AmeriScan: January 31, 2007

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U.S., Canada Form Satellite Eco-Mapping Partnership

WASHINGTON, DC, January 31, 2007 (ENS) - The United States and Canada have launched a high-tech satellite mapping initiative that can help land managers better monitor changes in the combined land cover of two of the world's largest nations.

A key application in joint permafrost mapping will be assessing the impacts of climate change on human settlements, physical infrastructure, and ecosystems in both countries.

The partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey and Natural Resources Canada will produce integrated information to help natural resource managers better assess the health of landscapes, cross-border wildland fire risks, changes in biodiversity and the effects of climate change on permafrost.

Collaborative efforts in the development of permafrost applications will focus first on the mapping of the Yukon River Basin.

"Natural processes like wildland fires do not stop at the border, so this type of information is critical for identifying land-cover trends," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. "This new international partnership will build on the expertise of both the U.S. and Canadian science agencies and lead to a more comprehensive and standardized monitoring of North America's land cover."

"This agreement reflects a lengthy history of joint research and mutual collaboration between our two countries," said Gary Lunn, Canada's minister of natural resources. "Working together, this partnership will allow us to share information and maximize our scientific knowledge so that we can better monitor the changes of our land, including the permafrost areas in the North."

The agreement involves a dynamic land-cover monitoring system for all of North America and the development of permafrost modeling applications.

The scientists will use infrared, radar relief and other remote sensing techniques. There are also future projects planned for longer-term collaboration on the development of radar applications.

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Public Citizen Wins Relief for Hurricane Survivors

WASHINGTON, DC, January 31, 2007 (ENS) - After winning continued housing assistance for more than 1,000 households of evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the advocacy group Public Citizen dismissed its lawsuit late Tuesday against the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA.

Public Citizen sued FEMA on behalf of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and hurricane evacuees because the agency had cut their benefits in August 2006 without providing constitutionally sufficient notice of the reasons that their benefits were denied and what steps they could take to restore them.

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that FEMA was required to provide clearer notices of the reasons for, and an opportunity to appeal, denials of eligibility for further housing assistance.

FEMA was required to send better notices of the reasons for denial of eligibility for temporary housing assistance benefits to more than 4,000 evacuee households, the judge ruled.

FEMA adjudicated the resulting appeals, and at least 1,069 evacuee households have had their status changed from ineligible to eligible because of the case. The benefits for these households have been extended through August 2007.

"We are pleased to declare victory for hurricane evacuees, who were not only victimized by these natural disasters, but also by their own government's intransigence and incompetence in providing relief," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen.

The lawsuit resulted in about $6 million in additional benefits to flow to the hurricane survivors.

Although size of the household will determine the amount of benefits, the average sum that the evacuees will receive is approximately $750 per month. FEMA is required to continue to adjudicate any remaining appeals that may come in, although Public Citizens says it is unlikely that there will be significant change in the status of the remaining evacuees.

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Food Lion Stores Halt Sales of Dolphin-Deadly Tuna

SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 31, 2007 (ENS) - Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project announced today that Food Lion LLC, based in Salisbury, North Carolina, has agreed to temporarily cease all purchases from Dolores Tuna, packed by PINSA of Mexico.

The suspension is the result of documentation provided by Earth Island that the tuna is caught by the intentional chasing and capture of dolphins.

Food Lion's letter to Earth Island states, "Food Lion has decided to cease purchasing canned tuna products unless and until such time as the manufacturer receives the 'dolphin-safe' certification."

"Time and time again consumers have made it clear that they do not want to buy tuna caught by the cruel capture and killing of dolphins," said David Phillips, director of the International Marine Mammal Project.

"Dolores Tuna is a product of the largest dolphin-killing tuna company in the world. We're pleased that Food Lion has recognized that the tuna products they sell should not contribute to the dolphin slaughter," Phillips said.

In the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean off Mexico and Latin America, dolphins swim with schools of tuna. Fishermen chase and net the dolphins on the surface, knowing that tuna are swimming below. More than sevenmillion dolphins have been killed in the tuna fishery since the late 1950s when the large purse seine nets were first introduced.

Dolores Tuna has tried to place their product on U.S. store shelves regardless of the law that prohibits sale in the U.S. of tuna caught by targeting dolphins.

In 2004, a San Diego federal court convicted smugglers bringing Dolores tuna, canned in Mexico, into the United States with a phony "Amigo de Delfin" (Dolphin Friendly) label.

Salvador Garcia Sandoval, owner of TBA Mexican Trade Grocery of Chula Vista, California, pleaded guilty to illegally importing more than 1,600 cases of tuna. He paid the U.S. government $40,000 to make up for lost tax duties and $1,975 to NOAA Fisheries for administrative costs.

Phillips said, "Now they have tried to use a phony certification from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, IATTC, that their tuna is dolphin-safe. U.S. law does not accept the weak and unverified IATTC standard."

Dolphin populations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific have failed to recover from the effects of continued chase, capture, and drowning of dolphins in tuna nets, according to the International Marine Mammal Project.

"By selling dolphin-deadly tuna from Mexico, Food Lion threatened to undermine the fine job being done by tuna companies and supermarkets in the U.S. and around the world that adhere to strict Dolphin Safe standards. We are glad that Food Lion has done the right thing." Phillips said.

To report to Earth Island Institute about any Dolores Tuna or other suspect tuna sold in U.S. markets visit: http://www.DolphinSafe.org

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Public Hearing Opens for Honolulu Airport Food Irradiator

HONOLULU, Hawaii, January 31, 2007 (ENS) - The public will have an opportunity Thursday to express its views on a food irradiator proposed for the Honolulu International Airport.

