Environment News Service (ENS)
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AmeriScan: April 22, 2005

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President's Earth Day Park Visit Scrubbed Due to Weather

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, April 22, 2005 (ENS) - To mark Earth Day, President George W. Bush spoke briefly today at Tennessee's McGhee Tyson Airbase about environmental legislation and volunteering in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The President and his entourage had planned to visit Cades Cove in the park, but a fast moving line of storms crossed the area, forcing cancellation of the visit.

Bush traveled to Tennessee with a group of Republican leaders including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Senator Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Congressman Jimmy Duncan, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, and EPA Acting Administrator Steve Johnson.

Bush used his speech to emphasize his administration's environmental programs - some that have been enacted into law, and others that have not.

"First," the President said, "we have finalized a rule that will cut pollution from heavy diesel engines by 90 percent. We worked with the manufacturers of those engines and we've come up with a way to reduce pollution from diesel engines, and that's going to help a lot."

And, secondly, I put forth a rule - a series of rules called the Clear Skies Initiative, which will cut air pollution from coal-fired power plants by 70 percent. This is a common sense approach to dealing with this important issue. We use a market based system, a cap and trade system to provide flexibility so that the power plants can meet the goals we set of reducing pollution by 70 percent. The initiatives we did through executive order are important, but it would sure be helpful if Congress passed the Clear Skies legislation, as well."

"The water quality of the United States is good because we're strictly enforcing the law," Bush said. "Ninety percent of the United States have water that meets very stringent health standards. That's up, by the way, from about 74 percent. And we'll continue to work hard to make sure everybody has got good water."

On Earth Day last year, President Bush announced a program to restore, improve and protect three million acres of wetlands over a five year period of time. "This year we enhanced 830,000 acres, so we're on our way to meeting that goal and that's good for the country," he said today.

Bush expressed satisfaction with the way logging is taking place under his administration's Healthy Forest Restoration Act. "Last year, as a result of that bill, we removed hazardous fuels in forested areas - over 10 million acres," he said.

"We're making good progress when it comes to restoring industrial sites through the brownfields initiative," the President said. "We've restored 1,200 abandoned industrial sites since I've been the President and converted them to productive use."

Bush wound up his remarks by reminding his audience that volunteering in the national parks is a worthwhile activity. "So my message to the good folks of Tennessee on Earth Day is we have a duty and an obligation to protect our environment. We're meeting that obligation. But that obligation is not just a federal obligation - there is a state obligation, a local obligation and each of us as citizens can do our part."

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Young Environmentalists from 10 States Honored at The White House

WASHINGTON, DC, April 22, 2005 (ENS) - President George W. Bush and Steve Johnson, EPA Acting Administrator Thursday welcomed students from across the nation to the White House to honor their achievements in environmental protection. The 2004 President's Environmental Youth Awards were presented to 30 students at a ceremony in the East Room at the White House.

The President's Environmental Youth Awards have been presented annually since 1971 to honor students in kindergarten through twelfth grade who develop projects that help protect local environments and promote local environmental awareness in their communities.

Each student receiving an award developed an innovative project that promotes awareness and encourages people of all ages to protect their environment through community involvement.

President Bush said, "As volunteers, you've put your talents to good use. In Cairo, Georgia, you set up a science camp to promote recycling. In St. Paul, Virginia, you helped restore a newly-named wetland and made it an outdoor classroom. In Oklahoma and California, you cleaned up debris around local creeks. You built nesting boxes to protect local birds in Staten Island, New York. You improved trout habitats in Hyrum, Utah. You started a project for the Fender's blue butterfly in Salem, Oregon. You spearheaded a public education program to protect a stream near Cleveland, Ohio. You planted a beech tree at an elementary school in Middletown, Rhode Island. And you taught schoolchildren about groundwaters in Lincoln, Nebraska."

"Each of these acts touched a community, and together they are improving our nation," the President said.

"I am impressed by the environmental commitment these young people have shown," said Johnson. "Their projects demonstrate the enthusiasm for improving our environment that I see in youth across the country."

Winners were selected from among applicants to EPA's 10 regional offices. Regional EPA panels judged projects on environmental need, accomplishment of goals, long-term environmental benefits and positive impact on local communities. The panels also considered project design, coordination, implementation, innovation and soundness of approach.

A listing of the 2004 award winners and descriptions of their projects, is online at: http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/peya2004.html#top

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Democrats' Bill Would Extend California Marine Sanctuaries

WASHINGTON, DC, April 22, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Lynn Woolsey, both California Democrats, marked Earth Day by introducing legislation that would permanently protect the coastal waters and estuaries of Sonoma County and extend the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and all of the Democratic members of the California House Delegation have signed on as original cosponsors.

