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February 2013 Archives

February 6, 2013

Section Celebrates 21st Annual Minority Fellowship Award

Zaheer Tajani, recipient of the Section's Minority Fellowship in Environmental Law, stands as a representative of the 21-year history of the exceptionalism of the Program's applicants. A first-year law student at Pace Law School and an EPA ORISE Fellow with a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell, Mr. Tajani came to Pace with a passion for water advocacy after working on water purification systems in Honduras and seeks to use his engineering background to inform his environmental advocacy. He has already begun making an impact at Pace as a founding member of the Pace Energy and Climate Law Society while also interning at the Land Use Law Center and assisting in coordination of the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. The Section expects great things from Mr. Tajani and hopes the Minority Law Student Fellowship will help him realize his full potential.

The Minority Fellowship in Environmental Law seeks to provide opportunities to minority law students in the environmental legal field by providing stipends to the recipients for summer environmental positions in government agencies and environmental interest organizations. As with each year since this Program was established by the Section and the New York City Bar Association, competition for the Fellowship was fierce. These are some of the candidates he was up against:

Carolyn Matos Montes, a first year law student at Cornell Law School, who showed incredible commitment to environmental protection in her application. Though just beginning her career, Ms. Montes has already conducted research on the links between climate change and public health at Columbia's Center for Climate Change Law as well as botanical field research in Puerto Rico while earning her B.A. in Urban Studies - Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

Mohammed Farooqui, a first year law student at Boston Law School, will be an asset to whomever is quickest to employ him. Mr. Farooqui interned with the Honorable Louis York of the New York County Supreme Court as a Robert H. Brown Scholar at St. John's University, where he earned a his B.A. magna cum laude in Political Science and M.A. in Political Theory.

These were not the only impressive candidates. Mr. Tajani was also competing with students from across the region, including Rosanne Breakenridge, Mohammed Haque, and Peter S. White II.

Rosanne Breakenridge is a second year law student and was an environmental engineer and Fulbright Grantee working on constructed wetlands prior to attending Temple Law School. Mohammed Haque, a first year law student, pursues his passion for justice and disaster relief at SUNY Buffalo School of Law. Peter S. White II, a second year at St. John's University Law School, is interested in environmental justice both domestically and abroad.

Also among the competition were three classmates from Pace Law School: Audrey C. Kang, Levan Thomas, and Yiyi Wong.

Audrey C. Kang, a second year law student at Pace Law, is a photographer turned environmental advocate after time spent working for newspapers in Kodiak and Valdez, Alaska. Levan Thomas, also from Pace Law School, is a first year law student with extensive accounting and business experience, not to mention his other incredible experience working with rural electrification in Ghana, sustainable development, and constructing his own biodiesel lab at age fifteen. Yiyi Wong, a second year law student, came to Pace Law School with an M.S. from North Carolina State and already having been a Fulbright Research Scholar in China and an NSF Foundation Fellow.

Mr. Tajani joins a host of exceptional past fellowship recipients. In previous years, the Section was able to provide multiple fellowships, but current funds did not allow the Section to present awards to all those who deserved them. The Section regrets that it was not able to award more of the applicants with fellowships. If you would like to help the Section provide more scholarships, please contact Lisa Bataille.

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February 15, 2013

NY Environmental Section Enforcement Update January 2013 #1

By Michael J. Lesser, Environmental Section, NYSBA © 2013


The turn of the New Year found news stories focusing on the extensive efforts of the NYSDEC Divisions of Law Enforcements (DLE) and Fish & Wildlife to crack down on the illegal ivory trade in New York. Recent law enforcement efforts have resulted in the confiscation of more than two tons of ivory. The ivory trade has been banned in New York with few exceptions since the early 1970's, as set forth in various provisions of Article 11, of the NY Environmental Conservation Law.


Criminal Environmental Damage Law Introduced

This proposed legislation introduced as S1016-2013 by Senator Robach (reproduced in its entirety below) is an attempt to correct the inequities left by lingering environmental impacts that are often more costly and damaging than the underlying crime. In effect, as the bill's justification states, the environment is a victim worth protecting in its own right. While the draft bill requires an underlying felony as a prerequisite it is classified as a Class C Penal Law Felony with severe penalties in its own right. Without such a law, prosecutors and law enforcement are often left with the unsatisfactory choices of trying to fit environmental damages within the constraints of lesser Penal Law offenses such as criminal mischief or vandalism or even establishing damages under the ECL via inquest and expensive forensic investigation (See ECL Section 71-2723).

At this writing, the bill has no Assembly counterpart and may be little more than an academic exercise in this legislative session. But, it is still an interesting start in addressing a vexing side effect of many non-environmental crimes.


January 2013, saw two more examples of the department's ongoing efforts to enforce administrative Orders on Consent in default previously entered in settlement with Respondents (citations and links below). The underlying Orders in both matters involved water quality or petroleum bulk storage issues. If the Respondent's do not comply with these new Orders, the matters will most likely be referred by NYSDEC to the Attorney General's office for further enforcement. The message is simple: DEC will enforce its consent orders and seek additional penalties for violations.

Commissioner's Enforcement Orders Issued in January 2013

In the Matter of HEZEKIAH VARCIANNA, Respondent.
Case No. R2-20121025-653, http://www.dec.ny.gov/hearings/88446.html

In the Matter of the ADE RANTI, Respondent.
Case No. R2-20121025-650, http://www.dec.ny.gov/hearings/88561.html


There can be no better news in the depth of winter than to know that the USEPA has scheduled a public listening session by its Caribbean Coral Reef Protection Group, in St. Thomas, USVI, on February 25, 2013 (with live videoconference locations in San Juan, Puerto Rico and St. Croix, USVI). As painful as this seems to those of us who cannot be at any of these locations, the vital work of this multi-agency Group, led by USEPA Region 2, will proceed in seeking its goal of coordinating government strategies to protecting the fragile coral reefs near Puerto Rico and the USVI from further damage. Threats to these ecosystems include manmade pollution, poor recreational boating habits and global climate change. It is unfortunate that the Group's jurisdiction would not appear to extend to the coral reefs off the coast of Florida which face many of the same dangers. For more information, contact USEPA via John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj@epa.gov.


The NY Environmental Section Enforcement Update is a service presented by the Environmental Section of NYSBA which is based on a general survey of approximately twenty public government and media websites which report on news relevant to New York's environmental issues. It is by no means comprehensive and is presented for educational purposes only and NYSBA makes no guarantees as to the accuracy of the sources cited. Please contact the Blog Editor at samcapasso@gmail.com with any additional information or corrections.

Michael J. Lesser is currently Of Counsel to Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C. in New York and was a former NYSDEC enforcement attorney in the Office of General Counsel.

(Editor's Note: This is the first edition of what we hope to make a regular update. Please feel to leave comments with any additional updates you may have on recent enforcement.)

About February 2013

This page contains all entries posted to Envirosphere in February 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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