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the law of energy for sustainable development

EPL’s symposium was held in honor of EPL founder Svitlana Kravchenko

ELAW partners at Environment-People-Law say clean, green, energy independence will protect Ukrainians and fragile resources while boosting national security.  Energy was featured at EPL’s international symposium in Lviv last month: “Human Rights and Environment in a New Ukraine.

Ukraine has been identified as one of the world’s most energy inefficient countries and relies on imports to meet its energy needs.

“We depend on natural gas, coal, and uranium, and import about 40% of our fuel to meet our needs,” says Olena Kravchenko, EPL Executive Director. “Moving beyond fossil fuels should help reduce conflict in eastern Ukraine and will help us build a more sustainable new Ukraine.”

ELAW Staff Attorney Jennifer Gleason gave a presentation at the symposium: “Energy Independence for Ukraine.”  Jen teaches energy law at the University of Oregon School of Law and has worked with ELAW partners around the world to advance green energy.  EPL has called on Jen to help craft a sustainable energy plan for Ukraine.

“I arrived in Ukraine from Germany where our partners at UfU had hosted the 2014 ELAW Annual Meeting,” says Jen.  “Sound policies have helped Germany surpass its goals for obtaining energy from sustainable sources. We are eager to help EPL draw on this experience. The key will be getting citizens to engage in improving energy efficiency. “

We will keep you informed of ELAW’s work answering EPL’s call for help to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on energy imports, while improving energy efficiency and promoting generation of electricity from sustainable sources.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Related news:
Status of Crimea’s Natural Reserves Uncertain

ELAW is helping lawyers around the world protect communities and the environment, and they need help from scientists. Heidi Weiskel, a marine ecologist and ELAW Staff Scientist since 2012, says:

Scientists help communities understand how a development impacts the local ecology and help lawyers articulate these impacts in court.”

Scientist in Action: Glenn Miller (center)
and ELAW partners Aresio Valiente (left) and
Tania Arosemena (right) in Panama, July 2014

Heidi was joined by ELAW board member Glenn Miller and ELAW partner Fernando Ochoa at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting, to help ecologists learn how they can use their expertise outside traditional academic research.

Glenn is a professor and mining expert at the University of Nevada at Reno. Fernando is an attorney and founder of Environmental Defense Northwest.

Introducing the work of ELAW to ESA builds bridges between these experts and the communities that need scientific analysis,” says Heidi.

Heidi and ELAW Staff Scientists Mark Chernaik and Meche Lu work with Glenn and several other pro bono scientists who share their expertise with hundreds of ELAW partners around the world.

Many thanks to Glenn and all of ELAW’s pro bono scientists who help bring scientific truth to environmental challenges.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

CEMDA logoCongratulations to ELAW advocate Alejandra Serrano and her team at the Mexican Environmental Law Center for their work defending communities and Mexico’s Riviera Maya!

ABC News reports:

“Mexican environmental authorities have levied a $555,000 fine against a project to build a massive trade center south of Cancun to showcase Chinese products. The Attorney General for Environmental Protection said late Thursday the fine was for building roads through wetlands and affecting coastal ecosystems without authorization.”

“The communities are saying enough is enough with out-sized development on the coast,” says Alejandra.  “This fine is a good first step. Our case is pending and we hope the Ministry of Environment will apply the new law of environmental responsibility and follow up on the criminal acts exposed in this case.”

Last year, ELAW Staff Scientist Meche Lu reviewed the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and revealed that the EIA lacked information about the scope and size of the project, the location of coastal wetlands within the project area, the impact of paving on the water quality of coastal wetlands, and more.

For more information, see:

We will keep you informed of our progress protecting the Yucatán Peninsula. Thanks for your interest!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director



Status of Crimea’s Natural Reserves Uncertain

Eugene, OR, August 20, 2014 — Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide partners in Ukraine are concerned about the fate of protected natural areas in Crimea.  “The status of Charivna Havan National Park, Yalta Mountain Forest Reserve, Cape Martyan Reserve, and three other natural reserves are uncertain,” says Olena Kravchenko, Executive Director of Environment-People-Law, based in Lviv, Ukraine.

