Bush Lifts Oil Moratorium in Fish-Rich Bristol Bay
WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2007 (ENS) - President George W. Bush today opened two areas in the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing - one in the North Aleutian Basin of Alaska, known as Bristol Bay, and the other in the Central Gulf of Mexico.
The areas were withdrawn from consideration for leasing through 2012 by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
President Bushís action allows the Secretary of the Interior the option of offering these areas during the Minerals Management Serviceís next five-year Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing program which runs from 2007 through 2012.
"Both OCS areas - one in the North Aleutian Basin of Alaska, known as Bristol Bay, and the other in the Central Gulf of Mexico - would receive thorough environmental reviews," said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne today. "There will be significant opportunities for study and public comment before any oil and gas development could take place in these areas."
The eastern-most arm of the Bering Sea, Bristol Bay is host to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery as well as strong seasonal runs of chum salmon, silver salmon and king salmon. Bristol Bay herring, crab, halibut, and pollock fisheries are also important.
Major industries are commercial fishing and the associated canneries, sport fishing, hunting and tourism.
Four national wildlife refuges are part of the Bristol Bay ecosystem, and the region supports many marine mammals such as walruses, harbor seals, northern sea otters, and endangered species, including stellar sea lions, humpback and fin whales and the world's most endangered whale species, the north Pacific population of northern right whales.
Bill Eichbaum, managing director and vice-president of the marine portfolio at World Wildlife Fund, expressed his organization's disappointment with the President's action.
"Bristol Bay should be off the table for drilling. WWF will now work with Congress to override the president's action and re-instate the Congressional moratorium on oil and gas development in Bristol Bay which was allowed to expire in 2004," Eichbaum said.
Republicans for Environmental Protection, REP, a national grassroots organization that includes elected officials as members, also called for swift bipartisan action in Congress to protect Bristol Bay by reinstating a congressional oil and gas drilling moratorium that expired in 2003.
"It strains credulity for the administration to talk about ending America's oil addiction and then endanger one of America's richest fishing grounds for 10 days worth of oil and three months worth of gas," said REP Policy Director Jim DiPeso.
"To put all of that natural bounty and economic activity at risk is not only reckless, it defies logic," said REP Government Affairs Director David Jenkins.
But Alaska Governor Sarah Palin today welcomed the news that the moratorium has been lifted.
"It is gratifying that the federal government is again looking north to Alaska to provide the energy our nation needs," Palin said. "Development in the Bristol Bay region could provide the jobs, economic diversification and energy the people of this region need. If we can be sure it will not threaten the fisheries that are the foundation of the regionís economy and way of life, Iím all for it."
"As Governor Ė and as a member of a Bristol Bay commercial fishing family myself," said Palin, "I stand with the people of the region in insisting that any development must recognize and protect the value of the fishing industry."
Palin said leasing would be limited to the area offered in 1988s Lease Sale 92, which was cancelled and the $96 million in lease bids returned to bidders following the Exxon Valdez massive oil spill in 1989.
WWF points out that Bristol Bay and the North Aleutian shelf are hit by intense storms with high winds and massive seas through the winter months. The group warns that offshore infrastructure would be exposed to the full fury of these storms at a time of year when response efforts would be impossible.
Lawsuit Claims EPA Let Pesticides Harm Rare Bay Area Species
SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 9, 2007 (ENS) - The Center for Biological Diversity today filed notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, for violations of the Endangered Species Act. The legal action seeks to protect 11 San Francisco Bay Area endangered and threatened species and their habitats that are jeopardized by pesticides.
Based solely on reported use, more than 61 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients were applied in Bay Area counties from 1999 through 2005, more than eight million pounds annually.
Actual use may be several times this amount since most home and commercial pesticide use is not reported to the state, the organization says.
Under the Bush administration, the legal action claims, the EPA has failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or adequately consider endangered species impacts when registering and authorizing use of at least 60 toxic pesticides that may harm vulnerable Bay Area wildlife species.
The EPA is required under the Endangered Species Act to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service over registration, re-registration and approved uses of pesticides that may endanger listed species or adversely modify their designated critical habitat.
"The EPA has failed to comply with even the basic requirements of the Endangered Species Act in registering and approving uses of pesticides known to poison Bay Area endangered species," said Jeff Miller, Bay Area Wildlands coordinator with the Center.
