Past CEJ Events

2009

Terrence “Rock” Salt: ”The Everglades and Ecosystem Restoration – Sharing the Corps Values”
December 3, 2009

Monsignor Casale,

Monsignor Casale, “Rock” Salt and Mary Munson

Principal deputy assistant secretary of the army (Civil Works) Terrence “Rock” Salt spoke in early December 2009 about the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in Everglades restoration, in the Moot Courtroom of St. Thomas University at an event organized by the Center for Earth Jurisprudence. As principal policy and legislative advisor to the assistant secretary of the army (Civil Works), based at the Pentagon, he provides vision and direction to the Army Corps of Engineers in their work restoring the Florida Everglades.

Monsignor Casale, St. Thomas University president, opened the event by making the point that the Army Corps of Engineers and St. Thomas University together represent much broader institutions – religion, higher education and military – that have considerable power to make a positive difference in the environment, underscoring that environmental concern is nothing new in terms of Catholic social teaching. “We have been given a gift in the Earth that must be cherished.”

Rock Salt, a retired colonel who served 30 years in the U.S. Army, is a former director of Everglades Restoration Initiatives for the Department of Interior, as well as a former director of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. CEJ legal director and longtime acquaintance Mary Munson introduced him primarily as a listener, an individual possessed of enough humility to listen genuinely and to find solutions - across the aisle, across competing interests, across thorny technical issues. Taking the podium with a sigh, Mr. Salt said, “See, I hate intros like that: we all know they’re not true, and you can never live up to it, and then you’re stuck up here.”

In fact, far from being stuck, Mr. Salt took a fresh angle on his work regarding environmental restoration, one “shaped by the spiritual, and faith – and I see that in others.” Walking into a room of opposing interests, he sees individuals “working with passion, with conviction, all representing different interests.” His task, as he sees it, is to reconcile their valid goals.

In addition, he has been tasked by President Obama “with figuring out how to make the Army Corps of Engineers better, greener … more transparent.”

Mr. Salt feels that one obstacle to a sound approach to environmental restoration is contained in a set of policy guidelines: after the major legislative acts passed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including the Clean Air Act (1963), NEPA (1970), Clean Water Act (1972), Endangered Species Act (1973), the trajectory of environmental consciousness was curtailed by the Reagan Administration’s Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies (1983), which subordinated all water-related decisions to the promotion of economic development. In his view, progress regarding environmental issues has been hampered by the need to pick a solution on an economic basis: “the environment appears in the fine print, in the exceptions to that rule.”

One of the main issues that can be resolved to redress that situation is to introduce nonmonetary issues into the criteria that weigh proposed projects. Mr. Salt mentioned that one of his predecessor’s biggest frustrations was that he could never send in the most worthwhile projects for approval because of the economic straitjacket imposed by those guidelines. A proposal currently working its way through administrative system would institutionalize a more balanced approach, grounding national water resources projects in sound science, with objectives that maximize not only economic, but also environmental and social benefits. (Visit www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/091203-ceq-revised-principles-guidelines-water-resources.pdf for the proposal andwww.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/PandG for more information.)

The proposed changes to the principles and guidelines are crucial, from Mr. Salt’s perspective. “I’m not saying ‘just change it and all will be well,’ but I am saying you must change the policies, and move from there. After that, there will be no going back.”

Other achievements during the short time he has held this post include obtaining more than $100 million of stimulus money for some 800 Everglades restoration projects, involving 3,000 contracts. This he credits to the fact that “change has come to the OMB [Office of Management and Budget], to those who received our list of proposed projects,” and his counterpart there truly wanted to fund the environmental projects that met the criteria.

The achievement is significant; challenges remain. On the issue of improved transparency, for instance, he points out, “We’re having a devil of a time following 3,000 contracts and we’re getting flogged in meetings by the Vice President.” He smiled, “In the end, transparency is a good thing but – whew – in the beginning, it’s kind of unpleasant.” Other hurdles include “how to balance quick versus good, how to reconcile different purposes – how to maintain a consensus among dozens of people who never get along.” When asked if he ever thought Everglades restoration would get this far, his response was immediate and heartfelt. “I’m disappointed that we’re only this far, but you keep the faith – and the momentum.” He pointed out that, to arrive at “a 21st-century kind of pace, the Corps has to buck up and get in step.” And then he added, “That’s the fun part of my job.”

Terrence Mr. Salt in the Moot Courtroom

Mr. Salt at the podium Students and the wider public listen to Mr. Salt.

In It Together – Protecting the Everglades and Florida Bay
Superintendent of Everglades National Park Dan Kimball

St. Thomas University, November 12, 2009

Florida Bay event panel

Jason Bennis, Dan Kimball, Rainer Schael and Mary Munson

The Center for Earth Jurisprudence hosted a policy and law workshop that explored innovative means of protecting and managing the “commons,” specifically Florida Bay and the Everglades. Featured speaker Superintendent of Everglades National Park Dan Kimball discussed public participation and efforts to incorporate the values of individuals who know and understand the ecosystems into a management plan that effectively responds to the various interests represented. Jason Bennis, marine policy manager of the National Parks Conservation Association, Sun Coast Regional Office, presented the perspective of a nonprofit advocacy group, underscoring efforts to protect the delicate Florida Bay through such innovations as their support of the new Eco-Mariner program (www.EcoMariner.org, offering boaters information about Florida Bay) and suggestions for piloting a restricted “pole/troll” area. Recreational angler and president of RS Environmental Consulting Rainer Schael added another dimension to the discussion by presenting the viewpoint, always as friends and occasionally at odds, of the recreational users. See photos here.

Superintendent Dan Kimball           Rainer Schael and Florida Bay resident

rainer schael

 

 

 

 

Walking the Green Line
Miami, February 6, 2009; Orlando, February 10, 2009.

The Center for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ) partnered with Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN) to conduct a conference and workshop at both CEJ branches in Miami and Orlando that explored the precautionary principle and expanding its incorporation into law and policy, from federal legislation to local ordinances. SEHN executive director Carolyn Raffensperger made a case for a precautionary approach that would heed early warnings (for example, higher-than-average rates of autism), examine alternatives to damaging practices and shift existing burdens of proof in legal texts. Dr. Ted Schettler, SEHN’s science director, discussed types and degrees of scientific uncertainty, what can and cannot be proven and the types of error – and resulting harm to health and environment – that are embedded in legislation as a consequence. SEHN legal director Joseph Guth took a trenchant approach to complex legislation, stripping it of confusion and isolating tests that elucidate underlying assumptions.

Local experts also presented their perspectives regarding application of the precautionary principle at local level. In Miami, Richard Grosso, executive director of the Everglades Law Center, law professor and environmental litigator, guided the discussion, which featured presentations by Kelly Brooks, of Lehtinen Riedi Brooks Moncarz; Carlos Espinosa, director of the Department of Environmental Resources Management; and Katy Sorenson, Miami-Dade County commissioner. In Orlando, Robert D. Guthrie, senior assistant county attorney of the Orange County Attorney’s Office, led the session, which featured Linda W. Chapin, director of the Metropolitan Center for Regional Studies, University of Central Florida; Anthony J. Cotter of GrayRobinson, P.A.; and Lori Cunniff, CEP, CHMM, manager of the Orange County Environmental Protection Division.

Hear two of the presenters discuss possible solutions to the current environmental challenges facing Florida today: “Intersection” radio host Mark Simpson talks with Carolyn Raffensperger and environmental attorney Tony Cotter about the precautionary principles and how it could work in Florida at http://www.wmfe.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9221&news_iv_ctrl=1441.

 

 

 

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