AmeriScan: April 18, 2007

* * *

Step It Up Movement Grabs Congressional Attention

WASHINGTON, DC, April 18, 2007 (ENS) - On Saturday, April 14, thousands of people across the country rallied to prevent global warming as part of a national day of action on global warming called "Step It Up."

Every group said the same thing: Step it up, Congress! Groups and individuals called on the lawmakers to enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

"On January 10 of this year," McKibben told the legislators, "we launched a website, stepitup07.org, asking people to organize rallies in their communities on April 14 to demand that Congress pledge to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050."

"By 'we' I mean myself and six students who had graduated from Middlebury College, where I teach, in the proceeding six months. We had no money and no organization, and so there was no reason other than our own willingness to work hard to think that we would be able to organize a significant number of protests. Our secret hope was that we might convince people in a hundred locations around the country to schedule demonstrations that day," McKibben said.

"Instead, three days ago, there were rallies in more than 1,350 communities in every state of the Union," he said. "This is not due to our skill as organizers - it is due to the fact that Americans are very eager for real and dramatic action on this issue."

The expressions of urgency on April 14 were as varied as the thousands of people expressing themselves. People formed a "human postcard" on Capitol Hill, spelling out "80% by 2050" with their bodies on the lawn.

In Denver, faith community leaders declared that global warming is a significant moral issue and action is needed now. Participants included the Colorado Council of Churches, Eco-Justice Ministries, Colorado Interfaith Power & Light, Republicans for Environmental Protection, and Environment Colorado.

Over 20 churches participated in the event and reached out to people of different faiths, featuring keynote speaker U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat.

"Congress has a moral imperative to pass solutions to global warming," said DeGette. "Global warming could have enormous consequences for our environment and our people, but if Congress is willing to lead, we can act now to solve this important problem."

DeGette is a sponsor of the Safe Climate Act, which sets a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, the level scientists say is needed to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

"We're gathering as people of faith to stress that global warming is a moral issue, and to speak out of our deep-seated moral principles," said Reverend Peter Sawtell, executive director of Eco-Justice Ministries. "Our political call is for Congress to dramatically cut global warming pollution. Our passion in making that call comes out of our faith."

In New York City, about 1,200 people formed a line across the city's financial district near the tip of Manhattan. Demonstrators wore blue and brought beach balls and scuba gear to show that New York could be inundated if sea levels rise due to melting polar ice sheets.

A group of six concerned ski mountaineers and two journalists climbed to the top of Wyoming's highest point, Gannett Peak standing 13,804 feet tall.

Portland Area Students for Energy Justice stood on top of Oregon's Mt. Hood, drawing attention to the loss of the mountain's glaciers where 30 percent of Oregon's drinking water originates.

People biked together to iconic places, signed petitions, viewed electric cars, marched, rallied, listened to politicians, listened to musicians - all in an effort to tell Congress they want global warming action now.

* * *

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rose in 2005

WASHINGTON, DC, April 18, 2007 (ENS) - U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose from 2004 to 2005, increasing by 0.8 percent, according to the annual national greenhouse gas inventory issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

Primary contributors to this increase, the EPA said, were strong economic growth in 2005, leading to increased demand for electricity and an increase in the demand for electricity due to warmer summer conditions.

These factors were moderated by decreasing demand for fuels due to warmer winter conditions and higher fuel prices.

The inventory tracks annual greenhouse gas emissions at the national level and presents historical emissions from 1990 to 2005. The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere through the uptake of carbon dioxide by forests, vegetation, and soils.

Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2005 were equivalent to 7,260 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

The report indicates that overall emissions have grown by 16 percent from 1990 to 2005, while the U.S. economy has grown by 55 percent over the same period.

While the rest of the world measures the emission of greenhouse gases by the metric ton, the Bush administration measures them as "greenhouse gas intensity" by comparing the amount of emissions to the level of economic growth over the same period of time.

By this standard, says EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the Bush administration is doing the right things for the climate.

"As America's economy continues to grow, our aggressive yet practical strategy is putting us on track to reach President [George W.] Bush's goal to reduce our nation's greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012," Johnson said.

While some Bush administration critics blame the president's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol for the continuing rise in greenhouse gas emissions, others blame population growth.

Were it not for population growth, the United States would be producing lower levels of greenhouse gas than it did in 1990, said Diana Hull, president of Californians for Population Stabilization.