"Given the known significant effects on wildlife and the EPAís own acknowledgments regarding pesticide use exceeding levels of concern for endangered species, pesticide restrictions to protect our most endangered species are long overdue," Miller said.
Pesticides of concern have been documented in Bay and Delta aquatic habitat for two species of fish, the delta smelt and tidewater goby; tidal marshland habitat for a bird called the California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse; freshwater and wetlands habitat for the California tiger salamander, the San Francisco garter snake and California freshwater shrimp; and terrestrial habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox, Alameda whipsnake, valley elderberry longhorn beetle and Bay checkerspot butterfly.
With the lawsuit, the Center hopes to force interim pesticide use restrictions for the 11 species similar to those it recently obtained to protect the California red-legged frog, until assessments of pesticide impacts have been completed.
A settlement signed by the EPA and the pesticide industry last October prohibits use of 66 pesticides in and adjacent to core red-legged frog habitats throughout California for three years, until the EPA completes consultations.
The group claims that pesticides may adversely affect an additional 19 of the 51 Bay Area animal species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Ted Turner Launches Solar Energy Business VentureATLANTA, Georgia, January 9, 2007 (ENS) - Ted Turner today announced the launch of a new business venture to provide solar power solutions. Turner will partner with Dome-Tech Solar, a solar energy developer based in Branchburg, New Jersey, to create DT Solar, a Turner renewable energy company.
DT Solar will initially focus on providing on-site solar electric power systems for commercial and industrial clients, as well as developing larger, utility-scale solar power plants in the southwestern United States.
"Our future depends on changing the way we use energy," said Turner. "Weíve got to move away from fossil fuels and develop long-term energy solutions that work. Using clean energy technologies, such as solar power, is the right thing to do, and it represents a tremendous business opportunity."
The new Turner renewable energy company, DT Solar, will build off of the recent success of Dome-Tech Solar, a fast-growing top-tier provider of commercial and industrial solar power systems.
The company plans for immediate expansion into several U.S. markets, including California, which has recently launched a $3 billion, 10 year program to increase the use of solar power in the state.
"We are delighted to partner with a business leader of Ted Turnerís caliber," said Tom Kuster, DT Solarís CEO. "Ted has a passion for protecting the environment, an incredible vision and a proven ability to build a successful business enterprise.
Turner is chairman of the United Nations Foundation, the Turner Foundation, and co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, co-chaired with Senator Sam Nunn. He is also chairman of Turner Enterprises Inc., which oversees Turnerís two million acres of private landholdings in 14 western states, as well as his 40,000 head bison herd. In addition, Turner co-founded the restaurant chain Tedís Montana Grill.
Turner is most known as the visionary behind such cable networks as CNN, TBS, TNT and the Cartoon Network. Turner is the recipient of numerous civic and industry awards and honors, including being named Time Magazine's 1991 Man of the Year.
Dome-Tech Solar develops and builds large-scale solar energy systems for commercial, industrial and institutional clients. It was founded in 2003 and has rapidly grown into one of the nationís largest developers of on-site solar power generation.
Boycott rBGH Milk Urges Cancer Prevention ExpertCHICAGO, Illinois, January 9, 2007 (ENS) - Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, professor emeritus of environmental medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, has published a new book, "What's in Your Milk?"
The book focuses on the dangers of Monsantoís genetically engineered (rBGH) milk, and what Epstein calls "the company's no-holds-barred conspiracy to suppress this information."
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, rBGH, is a genetically engineered variant of the natural growth hormone produced by cows.
Manufactured by Monsanto, it is sold to dairy farmers under the trade name Posilac. Injection of this hormone forces cows to increase their milk production by about 10 percent. Monsanto has stated that about one third of U.S. dairy cows are in herds where the hormone is used.
Monsanto, supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says that rBGH milk is indistinguishable from natural milk, and that it is safe for consumers.
Epstein disagrees. He points out that rBGH milk contains high levels of a natural growth factor known as IGF-1, which is readily absorbed through the intestines of people who drink rBGH milk.
s Based on 37 published scientific studies as detailed in the book, Epstein says "excess levels of IGF-1 in rBGH milk pose major risks of breast, colon and prostate cancers."
