Quiz on Ethics in Environmental Law by suchenfz


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         Quiz on Ethics in Environmental Law
                  (Multiple Choice)

                            By Gregor I. McGregor, Esq.*


               a.    I don’t know, but I’ll recognize it when I see it.

             b. Changing the way we behave as individuals, businesses, and society
             at large in order to safeguard what Eugene Odum calls the “life support sys-
             tem,” meaning the environment, organisms, processes, and resources inter-
             acting to provide our physical necessities, including food production, water
             recycling, waste assimilation, and air purification.

             c.    What Aldo Leopold wrote in his essay entitled “The Land Ethic”:
             “[A] thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and
             beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

             d. The notion that we are stewards of the land, water, and air, and must
             act responsibly toward them.

             e.   The view that Homo sapiens is a member of nature rather than
             conqueror of it.

*   *
      Mr. McGregor is founding partner of the Boston environmental law firm, McGregor
& Associates. The lawyers and environmental planners in the firm handle all aspects of
federal, state and local environmental law, real estate, and litigation throughout New
England, including zoning and subdivision control, real estate transactions, wetlands and
floodplain regulation, easements and conservation restrictions, hazardous waste and
Superfund liability, and eminent domain as well as “regulatory” takings.

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   2.     ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE—Civil rights groups, advocating what
   they call “environmental justice,” complain that the burden of pollution from
   past contamination and proposed projects falls disproportionately on poor and
   minority populations. Sometimes this problem is called “environmental
   racism.” Do you think that this claim is:

          a.    Dead wrong.
        b. A bogus complaint for which the Clinton Administration (with great
        fanfare) fashioned some burdensome regulatory requirements to solve a
        problem that does not exist.
        c.    A legitimate complaint about a systemic problem which deserves a
        comprehensive, society-wide set of solutions throughout the public and
        private sectors, probably with an amendment to the Constitution.
        d. A legitimate observation needing reform of EPA and state
        environmental agency permitting and cleanup priorities, for which
        President Clinton’s Executive Order (telling all federal agencies to reduce
        environmental injustices) has been appropriate and effective.
        e.    A proper criticism only in the context of individual decisions about
        specific projects, not needing any program-wide reforms, but warranting
        an avenue for administrative complaints and court appeals in individual

   3.     STATE OF THE WORLD—Around the world, millions of people are
   getting on the information highway with televisions, high-tech telephones and
   internet access, while many more millions remain without basic health needs
   including sewage disposal, clean water, basic medical care, and other key
   indicators, according to the 1998 WorldWatch Institute report. Do you feel

          a.    This fact does not concern me one bit.
        b. This trend, even if it accentuates the differences between the rich and
        poor in many underdeveloped nations, has no ethical implications.
        c.    This growth in telecommunications is a better indication of the health
        of the world than availability of basic sanitation.
          d.    This has some basic truth but is an overstatement.
          e.    This indicates a really bad situation.

   4.      BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY—Endangered species loss can be viewed
   as a symptom of the tendency to convert more and more relatively natural
   ecosystems to intense human use. There are published statistics indicating that
   until the appearance of human society, only one extinction per one thousand
   years occurred, and that, by the end of this century, one species will be lost
   each hour. What do you think?
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Spring, 1999]                                       QUIZ                                             1-649

          a.    There are much more important things to worry about.
       b. We should repeal the Endangered Species Act, as there will be no
       catastrophic ecosystem breakdown in the worldwide biotic community, at
       least not so as to unreasonably affect human society.
       c.  Let’s protect only those species which have a potential or present
       demonstrated dollar value to humans.
       d. We ought to preserve species, habitats, and ecosystems for the known
       value of ecological niches, relationships, adaptations, and the apparent
       benefit of nature itself creating greater diversity over time.
       e.    We need to protect all nature for its holistic value to humans and its
       intrinsic worth, no matter what financial resources are needed.

    retains an attorney on a contingent fee basis for representing it in a nuisance
    suit against a nearby industrial plant emitting noxious fumes. In order to
    prepare the case, the attorney recommends to the client that it retain an
    environmental consulting firm (which the attorney recommends routinely to
    clients, does business with frequently, and represents in an unrelated legal
    matter). The attorney reviews and revises a contract between client and
    consultant in which client will pay consultant for services rendered. Payment
    would be from any money recovered in the suit at trial or by settlement. If
    there is none, or if it is not enough, the attorney likely will end up paying the
    consulting bills, with little recourse against client. This raises the following
    ethical questions:

          a.    None, lawyers and engineers don’t have any ethical limits.
       b. None, the contract the client voluntarily signs is what governs
       c.    The problem here is the inherent conflict of interest in a contingency
       case to try to reduce expenses, which could compromise effective pursuit of
       the claim.
       d. The problem here is the undisclosed relationship between the
       attorney and consultant which has not been disclosed to the client.
       e.   The problem here is that attorneys and non-lawyers are not
       supposed to share legal fees; also, attorneys are supposed to recommend
       expert consultants and witnesses objectively and in good faith for the
       benefit of the client.

