Natural Resources

Fall 2011 Natural Resources Law Class at UB

Paper Monkeywrenching? October 28, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — regmille @ 2:06 am

In March, Verizon abandoned plans to build a massive $4 billion dollar data center in my hometown of Somerset, NY due to a local landowner’s legal challenge. Mary Ann Rizzo owns 117 acres of agricultural land adjacent to the property, but lives in Amherst, NY – over 30 minutes away. Rizzo’s challenge is that the Somerset Town Board failed to take the “hard look” required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). The Town Board issued a “negative declaration,” meaning that a full, complete Environmental Impact Statement was not required. The original case, linked below, has a decent discussion of some of the issues of standing contemplated by the Act.

While her initial case was dismissed as meritless, her legal persistence has clearly paid off – Verizon has abandoned the plans (and with it, the ~200 jobs it claimed to generate). Senator Maziarz had not problem throwing Ms. Rizzo under the bus, saying “”It shows you how one person, who owns property across the street, doesn’t even live on the property, but just owns property across the street, has killed this up to a $5 billion project, would have brought hundreds of jobs. It’s a very sad day for western New York.” It’s interesting to think about how the actions of one person managed to grind this to a halt and convince Verizon to search elsewhere for business opportunities (tax breaks!).

…and if anyone is feeling adventurous on Westlaw:

31 Misc.3d 1206(A), 929 N.Y.S.2d 202 (Table), 2011 WL 1238823 (N.Y.Sup.), 2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 50505(U)


“Biodiversity is good and ought to be preserved.” October 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — regmille @ 10:59 pm

In the beginning of this week’s reading, the law review article by Reed Noss points out that the “fundamental value assumption” underlying legislation such as the Endangered Species Act is that “biodiversity is good and ought to be preserved.” Historically, we see the concept of wild animals as “belonging to all the citizens of the state” in cases like Geer v. Connecticut and Pierson v. Post. Unfortunately, the ancient corollary to this principle has been that pursuit and capture can vest ownership. In our more recent past, there has been a trend towards recognizing the value of protecting biodiversity. Despite this, the U.S. has often struggled to protect species that have been driven to “endangered” status – our cases deal with the Arroyo Southwestern Toad and the Delhi Sands Flower-Loving fly, among others.

Today, Vietnamese officials and representatives from the WWF announced that the last Javan Rhinoceros living in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park had been killed by poachers for its horn. The Javan Rhinoceros is one of the world’s most endangered species – only 40 to 60 known members of the species remain on the planet. The extermination of the rhinos has been exacerbated by the fact that many cultures believe rhinoceros horn can cure an array of diseases. The prospect of selling crushed rhino horn on the black market is appealing because the average Vietnamese farmer earns the equivalent of only $7.50 USD a day, while just seven ounces of horn could sell for as much as $2,150.

It’s an interesting thing to keep in perspective – land developers in the U.S. challenged the protection of a toad. In Vietnam, people are driving animals to extinction as a way to try to make a living.