AmeriScan: April 4, 2006

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Maryland to Join Eastern States in Regulating Carbon Dioxide

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, April 4, 2006 (ENS) - The Maryland General Assembly gave final approval Friday to the Maryland Heathy Air Act, which requires the state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a group of eastern states committed to regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. CO2 is the most prevalent greenhouse gas linked to global warming.

After a two-year campaign led by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and a coalition of other environmental, faith, and health groups, the so-called "4-pollutant, or 4-P" bill passd by veto-proof majorities in both Maryland houses. Aides to Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., a Republican, say the governor does not intend to veto the bill.

"Maryland leaders took a historic step today in acknowledging the crisis of global warming and deciding to do something about it," said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. "While leaders in Washington say carbon reductions are impossible, the capital itself now borders a region stretching from Maryland to Maine where reductions are in fact happening."

Passage of the "4-P" bill in Maryland was accomplished due to grassroots activism, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) says.

Two years ago, the bill was dead due to opposition by the utilities. But in the summer of 2004, CCAN made the bill its top priority in terms of grassroots education and organizing in Maryland. The group's members engaged in a media exchange with the utilities over the merits of the bill and the rising threat of global warming.

In November 2004, six CCAN activists, including executive director Tidwell, drew attention to the issue when they were arrested while blocking the entrance to one of Maryland's coal-fired power plants.

Soon after this action, a leading Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland endorsed the billl. A second candidate, the Democratic mayor of Baltimore, later followed suit.

In the fall of 2005, after more grassroots pressure spearheaded by CCAN, Governor Ehrlich unveiled a regulatory "3-pollutant" plan that would reduce sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury.

Tidwell says, "This then compelled Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly to "one-up" the governor by passing a full "4-P" bill that included carbon dioxide reductions."

No state in America has passed legislation that reduces all four power-plant pollutants so steeply. "It is our hope," said CCAN, that "the other states will now follow Maryland's lead and that the federal government will quickly supercede all such efforts with its own tough and comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction measures."

The carbon dioxide component of the bill, opposed by all the Maryland utilities, mandates that the state take all necessary steps to join the RGGI process.

Under the RGGI, Maryland will reduce by 10 percent the CO2 emissions from its coal-fired power plants in accordance with the model rule established by Maine, New York, New Hamspire, Vermont, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey.

On March 23, the RGGI participating states released a draft version of a model set of regulations for public comment. This model rule details the proposed program, and once finalized, will form the basis of individual state regulatory and/or statutory proposals to implement the program.

To view the RGGI model rule, visit: http://www.rggi.org/modelrule.htm

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Court Orders Klamath Water Released for Salmon

OAKLAND, California, April 4, 2006 (ENS) - A federal court has ruled that the Bush administration cannot continue to withhold water flows in the Klamath River from salmon in dry years. The court sided with fishing and conservation groups seeking a more balanced distribution of water needed to rebuild Klamath River salmon stocks.

On March 27, District Judge Saundra Armstrong ordered the federal Bureau of Reclamation to provide river flows needed for threatened coho salmon now, instead of waiting for five more years to pass.

The order came as a closure of the 2006 fishing season was proposed by federal authorities due to low salmon populations.

“This order will help prevent the kinds of closures we’re seeing this year and last year and help make the Klamath River a healthier place for salmon,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA). PCFFA is the west coast’s largest organization of commercial fishing families.

“This is good news for the whole basin, as it brings some much needed water stability, and farmers and fishermen can plan accordingly,” Spain said.

The court’s order, which sets a floor for minimum water flows for salmon, comes during a year of high snowpack and cautiously optimistic water forecasts for the Klamath. “The whole basin is benefiting from the wet weather, but we stand ready to help make any changes as smooth as possible for both farming and fishing communities,” said Spain.

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), which represents farmers and ranchers, says charges that the current administration has changed water management policy by allocating more water to agriculture are "simply not true."

"More water has been provided for flows in the Klamath River under the current administration than under the previous administration," KWUA says.

KWUA says its farmer and rancher members have been unfairly blamed for the lack of salmon. Between 2002-2005 farmers and ranchers have contributed between 20,000 acre-feet and 100,000 acre-feet of water to the Klamath River system through the environmental water bank program, KWUA says. "2006 marks the second straight year where the Project will not use 100,000 acre-feet of water originally intended for irrigation purposes."

