once the domain of hunters and herdsmen have been transformed into densely occupied settlements. The Sanjiang Plain in Heilongjiang province, for instance, in the far north was drained to create farmland that now supports 8 million people.

About the Author:
Gordon Feller is the CEO of Urban Age Institute ( During the past twenty years he has authored more than 500 magazine articles, journal articles or newspaper articles on the profound changes underway in politics, economics, and ecology – with a special emphasis on sustainable development. Gordon is the editor of Urban Age Magazine, a unique quarterly which serves as a global resource and which was founded in 1990. He can be reached at and he is available for speaking to your organization about the issues raised in this and his other numerous articles published in EcoWorld.

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Posted in Air Pollution, Business & Economics, Cars, Coal, Consumption, Effects Of Air Pollution, Electricity, Energy, Indoor Air Pollution, Infrastructure, Military, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Other, People, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Water Pollution, Wind0 Comments

Free Market Environmental Protection

Futuristic Artwork by Tim Cantor
image – Tim Cantor


When the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Earth Day arrived this past spring, there was much to feel good about. Significant strides have been made in protecting the earth’s biological envelope, and environmental awareness has surely been heightened. But there was also a sense of foreboding. In news comments on the occasion, came expressions of concern that pending legislative reforms such as compensation for regulatory takings, the imposition of limited cost-benefit and risk analyses, and revisions of the Clean Water Act world roll back 25 years of progress. Some even suggested that were it not for federal laws, there would be no environmental protection at all, implying that communities nationwide would stand idly by as their home territories became open sewers.

Though unreasonably costly and at times misguided, the threatened federal regulation has nonetheless provided a massive mechanism for protecting environmental quality. Yes, the air is cleaner than it was 25 years ago, more miles of rivers are swimmable, and lots of contaminated soil has been hauled from Superfund sites. But change is in the works. Even EPA has admitted that the priorities for action forced on the agency do not match the real needs for reducing environmental risks and improving air and water quality. Meanwhile memberships in national environmental groups seem to be peaking. By contrast, grass roots activities are burgeoning.

Surely there is room for improvement. We know that no other industrialized country has a Superfund program as costly and ineffective as ours. No other advanced economy relies as heavily on centralized command and control regulation, and practically every other industrialized nation is light years ahead in organizing river basin associations and similar decentralized organizations for managing water quality.

Today, the U.S. alone seems trapped in a regulatory pit that emphasizes uniform command-and-control regulation, penalties and confrontation, while paying scant attention to outcomes. In short, we rely on an antiquated, inflexible, top-down regulatory structure that was designed for a 1970 smokestack economy. Our command-and-control system was once justified by its ability to assemble and apply costly and scarce information. Yet we live in a new global age where microchips, low-cost information transmission and decentralized decision making rule the day.

Think of the changes that have transpired worldwide in the last quarter century while the basic regulatory blueprints hardly changed at all. When our basic environmental statutes were being designed, there were no FAX machines. There were no personal computers. There was no Internet for E-mail for giving instant information on polluter behavior. There was no CNN to inform the world of environmental calamities. Indeed, there was no way to monitor stack emissions, so that one could write emission trading contracts. There was no low-cost technology for reading tailpipe emissions from automobiles or for scanning the multiple dimensions of water quality. Smog was a mystery. And the notion of continuous monitoring of environmental use by satellites was just a gleam in some scientist´ s eye. In the early 1970s there was no International Standards Organization responding to marketplace demands for a higher quality workplace and giving private sector certification of environmental control. Today, all this and more is as routine as self-rising flour in grocery stores.

Now consider some of what we have learned about environmental hazards from 25 years experience in dealing with pollution. We now know that industrial discharge is not the source of most carcinogens and other environmental hazards. Indeed, we know that industry today ranks well below government operations and nonpoint sources as the major source of pollution. We have learned that the threat of acid rain is not critically associated with sulfur dioxide emissions, that life expectancies are increasing and that forests are flourishing.