Olena explains:


“The situation is complicated.  These are lands owned by Ukraine, which has the right and obligation to protect them, but we keep receiving reports that rich Russians are turning parts of these parks and reserves into private estates.  However, there is no possibility to handle these territories properly at present because of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea.”

Olena and her staff at EPL have worked for years to protect the environment through law in Ukraine.  EPL was founded by the late Professor Svitlana Kravchenko, a world expert on human rights and the environment.  EPL has a staff of 13.

While worried about the situation in Crimea, EPL recently celebrated a court order returning to public use similar state-owned, protected lands near Kyiv that the country’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych had closed off for his private hunting.

“This is one of the first decisions in Ukraine that returns illegally expropriated state property to the public,” says Olena.  “Recreation areas must be accessible by the public and not passed to private hands.”

For more information, contact:

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

We are thrilled to share good news for the Ganges!

India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered the inspection of 956 factories that release effluents into the India’s most sacred waterway.

Untreated wastewater from Simbhaoli Sugar Mills Ltd.  flows through the Phuldera drain en route to the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh.

ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik helped partners show that a sugar mill and distillery were illegally discharging heavily-polluted wastes to the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh, contrary to court documents.

Mark’s analysis helped ELAW partners convince members of the NGT to conduct an onsite inspection of the facility, which remains closed, and expand the scope of the case to include nearly 1,000 factories that discharge wastewater to the Ganges River.

“Mark was a great help,” says Rahul Choudhary.  “Now he will help prioritize which of the factories on the list are the worst polluters, to maximize the impact of future NGT orders.”

The industries on the inspection list are tanneries, paper mills, pesticide manufacturers, sugar mills, distilleries, and more.  Inspections will be conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board, the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, and the National Ganga River Basin Authority.

Congratulations Rahul on this inspiring win for clean water!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

coal_0I am thrilled to share good news!

Last week, ELAW partners in the Philippines rejoiced when local government officials shelved plans to allow a company to dump coal ash on beachfront property in Naga City.

Coal ash is a toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants.  Coal ash contaminants such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic pose a significant threat to water resources.

ELAW partners Gloria Estenzo Ramos and Benjamin Cabrido with the Philippine Earth Justice Center called on ELAW’s science team in 2011 for help evaluating whether plans for the dump included adequate pollution mitigation technology to keep local residents safe.

ELAW’s science team reviewed the plans and found that the coal ash landfill would have been located in a floodplain and did not allow enough distance between the liner, a barrier intended to prevent groundwater contamination, and groundwater, violating the requirements of the Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Using this information, ELAW partners successfully argued that the site is not a good place for a dump.  We were thrilled when Gloria wrote:

“ELAW has been a tremendous ally and partner and a major source of assistance and support to us in the struggle for environmental justice.”

Victories like this inspire us, and we hope they inspire you too!

Read more in the following news report:

Cebu Daily News Capitol, Kepco end coal waste dumping deal

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

ELAW partner Norma Alvares of the Goa Foundation has won a tremendous victory in India.  The Bombay High Court ruled that the Grand Hyatt Hotel was illegally constructed in the protected Coastal Regulation Zone, which prohibits development within 200 meters of the sea coast and 100 meters of tidal rivers.

Grand Hyatt Hotel

Grand Hyatt Hotel

The Goa Foundation first filed this case in 2007 and fought for 7 years to show that the Grand Hotel Goa falsified plans and constructed the hotel in blatant violation of the law.

Norma says: “The Grand Hyatt victory is significant because it has shown that although the international corporation deliberately cheated and tried to defeat the coastal law – by substituting the approved plans with fake ones, by colluding with the government officials to make all the project files disappear, and abused the court process by repeatedly filing applications and appeals to delay the hearing of this case – the law finally caught up with them: their shameful fraud now stands exposed and they face the prospect of the same fate that ordinary Goans who illegally constructed in the prohibited Coastal Regulation Zone were compelled to do, namely, demolition of their illegal structures.

A three-judge panel will now consider what is the appropriate remedy for the Grand Hyatt’s violations. Norma will be asking the court to order the Grand Hyatt to remove the hotel and restore the coastal zone.