"Since the first Earth Day in 1970, world population has increased from 3.7 billion to 6.6 billion, and the U.S. population has increased from 203 million to 301 million," Hull pointed out.

"Per capita emissions have decreased, but population growth has erased all the gains and then some," she said.

The EPA prepares the annual greenhouse gas inventory in collaboration with experts from multiple federal agencies. This report is the latest in an annual set of reports that the United States submits to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change.

The report, "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2005" is online at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

* * *

Small Nonroad Gas Engines Must Meet New Emissions Limits

WASHINGTON, DC, April 18, 2007 (ENS) - Americans spend a total of more than three billion hours each year using gas powered lawn and garden equipment, which adds up to lots of air pollution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

A push gasoline mower emits as much hourly pollution as 11 cars and a riding mower emits as much as 34 cars, while recreational watercraft can emit as much each hour as 348 cars, the agency says.

The EPA Tuesday proposed a new rule that would reduce emissions from nonroad gasoline powered engines, such as those used in lawn and garden equipment.

The agency says the rule would require an additional 35 percent reduction in smog-forming hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide emissions beyond a 60 percent reduction that finished phasing in last year under an earlier rulemaking.

A reduction in fuel evaporative emissions would also be required for the first time. A 45 percent reduction would be mandated by the new rule.

This proposed rule also includes the first national standards for vessels powered by sterndrive or inboard engines and the first carbon monoxide standards for gasoline powered engines used in recreational watercraft.

The new standards would apply as early as 2011 for most lawn and garden equipment under 25 horsepower and in 2009 for watercraft.

They would not be fully implemented until 2037. Still, that timetable means progress to EPA managers like EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum, who thinks in generational terms.

"From the largest locomotives to the smallest lawn mowers, EPA's current and planned clean air regulations will continue environmental progress, keeping the air cleaner than a generation ago," said Wehrum.

To meet the new exhaust emission standards, manufacturers are expected to use catalytic converters for the first time in many types of small watercraft, lawn, and garden equipment. After rigorous analysis and extensive work with diverse stakeholders, EPA determined that such a strategy was feasible and safe, said Wehrum.

EPA number crunchers estimate the public health benefits of this rule are about $3.4 billion by 2030. These benefits would prevent 450 premature deaths, 500 hospitalizations, and 52,000 work days lost annually, the agency says.

When fully implemented in 2037, the EPA expects that technology needed to meet the standard will have the added benefit of saving about 190 million gallons of fuel annually.

The estimated costs of the new standards range from $9.5 million in 2008 to $620 million in 2037.

These costs are partially offset by estimated annual fuel savings of about $360 million in 2037 once standards are fully in place. As a result, the net cost of the program in each year ranges from $6.4 million in 2008 to $260 million in 2037.

The proposal and information about how to submit comments are at:

  • Lawn and Garden Equipment: epa.gov/otaq/equip-ld.htm
  • Gasoline Boats and Personal Watercraft: epa.gov/otaq/marinesi.htm Public comments on the new rule are welcome through August 3, 2007.

    * * *

    Yakima Youth Hospitalized With Mercury Poisoning

    YAKIMA, Washington, April 18, 2007 (ENS) - Cleanup of mercury contamination in a Yakima neighborhood continues at a south Sixth Street home where liquid mercury was found Sunday in the yard and on the sidewalk.

    A 16 year old boy living at the home has been diagnosed with mercury poisoning. The victim, identified as Fabian Flores was admitted Wednesday to Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.

    The mother told the "Yakima Herald-Republic" her son had been "hallucinating and shaking badly for the past seven months," a degree of mercury poisoning that one expert said was unusual.

    "Even people who work with mercury on a daily basis don't have these sort of problems," said Bill Robertson, medical director of the Washington Poison Center in Seattle. "This guy has had bad tremors ... and hallucinations. He was probably playing with it three times a day for it to be this bad."

    Officials have examined the air in Flores' room and removed some of his possessions for testing before sealing off the house.

    South Sixth Street has been closed off for two blocks in both directions, and Yakima Health District staff are canvassing the neighborhood to determine whether others have been exposed to the mercury.

    Two younger neighbors claimed to have seen the mercury before, and one boy said he played with it regularly for two months.

    Cleanup operations are being coordinated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the Washington State Department of Ecology and Yakima City Fire Department.

    Mercury is toxic and builds up in human body tissue. In young children, exposure to mercury can lead to learning disabilities and damage to the nervous system. In adults, exposure may cause cardiovascular and central nervous system problems.