Over the course of the last two decades, we have learned that the demand for environmental quality that comes with rising incomes is a powerful force for delivering environmental improvements, one that will not be denied. Factories, farms, municipal treatment plants, and federal government facilities cannot get by with haphazard treatment of the environment. CNN, Internet, E-mail and desk-top publishers will tell. And ordinary people, the ones we see each day in the market, will bring actions to protect their environment. In other words, there is no danger of seeing an unconstrained “race to bottom.” Now is the time, I believe, to replace costly smokestack regulation with the beneficial forces of the market.


Just what are these beneficial market forces? And what steps can we take to build strong linkages between environmental protection and the actions of millions of uncoordinated people? Is it possible for people to do the right thing without even thinking about environmental quality.? First off, the market process reflects social norms and rules of just conduct embodied in law and custom. Market action is driven by prices that emerge when some people own things that others want. For example, when investors have to give up something they value to obtain a site for building a factory, they are suddenly struck with a conservation ethic. Because they must pay, they carefully consider just how much land they really need. They shop. They search. They become creative. Markets and prices provide incentives. And if factory builders must pay the holders of environmental rights before building or polluting, or suffer the consequences, the investors will work even harder to avoid environmental harms. When environmental rights are protected, environmental protection becomes consistent with profit maximization.

Property rights´ definition and protection form the keystone to the market process. If factories and municipal treatment plants are told that they can pollute within certain limits if they have an EPA permit, then each time we get another certified plant we will get more polluted air and rivers. And if regulators tell industry official s how to design plants and they give their stamp of approval only when the specified technology is in place, then industry has no incentive to search for lower cost technologies and less damaging sites. If owners of downstream property lose their right to sue and stop polluters who damage their property, as our statutes do in some cases, industry incentives are blunted even further.

If cities and states are able to use political powers to locate incinerators and landfills without compensating neighboring property owners for damages, then environmental justice becomes an issue. If in the pursuit of protecting endangered species or sensitive wetlands, government can take property rights without paying, then property owners will have incentives to destroy endangered species and to plow under wetlands before they are observed. On the other hand, if property owners are paid for harboring endangered species and for converting land to public use, then wetlands and endangered species will be more secure. The incentives generated by markets, prices, and property rights can replace a large number of environmental policemen.


How might we apply these market principals to the existing statutory framework? First, we might attempt to modify the rules. With few exceptions, the legislative blueprints for regulating air and water pollution require command-and-control regulation that results in end-of-pipe, technology-based standards. Generally speaking, regulations focus on inputs, not outcomes. There is a fixation on point-sources — individual machines and in-plant processes. Hardly any attention is directed toward ecological systems, like river basins, complete aquifers and watersheds. The rules leave little room for innovation and can actually penalize firms that devote attention to unidentified but important sources of pollution while overlooking smaller but specified sources that are listed in the rules.

Put in the simplest terms, air and water pollution control from stationary sources is based on national or large geographic area standards that call for uniform approaches to be taken by broad categories of polluters. There are new-source/old-source standards that penalize expansion of plants and protect existing firms from competitive entry. There are stricter standards for particular regions. And there is little focus on overall outcomes. Indeed, after 25 years, we are just now becoming serious about the provision of extensive monitoring data that inform us about relative improvement.

How might we modify the existing blueprint? Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

1) Ditch command-and-control regulation in favor of performance standards. Identify specific goals to be achieved and allow managers to figure it out from there. Let flexibility and the desire to minimize cost become the guiding principals. Let the regulators focus on outcomes.

2) Eliminate new-source/old-source biases. Let competition work at all margins.

3) Establish a complete national emissions monitoring system and, by statute, provide a detailed annual report card that gives reliable data on the environment, by pollutant, river, major lake and stream.

4) Expand emissions and effluent trading to encompass all criteria pollutants. To facilitate emission trading between and among facilities with diverse ownership, provide baseline data and systems analysis so that all contracts can be written and enforced.

