Environmental law, Euro-style

 

Eric Jantz makes some important points in his opinion piece (HCN, 8/16/10). The legal/regulatory framework surrounding our environmental laws truly is "dense and arcane," and it is difficult for individuals to participate. The deference courts give to agency expertise is sometimes unfounded, and local experience should not be ignored. But Jantz's suggestion to reduce scientific and technical input would not "strengthen judges" or correct these shortcomings.

It is not good science but the adversarial dialectic of the legal system that has generated the "cult of the technocrat." And many hired guns charge almost as much as the attorneys. Is it any wonder that "the people in (affected) communities" have great difficulty making their voices heard?

But there are alternatives. In Europe, such questions are typically settled by technical bodies appointed for that purpose. More in line with American-style democracy, a court could convene an independent panel of experts, and ask it to investigate and deliver a consensus report. At best, the court would acquire a clear and definitive set of facts upon which to base a decision. At worst, it would gain a more neutral, rigorous and comprehensive understanding of the issues than from partisan analyses. Collaborative stakeholder processes, properly structured and focused, can provide proper local input.

To those who would protest the added cost and time, remember the prohibitive legal fees and years that environmental issues consume as they wend their tortuous path through today's systems. For an imperiled ecology or polluted community, that is not acceptable. And even then, as Jantz confirms, the current process has rarely produced substantive, realistic or sustainable protections for the environment or the people and creatures living in it.  

Craig Roepke
Santa Fe, New Mexico

High Country News Classifieds
  • MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    For more information visit www. wyofile.com/careers/
  • THRIVING LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE FOR SALE
    Turn-key business opportunity. Successful well established business with room to grow. Excellent highway visibility.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    For more information, visit www.wyofile.com/careers/
  • SONORAN INSTITUTE, CEO
    Chief Executive Officer Tucson, Arizona ABOUT SONORAN INSTITUTE Since 1990, the Sonoran Institute has brought together diverse interests to successfully forge effective and enduring conservation...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a high-impact, nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 27-year legacy using...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Position Summary Join our Team at the New Mexico Land Conservancy! We're seeking a Project Manager who will work to protect land and water across...
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • WILDLIFE HAVEN
    Beautiful acreage with Teton Creek flowing through it. Springs and ponds, lots of trees, moose and deer. Property has barn. Easy access. approx. 33 acres.
  • ARIZONA CONSERVATION CORPS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Arizona Conservation Corps is seeking a Program Director in Flagstaff or Tucson
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...