AmeriScan: April 9, 2007

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Bush Appeals Against Reinstatement of Roadless Rule

WASHINGTON, DC, April 9, 2007 (ENS) - The Bush administration today filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the court's February 7, 2007 judgment that affirmed the status of legal protections for inventoried roadless areas in national forests.

The notice of appeal, signed by U.S. Justice Department attorney Barclay Samford, was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. It gave no grounds for the appeal nor was the reasoning behind the appeal stated.

On September 20, 2006, Judge Elizabeth Laporte, Magistrate for the U.S. District Court for Northern California, ruled that the administration illegally repealed the Roadless Rule, issued in the final weeks of the Clinton administration that protected 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas from road-building, logging, mining and other development.

The judge set aside the Bush administration's 2005 State Petitions Rule, which required state governors to present plans for their roadless areas to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval. She reinstated the 2001 Roadless Rule nationwide, except in the Tongass National Forest.

On November 29, 2006, Judge Laporte issued an injunction halting all activities inconsistent with the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. In her injunction, Judge Laporte stated that because the 2001 rule had been repealed illegally, all projects in roadless areas inconsistent with that rule are also illegal and must be halted.

On February 6, 2007 Judge Laporte issued her final injunction, clarifying that the injunction extended to oil and gas drilling permits as well as leases issued since May 2005. This final judgment also enjoined the U.S. Forest Service from taking any further action contrary to the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

Interested stakeholders had 60 days to file an appeal. The appeal period expired today.

"Americans have repeatedly called for the protection of these last wild forests, but those pleas have fallen on deaf ears," said Robert Vandermark, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign.

"The courts have found the administration's repeal of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule to be illegal, but the Bush administration refuses to acquiesce," Vandermark said. "A national policy protecting all of America's roadless national forests is the best way to preserve these last wild places."

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Manatee Protections to Be Cut Despite Record Death Toll

WASHINGTON, DC, April 9, 2007 (ENS) - The Florida manatee will lose its protections as a federal endangered species under a new plan being prepared by the Bush administration, according to an internal document released today by the Save the Manatee Club and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER.

According to a March 26, 2007 briefing paper from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service labeled "White House Report," the Service is preparing a recommendation to downgrade or "downlist" the manatee from its present "endangered" status to "threatened" under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

This change will reduce protections against the killing of manatees and facilitate construction of more marinas and other development in coastal manatee habitat areas.

The Service is completing its five year review for the manatee and anticipates releasing the document by April 16.

Todd Willens, a newly appointed deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks, is piloting the five year status review and listing downgrade for the manatee.

Prior to his appointment, Willens was policy director for former U.S. Representative Richard Pombo, a California Republican who unsuccessfully sought legislative changes to weaken the Endangered Species Act and was defeated in the 2006 election.

"A federal reclassification at this time could undermine our chances of securing the manatee's future in the face of exploding human population growth and shrinking aquatic habitat in Florida," said Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist who is Save the Manatee Club's executive director.

"With the price of coastal land skyrocketing, regulations protecting manatees are seen as standing in the way of even more extensive development of Florida's coastline," Rose said.

"As we enter the lame duck stretch of the Bush administration, there will be more of these efforts to circumvent Congress by using the administrative process to undermine the laws they cannot repeal," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to recently exposed Bush administration plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act by a series of regulations.

The 417 manatee deaths recorded in 2006 was an all-time high fatality total, following a near-record fatality year in 2005.

Yet the "White House Report" states that in Florida, "manatees are exhibiting positive growth rates and high adult survival rates along the entire east coast and in the northwest region; however, there is still uncertainty about the status of manatees in the southwest region of the state." There is no information on growth rates and adult survival rate for manatee population in Puerto Rico. However, the population is considered at least stable."

Conservationists fear that the federal downlisting will threaten manatee survival at an what Rose calls an "unstable" period.

The legal basis for boat speed restrictions, already unevenly enforced, will be weakened by the new Bush plan. Speedboat collisions and propeller maiming are already the major cause of manatee deaths.

A new and ongoing outbreak of red tide threatens manatees, and will be made worse by human population growth. The destruction of the manatee's aquatic habitat to make way for new coastal development is occurring now.

"This is another case of the scientists being run over by the combined political weight of the Florida homebuilder, marina and recreational boating lobbies," said Ruch.

