Monday, October 31, 2011

Challenges to Environmental Permits in Maryland

In April, I wrote of a change in the Maryland Code that altered the Maryland environmental permitting appeals procedure to give standing to not only those with a direct financial interest in the results of the permit, but to anyone who participated in a public participation process conducted by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

Well, the Maryland Court of Appeals, in a September 2011 decision in Patuxent Riverkeeper v. Maryland Department of the Environment, et al. has given effect to this amendment by holding that environmental advocacy groups such as the Plaintiff, Patuxent Riverkeeper, can challenge actions by the MDE to grant permits because “its member…had alleged sufficient harm to his aesthetic, recreational and economic interests in connection with the issuance of the non-tidal wetlands permit in issue.” Id. at p. 3

As I previously suggested, and especially now that the Court has upheld this change in the law regarding standing to challenge permits, applicants should consider how to work with local citizens and other interested groups before requesting a permit. Working things out with affected stakeholders can be more cost-effective than litigation and produce better results.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"The Better Angels of Our Nature" Review

The lead review in the Sunday Book Review section of the New York Times this past week is of a book by Steven Pinker titled “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined." The review was written by Peter Singer.

I have not yet read the book – although I did purchase and download it based on this review – and will read it soon.

The basic thesis of the book is simple. Our era – the time in which we now live – is less violent and cruel and more peaceful than any other period in human history. Despite World Wars I and II, Vietnam, the Iran/Iraq war, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and all of the other atrocities of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Really?

Mr. Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard and author of “The Language Instinct." Mr. Singer makes a compelling argument that professor Pinker’s new book is substantial, worthwhile and interesting.

To sum up this observation, Mr. Singer states, quite simply, ””The Better Angels of Our Nature” is a supremely important book,” adding that the book addresses many of the age-old questions about human nature: Are human beings essentially good or bad? Has the past century witnessed moral progress or a moral collapse? Do we have grounds for being optimistic about the future?

Obviously Mr. Pinker has to convince a skeptical audience. According to the review he spends a substantial portion of the book successfully documenting his claim.

What do you think? Do we live in a more civilized and more just and peaceful world?