Saving California’s Beaches

Isla Vista

New expert report offers recommendations for shoreline armoring management

As California’s beach goers and residents well know, erosion and climate change are already impacting the California coastline. Eighty percent of California’s coast is actively eroding, and the latest science projects that sea levels may rise up to 5 additional feet along much of the coast by the end of this century. Higher sea levels […]

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Legal Responses to the Santa Barbara Refugio Oil Spill


Exploring potential penalties and damages

Last Tuesday, a 24-inch underground oil pipeline on the beautiful Santa Barbara County coastline burst for reasons as of yet unknown. Over the course of several hours, an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude oil spilled down a storm drain, on the shoreline, and into the Pacific Ocean. As of late last week, oil had spread […]

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Tracking Coastal Adaptation


Implementing CA’s Innovative Sea Level Rise Planning Database

Higher sea levels are already affecting California’s 3400 miles of coastline, millions of coastal residents, economy, buildings, and critical infrastructure. Yet, oddly enough for a state that is a worldwide leader in climate change mitigation, California has only recently begun to focus seriously on sea level rise adaptation. Recent reports have cited a lack of preparedness […]

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Zero Trash

Los Angeles River (LA Times)

Using the Clean Water Act to Control Marine Debris in California

This post is cross-posted on EcoPerspectives, the environmental law and policy blog of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law. Let’s talk trash. Human-generated stuff that ends up in the ocean, termed “marine debris” or “marine trash,” presents a critical ocean and coastal management challenge. Trash can be found on coastlines and in seawater worldwide, from […]

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Standing, Settlement, and Mass Torts

BP is trying to use standing law to wiggle out of its own settlement agreement. The courts have been right to say no.

BP entered into a settlement in a massive class action against it arising out of the BP oil spill.  Now it’s trying to get out of part of the settlement while keeping the rest of the deal in place.  BP’s argument involves three areas of confusion in  standing doctrine: how does it apply to class actions, […]

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BP Spill + 4

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

Four years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon was still gushing oil.  The well was finally capped in mid- July.  There’s been a lot of legal action since then, but it’s hard to keep track of all the piecemeal developments.  Here’s quick rundown. The Presidential Commission investigating the spill identified the “root causes” as management failures by industry and […]

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Addressing Climate Change Without Legislation


A new report from UC Berkeley looks at the underused powers of the US Department of the Interior.

Now that the Environmental Protection Agency has announced its proposed rules for restricting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, the climate focus of EPA and the states will first be on polishing the rules for final approval, then on the anticipated law suits, and then on the development of state plans to meet the […]

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Going, Going, Gone

sixth extinction

Despite it’s depressing subject, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction is a great read.  She travels around the world, from a “hotel” for endangered frogs in Panama to an outdoor biodiversity experiment in the Peruvian rainforest to an endangered rhino’s rectal exam in Cincinnati.  Yet, there’s no denying that the topic is a downer.  The title implies that we […]

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Sea Level Rises, Premiums Not So Much

NOAA flood photo

Congress apparently just couldn't resist restoring subsidies for coastal homeowners.

The President has now signed an important modification of the flood insurance program.  The changes are hard to understand, in part because the bill changed an earlier 2013 law that itself amended the basic statute.  So you have to work through the whole sequence to see what is going on. Before I go into more […]

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Protecting Marine “Wilderness”


A new study shows how to strengthen marine preserves.

The Bush Administration is not remembered fondly by environmentalists, but one important exception came at the beginning of 2009.  That’s when President Bush created an additional 195,000 square miles of marine reserves, on top of the 140,000 miles he had created previously.  Such marine reserves are not unique to the United States, of course.  Yet, […]

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