Environmental Justice and the Common Good: A Conference on Community-University Partnerships for Research, Learning and Social Change, Santa Clara University, May 2-3, 2019

EJ_Logo_3-360x360On May 2-3, 2019, Santa Clara University is holding an environmental justice conference entitled on “Community-University Partnerships for Research, Learning and Social Change.” The substantive focus of the focus will be on how universities can partner with communities on research, learning and other activities advancing social change related to environmental justice.  There will be opportunities to engage in dialogue among conference participants and presenters.  (Unfortunately, the deadline for poster presentation slots has already passed.)  Conference speakers include environmental justice activists, academics and officials.  If you have an interest in this topic,  please join us.  Conference agenda, speaker information, and a registration link can be found here:  Conference Link.

Here is an excerpt from the conference website:

Mounting scientific evidence shows that low-income communities and communities of color face severe and unequal threats to their environments and health. Pope Francis issued a call to action for people and the environment in his groundbreaking encyclical ‘Laudato Si’. In response, this conference will focus on strengthening university-community partnerships for environmental justice and the common good.

Learning from successful collaborations and networks, we aim to develop diverse and mutually respectful partnerships between communities and universities to produce research, inform policy, and foster social change for environmental justice. The conference organizers — a faculty collaborative formed by the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education at Santa Clara University — are especially inspired by the collective potential within the network of over 190 Jesuit institutions of higher learning worldwide.

Conference panels will include community-based organizers from secular and faith-based institutions reflecting on opportunities to work together for environmental justice. Breakout sessions will focus on envisioning potential research partnerships among conference participants, providing opportunities to make new connections and explore collaborations. Participants are also invited to present relevant research at a concluding poster session.

The day after the conference, there will be a workshop focused on building networks for environmental justice and integral ecology, with two tracks. Track 1 will focus on building a regional environmental justice network of leaders from community-based organizations, and faculty and staff from Santa Clara University and other California universities. We will consolidate takeaways from the conference, identify needs for sustained engagement in partnerships, and plan a process to develop collaborative research and action agendas. In track 2, faculty, staff, and administrators in Jesuit higher education will make plans to coordinate our scholarship, service, and education to foster environmental justice and the common good. This will focus on expanding the work of the AJCU Integral Ecology Affinity Group nationally and internationally.

Positions: EPA Office of General Counsel, Washington, DC (Deadline: April 23, 2019)

This is a great job opportunity.  From the job ad:

“EPA’s, Office of General Counsel (OGC) is hiring three Attorney-Advisers. Two will be assigned to the Water Law Office and the third will be assigned to the Pesticides and Toxic Substances Law Office. OGC serves as the chief legal advisor to the Agency’s senior management and program offices on Agency rules, permits, response actions, and legislation. OGC lawyers also work with attorneys in the Department of Justice to represent the Agency in defensive litigation in the federal courts.”

Job Title:  Attorney-Adviser, GS-0905-12

Job Announcement Number: OGC-2019-0005

Open Period:  Tuesday, April 9, 2019 to Tuesday, April 23, 2019


For contact info and additional details on the positions, see the announcement in USAJobs




The Environmental Impact Assessment Principle as a Global Environmental Legal Norm

firstpageMy most recent law review article, “The Emergence of the Environmental Impact Assessment Duty as a Global Legal Norm and General Principle of Law,” finally came out last month in the Hasting Law Journal (70 Hastings L. J. 525 (2019)).  Here is a link  http://www.hastingslawjournal.org/the-emergence-of-the-environmental-impact-assessment-duty-as-a-global-legal-norm-and-general-principle-of-law/.

In the article, I argue that globalization and other trends have made the EIA duty, that is the duty to perform environmental impact assessments for projects that are likely to have a significant impact on the environment, a globally accepted norm. A survey of 197 jurisdictions finds that the duty has been nearly universally adopted. The Article also suggests that the EIA duty may now be seen as a “general principle of law recognized by civilized nations,” and in that sense has joined the body of public international law.

What is the significance of this?:  1) Environmental Impact Assessment is now legally required in almost all jurisdictions across the world.  Even though many jurisdictions had adopted the EIA process over the years, EIAs were oftentimes not legally required and applied only on a discretionary basis.  It was not until recently that EIA has become almost universally required.  Thus, governments have recognized that EIA processes are not just a “good idea,” but that they must be performed when a project is likely to have a significant impact on the environment.

