AmeriScan: April 12, 2007

* * *

New York City Need Not Filter Drinking Water

NEW YORK, New York, April 12, 2007 (ENS) - To ensure clean drinking water for residents, the city of New York has invested more than $1 billion in watershed protection programs, but now the city will be spared the expense of building a multi-billion dollar water filtration plant - at least for the next 10 years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has waived its filtration requirement for the city since 1993. Today the EPA proposed to continue allowing the city not to filter drinking water from the Catskill/Delaware system for a 10 year period, "provided it continues to ensure the excellent quality of the water from this system."

The city is still required to filter water from another system called the Croton, located in a much more densely populated area. That filtration system will be completed in 2011.

The EPA proposes to require a number of watershed protection enhancements to the city’s plan.

The city has committed $300 million over the next 10 years to purchase and preserve land throughout the Catskill and Delaware watersheds to maintain drinking water quality.

All other programs will be re-evaluated prior to the mid-point of the 10 year waiver in 2012, and revised commitments may be required.

In addition to land acquisition, the city will provide continuing support for wastewater infrastructure initiatives, including residential septic system rehabilitation and maintenance programs.

Upgrades to existing wastewater plants are planned along with completion of ongoing projects for new wastewater treatment plants, three new community wastewater treatment projects, and two new sewer extension projects.

Under EPA and New York State Department of Health supervision, the watershed program to control turbidity will provide a comprehensive engineering report evaluating potential capital improvements, and will develop an implementation plan.

The draft waiver also includes a construction schedule for an ultraviolet light, UV, disinfection plant as ordered by the EPA. This requires UV treatment for the Catskill/Delaware water supply by August of 2012. The city has chosen UV treatment to supplement its existing chlorine disinfection. This additional disinfection barrier will provide enhanced public health protection for consumers.

The EPA welcomes comments from the public on its proposal through May 31, 2007 to Philip Sweeney at:

For more information on the New York City filtration avoidance determination or a copy of the proposed waiver, visit:

* * *

EPA to Probe Public Health Effects of Perchlorate, MTBE

WASHINGTON, DC, April 12, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to investigate the impacts of two water contaminants – perchlorate and MTBE – on human health.

Most of the perchlorate manufactured in the United States is used as the primary ingredient of solid rocket propellant. Wastes from the manufacture and improper disposal of perchlorate-containing chemicals are increasingly being discovered in soil and water.

MTBE is a fuel oxygenate, added to gasoline to make it burn more cleanly. Releases of MTBE to ground and surface water can occur through leaking underground storage tanks and pipelines, spills, emissions from marine engines into lakes and reservoirs.

For those two contaminants, the EPA is providing a summary of current health, occurrence, and exposure information. The agency is seeking comment and additional information from the public to determine if regulation of these chemicals in drinking water would reduce risks to human health.

At the same time, the agency today announced its "preliminary determination" not to regulate 11 contaminants on the second drinking water contaminant candidate list, CCL.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires that the agency issue a CCL every five years for at least five contaminants from the most recent CCL. In 2005, the agency published the second CCL of 51 contaminants.

Based on a review of health effects and occurrence data, the EPA concluded that 11 specific contaminants do not occur at levels of public health concern in public water systems.

The 11 contaminants include naturally occurring substances, pesticides, herbicides and chemicals used in manufacturing now or in the past. They are:

While none of the contaminants were found nationally at levels of public health concern, EPA is recommending that health advisories for seven of the contaminants be updated to provide local officials with current health information for situations where the contaminants may occur.

Learn more about the contaminant candidate list:

EPA will take comments for 60 days following publication of a notice in the Federal Register.

* * *

Chevron, Weyerhaeuser Partner on Cellulosic Biofuels

SAN RAMON, California, April 12, 2007 (ENS) - Oil giant Chevron Corporation and forest products giant Weyerhaeuser Company today announced they will jointly assess commercializing the production of biofuels from cellulose such as wood waste.

The companies will focus on researching and developing technology that can transform wood fiber and other nonfood sources of cellulose into economical, clean-burning biofuels for cars and trucks.

Both partners share the objective of "sustainable commercialization of these fuels at industrial scale," they said today.

