AmeriScan: April 13, 2007

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U.S. and Canada to Cut Cross-Border Air Pollution

WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2007 (ENS) - Canada's Environment Minister John Baird and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson, announced today that the two neighbors will start negotiations for an annex to the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement aimed at reducing the cross-border flow of air pollution and its impact on the health and ecosystems of Canadians and Americans.

The U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement, negotiated in 1991, marked a new era of cooperation on air quality. The Particulate Matter Annex would complement the annex negotiated in 2000 addressing ground-level ozone, as well as the original annexes on acid rain and scientific cooperation.

Particulate matter consists of airborne particles in solid or liquid form. The pollutant can be emitted directly at the emissions source, for example, from a smokestack of an electrical power plant or as the result of reactions between chemicals (precursors) as they are transported through the atmosphere.

Numerous studies have linked particulate matter, especially fine particles, to cardiac and respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and to various forms of heart disease.

Recent scientific analysis has shown that joint strategies are needed to address these pollutants. This research, conducted over the last three years, has shown that emissions of particulate matter and its precursors can significantly affect air quality in both countries.

The annex will result in reductions in particulate matter as well as many of the chemicals that contribute to other air quality issues of concern such as acid rain, regional haze and visibility in the communities along the U.S.-Canada border.

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New England States Take Aim at Power Plant Mercury Emissions

LOWELL, Massachusetts, April 13, 2007 (ENS) - For the first time, a group of states is imposing a limit on mercury in regional waters.

In collaboration with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, the six New England states and New York have joined together to set Clean Water Act standards that force a 90 percent reduction in out-of-state mercury pollution from sources including the Midwest's coal-fired power plants.

On Wednesday, the states released their mercury pollution reduction plan under the Clean Water Act through a draft total maximum daily load, TMDL.

The TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet its water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the pollutant's sources.

This TMDL calls for 90 to 95 percent reductions in mercury emissions in Midwest power plants through existing reduction control technology.

The TMDL concludes that implementation of such controls is achievable and cost-effective and should commence immediately.

The states pointed to elevated levels of mercury in fish throughout the region. According to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, 10,175 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, 46,207 river miles, and an additional 25 river segments are listed as impaired, primarily due to atmospheric deposition of mercury.

Each of the New England states and New York has implemented an aggressive mercury reduction program to deal with the severe, widespread mercury pollution in the region.

After public hearings are held in the region, the states will submit the mercury TMDL to Environmental Protect Agency for approval.

Under the Clean Water Act, EPA has 30 days to approve or disapprove the TMDL.

The Conservation Law Foundation, CLF, which has been pressing for the tough, new mercury reductions standards, applauded the move.

"The Bush administration has failed to hold Midwest power plants accountable for the damage they have done to our air, water and soil," said Christopher Kilian, director of CLF's Clean Water and Healthy Forests Program. "Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that is directly impacting the health of New England's people and environment."

Many of the involved states, along with CLF, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's Clean Air Mercury Rule on the grounds that it allows continued excessive emissions of mercury from power plants in the Midwest.

"It's clear that the federal government's mercury reduction plan won't clean up our waters and make our fish safe to eat," said Melissa Hoffer, vice president and director of CLF's New Hampshire Advocacy Center. "Now the New England states and New York are using their legal authority under the Clean Water Act to protect our health and safety from this dangerous, toxic pollution."

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Pennsylvania Offers $31 Million in Clean Energy Grants

SOMERSET, Pennsylvania, April 13, 20007 (ENS) - During a tour of a landfill gas-to-energy project in Somerset County this week, Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty announced that the state will make $31.4 million in grants available to help businesses and organizations develop clean energy and alternative fuel projects.

The project by Johnstown Regional Energy LLC was partly financed by a previous $250,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority. It captures gas from two landfills and processes it into pipeline-quality methane gas.

"Pennsylvania is turning environmental and energy challenges into opportunities for economic development and energy independence," McGinty said. "This landfill gas project captures a potent greenhouse gas and turns it into secure sources of affordable energy for Pennsylvania homes and businesses.

"Alternative energy projects such as this are reducing environmental harm and creating new, domestic energy sources to meet our growing needs," she said.

The grants will be funded through Pennsylvania's three alternative energy development programs up to $16.4 million through the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grants, AFIG, program, including $10 million through the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority, and $5 million in Energy Harvest grants.

By emphasizing investments in ethanol and biodiesel, AFIG supports the PennSecurity Fuels Initiative within Governor Ed Rendell's Energy Independence Strategy.

