South Carolina's Flagship University

Environmental Law Program

Spring 2008 Student Environmental Law Scholarship

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Environmental Advocacy Seminar Paper Abstracts

Jessica Artz, Interbasin Water Transfers in the Southeastern United States: An Analysis of the Catawba Interbasin Transfer as a Water Management Tool
Historically, the southeastern United States has been able to accommodate a growing population with water, due to the naturally abundant supply and high amounts of rainfall in the area. However, many local communities are now projecting that the current supply of water will not be sufficient for an increasing population without human interventions such as interbasin transfers. Interbasin transfers allow for a withdrawal of water from one river basin and the discharge of water into another. This type of water resource management has the potential to cause great conflict, as is shown by the current Supreme Court case, State of South Carolina v. State of North Carolina, over the approval of an interbasin transfer from the Catawba River Basin. Additionally, this type of management is a short-term solution that allows communities to continue current rates of water consumption without major policy changes. In order for there to be a balance between economic growth and management of water resources in the southeastern United States, it is imperative that comprehensive, long-term planning for development be implemented as well as further management of the industrial and agricultural sectors.

Keith E. Bartlett, Net-Metering in South Carolina: A Cog in the Wheel Towards Energy Sustainability
Net-metering laws and technologies allow homeowners and businesses (collectively Consumers) to generate their own electricity and sell any excess electricity generated back to the utility or have it credited on the Consumer’s electricity bill. Many States and Countries have allowed Consumers to participate in Net-metering programs with great success.
The Federal “Energy Policy Act of 2005” (EPAct) mandated that each State consider developing a net-metering program. Even though the requirement to consider implementing a net-metering program is mandated, the method, amount of participation and rate paid to the Consumer is not mandated in EPAct. The South Carolina Public Service Commission is charged with implementing the EPAct requirements and is currently in the process of implementing South Carolina’s net-metering program.
This paper will introduce the benefits of a net-metering program, and will attempt to demonstrate that the Public Service Commission should implement a program that is in the true public interest. In addition, this paper will describe the economic and environmental benefits of a reasonable net-metering program in South Carolina, alongside the newly created Palmetto Clean Energy Program. In addition, this paper will discuss legislation which discusses net-metering and other proposals to help reduce our dependence on fossil-fuel based energy.

Matt Bullwinkel, South Carolina’s Future in Energy Production
With the growing demand for electricity becoming a more evident concern for the state of South Carolina, both the South Carolina Legislature and the utility companies must begin to plan for the future. The South Carolina Legislature should lead this charge by passing a renewable portfolio standard. The utility companies must then begin diversifying their means of energy production through an effort of becoming energy independent by environmentally conscious means. Only when both the utility companies and the legislature confront the issue will South Carolina see a change for the better.

J. Baker Cleveland, III, Handling of Nuclear Waste and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership: How Hardened On-Site Storage Will Begin to Address the United States’ Nuclear Waste Accumulation Rather than Contribute to it.
Determining what to do with nuclear waste produced by commercial nuclear reactors has been a problem in the United States for over fifty years, and currently nuclear power utilities temporarily store spent nuclear fuel on the plants campus. The Department of Energy, who is legally bound to remove and handle the nuclear waste, has yet to implement a waste management plan and take possession of any of the waste thus far. The latest proposed solution to the waste problem arrived in 2006 with the formation of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. However the plan, which involves reprocessing the fuel and trading the product internationally, has not been received well. An alternative waste management plan utilizing hardened on-site storage facilities at individual plant sites is gaining support because of its safety and viability. This paper compares the reprocessing plan set forth by the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership with a plan including hardened on-site storage (vitrification) of waste, and concludes that hardened on-site storage is much more favorable because it will quickly address our waste needs by providing safe, stable storage of nuclear material allowing time to arrive upon a permanent solution.

Rachel Robinson, Health Effects and the True Cost of Coal-fired Power Plants
This paper discusses the health problems caused by these air pollution, water pollution, and waste stored onsite at coal-fired power plants, and details the costs associated with those problems from an environmental justice perspective, as well as analyzing current legal remedies and possible solutions to the problem of injurious exposure to these types of pollution. Pollution from coal-fired power plants, such as the one Santee-Cooper plans to build in the wetlands of Florence County, release several types of pollution into the air and water that are harmful to human health. Technology has made it easier to control these emissions but has not yet made it possible to eliminate them in the context of coal-fired power plants. Since human beings use the environment not only for coal and other resources to create power, but also for food, water, and air, pollution impacts the people as much as the earth itself. Even very small daily amounts of mercury and carbon dioxide can have a big impact on the environment as the emissions accumulate over time. Fish in nearby rivers absorb more and more mercury as more and more mercury is released into the water. People who consume too much of these fish are likely to develop neurological problems. Mercury is known to cause autism in children exposed to the toxin at an early age. Carbon dioxide, sulfur, and nitrogen particulate emissions cause increased rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases in people in nearby communities. Both mercury and particulate emissions have the greatest detrimental effect on children, minorities, and low income populations.

Andrea C. Sancho, Environmental Concerns Created by Current United States Border Policy: Challenging the Secretary of Homeland Security's Extreme Waiver Authority Under the Real ID Act of 2005
Section 102(c) of the REAL ID Act of 2005 (also known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, as amended) delegates to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security the sole authority to waive any and all laws the Secretary deems necessary to waive to ensure expeditious construction of walls, fences, and barriers along the United States-Mexico border. The Secretary has exercised this waiver authority four times, and each time the number of laws waived increases. On April 1, 2008, Secretary Michael Chertoff waived 30 laws along various portions of the Border.
Although illegal immigration is a serious issue facing the U.S., construction of walls along the Border is a short term solution that does little or nothing to address the true causes from which illegal immigration stems. Furthermore, the waiver authority poses serious threats to flora and fauna along the border, some threatened or endangered, because many of the laws waived are environmentally protective laws. Thus, construction proceeds as wildlife along the Border is left to fend for itself, regardless of endangered or threatened status, and regardless of the consequences of habitat destruction or fragmentation to the species.
This article addresses both legal challenges to the Secretary’s waiver authority under section 102(c), as well as the environmental concerns stemming from the waiver of otherwise-protective laws amidst construction of walls and fences along the Border. The environmental focus is on the borderlands of Texas, California, and Arizona.