“This case affirms that fish need water, and they need more water than they’ve been getting,” said Bob Hunter of WaterWatch. “There’s a water crisis in the Klamath basin, and it’s not going to be solved until water use is brought back into balance with what is sustainable.”

Because Klamath River coho are protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service must approve any irrigation plan devised by the Bureau of Reclamation that relies on taking water from the Klamath River.

In May 2002, the Fisheries Service held that the bureau’s plan would jeopardize the continued survival of the Klamath River coho, but failed to require adequate measures to protect the salmon. Five months after the plan was adopted, in the fall of 2002, low water flows killed about 70,000 adult salmon. Juvenile fish kills linked to low river flows continue to occur every spring in the Klamath River.

“Today a court told the Bush administration to strike a better balance so it doesn’t kill all the salmon in the river,” said Tim McKay of Northcoast Environmental Center. “This order will help make sure that downstream communities that depend on salmon aren’t left high and dry.”

“It’s time for the federal agencies to stop making excuses and start working to protect salmon in the Klamath,” said Kristen Boyles of Earthjustice. “The Klamath was once the third mightiest salmon-producing river in the continental U.S. This river can produce healthy salmon runs once again, and we intend to see that it does.”

The case was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of PCFFA, Institute for Fisheries Resources, The Wilderness Society, WaterWatch of Oregon, Northcoast Environmental Center, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Klamath Forest Alliance, and Headwaters.

In the district court, these groups were joined by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Napa) and the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes; amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs were filed by the Cities of Arcata and Eureka, Del Norte, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties, and the Humboldt Bay, Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

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International Paper Sells Millions of Acres of Forestlands

STAMFORD, Connecticut, April 4, 2006 (ENS) - International Paper today announced agreements with two separate investor groups under which it will sell a total of 5.1 million acres of forestlands for a total of $6.1 billion.

The sale of forestlands is part of International Paper's previously announced transformation plan to focus on uncoated papers and industrial and consumer packaging.

Under one of the agreements announced today, International Paper will sell 3.8 million acres of forestlands located across the southern U.S. and 440,000 acres in Michigan to an investor group led by Resource Management Service, LLC (RMS) for approximately $5 billion in cash and notes.

Under a separate agreement, International Paper will sell approximately 900,000 acres of forestland in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas to an investor group led by TimberStar for $1.1 billion in cash and notes.

Upon closing these sales and the sales to conservation groups that were announced last week, International Paper will have sold 5.4 million acres, or approximately 85 percent, of its U.S. forestland holdings, and will have realized proceeds of approximately $6.5 billion. The company believes these combined transactions represent the largest private forestland sale in U.S. history.

International Paper, The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund have agreed to protect 218,000 acres of forestlands across 10 states in the single largest private land conservation sale in the history of the South, and one of the largest in the nation.

The Nature Conservancy will acquire more than 173,000 acres in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Conservation Fund will acquire more than 5,000 acres in Florida and 500 in North Carolina. The two groups will jointly purchase an additional 39,000 acres in South Carolina.

International Paper will receive $300 million for the land at closing, which is expected to occur in the next several months.

Some of International Paper's most ecologically important lands are included in the sale. The majority of the land will remain working forests. Under the terms of the agreement, timber will be sustainably harvested from some tracts and a set amount of timber volume will be supplied to International Paper for local production. Sensitive areas will continue to be set aside from harvesting.

The biodiversity and ecological importance of the parcels included in the project reflect International Paper's sustainable management of its working forests, the company said. Many of the parcels are inhabited by bald eagles, black bears and endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers.

The majority of lands being acquired by the conservation groups are located along rivers and estuaries, such as the Perdido River on the border of Florida and Alabama, the Lower Roanoke River in North Carolina, and the Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee Rivers in South Carolina.

"This historic transaction demonstrates the compatibility of environmental, recreational and economic interests, and is a testimony to International Paper's legacy of sustainably managing healthy, working forestlands and protecting special forestlands for 108 years," said John Faraci, International Paper chairman and chief executive officer. "As we consider the sale of our U.S. land holdings, we saw this as an important opportunity to protect in perpetuity many of our most ecologically significant lands."