Many states are seeking opportunities to diversify fuel sources with secure, renewable, low-carbon and environmentally sustainable alternatives.

Feedstock options include a wide range of materials from Weyerhaeuser's existing forest and mill system and cellulosic crops planted on Weyerhaeuser's managed forest plantations.

The two companies said the partnership reflects their shared view that cellulosic biofuels will fill an important role in diversifying the nation's energy sources by providing a source of low-carbon transportation fuel.

"Chevron is investing in cellulosic biofuels because we believe they will play a role in meeting future energy growth," said Dave O'Reilly, chairman and CEO of Chevron. "This collaboration aligns with our long-term business strategy to accelerate the commercial development of nonfood based biofuels."

The venture utilizes the strengths of both companies, they said.

"Weyerhaeuser takes ideas from the laboratory to the forest and mill to create innovative uses and value from our forest and land resources – in this case, a sustainable source of renewable energy for transportation," said Steven Rogel, the company's chairman, president and CEO.

"Crops created for and dedicated to fuel feedstocks offer the opportunity to augment value creation from our managed forest lands. We are pleased to partner with Chevron to combine the power of our forestlands, knowledge of cellulose technology and legacy of environmental stewardship with Chevron's expertise in energy technology. Working together we can create new, sustainable sources of biofuel."

Both Chevron and Weyerhaeuser already have separate research partnerships under way to accelerate the development of cellulosic biofuels.

Chevron has alliances with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of California at Davis, the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Weyerhaeuser is collaborating with several research universities, national laboratories and technology-based companies in research on conversion of forest products into ethanol and other biofuels.

Ethanol produced from biomass such as forest and agricultural waste does not conflict with food supply sources such as corn and is considered greenhouse gas neutral when derived from sustainable management practices.

"While there are several research and technology hurdles that will need to be addressed before large-scale commercialization of cellulosic feedstocks occurs," the companies said, "we believe this partnership will accelerate the achievement of that reality."

* * *

New Jersey Global Warming Emissions Jump 14 Million Tons

TRENTON, New Jersey, April 12, 2007 (ENS) - Greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey increased by 14 million metric tons between 1990 and 2004, a 13 percent increase, according to "The Carbon Boom," a new analysis of state fossil fuel consumption data released today by Environment New Jersey.

Using data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy, the report examines trends in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption between 1990 and 2004, the most recent year for which state-by-state data are available.

In New Jersey, it documents, carbon dioxide emissions from burning gasoline in cars and SUVs increased by 31 percent between 1990 and 2004, rising from 28.5 million metric tons to 37.5 million metric tons.

New Jersey ranked 6th nationwide for the largest absolute increase in carbon dioxide emissions from motor gasoline onsumption over the 15 year period. Overall, New Jersey ranked 10th nationwide for the most carbon dioxide emissions from motor gasoline consumption in 2004.

"Global warming pollution is increasing in New Jersey just as scientists are sounding alarms that we must rapidly reduce pollution to protect future generations. This report is a wake-up call to cap pollution levels now before it is too late," said Suzanne Leta Liou, global warming and clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey, a statewide citizen environmental advocacy organization.

Environment New Jersey’s report comes immediately after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its consensus report on the current and projected impacts of global warming.

The report warned of increasing droughts, floods, heat waves, water stress, forest fires, and coastal flooding in the United States but concluded that "many impacts can be avoided, reduced, or delayed" by quickly and significantly reducing global warming pollution.

"The release of the Carbon Boom report and its alarming findings of New Jersey’s increased carbon emissions is further proof that New Jersey must act now to stop dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions," said Assemblywoman Linda Stender. "The science is obvious and cannot be ignored. The time to change is now."

Last year, Stender and Senator Barbara Buono. both Democrats, introduced the Global Warming Response Act, legislation to cap New Jersey’s global warming pollution to science-based levels.

The report found that New Jersey’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption grew from 112.1 million metric tons to 126.9 million metric tons between 1990 and 2004, an increase of 13 percent.

Nationwide, emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption increased by 18 percent between 1990 and 2004. Coal-fired power plants and the transportation sector - especially cars and SUVs - drove this emissions increase.

