About citizenyang


Jim Rubin


I am deeply saddened that my friend Jim Rubin, a great Washington, DC environmental lawyer, passed away last week.   The environmental bar lost an incredibly  talented and dedicated attorney far too soon.

Law 360 has a write-up  on him. https://www.law360.com/articles/949845/dorsey-whitney-enviro-pro-best-partner-jim-rubin-dies

Tidbits: 40th SF Marathon


The 40th San Francisco Marathon took place today, Sunday, July 23.  I ran the first half of it, which included the stretch across the Golden Gate Bridge and ended in Golden Gate Park.  [The second half of the marathon then looped through the Park and ended up back at the Embarcadero start line.]  What a great experience to run across the bridge (even though it was foggy as pea soup)!  I was able to keep up with the 2:20 pace maker and made through the half marathon finish line at just under that time.  (I am on the left.) My next half marathon will be the re-match race with Professor Frank Wu (Hastings) and Carol Suzuki (New Mexico) at the San Jose Rock’n Roll Half Marathon



Commentary on Sustainable Land Use in Monterey County Hospitality Industry


Here is a nice op-ed piece in the Monterey County Weekly on sustainable land use in the hospitality industry. It was co-authored by my research fellow Laura Davis, who is also a Board member of Landwatch Monterey County.



Environmental Criminal Enforcement in Taiwan


With Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau Director General Meng-Yu Tsai

On Friday (June 16), I led a workshop on environmental criminal enforcement at the Kaohsiung City/County Environmental Protection Bureau in South Taiwan (where I was for a conference at the National University of Kaohsiung).  It was a really fascinating discussion with the local regulators about the issues presented by the choice of administrative vs. criminal enforcement and how the US approach differs.   (In Taiwan, environmental enforcement proceeds through an administrative court system that is the mark of a number of civil law systems.)  While there is close cooperation by the environmental agencies with prosecutors in investigating and bringing criminal cases, there is still a learning curve on these issues.

More importantly, like in the United States, the applicable burden of proof on these issues is controversial.  This also came up in an interesting meeting I had with the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration Minister Dr. Ying-Yuan Lee (whom I had the honor to spend a little bit of time with a few days ago).  A notable prosecution in recent years against a semiconductor company had resulted in a criminal conviction for pollution violations.  Unfortunately, the subsequent appeal led to a reversal of the conviction, primarily because the appeals court thought that a higher standard of proof should have been applied by the trial court.

with Minister Ying-Yuan Lee (center)

One take-away for me from these meetings and workshops is that criminal environmental enforcement issues are clearly being thought about very carefully.  They are important as a tool for supplementing traditional environmental enforcement penalties, especially when those non-criminal penalties are not providing a sufficient inducement to polluting industries to comply with the law.  Another take-away was that the effect of China’s continuing efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally has also impeded cooperation on environmental matters.  Too bad, given Taiwan is doing a lot of work in this area. But also because Taiwan is heavily industrialized in some parts of country, including Kaohsiung, and so has much experience to share. 


Fellowship: Legal Fellow (2017-18), Vermont Law School, Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (Deadline: unclear, South Royalton, VT)


Legal Fellow – Center for Agriculture and Food Systems

The Legal Fellow at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) will work with faculty, staff, and students on legal projects and initiatives, helping to oversee and implement grant-funded legal and policy projects to support sustainable food and agriculture. CAFS initiatives include the Healthy Food Policy Project and the Farm to School State Legislative Survey, among others. The Legal Fellow develops novel legal tools to improve food and agriculture; translates those tools for broad use (e.g., through social media, web resources, and in-person trainings); supervises students; conducts outreach to local, regional, and national organizations to create strategic partnerships that amplify our progressive work; and helps to develop funding sources.  This is a two-year position, with the second year contingent on funding availability and on performance.



  • Bar Licensure (VT Bar a plus, but not required)
  • A demonstrated commitment to public interest work – a background in food and agriculture is desirable but not required
  • Excellent legal analysis, research, and writing
  • High degree of professionalism in all aspects of lawyering
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Creativity and flexibility in approaching and solving problems

For more information on this and other positions, please visit our website at http://www.vermontlaw.edu/community/about-vls/employment-opportunities.

Apply via the link above or send a resume and cover letter with salary requirements to Human Resources, Vermont Law School, P.O. Box 96, South Royalton, VT 05068 or to cbrackett@vermontlaw.edu.

Vermont Law School is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workforce.

What company is the US keeping in the business of international environmental treaties?


The coverage of the Paris Agreement in light of Trump’s withdrawal decision has been quite remarkable.  It seems as if the world just got a crash-course on the treaty.  Every news article is now able to point out that the Agreement is essentially non-binding, that nothing will change for at least three years (since the Agreement does not allow withdrawal during the first three years), and that there are just a couple of countries that have not signed the Agreement, etc. etc. (Nicaragua and Syria, see explanation by Washington Post.)

There are only a few environmental treaties where membership is truly universal, such as the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances and the underlying Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer, as well as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (the underlying framework treaty for the Paris Agreement), all of which have 197 member countries.  That includes the 193 UN countries, plus the European Union, the Holy See/Vatican, and a couple of other small non-UN member states.

But there are also a number of other international environmental treaties where the US part of a small group of countries that are not members.  For example, the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes has 185 member countries.  But apart from the U.S., the only other states that are not members are small island nations or poor developing countries –  Angola, Fiji, Grenada, Haiti, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

However, the US is in an even more lonely place with the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  That treaty is the other important environmental treaty from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (the first one being the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).  The CBD has 196 member states (including the EU and other small non-UN countries).  The Holy See is not a member – of course, that seems to make sense since it has little territory and thus little in natural area to control.  The more notable exception however is . . . the U.S.