‘Biomass: Helpful or Harmful?’: 2018 Sustainability Essay Contest Second-Place Winner

As we announced last week, the North Carolina Bar Association’s Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Section is pleased to announce the winners of its 2018 Sustainability Essay Contest.  A description of the contest and this year’s topic can be found here.  Please join us in congratulating this year’s winners.

Emily Liu:  “Wood Pellets as Biofuel: Is it Sustainable?”  FIRST PLACE  ($1000 prize + publication)

Catherine Trusky: “Biomass: Helpful or Harmful?”  SECOND PLACE ($500 prize)

Ann Winstead: “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle: Waste”  THIRD PLACE ($250 prize)

The text of Catherine Trusky’s second place essay, “Biomass: Helpful or Harmful?” is published below.  The third place entry was published on our blog last week, and the first place entry will be published in the coming weeks.

A special thanks to Professor Maria Savasta-Kennedy, Ted Feitshans, and Blakely Hildebrand for their time and effort coordinating this contest!

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Welcome to the Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Section Blog!

By Brooks Rainey Pearson

Starting a few years ago, the Bar Association began to offer each Section the chance to move its newsletter content online to its own Section blog page. This year we decided to make that transition. We hope that a digital option will allow for faster, more robust sharing of information.

A huge thank you to Amber Nimocks at the Bar Association, and to our 2018-2019 communications co-chairs, Laura Truesdale, Hayes Finley, and Matt Tynan for making this transition happen.

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EENR Section Announces Winners of the 2018 Sustainability Essay Contest

The North Carolina Bar Association’s Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Section is pleased to announce the winners of its 2018 Sustainability Essay Contest, which focused this year on the following topic:

“Explain the tradeoffs in the use of biomass.  Tradeoffs include: their impact on the environment; their relative ‘carbon neutrality’; their impacts on surrounding communities, including job creation and environmental justice concerns.  Conclude whether, in light of these tradeoffs, we should use the biofuel you analyzed as a renewable energy source in North Carolina.”

A link to the full essay prompt can be found here.  All of the entries came from high school students across the state of North Carolina, and we appreciate all of the students who participated!  Please join us in congratulating this year’s winners.

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Blockchain and Potential Impacts to Agriculture and Food Safety

By Jeremy Muhlfelder

Blockchain, the distributed, immutable, public ledger technology that underlies popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, has the potential to impact all realms of commerce by removing inefficient third-party intermediaries from industry systems and processes. The food industry, particularly livestock and agricultural production, is fraught with administrative headaches and a lack of transparency. These problems make the food industry ripe for disruption, and implementing blockchain technology in the food supply chain, as promoted by companies like IBM, is an important step for the industry to enter the age of exponential technology. Matthew Wilson, Retailers and Producers Turn to IBM Blockchain to Improve Safety, available at https://www.ibm.com/blogs/cloud-computing/2017/08/blockchain-food-safety/ (Aug. 24, 2017).

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North Carolina’s Participation in the Volkswagen Settlement

By Brian Phillips and Phyllis D. Jones

On September 18, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited the Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VW) with a Notice of Violation (NOV) for noncompliance of Section 203(a)(3)(B) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. § 75229(a)(3)(B). This NOV was issued because Volkswagen manufactured and installed defeat devices in certain model year 2009 – 2015 2.0-liter diesel engine light-duty vehicles that circumvented EPA’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions standard. The complaint filed by EPA alleges the defeat devices cause the vehicle’s emissions to exceed EPA’s standards during normal driving conditions. During normal driving conditions, the software renders certain emission control systems inoperative resulting in increased emissions.

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Air, Water and Soil Impacts of GenX: Health Goals, Ongoing Investigations and the Litigation Front

By Heather S. Kennealy and Edmund Woloszyn

The Chemours Company plant in Fayetteville produces a wide variety of films, fibers, and specialty chemicals at a 2,000-acre facility on the border of Cumberland and Bladen Counties along the banks of the Cape Fear River. E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) owned and operated the Fayetteville Works Facility from around 1971 until around 2015, when DuPont formed Chemours and transferred ownership to it. DuPont currently leases a portion of the Fayetteville Works Facility from Chemours and has ongoing operations at the Facility.

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The Chair’s Comments: Here’s To Living In Interesting Environmental Law Times

By Stanford Davis Baird

In the last EENR newsletter, I remarked what an interesting time it is to practice environmental law. Evolving environmental policy, changing regulations, and interesting court cases make this a fascinating area of law. Two cases involving North Carolina lawyers that were in the news during the weeks since our last newsletter highlight this fact even more. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. appears to break new ground in Clean Water Act jurisprudence and challenges long-held and accepted notions regarding point source discharges. This is an important case that may well be combined with a recent Ninth Circuit case from Hawaii for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a different case, on April 26, 2018, a federal jury awarded $50 million in punitive damages to neighbors of large-scale hog farms in Eastern North Carolina. Considered by many a landmark test case, this verdict challenges fundamental assumptions regarding hog farm operations in the multi-billion dollar industry in North Carolina. There is certain to be much more activity in the agricultural torts space going forward. These cases are further reminders that there is rarely a dull moment for followers of environmental law.

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In the Environment of Change: EENR Three-State CLE & Annual Meeting

There’s a new twist to this year’s Environment, Energy, & Natural Resources Law Section Annual Meeting and CLE Program in Asheville, May 11-12. It will be the first-ever three-state joint conference bringing together environmental attorneys, regulators, and consultants from Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina for continuing legal education and professional development. Planners from each state’s Environmental Law Sections have spent the past several months putting together a program of interest and relevance to those under the jurisdiction of Region IV of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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