News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722

Reminder About Upcoming ABA SCEL Conference in London, UK

As a liaison to the ABA Standing Committee on Environmental Law, I would like to remind everyone of our upcoming conference in London, UK: “Navigating the New Green Economy: The Challenges of Climate Change and the Opportunities for Clean Energy”.  The conference takes place at the London School of Economics, May 23-24, 2011.  I will be moderating a panel on energy efficiency.  Here is a description of our conference:

London is the place to be this year. And this unique international conference, offered by three premier organizations to coincide with President Obama’s state visit to London, will provide a high-level forum to discuss the intersection of climate change policy and politics, and the incentives, economics, and finance for clean energy. The program will allow participants to interact with government and industry leaders, academic scholars, and finance and legal experts from the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Our Keynote speakers are Lord Anthony Giddens, member of the House of Lords and author of The Politics of Climate Change, and Lisa Heinzerling, former Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a key architect of U.S. climate change policy. Also featured are speakers from:

  • U.S. Senate staff
  • UK Department of Energy and Climate Change
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • Center for International Environmental Law
  • Law International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development
  • International Emissions Trading Association
  • Low Carbon Research Institute
  • And some of the leading international law firms and universities.

Learn the latest developments and go beyond how to navigate the complexities of policy and regulations to a sophisticated exploration of the enormous opportunities available in a global green economy.

Topics will include:

  • Financing a sustainable reduced-carbon future
  • Regulations and incentives in emerging green technologies
  • Energy efficiency
  • Carbon marketplaces
  • Renewable energy subsidies and trade
  • Technology transfer
  • REDD – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

London is the place to see this year. The conference will coincide with the high season in London, starting with the Chelsea Flower Show, one of the world’s most beautiful floral displays (tickets are still available – act soon!). Individuals and families will enjoy the sights and sounds of one of this year’s most energized cities, and one of Europe’s leading financial centers for the new green economy. Lawyers, consultants, company and government representatives, academics and non-profits will want to attend this special interdisciplinary conference to make new connections and build future relationships.

And finally, the feeRegistrations received by May 13 will qualify for a 10% discount. The conference fee, including a first day lunch and evening reception as well as course materials, is £595 for general attendance, with a discounted rate of £440  for UKELA members, £295 for government, non-profit and academic participants, and £150 for students. For attendees from North America, general attendance is $795, with a discounted rate of $595 for ABA members, $395 for government, non-profit and academic participants, and $195 for students. Sponsorship opportunities also are available.

Please plan to join us for this important event. Space is limited, and early registration is advisable. This program has been submitted for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) accreditation in the United States, and CPD Points 8.5 hours TBC. Accredited by the Bar Standards Board of England and Wales and the Law Society of England and Wales. Forms and course materials will be available on-site. To register or for more information, please contact Elissa Lichtenstein at the ABA,, 202-662-1695 or Peter Hsiao at Morrison & Foerster, LLP,, 213-892-5731.

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    The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the federal government’s ability to criminally prosecute environmental activists who destroy property under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (“AETA”).

    In United States v. Johnson, the defendants travelled from Los Angeles, California to a mink farm in Morris, Illinois. The mink farm was in the business of breeding, raising, and selling minks to fur manufacturers. At the mink farm, the defendants released approximately 2000 minks from their cages. They also removed portions of the fence surrounding the mink farm to help the minks escape, and they destroyed the minks’ breeding cards, which were needed to sell the minks to a furrier. In addition, they poured caustic substances on two farm vehicles and spray-painted the words “Liberation is Love” on a barn. The vandalism caused between $120,000 and $200,000 worth of damage. The defendants then began traveling to a fox farm in Roanoke, Illinois, which bred foxes to sell to fur manufacturers. They planned to damage the fox farm as well, but they were arrested by local law enforcement before they arrived at the fox farm. The defendants were charged in state court with possession of burglary tools and were convicted. They were sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.

    Then, the defendants were charged with violating the AETA by the federal government. Count I of the indictment alleged that they conspired to travel in interstate commerce for the purpose of damaging and interfering with the operation of an animal enterprise, and in connection with that purpose, damaged the property of an animal enterprise. Count II alleged that the defendants damaged real and personal property used by an animal enterprise. The defendants moved to dismiss the indictment against them, asserting that the AETA was facially overbroad, was unconstitutionally vague, and violated substantive due process because it labeled persons who committed the act as “terrorists”. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss.

    The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling that rejected all of the defendants’ arguments. In particular, the defendants suggested that the AETA prohibited advocacy that caused damage to only intangible property such as profits or goodwill. The court rejected that argument and held that the AETA prohibited destruction of or damage to tangible items and property owned by the animal enterprise. In fact, the court looked at the legislative history of the AETA, which reinforced the conclusion that it was not intended to criminalize speech or expressive conduct that caused damage only to the animal enterprise’s profits or goodwill. Several legislators made statements indicating that, while the statute was being passed to combat the violence being perpetrated against animal enterprises as well as people and entities connected to animal enterprises, Congress was aware of the importance of protecting the First Amendment right to engage in lawful protest against animal enterprises. In particular, the court looked at a speech by Senator Feinstein stating: “I fully recognize that peaceful picketing and public demonstrations against animal testing should be recognized as part of our valuable and sacred right to free expression. For this reason, all conduct protected by the First Amendment is expressly excluded from the scope of this legislation. This law effectively protects the actions of the law-abiding protester while carefully distinguishing the criminal activity of extremists.” In summary, the court found that the text of the statute as well as the legislative history made clear that the statute does not criminalize speech or expressive conduct that causes damage only to intangible profits or goodwill of an animal enterprise.

    The Seventh Circuit had an easy task in this case, deciding to interpret the statute to criminalize destructive conduct but keeping the door open to reasonable protests that do not harm private property. Environmental activists need to be aware of this line in the sand that has been drawn by Congress and the courts.
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    1 week ago  ·