5) Require experiments with river and air-shed management systems where all rules for plants and other individual sources are relaxed and the river or air shed is given a measurable environmental goal to be achieved. Include point and nonpoint sources of pollution in the basinwide approach.

For hazardous waste, better known as superfund:

1) Make Superfund a public works project with, for example, a 75/25 percent local/federal sharing of cost, with the proportion based on the expected share of benefits.

2) Eliminate strict joint and several liability as basis for recovery of costs. Replace with joint and several liability only for polluters who violated laws at the time waste was created at a site.

3) Involve states and communities in establishing a triage system that based on intended use identifies sites that should be cleaned, those that should be paved or fenced and guarded, and those that should be monitored for potential cleanup.

4) Eliminate drinking water as the standard to be met from a cleaned Superfund site. Replace with ambient standards accepted by a population for their rivers and lakes.


So much for tinkering at the margins of smokestack regulation. Starting with a clean slate calls for careful examination of the fundamental role of government. We must ask 1) what is the purpose of government in the context? and 2) what level of government? Under a market approach, government has the responsibility of protecting citizens from the harm of others, protecting property rights, and reducing transaction costs among parties who seek to solve environmental problems. These duties relate to governing at all levels — the community, the state, the nation, and with regard to issues involving national boundaries. As to the level of government, we should consider the dimensions of the environmental problem being addressed, which is to say the extent of the harm that might be generated by a polluter or group of polluters.

A classification of environmental problems — activities that impose harm on other people, their property or things they prize — will surely yield a matching of some problems with each level of government. For example, a hazardous waste site that does not pose a risk to an aquifer is surely a local problem. One that contaminates a multistate aquifer will require another level of government. Air pollution that imposes costs within a state´ s boundaries is one thing; pollution that imposes costs across a region or across a national boundary is something else. Making such a list will carry us some distance in identifying the appropriate level of government for protecting property and reducing transaction costs among parties who seek to resolve pollution problems.

Decentralizing the problem breaks the national monopoly, generates a multitude of experiments, and allows citizens to vote with their feet. All evidence suggests that the costs of environmental improvements will fall, that those who have the greatest incentive to address environmental concerns will have a larger voice in determining outcomes, and that those who reap the benefits will bear the costs.

But what about the mechanisms that might be used? A review of the nation´ s history and consideration of the experience of other countries inform us of alternatives. For several hundred years, environmental rights were protected by the common law of nuisance and trespass. Cases involving water, air, odor and hazardous waste pollution were adjudicated in common law courts. Where many receivers of pollution were involved, citizens turned to public prosecutors and the public nuisance law. Where pollution crossed state lines, a state attorney general brought suit in behalf of citizens. Just prior to enactment of federal statutes, federal common law was emerging for protecting environmental rights among the states. To a large extent, that fertile field of control was snuffed out by legislation.

We cannot know how common law would have evolved in the absence of monopolized regulation. Perhaps specialized courts would have developed with special masters dealing with highly technical issues. Yet, like statute law, common law did not work perfectly, but the remedies were tough — injunction and damages. Of special importance, only those who could demonstrate harm or potential harm could bring action. A passerby had no standing to bring suit against a polluter whose activities were legitimate in the eyes of the courts and community members.

The common law process has something else to recommend it. It is impossible for a special interest to lobby all common law judges and obtain uniform rulings across the entire country. Put differently, it is very costly to seek rents through the courtroom.

But does common law really work? Today, practically all of the freshwater fish in the United Kingdom are owned by private parties, and have been for generations. The property of the angling clubs is protected by common law. If a polluter, be it a city, and industry or government enterprise, damages a fishery, the angling clubs brought suit. In the last 20 years, some 2,000 suits have been brought. Five have been lost. The result: The rivers of England are clean, in some cases cleaner than drinking water standards require. Market forces can protect water quality.