Boxer said, "This legislation is designed to protect one of the world’s most important marine environments. By including the Sonoma Coast in the National Marine Sanctuary program, we would ensure this beautiful part of California’s coast remains vibrant for future generations."

Woolsey said, "The expansion of the Marine Sanctuary program is necessary to ensure the health of the Sonoma coastline for future generations, the protection of marine habitat, and the preservation of fish populations that are vital to our survival. Continuing to allow our coastline to be protected by moratorium alone will no longer work."

Feinstein said, "The waters off the Sonoma coast are one of California’s hidden treasures. They are teeming with life and provide a rich habitat for marine mammals, fish, and seabirds. That’s why it is so important that we protect this habitat and ensure that it remains vibrant and biologically diverse."

The Boxer-Woolsey National Marine Sanctuary Boundary Modification and Protection Act would expand the boundaries of the two existing National Marine Sanctuaries to protect the entire Sonoma Coast.

Through expanding the boundaries of both the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries, the legislation would protect the Russian and Gualala River estuaries and the nutrient-rich Bodega Canyon from off-shore oil drilling and pollution.

By preserving the Sonoma Coast, the Boxer-Woolsey legislation would help protect the jobs of those that are dependent on a healthy coast for their livelihood, such as commercial fisherman and the local tourist industry.

The Sonoma Coast is one of the planet’s most biologically productive marine environments. The two marine sanctuaries along the Sonoma Coast support many species of marine mammals, birds and fishes, including endangered blue and humpback whales.

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Denver Paints Environmental Mural Mile to Break World's Record

DENVER, Colorado, April 22, 2005 (ENS) - As part of the Mile High City’s Earth Day celebrations, the City and County of Denver will unveil nearly two miles of environmental murals at Barnum Park on Saturday, as a contribution to the Environmental Mural Mile, a worldwide effort to break the record for the world's longest painting.

To break the Guinness Book of World Records measurement for the longest continuous painting of 9,771.6 feet set on March 21, 2005 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Mayor John Hickenlooper is inviting city residents to stop by Civic Center Park on Friday, April 22nd, from 9 am to 7 pm and help paint additional murals. Donated materials will be available, but people are encouraged to bring their own paint supplies and brushes.

The unveiling event at Barnum Park, 6th & Federal at 10 am on Saturday, April 23rd, will include an official measurement recorded by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Robert E. Roberts, a ribbon cutting ceremony, a Native American blessing, music, and face painting. The opening ceremony will feature speakers including Mayor Hickenlooper; Joanne Tawfilis, a founder of the Art Mural Miles Project; and Pasquale Scaturro, explorer of the Nile First Descent Expedition. The event is free and open to the public.

The Environmental Mural Mile is one of the 12 miles being created by the Art Miles Mural Project http://www.the-art-miles-mural-project.org/ in support of the UNESCO Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence Among Children of the World, (2001-2010). Based in San Diego, California, the international non-profit organization intends to create the world’s longest painting by using 12 differently themed mural miles.

To date, over 1,300 murals have been painted by more than 30,000 children and adults from 100 countries. The goal of the project is to create global harmony through art.

Denver area schools, businesses and organizations have created more than 140 murals for the Environmental Mural Mile, expressing community and individual concerns about saving the Earth for future generations. Denver's contribution to the environmental mural will complete the first mile of the Art Miles Mural Project.

Denver's role in the Environmental Mural Mile began during the 2004 Community Involvement Conference organized by the EPA where a couple of city employees noticed the environmental awareness created by the Art Miles Mural Project with just a few dozen murals flanking the main conference hall. The exhibit was awarded the Grand Jury Exhibition prize at the EPA conference.

"At that time, we had hoped to exhibit the entire Environmental Mile at the EPA conference," said Tawfilis, "but there wasn’t enough time to make it happen. But we met with a few employees from the City of Denver who heard about the project and quickly took the initiative to unveil the entire environmental mile in the Mile High City."

Now, the Environmental Mural Mile is coordinated through the combined efforts of the Denver Arts Street Program, Denver Environmental Health, the EPA, Wastewater Management, and Denver Public Schools.

"I was surprised how many after school programs, recreation centers, Boys and Girls Scout troops, and numerous interest groups responded with tremendous enthusiasm when I challenged them to organize a team around painting a mural," said Stella Yu, director of Arts Street. "Within weeks, more than 100 groups gathered and for the next four to six weeks, they discussed and depicted their dreams and hopes about the world around us."