    Citizens who are concerned that they may have been exposed to mercury are encouraged to contact their personal physician or call the health district's help desk at 249-6508.

    Residents are urged to dispose of mercury or mercury-containing products at the household hazardous waste facility at the Terrace Heights Landfill, 7151 Roza Hill Drive during regular operating hours.

    Products containing mercury should be handled with care when transporting them to the collection site. Place small items in a sealed container and make sure bulbs and tubes are protected from breakage.

    A special collection of mercury is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, April 20-21 at the county hazardous waste collection facility. The Friday collection is for Yakima County businesses and schools only. To register for collection, call 574-2472 or 574-2450. On Saturday collection is open to all Yakima County residents.

    * * *

    EPA Honors Musician Jack Johnson and His Kokua Foundation

    SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 18, 2007 (ENS) - In Hawaiian, "kokua" means to cooperate or help. On Tuesday, the Kokua Hawaii Foundation and its founder Jack Johnson were recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, for their efforts to protect and preserve the Hawaii environment in 2006.

    During the agency's ninth annual Environmental Awards Ceremony in San Francisco EPA Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri honored the popular musician.

    "These organizations have applied creativity, teamwork and leadership in addressing many of the Pacific's most sensitive and complex environmental challenges," Nastri said. "Thanks to their efforts, our air, water and land will be cleaner and safer for generations to come. The winners set an example for all of us to follow."

    Johnson

    Jack Johnson performs each Earth Day at the Kokua Festival. (Photo courtesy Jack Johnson)
    Singer-songwriter and Grammy-award nominee recording artist Jack Johnson has made an impact in Hawaii for promoting environmentally conscious music, enterprises and charitable events, working through the Kokua Hawaii Foundation.

    Johnson grew up on the North Shore of Oahu and founded the non-profit organization to support environmental education programs in Hawaii. All proceeds from the annual Kokua Festival are used to support and expand school recycling on Oahu, sponsor field trips and environmental curriculum, and develop a farm-to-school program.

    The Kokua Festival for Earth Day 2007 on April 21 and 22 features Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Ernie Cruz Jr, Matt Costa and the Girlas. Johnson and his band will headline the two shows at the Waikiki Shell.

    The Kokua Festival aims to reduce its environmental impact by off-setting the festival's emissions, running generators and festival vehicles on bio-diesel, recycling, using biodegradable concession ware, and offering eco-friendly merchandise including reusable totes, bottles, and organic cotton clothing.

    Participants are encouraged to make an Earth Day Resolution to reduce their environmental impact leading up to the festival and throughout the year.

    The EPA Region 9 Environmental Awards program acknowledges commitment and significant contributions to the environment in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Pacific Islands and tribal lands. Thirty-nine groups and individuals were selected from more than 160 nominees received this year from businesses, media, local, state and federal government officials, tribes, environmental organizations and citizen activists.

    See the Environmental Awards Web site for all of the winners: http://www.epa.gov/region09/awards/index.html

    * * *

    Sundance Wants Eco-Films for "What's the Big Idea" Contest

    NEW YORK, New York, April 18, 2007 (ENS) - The Sundance Channel is offering $10,000 and a one year lease on a Lexus Hybrid car as prizes in a contest to select the best "Big Idea" to green the planet.

    By April 30, contestants can submit a one-minute short film featuring their most inspired eco-solution.

    The submissions will be narrowed down to 25 short films which will be posted on sundancechannel.com to be viewed and voted on by users.

    The five films receiving the most votes will be reviewed by a panel of environmental experts who will pick the winner. The films will be judged on creativity, overall theme, feasibility and presentation.

    The contest helps to kick off the premiere of Sundance Channel's original series "Big Ideas for a Small Planet," which launched on Tuesday as part of THE GREEN, a new weekly television destination focusing on environmental topics.

    The creator of the winning short film will be awarded a cash prize of $10,000 to help make his or her "Big Idea" a reality, and a one year lease of a Lexus hybrid.

    Contestants will submit their one minute "Big Idea" short via http://www.sundancechannel.com/thegreen by April 30.

    Launched in 1996, Sundance Channel is a venture of NBC Universal, Showtime Networks Inc and Robert Redford.

    Sundance Channel operates under the creative direction of Robert Redford, but is independent of the non-profit Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival. Sundance Channel is online at: http://www.sundancechannel.com.

    Sundance Channel is available via satellite television and cable television. To find out if your provider offers Sundance Channel, call: (800) SUN-FILM (800) 786-3456.