Prior to the formation of EPA, multistate compacts and commissions were at work dealing with water and air pollution. Ordinary people with good sense recognized that dimensions of environmental problems did not necessarily coincide with the dimensions of existing political bodies. The Ohio river basin commission, which included the states of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, was one of the better known operating systems. Through the joint effort of several states, the Ohio river was cleaned, continuously monitored and managed. At the time of EPA´ s founding, there were discussions underway to expand the Ohio river system to include states that bordered the Tennessee River. Quite possibly, river basin associations and multistate compacts would have eventually encompassed all major rivers. Federal legislation ended all that.

Today, in France every major river, their tributaries and coastal zones are managed as six systems with independent governing bodies that work to manage discharges to and withdrawals from all bodies of water. Major rivers in Germany, Scotland and Australia are similarly managed. Efforts are underway in Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil and Canada to develop similar approaches. There is no command-and-control. Water users are given performance standards to meet. In some cases, discharge and withdrawal fees are imposed. In Australia, pollution rights are traded to minimize the cost of controlling salt infusion.

One such experiment is now operating in the U.S., just one. It encompasses North Carolina´ s Tar River where point and nonpoint dischargers are working together in a river basin association. EPA´ s command-and-control regulations are relaxed. As a result, the Pamlico Sound, the receiver of waters from the Tar, is recovering. Costs are reduced dramatically by members of the association.

A review of history and current experience suggests the following:

1) Levels of governmental control and assistance should match the dimensions of the environmental problem being addressed. In some cases, new governing bodies will need to be developed. Regional compacts will be needed. Enabling legislation that forms river basin associations may be required. The national government should focus its attention on environmental problems that are truly national in scope. In all such cases, the national government should focus only on setting performance standards, enforcing those standards, and reporting on progress. There should be no command-and-control regulation for stationary pollution sources.

2) States should be empowered to manage environmental quality within their boundaries with the means and instruments not specified. Multistate participation and river basin associations should be assisted by the national government. States should be left free to invigorate common law remedies or any other control instrument they desire. The emphasis should be on outcomes, not inputs.

3) When the federal government regulates, as in the case of air pollution that affects several states or in the case of mobile sources, the regulatory agency should be required to justify all actions on the basis of scientifically based risk assessment and cost effectiveness. The regulatory agency should be required to report annually on the status of each action taken, its justification, and measured effects.

4) The national government should strengthen its research and development activities and make its expertise available to other governing bodies on a fee basis. The national government should strengthen its role in monitoring environmental quality and regularly provide scientific evidence on the condition of the environment.

There is a role for government in protecting environmental rights and in protecting people from environmental harm. As mentioned here, it is a role that supports property rights, markets and competition. Until now, too much attention has been focused on procedures, process, inputs and on criminalizing the innocent behavior of citizens. As a people, we have chosen a high cost, low result route, and we have learned a lot. Indeed, we should know more about environmental regulation than any other people on the face of the earth. Now is the time to rethink what we are doing. to learn from our own experience and that of others, and to make the 21st century a time when we can truly take the environment seriously.

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Omnibus Property Rights Act 1995

Issue #4

Fall 1995

Futuristic Cityscape Painting by Tim Cantor
image – Tim Cantor

section 1 Short title.

“Emergency Property Owners Relief Act of 1995″


section 101 Findings.

section 102 Purpose.


>section 201 Findings.

>section 202 Purposes.

>section 203 Definitions.

* “Property” and “private property” means real property; the right to use and receive water; rents, issues, and profits from land; property rights defined by contract; and any interest understood to be property under common law.

* “Taking” does not include condemnation or criminal forfeiture.

>section 204 Compensation for private property.

* A property owner shall receive compensation if: private property has been physically taken for public use; the rights of the owner are abridged in order to obtain a permit for use of the property; the owner is deprived of all or substantially all of the economic benefit of the land; the affected property is diminished in value by 33%; and any other circumstance considered a taking with the meaning of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

* The property owner has the burden of proving the diminution of value of property.