Steve McCormick, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, said, "The South's landscape is changing before our eyes. It is only through partnerships among state and federal agencies, companies like International Paper, private landowners and nonprofit organizations that we can hope to conserve the South's natural heritage and quality of life."

International Paper is still exploring the sale of 300,000 acres, principally in New York. IP's remaining acreage, about 830,000 acres primarily in the South, will be retained by the company and some may be later sold to maximize the value of the land, the company said.

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Motorized Recreation Groups Granted Status in Roadless Lawsuits

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 4, 2006 (ENS) - A coalition of motorized recreation groups has been granted the status of parties before the court in the latest round of lawsuits addressing management of U.S. Forest Service roadless areas.

In an order issued on March 31, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte partially granted intervention in the cases to the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, and the BlueRibbon Coalition.

The court granted the recreational groups full party status in any "remedy phase" of the cases, finding that the groups "do claim general interests in the use and enjoyment of roadless areas..." and that "the input of the [groups] could assist the Court in fashioning relief, if any."

"We are pleased with this outcome and the Court's acknowledgement that these organizations have a potential role in this litigation," said Paul Turcke, the Boise, Idaho, attorney serving as lead counsel for the recreational groups.

The lawsuits at issue were brought by the states of California, Oregon and New Mexico and a coalition of environmental organizations led by the Wilderness Society.

Both consolidated cases are being heard in the U.S. Northern District of California and seek to have the 2005 Bush Administration Roadless Rule declared invalid and to reinstate the 2001 Clinton Administration Roadless Rule.

The state of Washington has moved to intervene in the case as a plaintiff, and the state of Montana has filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting the plaintiffs, effectively declaring the support of these states for 2001 Rule.

While the 2001 Roadless Rule was challenged in at least 10 lawsuits in courts across the country, no party other than the recreational groups has moved to obtain intervenor status on the side of the Bush administration defendants and in support of the Forest Service's 2005 Rule.

Both sides are filing motions in the case, which are scheduled for oral arguments on July 25, 2006.

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Recycling Pays Off for 200 Pennsylvania Communities

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, April 4, 2006 (ENS) - Pennsylvania has awarded $3.6 million in recycling performance grants to 200 communities for their recycling efforts in 2004.

“Pennsylvania is a national leader in recycling, and we will continue to support the community efforts and innovations that make that possible,” said Governor Edward Rendell, announcing the awards on Monday.

“Recycling programs across the commonwealth are helping to keep our environment clean and provide a growing source of raw materials for manufacturers across the state,” Governor Rendell said.

“The simple act of separating recyclable materials from trash, repeated in millions of Pennsylvania homes and businesses, has a profound impact on our environment and our economy," he said.

Governor Rendell noted an innovative contracting practice some of the performance grant recipients in Chester County are using to increase the financial sustainability of their local recycling programs. Upper Uwchlan, Uwchlan and West Bradford townships, along with eight other Chester County municipalities, are participating in the Chester County Solid Waste Authority’s processing and marketing contract.

The contract enables the municipalities to be paid for the recyclable materials collected from their residents, based on an index of current recycled commodity prices.

“Through innovations such as Chester County’s revenue-sharing contracts, and through technology and processing improvements spurred by commonwealth investments, Pennsylvania will continue to be a national leader with a recycling industry that helps to drive our economy,” the governor said.

By the numbers, Pennsylvania’s recycling industry is big. More than 3,247 recycling and reuse businesses and organizations generate more than $18.4 billion in gross annual sales and provide jobs for more than 81,322 employees at an annual payroll of approximately $2.9 billion.

These businesses add more than $305 million in taxes to the state treasury.

In 2004, nearly 4.8 million tons of waste was recovered in Pennsylvania. The economic value of remaking that waste into new and useful products exceeded $113 million.

Communities avoided more than $259 million in disposal costs based on the estimated statewide average disposal cost of $54 per ton.

Pennsylvania’s recyclers save energy, reduce air and water pollution, and limit the need for virgin materials in manufacturing.

Recycling reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 2.1 million metric tons of carbon equivalents per year - equal to six percent of all industrial carbon equivalent emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the state and 2.6 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions.