The Environmental Mural Mile is dedicated to Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau to honor their environmental efforts and the legacy of their grandfather, oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau.

"It's not only amazing to see an entire city rally behind this effort to break the world record, but to use this as an opportunity to make a strong environmental statement," Tawfilis said.

"The enormous contribution and efforts made by hundreds of residents is a clear indication that environmental issues are important to the people of Denver," said Mayor Hickenlooper, who announced the City of Denver's Sustainable Development Initiative earlier this week.

During his keynote address to the 21st Century Smarter Growth Conference on Tuesday, the mayor said the Sustainable Development Initiative will focus on water, energy, and land use/transportation – because, Hickenlooper explained, these basic drivers of economic and environmental health offer opportunities for government innovation and leadership.

Two city agencies - Parks and Workforce Development - will launch a program this summer to convert four prominent public landscapes to “waterwise” gardens, the mayor said. Through a combination of public and private grants and partnerships, local at-risk youth will participate in creating these gardens, while being trained in job skills for the landscaping industry.

Denver’s Departments of Public Works and Environmental Health are developing a strategy for reducing pollution levels in the South Platte River through intervention, monitoring, and public education. Staff are targeting problem storm water outfalls in an effort to reduce the levels of E-coli in the Denver reach of the river.

The Mayor’s Office will partner with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science this summer to offer a speaker’s series on the best ideas in Western water, highlighting local and regional water issues. The Metro Mayor’s Caucus is also developing best management practices for water conservation in the region.

“It is important to realize these are not random actions, but part of a larger citywide program and strategy that benefits all taxpayers,” said Hickenlooper. “We intend to honor the Denver’s environmental record while promoting the triple bottom line of the social, economic and environmental benefits of sustainability moving forward.”

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Earth Day is New Jersey's Solar Power Day

TRENTON, New Jersey, April 22, 2005 (ENS) - On the eve of Earth Day, New Jersey Public Interest Research Groups (NJPIRG), The Sun Farm Network, the New Jersey Farm Bureau, the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry in New Jersey, Green Faith, and several other solar energy supporters and users met Thursday with the Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy to take note of the diverse users that have contributed to solar energy’s growth in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) announced that they will hold two meetings in May and June to bring in interested parties to discuss plans to increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

“On Earth Day, it is appropriate to stop and realize that this world is blanketed in enough clean, non-polluting energy from the sun in one day to power our world for a full year,” said Jeanne Fox, president of the Board of Public Utilities.

“Harnessing that energy can change our world for the better," said Fox. "In New Jersey, we know about changing our world - with our favorite son Tom Edison having invented a way for us to hold electricity in our hands. Over the years, we at BPU have helped to finance the development of that system. We helped to change the world. We are now helping to finance a way to hold the electricity generator in your hand with solar photoelectric systems and again change our world for the better.”

The fast growth of solar energy in New Jersey is no accident. The BPU Office of Clean Energy offers rebates to homes and businesses that install solar panels to help defray the initial costs of installation.

Solar energy has been adopted by many different types of users over the past few years, including farms, churches, schools, large corporations, small businesses, and residential homes. Thanks to that support, the BPU Office of Clean Energy recently received their 1,000th application for a solar energy installation.

Another reason for success is the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires power companies to purchase Renewable Energy Credits from solar energy to diversify their energy sources and increase the amount of clean energy in New Jersey’s electricity mix.

“Clean energy like solar power benefits our environment and fuels our economy with renewable energy sources at stable prices. New Jersey must now build on our success by ramping up our clean energy standards to 20 percent of our use by 2020,” said Emily Rusch, Energy Advocate for NJPIRG.

A recent study by the Rutgers Center for Energy Economics and Environmental Policy found that a 20 percent Clean Energy Standard would lead to negligible, if any, increased costs for electricity, and a variety of economic and environmental benefits, including up to 11,700 new jobs in the state.

Growing companies like The Sun Farm Network are examples of growth that has already occurred. “The extension and expansion of the RPS requirements to 20 percent by 2020, builds on the critical regulatory mechanism that recognizes the real societal benefit of solar energy economically," said Pamela Frank from The Sun Farm Network in Flemington. It creates jobs, cleans the air, diversifies our energy supply…it just makes sense.”

“Farmers are embracing solar energy because renewable energy is a natural fit for a farm, and it matches well to those who already have a commitment to the land. In addition, the financial incentives make solar energy a smart business decision for farms,” said Pete Furey from the New Jersey Farm Bureau.

Religious groups are putting up solar panels on their houses of worship, including recent installation at a Lutheran Church in Mendham.