In addition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is poised to downgrade the protected status of the manatee under state law, despite having determined that the combined threats could result in the loss of 50 percent of the manatee population in the next 45 years.

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Enviros Join Court Battle Over Michigan Invasive Species Law

DETROIT, Michigan, April 9, 2007 (ENS) - As shipping interests seek to strike down the Great Lakes Region's first law to protect boaters, anglers, and swimmers from invasive species, three conservation organizations today announced they will intervene in the court battle.

The Michigan United Conservation Clubs, National Wildlife Federation, and Alliance for the Great Lakes today filed a motion to intervene in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The groups are seeking to defend a Michigan law intended to protect the Great Lakes from discharges of invasive species by oceangoing ships.

Comprehensive federal legislation to stop the introduction of invasive species has languished in the U.S. Congress. So in 2005 the state of Michigan passed a law requiring oceangoing vessels to obtain a permit to discharge ballast water.

Interests for the oceangoing ships sued the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Attorney General on March 15 to overturn the law.

Donna Stine, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said, "The shipping industry's lawsuit is an attack on the right of Michigan's citizens to protect themselves from invasive species. That is unconscionable, and we won't stand for it."

The No. 1 pathway for non-native aquatic species to enter the Great Lakes is through ballast discharge from oceangoing vessels originating in foreign ports.

Since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, one new aquatic non-native species has been discovered in the Great Lakes every 28 weeks. Since 1970, 77 percent of the invasions - 36 of 47 - are attributable to transoceanic shipping activities.

"What's wrong with this picture?" asked Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office. "The shipping industry brings zebra mussels and dozens of other harmful organisms into the Great Lakes and spreads a deadly fish virus through the lakes. Now it's suing us - Michigan citizens - to stop us from defending our rivers and lakes and the Great Lakes themselves. Well, we're fighting back, and that's why we've gone to court."

Invasive species such as the zebra mussel, discharged into the Great Lakes via oceangoing vessels, have caused enormous ecological and economic damage. They outcompete native species such as lake perch, whitefish, and others for food and habitat. Recent federal research suspects a connection between zebra mussels and algae, which can have toxic effects on human health.

Invasive species cost the Great Lakes region $5 billion annually in damage and control costs, according to the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy released in December 2005.

"Citizens from around the region are paying billions of dollars annually," said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "It's time for oceangoing ships to start paying for their own damage to the region. The average person shouldn't pay for the shippers' failure to innovate to fix this problem that they've known about for decades."

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EPA Fines Clorox for Violating Federal Pesticide Laws

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 9, 2007 (ENS) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint seeking $177,300 against The Clorox Company for the alleged distribution within the United States of unregistered and mislabeled disinfectant bleach intended only for Asian export.

The EPA is seeking a penalty from The Clorox Company, located in Oakland for distributing export-only unregistered pesticides within the United States.

The disinfectants contained Chinese and English labeling, without adequate directions for use and lacked the required statement: "Not Registered for Use in the United States of America."

"Companies must ensure that all pesticides meant solely for export do not enter into the U.S. market," said Enrique Manzanilla, the EPA's Community and Ecosystems Division director for the Pacific Southwest.

"Selling or distributing unregistered, mislabeled pesticides is a serious violation that can result in harm to public health and the environment," he said.

Discrepancies identified in The Clorox Company's 2005 pesticide production report led EPA enforcement officials to conduct a detailed investigation that uncovered 38 violations of federal pesticide law.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act requires companies that produce export-only unregistered pesticides, including disinfectants, to report that production annually.

These unregistered pesticides must be marked with the required labeling to prevent the products from inadvertently entering the U.S. market.

These requirements protect public health and the environment by ensuring safe and effective handling, application, and disposal of pesticides, and by preventing false, misleading, or unverifiable product claims. The law also prohibits marketing of misbranded, improperly labeled, or adulterated pesticides.

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Sierra Club Opposes Kansas Coal Ash Landfill Expansion

KANSAS CITY, Kansas, April 9, 2007 (ENS) - The Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed formal comments with the state of Kansas Friday calling for more study of the new combustion waste landfill that will serve Sunflower Electric's 2100 MW power plant expansion at Holcomb, Kansas.

The project is an expansion of an existing landfill, which serves the 360 MW Holcomb 1 coal fired power plant.