* Where required, the government has the burden of proving that:

- its action substantially advances the stated purpose.

- its conditions on granting a permit are roughly proportional to the impact of the proposed use of the property.

- the prohibited use, is a nuisance.

* The government is not required to pay compensation in cases where the property is a nuisance.

* Owners shall be compensated the difference between the fair market value of the affected property before the agency action and its value after the agency action.

* Compensation for a taking shall be paid out of the budget of the agency responsible for the taking.

>section 205 Jurisdiction and judicial review.

Affected property owners can choose to file claims against offending federal agencies in either the United States District Court or United States Court of Federal Claims.

>section 206 Statute of limitations.

A property owner has six years to make a claim against an offending agency.

>section 207 Attorney’s fees and costs.

Attorney’s fees and costs shall be awarded to prevailing plaintiffs.

>section 208 Rules of construction.

Nothing in this title shall infringe upon the authority of state governments to create new property rights.

>section 209 Effective date.

This title shall take effect the day it is signed into law and applies to any agency actions occurring after that date.


>section 301 Alternative dispute resolution.

* Alternative dispute resolution is not mandatory and must be approved by both parties.

* Appeals of arbitration decisions may be made to the District or Claims Courts.

* Arbitration awards are made from the budget of the offending party.


>section 401 Findings and purpose.

>section 402 Definitions.

>section 403
Private property taking impact analysis (TIA).

* Prior to issuing any regulation likely to result in a taking, a federal agency must submit a report of the Office of Management and Budget stating: the specific purpose of the action, the likelihood that the action would provoke a taking of private property, alternatives to the proposed regulation that would ease the impact of the taking, an estimate of the cost of compensating affected property owners. No TIA need be prepared for actions connected with: condemnation proceedings, trust properties and treaty negotiations, criminal forfeiture, planning activity, communications regarding state or local regulation of property, military activity on federal property, immediate threat to health or safety if a TIA is later completed.

* Agencies must submit to OMB annually a list of actions requiring a TIA or resulting in a taking for publication in the Federal Register.

* The TIA is to be made public, and given to owners of affected property. * TIA estimates are presumed inaccurate if completed five years or more before the agency action,

>section 404 Decisional criteria and agency compliance.

* An agency shall not issue rules that require uncompensated takings.

* Agencies must review all existing regulations, re-issuing them if necessary, to reduce takings, and identify and prioritize statutory changes necessary to carry out the purpose of the act within 120 days.

>section 405 Rules of construction.

This bill does not limit any other available remedies, nor act as conclusive determination of property values for appraisal purposes.

>section 406 Statute of limitations.

Suit must be filed within six years after submission of the TIA.


>section 501 Findings and purpose.

>section 502 Definitions.

* “Property” means interests in land and the right to use and receive water. * “Agency action” means action taken under section 404 of the Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act of 1973.

>section 503 Protection of private property rights.

* Agency head shall minimize impacts on private property. * Agencies shall develop rules to ensure the protection of property rights.

>section 504 Property owners consent for entry.

* Agencies may not enter private property without the consent of the owner, prior notice of a visit, and the sharing of any data collected on the property.

* An agency is not barred from entering property to obtain such permission.

>section 505 Right to review and dispute data collected from private property.

An agency may not use data it has collected unless the property owner has been given access to the data, a description of the manner in which it was collected, and the owner has been allowed to dispute the accuracy of the collected information.

>section 506 Right to an administrative appeal of wetlands decisions.

* Amends Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to create an administrative appeal of regulatory jurisdiction, permit denials, terms and conditions of permits, penalties, and orders to restore wetlands.

* The appeal will be heard by an official other than the official who took the action.

>section 507 Right to administrative appeal under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

* Amends section 11 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to create an administrative appeal on designation of critical habitat, permit denial, terms and conditions of permits, finding of jeopardy, incidental take statements, penalties, and limitations a property use. * The appeal will be heard by an official other than the official who took the action.