The state’s recycling programs are supported by a $2 tipping fee on each ton of waste deposited in Pennsylvania landfills. But the fee runs only through 2008. Governor Rendell is working with the Legislature to extend that deadline.

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California Oil Storage Company Fined for Three Spills

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 4, 2006 (ENS) - The bulk petroleum storage company IMTT-Richmond-CA has agreed to pay $157,500 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and $85,507 to the California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response related to oil spills into the Santa Fe Channel, which flows into San Francisco Bay.

The three spills, which released a total of 8,600 gallons of oil into the environment, occurred between June 2002 and July 2004 at the company’s oil storage and transfer facility in Richmond. This facility can store more than 28 million gallons of oil in aboveground tanks.

The EPA discovered the violations during a September 2003 inspection.

In addition to the spills, which are violations of the federal Clean Water Act and both the California Government Code and the Fish and Game Code, the company did not have adequate secondary containment to prevent oil spills as required by both state and federal laws.

“Oil spills can cause serious environmental harm to the fragile ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay,” said Keith Takata, the director of the EPA’s Superfund division for the Pacific Southwest region. “It’s critical that facilities have adequate oil spill plans and effective spill containment in place to prevent accidents, and to lessen environmental impacts caused when accidents occur.”

The EPA’s spill prevention regulations require non-transportation related facilities that store large amounts of oil to have a spill prevention plan that addresses the facility's design, operation, and maintenance procedures to prevent spills from occurring. Both State and federal laws also require such facilities to develop oil spill contingency plans that specify, in detail, the actions to be taken in response to any oil spill.

“When oil is repeatedly spilled in a waterway, there are cumulative effects which can hinder the recovery of the ecosystem,” OSPR’s Acting Administrator Lisa Curtis said. “Improvements have been made on-site in an effort to minimize any future incidents at this facility.”

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White House Screens Cousteau's "Voyage to Kure"

WASHINGTON, DC, April 4, 2006 (ENS) - Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and leaders in the state’s efforts to protect Hawaii’s environment and ocean resources will be guests at a White House screening of “Voyage to Kure,” a documentary film following the journey of ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands chain.

First Lady Laura Bush, joined by Cousteau and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will host two screenings on Wednesday, one at the White House and one at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Mrs. Bush’s interest in viewing the documentary came after hearing of the spectacular natural beauty and marine life of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) from Jim Connaughton, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Last December, he accompanied Lingle and Cousteau on a visit to Midway Atoll, part way up the island chain, which ends at Kure Atoll, the farthest point northwest.

“We are grateful to Mrs. Bush for wanting to learn more about the valuable natural resources of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” said Lingle. “I’m especially pleased that through her invitation to this special White House screening, Mrs. Bush is recognizing the tremendous efforts of many people in Hawaii who have dedicated their lives to protecting our environment and our oceans.”

“Voyage to Kure” will lead off the first season of Cousteau’s new Ocean Adventures series, following Cousteau and his team on their 32 day expedition to the 1,200 mile long chain of islands and atolls that form one of the most remote places on earth. The pristine ecosystem is inhabited by endangered monk seals, sea turtles and millions of sea birds as well as large, healthy fish populations.

Produced by Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society and Public Broadcasting System affiliate KQED of San Francisco, the two-part documentary “Voyage to Kure” will air on PBS and KHET on April 5 and 12 at 8:00 pm.

The state of Hawaii, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve have jurisdiction over the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Encompassing 134,576 square miles of area, the reserve is the single largest conservation area – marine or terrestrial - under the U.S. flag. It was established in 2001 by Executive Order of President Bill Clinton to help conserve these extensive, still-healthy coral reef ecosystems.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in the final stages of developing an enviornmental impact statement and management plan that could transform the reserve into the nation's 14th national marine sanctuary.

In September 2005, Governor Lingle established a state marine refuge in the archipelago that set aside all state waters as a limited access, no-take marine protected area. This created the largest marine conservation area in the history of the state, protecting 1,026 square miles of coral reefs from the shoreline to three miles offshore.

The governor supports the sanctuary process and an organized phaseout of commercial fishing in federal waters to make both state and federal waters closed to fishing, which would create the largest protected marine area in the world.

In addition, the Lingle administration is advocating designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a United Nations World Heritage site.

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