Injections of rBGH also make cows sick, Epstein says. The Posilac label lists some 20 toxic effects, including mastitis.
In the book, Epstein details evidence of "interlocking conflicts of interest" between Monsanto and the White House, the American Medical Association and American Cancer Society. He also details evidence of "suppression and manipulation of information on the veterinary and public health dangers of rBGH milk," and what he calls "evidence of Monsantoís Hit Squad, which attempted to stifle and discredit" him.
But Epstein will not be stifled. He is an internationally recognized expert on the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, the causes and prevention of cancer, and the toxic and carcinogenic effects of environmental pollutants in air, water, soil and the workplace, and of ingredients and contaminants in consumer products and related public policy concerns.
In 1993, he founded the non-profit international Cancer Prevention Coalition of which he is the chairman.
Among his numerous awards is the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for Humanitarianism and for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention.
Through publication of this book Epstein urges consumers to boycott rBGH milk in favor of certified organic milk.
The book is available from Trafford Publishing, www.trafford.com/06-0676.
U.S. Cities Struggle to Hit Climate Change TargetsMINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, January 9, 2007 (ENS) - "The 355 U.S. cities in 49 states that have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions will miss their goals unless they redouble their efforts," says John Bailey, author of a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, "Lessons from the Pioneers: Tackling Global Warming at the Local Level."
The report praises the signatories to the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement for taking responsibility for the impact of their own consumption behavior on global warming. The initiative commits cities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions emissions to seven percent below 1990 levels.
"The sheer number of these Kyoto cities promises an interesting mix of strategies and a steep learning curve as communities discover from one another what works and what doesnít," Bailey observes.
The report, a look at 10 of the most visible and successful cities involved in global warming solutions, finds that only one city, Portland, Oregon, has come close to keeping the growth of greenhouse gas emissions down. Its citywide emissions are less than one percent above 1990 levels, the benchmark for the Kyoto Protocol.
This international treaty obliges 35 industrialized nations, but not the United States, to limit their greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5.2 percent in the five years 2008 - 2012.
Except for Portland, cities' emissions increased between 6.5 percent and 27 percent over 1990 baseline measurements.
The study found that the most significant factor accounting for differences in greenhouse gas emissions among cities was the amount of fossil fuels used in generating their power.
Data gathering methodologies were found to differ among communities, making comparisons between cities difficult.
The report concludes that reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels will be a major challenge that many cities may fail unless complementary state and federal policies are put in place.
The report, "Lessons from the Pioneers: Tackling Global Warming at the Local Level," is online at: http://www.newrules.org
American Bird Lovers Protest Four Seasons Resort in GrenadaWASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2007 (ENS) - Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, known for developing luxurious properties, has drawn criticism from bird lovers for its plans to build a new resort on the Caribbean island of Grenada that would threaten Grenada's critically endangered national bird.
The location of the planned resort is on the last stronghold of the Grenada dove - Mount Hartman National Park.
"The government of Grenada intends to eliminate and sell off the entire national park to make room for a sprawling new Four Seasons Resort, including a golf course and hundreds of luxury villas," said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, based in Washington, DC.
In a letter to Four Seasons Chairman and CEO Isadore Sharp, the American Bird Conservancy called on the company to either pull out of the project or alter it to protect the endangered doveís habitat.
The Conservancy says the developer issued an environmental impact report that greatly understates the damage the resort as now proposed would do to the Grenada doveís survival prospects, and provides for no effective means of protection of the birds' habitat.
"The fate of the Grenada dove and one of the Caribbeanís finest national parks is at the mercy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts," said Dr. Paul Salaman, international program director of the bird conservation group.
BirdLife International has also taken up the cause of the Grenada dove. The global partnership of bird conservation organizations says that Mount Hartman National Park supports at least 22 percent of the global population of the Grenada dove - just 20 pairs. Only 180 birds are estimated to survive today.
"With such a low population in just a few remnant patches of forest, Grenada dove is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the near future," BirdLife says.
A Dove Sanctuary in Mount Hartman National Park was created 10 years ago, in order to mitigate for habitat removal elsewhere on the island, partly from development. This year a visitor center was opened to mark the educational value of the park for tourists and local people.
But now the Four Seasons plans a 150 room hotel and 300 luxury villas as well as a golf course, marina and conference center in the park.