>section 508 Compensation for taking of private property.

* A Property owners whose regulated property is devalued by 33% or who is denied the economically viable use of the regulated property are entitled to compensation.

* An owner has 90 days to file a claim after final agency action. * The agency head has 180 days to offer to compensate or purchase the property.

* The property owner has 60 days to accept or reject any offer made.

* The property owner may reject any offer made, and submit to binding arbitration the issues of amount of compensation owed and whether compensation is required.

* Payment shall come from the budget of the agency promulgating the action.

>section 509 Private property owner participation in cooperative agreement.

Amends the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require the Secretary to inform owners or lessees if their property is subject to an ESA management agreement, and allow them to participate in the management agreement.

>section 510 Election of remedies.

Property owners retain the right to preserve all other remedies.


>section 601 Severability.

>section 602 Effective date.

Takes effect the day it is signed into law.

This document is informational, and is not meant to support or oppose any legislation pending before the Senate.

Nancie G. Marzulla is the president and chief legal counsel of Defenders of Property Rights. For a free copy of Defenders’ “Pocket Guide to Your Private Property Rights,” send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (52 cents, please) to: 6235 33rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20015

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The Boreal Forests

Aurora Borealis. The northern lights. The frosted rim of northern lands below them, the living icebox of the planet.

All of the northern land masses, North America, Europe, and Asia, have significant expanses of land in the extreme north. The arctic circle, less than 2,000 miles from the north pole, passes almost entirely through land. The boreal forests ring the regions immediately south of this high latitude in a vast expanse that easily rivals the rainforest regions of the world in terms of sheer size.

Locked up in the Boreal Forests are vast amounts of carbon, and their biomass is so huge and so vital that when they are in their maximum growth phase during the northern spring and summer, the worldwide levels of carbon dioxide fall and the worldwide levels of oxygen rise.

The Boreal World has gotten a lot of attention lately. The September 4, 1995 issue of TIME Magazine featured a cover story entitled “The Rape of Siberia” which chronicles the wanton development occurring there since the fall of communism and the Soviet Union. The May/June 1995 issue of WORLDWATCH has a feature entitled “Cutting the Great Forests of the North.” These reports agree that deforestation is happening faster in the Boreal forests than in the tropical ones, but “Save the Boreal Forests” isn’t appearing on bumper stickers yet, and “Taiga Crunch” never made it to the supermarket shelves.

In order to properly discuss the issue of Boreal deforestation, the problem must be quantified. First use worldwide timber-mass doubling as a baseline for a quantitative framework. It is impossible to double the timber mass of the planet if we don’t know what the current timber mass of the planet is. And before we can do that we need to know what the area of forest land is, compared to the area of the land masses of earth.


Using information gleaned from the articles in 1995 issues of TIME and WORLDWATCH, plus a 1995 world almanac and book of facts, certain baselines can be established. Since we are starting from scratch, let’s start with the surface area of the earth. Taking the almanac as a reference, the diameter of the world is 7,926 miles. This, using the formula “surface area of sphere = 4 x 3.1416 x radius squared,” the earth has 197.4 million square miles of surface. Actually, because the earth is slightly ellipsoid, the surface area is more accurately estimated at approximately 196.9 square miles.