In July of 2005, Pa'ina Hawaii, a fruit company, announced its plan to build a food irradiation facility near the Honolulu airport. The company intends to irradiate produce for export using the radioactive material cobalt-60.

The public hearing will focus on the draft environmental assessment, EA, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission prepared under a March 2006 settlement agreement with community group Concerned Citizens of Honolulu. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, will also accept written comment until February 8, 2007.

In the assessment the Commission claims that the public would be safe from airplane crashes at the facility, which would be located next to active runways.

In its assessment, the NRC failed to address threats to the public from terrorist attack and the increased cancer risk associated with eating irradiated food.

Supporters say an irradiator is the only practical way to sterilize fruit flies in a variety of tropical fruits so they can be commercially shipped to the mainland.

Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who represented the Concerned Citizens of Honolulu in the legal action, said, "Only last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the NRC it has to examine terrorist threats before licensing nuclear facilities. So the NRC's refusal to respond to the public's concerns here is inexcusable."

The public should take no comfort from the EA's claim it has nothing to fear in the event an airplane strikes the irradiator, said Purdue University Professor of Structural Engineering Mete Sozen and Professor of Computer Science Christoph Hoffmann.

With a computer simulation model commonly used by government laboratories, Sozen and Hoffman found that "the effects of a plane crash on an industrial building housing a nuclear irradiator would be devastating."

The force of a crash or the associated "high-temperature conflagration" from burning fuel could damage the irradiator pool, "causing the water shielding the cobalt-60 sources to drain out," said Sozen and Hoffman.

In addition, they said, "Flying debris could breach the [radioactive] source assembly or pool," which would release radioactive cobalt-60 into the environment. They faulted the NRC for not analyzing these threats in the environmental assessment.

The EA also fails to discuss the potential for terrorist attack on the Pa'ina irradiator, which, according to Institute for Resource and Security Studies executive director Gordon Thompson, "might be especially attractive to attackers because of the proximity of military and symbolic targets including Hickam Air Force Base and Pearl Harbor."

The draft EA is on the NRC website at: http://www.nrc.gov/materials.html and select "Pa'ina Irradiator" in the Quick Links box.

The Federal Register Notice explaining the EA is found here.

The public hearing will be held from 6 to 9 pm on Thursday, at the Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu. The NRC is accepting written comments until February 8. Mail to: Chief, Rules Review and Directives Branch, Mail Stop T6-D59, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, or email to: NRCREP@nrc.gov. Written comments should mention "Docket No. 030-36974."

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How Many Legislators Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

SACRAMENTO, California, January 31, 2007 (ENS) - A California lawmaker has introduced legislation that would to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs in California by the year 2012. Incandescents are the type of bulbs that are common in most homes across the United States, but they use far more energy than the efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, a Van Nuys Democrat who chairs the Assembly's Utilities and Commerce Committee, introduced what he has titled the "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb Act."

"Incandescent light bulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications," Levine said. "Meanwhile, they remain incredibly inefficient, converting only about five percent of the energy they receive into light."

"It's time to take a step forward energy-efficient bulbs are easy to use, require less electricity to do the same job, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and save consumers money," Levine said.

Replacing a 75 watt incandescent light bulb with a 20 watt compact fluorescent bulb would result in the same amount of light but would save 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide and save customers $55 over the life of the bulb, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit energy policy organization based in Colorado.

While the life of one 75 watt incandescent bulb is roughly 750 hours, the life of a compact fluorescent is much longer - around 10,000 hours.

Incandescent bulbs use 750 kilowatt hours, kWh, over 10,000 hours, while compact fluorescents use only 180 kWh.

"Electricity-saving technologies may not be glamorous," Levine said, "especially when compared with the idea of a shiny new power plant, but the facts are that there are hundreds of electricity-saving innovations now on the market that if fully used throughout the United States, would significantly decrease the electricity the country now uses."

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Ground Broken for Largest Corporate Solar System

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, New Jersey, January 31, 2007 (ENS) - A groundbreaking ceremony was held today in South Plainfield, New Jersey for what will be the largest corporate solar installation in the United States.

New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Jeanne Fox together with Ted Turner and other representatives of DT Solar attended the ceremony at Hall's Warehouse Corp. for the combined 1,400 kW, roof-mounted solar electric system. Installation is expected to be complete in early spring.

"Today's groundbreaking ceremony represents the beginning of a new era in the life of New Jersey's solar energy market," said Fox.

The solar electric systems, located on two refrigerated storage warehouses, will include almost 8,000 solar panels and is expected to produce 1.5 million kW hours of electricity annually.

The system also is anticipated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 24,000 tons over its 30 year operating life and save the business more than $600,000 a year in energy costs.

Once completed, the projects are expected to receive a total of $4.59 million in solar rebates and incentives.

"New Jersey is the national leader in effective renewable energy policy," said Turner, the founder of CNN and the Turner Foundation and a long-time environmentalist.

"This impressive solar installation is living proof that viable, market-based incentives can drive energy solutions that benefit our country and the environment," he said.

New Jersey is currently the fastest growing solar market in the U.S. and is one of the largest in terms of installations, second only to California, which has four times the population and energy usage.

When established in 2001, the New Jersey Clean Energy Program had only six solar installations. Today, more than 2,000 solar installations are located throughout the Garden State, representing more than 36 MW of installed solar capacity.

In April 2006 New Jersey set a goal of 20 percent renewable by 2020 to include two percent solar - or an estimated 1,500 MW of installed solar capacity.

To reach these goals and sustain the unprecedented level of growth in New Jersey's solar market, the Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy is transitioning towards a new financing model to encourage private investment and market-based financing of solar generation.

DT Solar is one of the first New Jersey solar companies to emerge as a national competitor, poised to take on California's solar market.

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