2) Nearly universal adoption of the EIA duty also indicates that EIA has become a general principle of law – because it is so widely recognized in national legal systems across the world.  This is an expansion of environmental legal norms in public international law, which generally has had few binding legal principles related to the environment.

3)  Finally, the finding of the article suggests that international lawyers need to pay much closer attention to developments in national legal systems with respect to environmental law, since those developments are relevant to and affect the development of international environmental law.  It also radically changes the paradigm of how international environmental law is evolving – instead of only top-down process (like treaty-making), bottom-up processes such as developments at the national level have become increasingly important (and are arguably more democratic).

Teaching Fellowship – Stanford Law School’s Environmental Law LLM Program (Deadline: March 15, 2019)

A really interesting opportunity for anybody interested in law teaching, especially environmental law.

From the email that shared the announcement:  “The position involves running, and teaching in, the law school’s LLM Program in Environmental Law & Policy and is probably best suited to someone thinking about an academic career, but any qualified applicant is encouraged to apply.”




Community Water Law Center/California ChangeLawyers Year-Long Legal Fellow, Visalia, CA (Deadline: rolling)

Somebody pointed out this interesting water environmental justice-related legal fellowship with the Community Water Law Center.  Here’s URL:


Happy Thanksgiving and a Piece on China’s Cancer Villages

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody, especially to my students in the midst of preparing for the upcoming final exams.   Among the things that I am particularly grateful for this year is the work of my book co-authors who have helped push our comparative/global environmental law casebook within sight of completion.  The book will be out next year and will offer law teachers, students, and practitioners with new materials, understandings, and approaches to a relatively new perspective on environmental law.

In the meantime, here is something else that I have also been working on — a draft chapter on China’s Cancer Villages, by myself and two of my former students, Quoc Nguyen and Linda Tsang. The chapter describes cancer cluster phenomena that have emerged all over China in the last 10-15 years:  Tseming Yang, Quoc Nguyen, and Linda Tsang, China’s Cancer Villages (November 2, 2018). Forthcoming, The Cambridge Handbook on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development, eds. Sumudu Atapattu, Carmen G. Gonzalez and Sara Seck. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3277638

Global Environmental Impact Assessment Norm Survey Part 2 – Methodology & Supporting Sources

The actual survey data can be accessed in Part 1 of this blog post.

The survey methodology description is taken directly from the article manuscript, which is available here.

The Survey and Results

The last comprehensive global study to survey EIA norms across the world was published almost two decades ago and found 120+ systems with some kind of EIA mechanism, even if not all imposed a legal duty. It showed that even at that time, EIA norms had already been widely adopted and regulators, activists, and judges have been applying them regularly. The purpose in conducting the present study was to determine whether, since that time, EIA adoption has spread significantly further among national legal systems.

The study specifically focused on legislation or regulations that mandated the performance of environmental impact assessment. Systems that merely authorized or suggested, but did not require, EIAs were not included in the count as part of the jurisdictions that recognize the EIA duty. Equally important, the survey generally did not concern itself with the effective enforcement of EIA norms. As a general matter, the survey classified jurisdictions as having an EIA duty (“yes”), not imposing such a duty (“no”), or “unclear.” Below follows a description of the survey process and classification methodology as well as the results, with a chart summary of the results set out in the Appendix.

Scope. The scope of the survey covered all countries with membership in the United Nations, as well as several nations and jurisdictions that have long been recognized as having independent regulatory authority over their territory. Because of their significance to infrastructure financing and with their broad geographical scope of operation, the survey also examined the EIA policies of the major multilateral development banks and several national development aid agencies.

The substantive focus of the study was the general umbrella norm, the duty to conduct an EIA for projects or activities that were likely to have a significant impact on the environment. For time and resource reasons, the survey did not attempt to classify subsidiary requirements such as scoping, the content of the EIA or public participation.