PennSecurity will require the use of one billion gallons of domestically produced clean and renewable fuels, approximately the amount of fuel Pennsylvanians are expected to buy from the Persian Gulf in 2017. Instead of sending billions of dollars overseas each year, more of these funds will be spent purchasing fuel from Pennsylvania companies and farmers.

s AFIG funding awarded over the past two years will result in the use of 1.5 million gallons of B20, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel, as well as and the production of 33 million gallons of biodiesel through 2008.

Studies show that alternative fuels are cleaner than conventional fuels because they emit little to no particulate matter, less carbon monoxide and fewer of the pollutants that contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog.

Grant funds awarded through AFIG can cover the added cost to purchase E85 ethanol-blended fuels or biodiesel and to install related refueling equipment. Pennsylvania producers of ethanol or biodiesel are eligible for a reimbursement of 5 cents a gallon for up to 12.5 million gallons in a 12-month period.

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Fresno Airport Goes Solar In a Big Way

FRESNO, California, April 13, 2007 (ENS) - The Fresno Yosemite International Airport will soon be partially powered by the largest solar electric project at any airport in the United States.

Mayor Alan Autry said, "This project further establishes Fresno as a national leader amongst municipal governments in the innovative use of renewal energy and protecting the environment."

WorldWater & Power Corp, developer and marketer of proprietary high-power solar systems, has been awarded a 20 year solar electric power purchase contract by the Fresno City Council for the airport solar system.

The two megawatt state-of-the-art solar electric power system will cover about 25 acres and will eventually provide up to 40 percent of the airport's annual power consumption.

In total, Fresno is projected to save nearly $13 million in energy costs over 25 years by installing the solar system.

WorldWater expects to complete the installation by early 2008. Quentin Kelly, chairman and CEO of WorldWater, said, "We are extremely pleased with the decision of Fresno to take advantage of WorldWater's system to maximize energy performance, resulting in long-term savings for the people of California."

Ten airlines currently offer Valley passengers 50 daily departures from Fresno. Fresno Yosemite International is a municipally owned entity operating as a financially self-supporting enterprise.

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Climate Change May Not Encourage Tree Growth

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, April 13, 2007 (ENS) - A glimmer of hope in the grim global warming picture has been scientists' predictions that some carbon dioxide will be removed from the atmosphere by a burst of growth from tropical forests.

But new research from Harvard's Arnold Arboretum questions that prediction. Scientists have found that trees in two forests on opposite sides of the world have been growing slower, not faster, as temperatures have risen over the past 20 years.

Kenneth Feeley, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Tropical Forest Science, a partnership between the arboretum and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, examined tree growth data from forest plots in Panama and Malaysia.

The 50 hectare plots are part of a network of 18 scientific forest plots established by the Center for Tropical Forest Science starting in 1981.

The center studies the trees in each plot, measuring them every five years, creating a database of growth information spanning three million individual trees of more than 6,000 different species.

Feeley examined growth data from the two oldest plots.

"I was surprised at the magnitude and at how widespread it was," Feeley said. "In Malaysia almost every single species was declining in growth. It is very rare that you find anything in these forests consistent across 800 species."

Though the results contradict earlier research in the Amazon that showed tree growth accelerating over the past several decades, Feeley said he does not believe the Amazonian study is incorrect.

Instead, he said, it appears that the Amazonian research can't be easily generalized to tropical forests everywhere and that the effects of rising global temperatures differ regionally.

"All forests are not responding [to climate change] in the same way. I think it's vital that we look at more sites," Feeley said.

The study, conducted with colleagues S. Joseph Wright from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, M.N. Nur Supardi and Abd Rahman Kassim of the Forest Research Institute Malaysia, and Stuart J. Davies of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Center for Tropical Forest Science, is expected to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal "Ecology Letters."

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Sheryl Crow Welcomes Earth Day at Washington National Cathedral

WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2007 (ENS) On Earth Day 2007, Sunday April 22, Grammy-winning singer Sheryl Crow will headline a special Earth Day service at Washington National Cathedral.

Crow will share the stage with national evangelical leader Richard Cizik, vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals.

The Washington National Cathedral is located at Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, NW. The free service will begin at 11 am.

The Earth Day Network says the service is one of hundreds of observances by religious and faith communities nationwide committed to addressing global warming for Earth Day 2007.

"Religious leaders, scientists and environmentalists all find common ground on the need for immediate action on global warming," said Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers.

"This Earth Day, observances nationwide will spread the important message of faith that we must be responsible stewards of our Earth and reduce our contribution to global warming pollution," she said.

In celebration and recognition of Earth Day, Crow will sing the hymn "Morning Has Broken" at the cathedral.

Find Earth Day events listed or post your own at http://www.earthday.net.

Earth Day Network says on its website that it aims "to grow and diversify the environmental movement worldwide, and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle for promoting a healthy, sustainable planet."

This year, the 38th Earth Day will be marked by more than one billion people, making it the largest secular civic event in the world.