Between 1990 and 2004, vehicle miles traveled in New Jersey increased by 24 percent and the average fuel economy of new vehicles declined by five percent between 1987 and 2005. In 2005, new cars and light trucks achieved only 21 MPG on average, a lower fuel economy average than the new vehicle fleet achieved in 1982.

The United States and New Jersey could cut global warming pollution by using existing technologies to make power plants, businesses, homes, and cars more efficient and increasing the use of clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

"We have the solutions available right now to take decisive action to cut global warming pollution - solutions that will also grow our economy by promoting investment in clean, renewable energy technologies and protecting consumers from rising energy prices," said Liou. "We can solve global warming, and New Jersey can lead the way."

* * *

Litterers Beware Washington State Enforcement Crackdown

SPOKANE, Washington, April 12, 2007 (ENS) - People in Washington state are getting hurt and even killed because of road debris - litter - and the state has had enough. The message to litterers and drivers with unsecured loads is clear - you are being watched and you will be caught and fined.

The fine for throwing a lit cigarette from a vehicle in Washington is $1,025.

The Washington Department of Ecology kicked off its new litter prevention campaign Tuesday in Spokane with the focus of increasing public awareness about the most dangerous litter behavior - driving with unsecured loads and throwing lit cigarettes.

"Litter in Washington is a problem, and it's more than just an eyesore, it's dangerous," said Megan Warfield, who coordinates Ecology's litter program. "Road debris is involved in about 400 vehicle accidents on state highways each year."

This spring, Ecology is teaming with the Washington State Patrol and many other state and local partners in delivering a litter public education and enforcement campaign.

More than 10 million pounds of litter is tossed or flies from vehicles each year.

An estimated 480 million cigarette butts get tossed on Washington roadways each year. Lit cigarettes can - and do - start fires, a special concern in Central Washington.

The Washington State Department of Transportation responds to about 40 brush or grass fires along state highways each year. Responding to roadside fires can cost taxpayers up to $100,000 an acre.

"We will be watching for litterers and we will be writing tickets," said Trooper Jeff Sevigney, working from the State Patrol's Spokane office. "Our patrol officers see firsthand the tragic results of accidents caused by unsecured loads. We are personally motivated to make sure people realize that lives are at stake and littering has dire consequences."

The fine for failing to properly secure a load is $194. If something flies out of a vehicle and causes property damage, the driver may be subject to misdemeanor charges. If someone is injured, the driver may be charged with a gross misdemeanor, which could result in a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

* * *

Don't Laugh - Air Potatos Are Dangerous

ARLINGTON, Virginia, April 12, 2007 (ENS) - Air potatoes were established in the United States in the early 1900s by gardeners who admired their attractive leaves, but the plants soon spread beyond garden borders and are now wreaking havoc on wild lands by displacing native species.

The vining, climbing plant can reach the tops of trees that are 60 feet tall. It is particularly damaging in southern Florida, where it invades and harms pinelands and especially the biologically diverse hardwood hammocks.

Air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera, gets its strange common name because it produces little warty potato-like tubers on its vining stems.

Barry Rice, invasive species specialist for The Nature Conservancy's Global Invasive Species Initiative, says air potatoes are native to Asia and Africa, where they are eaten.

The plant was first sent to Florida in 1905 for evaluation as a horticultural crop. Reports from scientists and horticulturalists warned about how quickly it spread, yet it was promoted as a garden plant, and is still grown by curious gardeners although the strains in the United States are not flavorful. They are bitter and some are potentially poisonous.

air potato

Air potato plants take over a stand of hardwood trees in Florida. (Photo courtesy FDACS)
Once just a problem for Hawaii and Florida, the plant is now spreading along the Gulf Coast and is showing up in other areas too.

The Nature Conservancy coordinates with state agencies, invasive pest plant councils and local groups to halt the further spread of air potato by telling people about this plant's harmful affects.

The conservation group supports the development of legislation passed by states including Florida and Alabama that makes the introduction or possession of these plants unlawful.

Rice advises, "Don’t plant it in your garden, don’t let your loved ones plant it, don’t let your friends plant it! It’s just too damaging to our wild lands."