Survey Process and Methodology. To classify jurisdictions, the survey relied on both secondary sources as well as primary source materials identified by myself and two research fellows. Information on national EIA legislation and regulations was pulled from on-line databases, such as Ecolex, FAOLex, E-Law, the regional Legal Information Institutes, and national government websites. Secondary sources consulted included official government statements, reports by international organizations, impact assessment reports, judicial opinions, and the commentary and assessments of scholars and experts.
Our survey looked primarily to official English language sources as well as official translations, though we also utilized unofficial translations when we deemed them reliable based on the institutional source. My research fellows had good reading knowledge of French and Spanish and utilized those language skills in our survey. Thus, when legislative or regulatory materials were only available in Spanish or French, my research fellows would review such original legislative or regulatory text. More importantly, in order to minimize the possibility of legal misunderstanding, especially when legislative or regulatory text or meaning appeared to be ambiguous and when primary sources were only available in non-English languages, we always sought confirmation of our classification decisions in secondary sources. For jurisdictions where the primary materials were not available in English, French or Spanish, the survey had to rely exclusively on secondary sources (treatises, scholarly commentary, or institutional assessments) to determine whether there was an EIA duty in the relevant jurisdiction.
In instances where we found disagreement among secondary sources or when no secondary sources were available to confirm classification as a jurisdiction that mandated EIA, the jurisdiction was included in the “unclear/unknown” category. All classifications were reviewed by myself.
In examining confirming sources, whenever possible, we sought out official government communications, such as national reports to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, and descriptions of the country’s EIA system on a government agency’s website. We also relied heavily on institutional assessments, such as country environmental evaluations by the OECD, the UNECE, various multilateral development banks (World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank), and the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment. We considered these official statements and secondary sources to be the most reliable because they represented official governmental and institutional perspectives and were prepared by or in collaboration with national experts and oftentimes subject to review by the respective governments.

In addition, we also utilized scholarly publications as well environmental assessments prepared by multilateral developments banks, such as the World Bank, on specific projects. Environmental assessments by multilateral development banks often contained a section discussing the environmental regulatory system of the country seeking project financing and sometimes would explicitly discuss whether the jurisdiction had laws requiring EIAs.

In almost all of our classification decisions, our survey sought at least two or more confirming secondary sources, though there were a few instances where we were only able to identify one confirming secondary source. As an exception, we did not seek more than one confirming source when the relevant jurisdiction was within the European Union, since there is no legal doubt that the EU EIA directive independently imposes the EIA duty on member states.

In order to determine whether the EIA duty was legally mandated, we identified specific legislation or regulations that imposes that duty. In doing so, we also identified the year in which the regulation was promulgated or legislation enacted. Because our survey focused on the question whether each jurisdiction presently had an EIA mandate in place, it was not a priority for our survey to identify the legislation or regulation that first imposed the EIA duty with accuracy. Nevertheless, our research oftentimes did allow us to identify such information. Thus, if we became aware of earlier versions of the legislation or regulation that had first made EIA mandatory in that jurisdiction, we indicated that date in our database. It is worth pointing out that in many jurisdictions, the enactment of enabling legislation – that authorized EIA processes – was not coincident with the operationalization of EIA requirements by an implementing government agency. In some countries, implementing regulations that mandated EIA for projects did not come until quite a number of years later.

Conversely, there were a few occasions where the research suggested that the EIA legislation or regulation might have been amended subsequently. However, there was never an indication in our research that a government had taken the extraordinary step of repealing the EIA duty in its jurisdiction.

It is also worth noting that Singapore is a jurisdiction that has no general EIA requirement, and was classified as such. However, the state does appear to engage in impact assessment in specific contexts.

Survey Results. The survey results indicate that the EIA norm, requiring an EIA when a project is likely to have a significant environmental impact, has been nearly universally adopted. The norm has now been adopted in at least 183 countries and jurisdictions. That includes codification in emerging economies and developing countries such as China, India, and Brazil, in the least developed nations in Africa, and in the former communist nations, such as the Russian Federation. Even politically isolated states such as North Korea and Cuba have enacted EIA laws. Within the European Union and its member countries, directive 85/337 on EIA and directive 2001/42 on strategic environmental assessments mandate it. Thus, since the 1998 Donnelly study, the number of jurisdictions with a mandatory EIA norm has increased by more than 50.

