By Marty Stolz
Nature doesn’t know borders. Smog and other pollution problems seep onto all sides of man-made borders, whether they be cities, counties, states or nations, while these adjacent communities compete for scarce water and other resources.
To explore a “trans-boundary” approaches to these problems, the S.J. Quinney College of Law will host a seminar on Sept. 10 about air, water, and land pollution and resource conflicts that transcend borders. The program will feature panel discussions about the unique and cooperative experiences – in a climate otherwise characterized by conflict – of environmental leaders from the Middle East. The program is jointly presented by the College of Law’s Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment and the Israel-based Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, an accredited undergraduate and graduate academic program with a mission of exploring ways Arabs and Jews can “cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges.”
“We are extremely excited about this program,” said Associate Dean Robert Adler. “There are remarkable parallels between trans-boundary water, air, and other environmental problems in the Middle East and in our region, and we expect that both sides will learn something from each others’ experiences.”
Adler noted, for example, that just weeks ahead of the seminar, the Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 office in Denver notified Utah officials that seven of its 29 counties failed to meet new air quality standards for particulate matter. The EPA, after evaluating air quality monitoring data from 2005 through 2007, has recommended that Utah overlook its man-made borders and establish five of the counties as a “single nonattainment area” and another nonattainment area across northern Utah and parts of Idaho.
In one panel – “Decoupling Environmental Problems From the Overall Aspects of Political Disputes” – Shmuel Brenner, a faculty member at the Arava Institute and a former senior official at the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, will discuss how Israel and Jordan tackled an air quality control issue identical to the one affecting the seven Utah counties. Cheryl Heying, Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, will provide a Utah perspective on transboundary air pollution.
Adler also noted that the brewing dispute between Utah and Nevada over groundwater from the Snake Valley is remarkably similar to decades of groundwater and surface water controversies between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The seminar will also tackle ways to address such cross-border water conflicts.
Other presenters include Clive Lipchin, director of research at the Arava Institute; Samer Talozi, associate professor of bio-environmental and irrigation engineering at Jordan University of Science and Technology; Nader Al-Khateeb, director of the Water and Environmental Development Organization (WEDO), based in Bethlehem in the Palestinian territory. Other local speakers include D. Craig Bell, executive director of the Western States Water Council; and Robert Keiter, professor of law and director of Wallace Stegner Center. The program will be moderated by Jonathan Leo, an environmental attorney and project manager at Science Application International Corp. (NYSE: SAI) in Pasadena, Calif.
Along with the College of Law and the Stegner Center (www.law.utah.edu/stegner), the seminar is sponsored by the Friends of the Arava Institute (www.friendsofarava.org) and the Utah State Bar (www.utahbar.org).
“Transboundary Environmental Management in the Middle East” will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 10, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. in the Sutherland Moot Court Room at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. The seminar is free and open to the public but registration is required at www.law.utah.edu/registration or by calling 801-585-3440.