Now most of the earth is covered with ocean, where trees don’t grow; the oceans constitute 138.2 million square miles of earth’s surface, constituted as follows:

- Pacific, 64.2

- Atlantic, 33.4

- Indian, 28.4

- Arctic, 5.1

- Other Seas, 7.1


Land masses on earth total 57.9 million square miles, only 29.8% of the total surface area. They are:

- Eurasia, 21.2

- Africa, 11.7

- North America, 9.4

- South America, 6.9

- Antarctica, 5.4

- Australia/Oceania, 3.3


Let’s take some of these facts and see if we can wade through the WORLDWATCH article and get a handle on the size of the Boreal forests in the world. On page 21 of the May/June issue of WORLDWATCH the author states that the Boreal forests are “covering 11 percent of the earth´ s surface and including almost a third of the worlds forests…” The author must mean that the forests cover 11% of the land surface of the world, since if forests covered 11% of the “earth’s surface” there would be no room for the Sahara desert and deforestation would not be a problem. Making that assumption, the area in millions of square miles for the forests of the world are:

- Boreal Forests, 6.4

- Other Forests, 12.8

- Total Forests, 19.2, or 33% of the earth’s land area.

It is not a simple matter to be sure about these facts. On page 22 of the same article, it is stated “Canada has 10% of the world’s forests, and three-quarters of that – about 1 billion hectares, is Boreal…”


…this means that 7.5% of the total forest area in the world are Boreal Forests in Canada, which comes out to 1.4 million square miles. But based on the fact that one square mile is 259.2 hectares, Canada´ s “billion” hectares of Boreal forests would equal 3.8 million square miles. That would be a neat trick, since Canada is only 3.9 million square miles in it’s entire territory (including Quebec, mind you). Will the real Canadian Boreal forest please stand up? And where is the other 25% of Canadian non-Boreal forest to go? To summarize the clues in millions of square miles…

- 7.5% of 12.8m/sq miles = 1.4

- 1 billion hectares / 259(hectares/mile) = 3.8

- size of Canada´ s whole territory = 3.9


On page 25 of the WORLDWATCH article it is declared “Russia’s forests cover 770 million hectares and virtually all of this is Boreal…” This would indicate that the Russian Boreal forests cover an area of 2.9 million square miles. But on page 21 the article says that 70% of the world’s Boreal forests are Russian. So how does this all chalk up in millions of square miles?

- 70% of 6.4m (11% of earth’s land) = 4.5

- 770 million hectares = 2.9

In an attempt to summarize the area and mass of the Boreal forests what has emerged is a beautiful example of why environmentalist hysteria must be identified and countered with reason. Are the Boreal forests being savaged? Probably. But in the May/June 1995 issue of what is arguably the most reputable source of objective environmentalist data in the world, WORLDWATCH Magazine, is a feature on the Boreal forests rife with contradictory facts.


How can we believe any of the inexorable arguments of impending doom if facts presented are not even internally consistent? Am I jumping to conclusions? Let’ s take a few more examples:

Back again on page 21 WORLDWATCH says “in Canada forestland is being felled at the rate of 1 acre every 12 seconds. This is equivalent to 4,106 square miles per year. This “fact” is reasonably consistent with two other facts presented later in the article, the first of which is in the same paragraph on page 21 “About 1 million hectares of Canada´ s forests are logged annually; over the past ten years, that amounts to an area the size of the former East Germany.” This gives us the following values which should be equal but are not…

- 1 acre every 12 seconds = 4,106 sq miles per year

- 1 million hectares annually = 3,858 sq miles per year

- size of East Germany / 10 = 4,176 sq miles

So perhaps that’s not so bad. But getting one’s hopes up could be dangerous. On page 24 WORLDWATCH notes that “it is estimated that one-quarter of the area logged every year will fail to regenerate; an area equal in size to the province of Prince Edward Island.” Ok, here we go…

- 4,106 sq miles logged x 25% = 1,026 square miles

- size of Prince Edward Island = 2,185 square miles

Honey, I just shrunk Prince Edward Island. How can one rely on any of the facts presented in this article? How can one know that the warming of permafrost will release methane “with 21 times the heat trapping power of CO2″ if Canada’s Boreal forests range between 1.4m and 3.8m square miles and Russia’s Boreal forests range between 2.9m and 4.5m square miles BASED ON FACTS PRESENTED IN THE SAME REPORT BY ONE OF THE MOST REPUTABLE ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALS IN THE WORLD!!! How can one know that the Canadian government is subsidizing timber harvests with a bill to the taxpayer of “$176,500 for each Al-Pac job” when Prince Edward Island just got 53% smaller?