Anne Smith, The True Costs of the Pee Dee Energy Campus: An Analysis of South Carolina's Energy Consumption, the Costs of Inefficiency & Alternatives to Another Coal-fired Power Plant
Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s Public Service Authority, plans to build a 1300MW, two unit pulverized coal-fired power plant in Florence County, South Carolina. While the state’s population continues to grow and demand for electricity increases, another coal-fired power plant hardly seems like it is the best source of energy generation for our state. Santee Cooper continues to advocate the construction of this plant without much acknowledgement to the potential for energy generation through efficiency and conservation measures (which remain a largely untapped resource for our state).
The overall costs of this plant greatly outweigh any benefits it offers. Pulverized coal-fired power plants, such as the one Santee Cooper proposes, poses significant threats to our state’s environment and the health of our local citizens, due to the plants harmful emissions of carbon dioxide and mercury. The ratepayer funding this plant will bear the brunt of the harmful impact this project will have on our environment such as smog, acid rain, ash ponds, destruction of wetlands, etc. Furthermore, while Santee Cooper promises low rates, consumer rates for coal-generated electricity will continue to rise due to the inevitable regulations on emissions utilities that the plant will have to adhere to in the future.

W. Chris Swett, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership: Yucca Mountain's Savior or Savannah River's Foe?
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) touts the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) as an environmentally friendly approach to provide virtually limitless energy to emerging economies around the world while reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation. DOE plans to reduce the amount of high-level radioactive waste for disposal in a national repository and reduce nuclear proliferation risks by recycling and converting fissionable materials into safer isotopes. To accomplish these goals, DOE intends to build a spent nuclear fuel processing plant composed of various GNEP facilities. Many proponents of GNEP support siting the GNEP facilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina so that the high-level radioactive waste that results from processing spent fuel at these facilities can be permanently disposed of through shallow land burial in an effort to reduce the burden on the proposed national repository. However, without Yucca Mountain operational, GNEP will do little to resolve the nation’s radioactive waste crisis. In addition, the Savannah River Site is not a viable location to host GNEP facilities. GNEP facilities will not only exacerbate the Savannah River Site’s overabundance of radioactive waste, but the disposal of the additional waste that results from processing spent fuel at these facilities will produce serious long-term health and environmental consequences for the citizens South Carolina and Georgia.

Christy Watson, The Future of Water: An Analysis of Water Conservation Programs and Recommendations for South Carolina
This paper discusses water conservation practices. A variety of water conservation methods are described and discussed, including, the use of high efficiency plumbing fixtures, metering, leak detection and repair programs, landscaping and xeriscape practices and public education efforts. Several case studies are presented in which a variety of these conservation methods have been successfully employed. The case studies are based on towns, cities, counties and states in the U.S. After a discussion of current water problems in South Carolina, there is a recommendation made for the state based on the results of the case studies. A statewide water conservation program is suggested which would demonstrate South Carolina as a leader in water conservation and management.

Edgar R. White, The Savannah River Site and Plutonium Disposition: a suspect plan with potentially catastrophic consequences
This paper briefly discusses a joint program between the United States and the Soviet Union to dispose of weapons grade plutonium that each country stockpiled during the Cold War period and the decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that terrorism concerns are not pressing enough to warrant further analysis in preliminary reports. In the United States, the disposition process will take place at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, using a new procedure called MOX, instead of the cleaner, safer and cheaper immobilization option. In order to comply with Federal mandates the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must undertake a comprehensive environmental assessment of the plan. Since the risk of terrorism and internal sabotage with the handling and storage of nuclear materials are real, this assessment should seem reasonable. Unfortunately, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission dismissed the need for such an evaluation. Recently, however, the Ninth Circuit has required the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct a terrorism assessment in their environmental impact statements for nuclear facilities in California. While the nuclear disposition program is commendable, safety concerns should be at the forefront. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission must consider the effects of terrorism in all future environmental impact statements concerning nuclear weapons disposition and storage. Part One introduces you to the Savannah River Site and the disposition plan. Part Two covers where the massive stockpile of nuclear weapons originated from and gives you a cursory understanding of plutonium. Part Three provides a framework for understanding the governmental agencies involved. Part Four lays out the disposition options the Department of Energy considered. Part Five reviews and analyzes the flaws within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. Part Six presents a recent Ninth Circuit decision which required a terrorism assessment in Environmental Impact Statements regarding nuclear facilities. Lastly, Part Seven ends the analysis with a conclusion and offers recommendations for the future safekeeping of plutonium at nuclear facilities.

Isabelle Young, Water Law in South Carolina: Problems and Possibilities
South Carolina is one of many states that could potentially face a grave water shortage in the near future. The State currently governs water use under a common law riparian doctrine and this paper identifies ways in which the law could be changed to better account for the State’s growing and changing needs. South Carolina has recently taken measures to address some of the gaps in its water law; these measures are discussed along with actions that the State has yet to take. This paper also compares and assesses other states’ efforts to protect and preserve their sources of water. The paper concludes with a discussion of the options presently available for South Carolina in its endeavor to revamp the existing water law.