The permit application and associated documents show that the company plans to amass some 540 million cubic feet of coal ash, water treatment sludge and scrubber residues only a mile from the Arkansas River. It will rise to a height of 80 feet and measure more than half a mile on each side.

In June of 2006 the ownership of this facility was transferred from Sunflower Electrical Cooperative to a new corporation called Holcomb Common Facilities LLC, which is also the permit applicant. The landfill is located in Finney County, Kansas.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Bureau of Waste Management has detected arsenic, chloride, cadmium, lead and mercury in groundwater down gradient from fly ash industrial landfills elsewhere in Kansas.

The design of this waste landfill expansion does not include an impermeable, synthetic liner. Instead it the current design calls for an "insitu" liner consisting of compacted ash. The applicant is relying on the waste materials to absorb water, "set up" like cement and reduce percolation of precipitation.

The site of the landfill is over a state-designated sensitive groundwater area, and what the Kansas Geological Survey describes as highly permeable sand dunes.

The Sierra Club ojects to the landfill because the design fails to require an adequate cap and impermeable liner under the waste to protect the underlying Ogallala aquifer over the long term.

The dump site adds to an existing landfill that has been operated for 20 years with the monitoring wells in the wrong location, and therefore insufficient data is available to assess pollutant migration, the comments state.

The waste material will never break down but could leach into a vulnerable and important ground water resource. The Ogallala is the area's primary source of public drinking water, and water for agricultural and industrial purposes.

Experts retained by the Sierra Club feel that laboratory tests may underestimate the rate of percolation and they have questioned what will happen after the owner is no longer required to maintain the facility, after the vegetative cover dries up and cracks, and erosion accelerates percolation of tainted water down into the aquifer and perhaps the river.

Sunflower Electric has bought up agricultural water rights in the area and will be diverting this water as supply for the expanded power plant.

Sierra Club says a hydro-geological study should be performed to determine what effect this change will have on the movement of groundwater under and near the site. The risk to all public and private drinking water wells in the area needs to be assessed.

The applicant also should evaluate a scenario where all pumping ceases at this site, the Sierra Club argues. It is possible that the Holcomb power complex could be shut down earlier than anticipated if it becomes uneconomic due to increasing carbon dioxide regulation.

"In light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on CO2 last Monday and the announcement yesterday that Sunflower is already thinking of scaling its project back, it's clear that coal is a bad investment," said Earthjustice attorney Nick Persampieri.

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California's Temperature Rising

LOS ANGELES, California, April 9, 2007 (ENS) - Average temperatures in California rose nearly two degrees Fahrenheit during the second half of the 20th century, according to a new study by scientists at NASA and California State University, Los Angeles.

Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena teamed with Steve LaDochy of California State to investigate California air temperature patterns from 1950 to 2000.

They analyzed data from more than 330 state weather stations, looking for patterns of climate warming and cooling in each of the state's seven major climatic subregions.

Their goal was to shed new light on the relative roles humans and natural climate events play in affecting California regional temperatures.

The scientists found great variation in temperature patterns throughout the state. Average temperatures increased in 54 percent of the stations studied, with changes in land use produced by human activities seen as the most likely cause.

The largest temperature increases were seen in the state's urban areas, led by Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area.

Rural, non-agricultural regions warmed the least. The Central Valley warmed slowest, while coastal areas warmed faster, and the southeast desert warmed most quickly of all.

The only area to cool was a narrow band of the state's rural northeast interior.

Patzert said the increased rate of minimum temperatures has led to narrower daily temperature ranges throughout the state.

"California nights are heating up, giving us a jump start on hotter days," said Patzert. "This is primarily due to increased urbanization, not increases in cloudiness or precipitation. Rainfall and snowfall didn't increase significantly for most California stations during the study period."

"California's complex topography and large latitude range give it some of the most diverse microclimates in North America," said LaDochy. "Climate change models and assessments often assume global warming's influence here would be uniform. That is not the case."

Factors contributing to California's temperature trends include urbanization, population, Pacific Ocean conditions and elevation, the researchers said.

They found a strong correlation between air temperatures and Pacific coastal sea surface temperatures. The Pacific temperatures warmed 0.09 degrees Celsius (0.16 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade during the study, about half the amount the state warmed overall during that time.