How fast is the forest disappearing, anyway? This again is a place where getting the facts straight would help. I rather think that the situation is more dire than WORLDWATCH was saying, or at least I hope so for the sake of their credibility. After all, to use their figures for Canada, if around 4,000 square miles per year are cut in a forest of 1.4 million square miles, it would take 350 years to cut it all down. This is alarming but not cataclysmic. Proper forest management could probably handle a 350 year cycle even in the Boreal regions.

Now that all of this is said, is the situation in the Boreal regions alarming? All in all there are problems, many of which could be ignored since the Boreal regions aren’t chic and popular to fret over. Remember, at these extreme polar latitudes the forests, once cut down, take much longer to regenerate than forests that are logged in tropical regions of the planet. Some of the problems besides non-sustainable forestry that the Boreal regions face:

- air pollution from smelters and power plants

- radioactivity from atomic power and weapons testing

- water pollution & disruption of habitats if commercialization of a northern shipping route from Tokyo to Rotterdam becomes a reality

- adverse impact of new mineral and oil/gas extraction

- new threats to endangered species


How severe and how much of a threat these problems are is difficult to assess and highly subjective, but even WORLDWATCH acknowledges that the free market can step in where governments have failed. Many of their recommendations embrace free market principals, such as the first one on their list “phase out below-cost timber subsidies that waste resources and favor special interests.” This one action would drastically reduce the rate of deforestation in Canada.

Other free market compatible ways to help the Boreal forests would be furthered significantly, if indirectly, by removing subsidies. They are to (1) increase paper recycling and (2) explore alternatives to wood fiber. If timber subsidies were removed the price of paper would increase, making recycling and alternative fibers commercially viable!

In Scandinavia most of the Boreal forest is in private hands, and forestry management there is by and large much better than it is in Canada or Russia. In Scandinavia reforestation is the norm and usually works. Of course it does, the owner of the land has the value of their own property at stake!


To wrap up, let´ s summarize our findings as accurately as we can (millions of square miles):

- Land Surface of Earth, 57.9

- Forests of Earth, 19.2

- Boreal Forests, 6.4

- Boreal Forests: Russia, 2.9 – 4.5

- Boreal Forests: Canada, 1.4 – 3.9

- Boreal Forests: Other, approximately .5 – 1.0

What is the moral of the story? (1) The Boreal Forests are just as integral to the global ecosystem as the Tropical Forests and they should be given equal attention by all concerned with forestry and the environment. (2) Don’t believe everything you read! We will continue to dig at the true facts, right here, and clearly more investigation is necessary. Investigation will be ongoing. That’s why we are here.


By the way, according to the American Forestry Association, timber mass is calculated by taking the circumference in inches (measured 4.5 feet above the ground) plus the height in feet, plus one fourth the average crown spread in feet. This factor times a constant will yield mass in cubic feet or cubic meters. So the next step, establishing levels of timber mass, can be readily estimated.


As we go from establishing areas of forest coverage to actual timber mass per area, it will be necessary to go metric. The relationship between area and volume is much harder to appreciate using the imperial system of weights and measures. Get ready.


Last of all, here are some interesting conversion tables that will help you when you read your next article in WORLDWATCH, TIME, ECOWORLD

or any other source of earth information:

- 1 hectare = 2.471 acres

- 1 acre = .405 hectares

- 1 square mile = 640 acres or 259 hectares

- 1 square mile = 2.59 square kilometers

- 1 square kilometer = .386 square miles

- 1 square kilometer = 247 acres or 100 hectares!

and just for fun (get ready for water…)

- 1 cubic kilometer = 811,203 acre feet!

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Posted in Air Pollution, Other, Recycling, Trees & Forestry, Water Pollution1 Comment

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