Congratulations to Norma and the Goa Foundation for winning a huge victory, strengthening the rule of law, and protecting India’s invaluable coastal zone!

Bern Johnson
Executive Director

When tourists visit Panama, they enjoy the beaches, islands, and mountain forests.  ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel was in Panama this month with a different agenda.

Heidi used her marine ecologist’s eye to take in what’s threatening Panama’s natural environment.  She joined ELAW partners to tour a new highway project that has cut through Panama Bay, the site of a proposed mega-port near Colon, and the site of a gold and copper mine that threatens the Tonosi and Quema Rivers on the Azuero Peninsula.

   Heidi (right) and ELAW partners in Panama

“The coral reefs and mangroves in the area where ‘Puerto Verde’ is planned are showing very important signs of recovery from oil spills in the 1980s,” says Heidi.  “If this ‘green port’ — a miserable misnomer — goes forward, the mangroves will be cut and the seabed, including the reefs, will be dredged.  We met with subsistence fishermen and farmers in the area and none of them want the port.”

ELAW is working with partners at El Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM), Centro de Asistencia Legal Popular Programa para Refugiados, MarViva Panama, and Derechos Humanos, Ambiente y Comunidades to ensure that communities and grassroots advocates have the information they need to make their voices heard and protect Panama for future generations.

In February, we will welcome CIAM Staff Attorney Luisa Arauz for a two-week ELAW Fellowship.  Luisa developed an interest in nature and international issues at a young age from her father, a nature guide, and her mother, a diplomat.  Luisa will work one-on-one with ELAW staff and participate in the 2014 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference where she will speak about access to information and participation in environmental impact studies of proposed hydroelectric dams and genetically-modified salmon projects.
Maggie Keenan
ELAW Communications Director
& Fellows Program Coordinator

Last week, ELAW partner Ritwick Dutta wrote from India:

“I have good news to share at the end of the year!”

After four hard fought years, the National Green Tribunal has shelved a coal-fired power plant proposed for Komarada Village in Andhra Pradesh.  Ritwick filed the case on behalf of Samata, a social justice organization that defends the rights of the Adivasi people in Andhra Pradesh.coal

The National Green Tribunal concluded that the process followed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests was arbitrary, hasty, and a thorough failure.

Keeping coal in the ground is a top priority for ELAW and its partners.  Coal-fired power plants destroy the air we breathe and are a leading contributor to greenhouse gases.

The best way to keep coal in the ground is to sideline the dozens of proposals for new coal-fired power plants in India and around the world.

Congratulations to Ritwick, his colleagues at the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), and Samata.

The court has ordered that the project be re-appraised in six months.  We will keep you informed of our progress.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Lead in paint is a potent neurological toxin.  Most industrialized countries have recognized the harm caused by childhood exposure to lead and enacted strict regulations to prohibit the use of lead in consumer products, especially paints.

In Tanzania, there are regulations in place but they are not enforced, and children continue being exposed to lead.

ELAW partners at the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) want to eliminate lead from paint in Tanzania.

ELAW’s legal and science teams are helping LEAT:

1.  Test paint samples.

2.  Document the harm caused by lead.

3.  Advocate for the enforcement of national regulations prohibiting lead in paint.

Adolf Runyoro, Legal Officer at LEAT, completed an ELAW Fellowship in October.  While here, Adolf worked with ELAW staff lawyers, scientists, and development professionals on this initiative and many others.

On his return to Dar es Salaam, Adolf sent test results from five paint samples to ELAW Staff Scientists for analysis.  The results were alarming: Each sample had dangerous levels of lead.

Using this information, LEAT is now working to:

1.  Eliminate lead in paint sold at stores.
2.  Prohibit the production and import of contaminated paint.
3.  Enact robust testing of manufactured and/or imported paint by government inspectors to ensure that consumer paints do not contain toxic metals.

In 2011, ELAW partners in Sri Lanka won a tremendous victory protecting children from toxic lead paint.  We hope to build on that victory and help ELAW partners in Tanzania do the same!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

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