Over/Under Regulated: If Trees Could Talk

on January 08, 2015 at 10:10 AM

President, First Lady Attend Ceremony Debuting White House Christmas TreeEd. note: This is a weekly column by Elie Mystal, Managing Editor of Above the Law Redline. This space will focus on the laws that exist, should exist, and should be put out of their misery.


Talking Rivers: East Run Hellbenders Society, an environmental organization, motioned to join an ongoing lawsuit in Pennsylvania on behalf of Little Mahoning Creek. Not an organization named “Little Mahoning Creek,” but on behalf of the actual waterway and “all the water and land ecosystems that feed into it.”

The group says it is invoking the “Rights of Nature Doctrine,” which is something that one thinks up while tripping on a gallon of mushrooms and watching a Disney movie marathon. EnergyWire tries to explain the theory:

The idea first gained traction in 1972 when University of Southern California law professor Christopher Stone published the groundbreaking “Should Trees Have Standing? — Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” The article, published in the Southern California Law Review, notes that many modern legal norms were once considered unthinkable.

“The fact is, that each time there is a movement to confer rights onto some new ‘entity,’ the proposal is bound to sound odd or frightening or laughable,” Stone wrote, noting corporate rights and civil rights for women and minorities.

Oh, just shut up. Shut up, professor Stone. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.

Normally, I wouldn’t get pissed off just because some crazy people embarrassed themselves in a lawsuit, but what gets me is the sheer hubris of these people. WHO ELECTED THEM SPEAKERS OF THE CREEK? Maybe the creek doesn’t care if it’s befouled? Ever think of that? Do you have any idea what kind of poisons I willingly dump into my body? Last night I ingested two different kinds of animal proteins, with cheese, and washed it down with a substance that hurt my liver and messed up my motor skills. Maybe Little Mahoning Creek has an alcohol problem and is sick of all the woodland animals that use it as a toilet. We should ask its opinion before filing lawsuits on its behalf.

Oh wait, we can’t, BECAUSE IT’S A FREAKING CREEK! George Carlin knows what I’m talking about.


Flame Ice: You cannot understand the modern history of Japan without understanding the nation’s centuries-long quest to power itself. Put simply, if there is an energy resource Japan has access to, you can best believe they’re going to try it out. This story from Treehugger would not surprise any student of geopolitical history:

Japan has announced a renewed commitment to mining methane hydrate, also known as ‘flaming ice’ or ‘methane clathrate’.

The alternative fuel methane hydrate consists of methane molecules held loosely in a cage of icy water molecules. The mining of methane hydrate provokes concern because methane, which you may also know as natural gas, has a much higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Methane hydrate is stable only at low temperatures and high pressures, so some fear that disturbing the naturally occurring flammable ice will trigger the release of large quantities of methane, further spurring the global warming trend.

Fear whatever you want, Japan is going to see if this is a reliable fuel source. And I doubt they’ll care very much if the global community likes it or not.

Bodo City: Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay $83.3 million to settle claims stemming from two “highly regrettable” oil spills in Bodo, Nigeria. Fuel Fix reports:

“From the outset, we’ve accepted responsibility for the two deeply regrettable operational spills in Bodo,” Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of Shell’s Nigerian unit, said in the statement. “We’ve always wanted to compensate the community fairly and we are pleased to have reached agreement.”

Shell fought with the Nigerian town for six years over these penalties. I think the phrase “from the outset” doesn’t mean what Shell thinks it means.


A Balrog of the ancient world would have a better shot crossing the Bridge of Khazad-dûm then the Keystone Pipeline has at making it across Obama’s desk.