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CLEAR Honors Contributions to Clean Air in North Carolina

The Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) at UNC School of Law formally recognized individuals for their contributions to North Carolina’s success in protecting its citizens’ right to clean and healthful air at a luncheon reception on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013.

The first CLEAR award was given to Attorney General Roy Cooper, as well as Marc Bernstein, Jim Gulick and Allen Jernigan in the N.C. Attorney General’s Office; Laura Boothe (posthumously), George Bridgers, John Evans, Sheila Holman and Brock Nicholson at the N.C. Department of the Environment and Natural Resources; John Suttles and Gudrun Thompson from the Southern Environmental Law Center; Chris Browning, former North Carolina Solicitor General; and Professor Don Hornstein, from UNC School of Law.

“The dedication of these individuals serves as an inspiration to all environmental attorneys and public servants and to our future attorneys,” says Victor Flatt, CLEAR director and Thomas F. and Elizabeth Taft Distinguished Professor in Environmental Law.

With the passage of the strict Clean Air Act in 1970, the federal government tasked all states with playing a role in the provision of clean air. In particular, it was recognized that states should avoid actions that would cause harm to the air in another state. Despite this requirement, much upwind pollution traveled to downwind states like North Carolina, impairing the health of its citizens.

“Since 2002, the North Carolina Attorney General’s office and its allies have fought for clean air in North Carolina,” says Flatt. Their work, spanning over a decade, includes a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to respond to a petition under the Clean Air Act against upwind sources of pollution significantly affecting North Carolina; a lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority, which reduced trans-boundary pollution from sources operated by the TVA; and a successful challenge of the EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule in the U.S. Supreme Court and the continued work petitioning for a better program for the future.

“With these actions, these environmental legal heroes have lowered the amount of pollution coming into the state from out-of-state sources by decreasing emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides or eliminating sources completely,” says Flatt.

Christopher Browning; Dean Jack Boger; Professor Victor Flatt; Attorney General Roy Cooper; Tom Taft; James Gulick; Marc Bernstein; Allen Jernigan; Gudrun Thompson; and John Suttles.
Attorney General Roy Cooper

Professor Flatt speaks on Environmental Disasters and facilitates discussion at National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment

The National Council for Science and the Environment held its 13th National Conference on Science Policy and the Environment from January 15-17, 2013, in Washington, D.C. This year’s topic “Disasters and Environment: Science, Preparedness, and Resilience” drew over 2000 participants from all over the world. Victor Flatt, the Tom & Elizabeth Taft Distinguished Professor of Law, and Director of the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) was invited to present on “Environmental Emergencies: How to Manage Recent Trends of Climate Change and Urbanization.”

In his remarks, Professor Flatt noted how environmental laws rarely account for so-called secondary emergencies from disasters, that is situations in which natural disasters disrupt the ability of environmental laws and systems to function, and suggested that this should be a major reform goal in the United States and around the world.

Along with Rene Nijenhuis, Humanitarian Affairs Officer from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), and Carl Bruch, Senior Attorney and Co-Director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute, Professor Flatt also facilitated a broad discussion on making specific recommendations to the United Nations, and member governments, concerning what needs to be done to better manage and handle environmental emergencies. Participating in this workshop were representatives from disaster and environmental response teams worldwide, including the United Nations, the EU, Sweden, British Columbia, Boston, and the United States Naval Southern Command.

In addition to the suggestion to add emergency exception policies to environmental laws, the workshop group also proposed that resources be made available to local governments to better integrate and comprehensively plan for climate change, and all kinds of disasters, before these disasters occur.

Because of its core expertise in climate change adaptation, and the relation of climate change to natural disasters, CLEAR and Professor Flatt, along with other units at the University of North Carolina (such as the Center of Excellence for Natural Disasters and Homeland Security) have been leaders in the discussion of laws governing disaster management and relief. General information about the conference can be found at http://www.environmentaldisasters.net/.

Victor Flatt speaks at InterCLIMA 2012

InterCLIMA, which took place in Lima, Peru Oct. 29-31, focused on the progress, challenges, priorities and guidelines for managing climate change within the country. The climate conference included many stakeholder groups and a variety of international speakers on climate change.

While most of the conference was in Spanish, highlights of Professor Flatt's portion of the discussion in English are at 2:12 and 5:58.

Read the press release announcing Professor Flatt's involvement.

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