    6.     WASTE DISCLOSURE—An engineer and a lawyer work for a client
    who owns a large residential building. The client is currently under federal
    and state agency administrative orders to clean up hazardous waste, PCBs,
    lead paint, and asbestos, and the city is conducting a criminal investigation for
    possible violations of the municipal code. The engineer and lawyer walk
    through the property and find a new location of contamination unknown to the
    enforcement authorities, and they see that the asbestos is blowing around,
    outside the building, near a playground and school. On these facts:
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        a.        Nobody has a legal duty to do anything under any circumstances.
        b. Nobody has a duty because of the doctrine of lawyer-client
        confidentiality and because the contract between client and engineer
        requires confidentiality.
             c.     The lawyer has a duty but not the engineer.
             d.     The engineer has a duty but not the lawyer.
        e.   Both have duties to disclose the presence of all the new
        contamination and the blowing asbestos because it presents an imminent
        and substantial danger.

   7.     ECONOMIC ETHICS—The organization Friends of the Earth says that
   the global system of finance and economics is so structured that the rewards
   for doing the right thing are often missing. Many times taking action which
   protects natural areas and avoids air and water pollution will lose a company
   money or make it less competitive against firms not experiencing these costs.
   To provide rewards and incentives for pollution reduction and natural resource
   stewardship, we should do the following:

        a.        Nothing, our economics and finances are fine the way they are now.
        b. Simply continue to ask people to take the morally right actions even if
        they will lose money.
        c.    Reform the U.S. Tax Code, which is biased against businesses
        wanting to take environmentally progressive steps, because it emphasizes
        and rewards raw resource extraction of oil and minerals, penalizes
        pollution reduction and recycling, and subsidizes mining of lead, mercury,
        and asbestos which the rest of society spends money to cope with.
        d. Set new budget priorities in the United States, in which the
        federal government spends only two cents on the dollar for environmental
        protection, to reinforce environmental law enforcement at the federal and
        state levels so they are stable and adequate.
        e.    Institute a global financial transactions tax in the global marketplace
        to slow the movement of speculative money around the world—money
        which tends to finance environmentally damaging, destabilizing projects
        and other investments.

   8.     INTERNATIONAL LAW—The United States is not alone in enacting
   environmental statutes and regulations—there are many different models.
   Each country tailors its laws to its own environmental, economic, social, and
   political needs and desires. What is needed now is:

             a.     Give it up.
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Spring, 1999]                                       QUIZ                                             1-651

       b. Set more lofty goals for most countries to subscribe to
       c.    Enact an enforcement mechanism in each country for its existing
       d. Sign better international treaties, conventions, and other
       contractual arrangements than exist now.
       e.    Create a world-wide system of international environmental law with
       courts and agencies having comprehensive jurisdiction to set and enforce

    9.     NEW ETHICAL STANDARDS—After all is said and done, right now,
    environmental ethics are still evolving, molded by cultural, social, and
    scientific factors. They have a rich literary heritage in Henry David Thoreau,
    Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson. Defining such ethics is difficult. They are
    values and, therefore, they are implicitly subjective. Because history and
    human institutions have demonstrated a lack of regard to nature, it makes
    sense to try to reach consensus on central principles for conduct (if not
    common beliefs). We do not have to read George Perkins Marsh, John
    Burroughs, and John Muir to figure out what conduct makes at least economic
    common sense, taking the long view as to what is in our enlightened self-
    interest. The view we need for all government, private sector, and individual
    decisions is that:

       a.   An environmental ethic is nothing but a figment of the
       b. Pollution control and natural resource management is an
       acceptable topic for religious sermons and that’s about all.
       c.    A human being has an ethical right to be a participant in its
       environment, to have that environment be clean, to be consulted in changes
       to that environment, and to seek legal redress if this right is violated.
       d. An understanding that, in an ecosystem, every action taken has
       consequences, and these results may be judged objectively as positive or
       negative based on the needs of society.
       e.    People must act as stewards, not masters, of their domain,
       including real property they think they “own,” resources they have permits
       to “use,” and things they feel they have a right to “do.”

    10. THE WHOLE SOLUTION—Deciding on a desirable environmental
    ethic, implementing it in practice, supporting it with science, fostering it with
    education, spreading it around the world, and evaluating and revising it as
    needed, does not appear to be easy or quick. We must, however, do something
    and start somewhere. We should:

          a.    Start everywhere and do everything at once to make this happen.
       b. Start with government behavior because potential for quick change
       there is the greatest.
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        c.    Start with corporate behavior because the problems there are the
        d. Start with individual behavior because the actions of people will
        follow dollars.
          e.    Clean up the world tomorrow; today just do your room!

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