Our survey also identified six states that did not possess an EIA requirement (South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Suriname, Singapore, and Nauru), while we were unable to ascertain with sufficient confidence the status of eight other states (Central African Republic, Holy See, San Marino, Monaco, St. Vincent and Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Barbados).

* * * * *

Appendix 2:  Sources (organizations, articles, and websites) most heavily relied on for secondary confirmation of EIA norm. (Column 11 of the survey)

  2. Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment: http://www.eia.nl/en/countries
  3. UNEP, “Environmental Assessment in the WIO Region: An overview of the policy, legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks related to Environmental Impact Assessment in the WIO Region” (2010): http://web.unep.org/nairobiconvention/sites/unep.org.nairobiconvention/files/unepdepi_eaf_cp_6_inf_11_regional_report_statusapproaches_for_application_of_eia_in_the_wio_region.pdf
  4. Development of Southern Africa, SAIEA, Handbook on Environmental Assessment Legislation in the SADC Region (2007): http://www.commissionoceanindien.org/fileadmin/resources/RECOMAP%20Manuals/Handbook%20on%20Environmental%20Assessment%20Legislation_SADC%20Region_Nov%202007.pdf
  5. USAID, SAIEA, Development Bank of Southern Africa, “SADC Environmental Legislation Handbook (2012): https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/2eb50196/files/uploaded/SADC%20Handbook.pdf
  6. Convention on Biological Diversity, National Reports and NBSAPs: https://www.cbd.int/reports/search/
  7. Dieudonne Bitondo et al., Evolution of Environmental Impact Assessment Systems in Central Africa: The role of national professional associations (2014):  http://api.commissiemer.nl/docs/mer/diversen/os_evolution_eia_centralafrica_2014.pdf
  8. E-LAW, EIA Law Matrix: https://www.elaw.org/elm
  9. Ernesto Sanchez‐Triana and Santiago Enriquez, A
Analysis of
Impact Analysis
Latin America (Draft) (4/6/2007): https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/c688c7004c08ac00ae87be79803d5464/2_EIA+in+LAC+IAIA+Seoul.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
  10. AECEN EIA Compendium: https://www.aecen.org/eia
  11. IFC EIA in LatinAmerica Chart: http://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/1069ce004c08ad23ae9cbe79803d5464/3_eia+in+lac+poster.pdf?mod=ajperes
  12. Inter-American Development Bank, “Approaches to Environmental Licensing and Compliance in Caribbean Countries” (2016): https://publications.iadb.org/bitstream/handle/11319/8083/Approaches-to-Environmental-Licensing-and-Compliance-in-Caribbean-Countries.pdf?sequence=1
  13. Pacific Environment Information Network of Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme: https://www.sprep.org/pacific-environment-information-network/pein
  14. Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, “Strengthen EIA in Asia” (2016): https://www.aecen.org/sites/default/files/strengthening_eia_in_asia.pdf
  15. World Bank, “EIA Regulations and Strategic Environmental Assessment Requirements: Practices and Lessons Leearned in East and Southeast Asia” (2006)
  16. UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews: https://www.unece.org/environmental-policy/environmental-performance-reviews/reviewed-countries.html
  17. OECD Environmental Country Reviews: http://www.oecd.org/environment/country-reviews/find-a-review.htm
  18. ELAW, Caribbean Environmental Law: https://www.caribbeanenvirolaw.org/countrieslistings
  19. Marcelo Acerbi, Ernesto Sanchez-Triana et al., Environmental Impact Assessment Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean” (2014): http://conferences.iaia.org/2014/IAIA14-final-papers/Acerbi,%20Marcelo.%20%20EIA%20systems%20in%20Latin%20America%20and%20the%20Caribbean.pdf
  20. EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Reports: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/country-reports/index2_en.htm
  21. Espoo Convention Review of Implementation (national reporting): https://www.unece.org/env/eia/implementation/review_implementation.html
  22. Ana Luisa Gomes Lima, Ernesto Sanchez-Triana et al., “Environmental Impact Assessment in South Asia,” (2015): http://conferences.iaia.org/2015/Final-Papers/Sanchez-Triana,%20Ernesto%20-%20Environmental%20Impact%20Assessment%20Systems%20in%20South%20Asia.pdf