“People of faith believe that using solar power is a way to protect the good Earth that God has given us," said Fletcher Harper of Green Faith in Trenton. "We are called to be stewards of creation, and that’s what solar power is all about."

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Massachusetts Enviros Warn Dirty Water Nothing to Celebrate

BOSTON, Massachusetts, April 22, 2005 (ENS) - Earth Day concerts, festivals, and cleanups help raise awareness about protecting the Earth, but a group of environmentalists says Massachusetts is not really doing its part, citing the state’s failure to protect water resources. The group observed that Massachusetts' investment in the environment has fallen to 48th among the 50 states.

“We host the largest Earth Day gathering in the nation, and yet we rank near the bottom nationwide on environmental spending. Despite the importance of Earth Day, that does make it a little difficult for a Massachusetts resident to be overjoyed,” said James McCaffrey, Director of the Sierra Club of Massachusetts.

Advocates for Wetlands and Watersheds (AWW), a group that includes national, state, and local conservation groups, said that fewer than 10 percent of the Commonwealth’s rivers are known to be safe for swimming, wading, boating and fishing.

“The majority of Massachusetts waters have not even been assessed for their water quality, and many of those that have been assessed are unsafe for recreation,” said the New England Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Kyla Bennett, a biologist and attorney who formerly worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Advocates say there has been very little progress in assessing and cleaning up the state’s lakes and rivers in recent years. While much industrial pollution was reduced following the first Earth day, 35 years ago, progress has slowed in recent years.

The Commonwealth continues to face ongoing contamination from decades of undetected and undeterred industrial discharges in a number of rivers, but today a larger portion of the state’s surface water bodies are being polluted from non-point sources.

These non-point sources, which include contaminated stormwater runoff, pesticides and herbicides from yards and fields, and fecal coliform bacteria often associated with illicit sewer connections and broken sewer pipes, are more difficult than industrial wastes to trace and remediate.

To compound this issue, the environmental agencies mandated to monitor and prevent such contamination of the state’s water resources are unable to keep up with the growing pollution problems because of the drop in the resources available to them, impairing their ability to do even minimal assessments.

Jessica Stephens Siler, Environmental Advocate for the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said, “The legislature and the current administration have continued to decrease the funding for environmental agencies; the very agencies directed to protect our natural resources.” As a result of these funding cuts, key programs to protect water quality in rivers and lakes have been jeopardized.

  • Only 9 percent of Massachusetts rivers and streams are known to be safe for all their intended uses, such as fishing and swimming, compared with a national average of nearly 60 percent;
  • Sixty percent of sampled river miles in Massachusetts have one or more water quality problems;
  • Seventy-eight percent of the Commonwealth’s rivers have not even been assessed for water quality; and
  • Only 20 percent of the Commonwealth’s lakes are known to be safe for swimming and fishing.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which handles water monitoring, wetlands and watershed protection, and enforcement and compliance of environmental regulations, has lost over a quarter of its staff in the last three years. With the budget cuts and loss of staff at DEP, the most basic management and protection of the state’s water resources are jeopardized, Siler said.

“The state’s own data paint a dark and murky picture of water quality in Massachusetts,” said Siler. “When it comes to our rivers and lakes, what we don’t know can hurt us.”

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Verizon Wireless Recycles, Donates Thousands of Phones

BEDMINSTER, New Jersey, April 22, 2005 (ENS) - On Earth Day 2005, Verizon Wireless wants to encourage customers and employees to do their part to contribute to the protection of the Earth.

"Respect is an important part of our employee credo, including respect for the environment," said Denny Strigl, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless. "At Verizon Wireless, we understand the importance of being a good corporate citizen and we have made it a priority to offer customers environmentally friendly alternatives that make it easy for them to recycle and conserve resources."

Verizon Wireless recognizes the importance of recycling wireless devices and accessories that are no longer used to help ensure a cleaner environment for future generations. Since 2001, Verizon Wireless' national HopeLine phone re-use and recycling program has collected nearly two million wireless phones donated by Verizon Wireless customers, keeping more than 200 tons of waste electronics and batteries out of landfills.

Each year as consumers upgrade to new wireless phones, millions of phones are retired. HopeLine provides an environmentally safe solution for disposing of these phones.

After these old phones and accessories from any wireless service provider are collected at local Verizon Wireless Communications stores across the country, they are refurbished or recycled in an environmentally safe way.

As part of the HopeLine program, refurbished phones are donated to victims of domestic violence and non-profit advocacy agencies.

In 2004 alone, HopeLine generated 750,000 phones, donated by customers of all wireless providers; 140,000 phones recycled in an environmentally safe way; and donated 11,000 phones to shelters and victims.

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