AmeriScan: July 21, 2006

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Energy, Commerce Secretaries Visit Baghdad, Sign Agreements

WASHINGTON, DC, July 21, 2006 (ENS) - Energy Secretary Secretary Samuel Bodman visited Baghdad Tuesday to meet with his counterparts, the ministers of oil, electricity, and science and technology about rebuilding Iraq's energy infrastructure. He was accompanied by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and other Bush administration officials.

The cabinet officials met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Malaki, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.

Secretary Bodman invited officials from the Iraqi ministries of energy, oil, electricity and science and technology to come to the United States to tour DOE facilities and ask questions of the department’s professionals in the national laboratories and in the areas of electricity generation, transmission and distribution.

The Secretary announced an intent to enter into an agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity to promote increased cooperation between the two nations in the areas of energy analysis, science, technology, and energy awareness and education.

"The Iraqi people are showing tremendous fortitude as they move forward in building their new democracy and we, the United States, will stand with them," Secretary Bodman said. "The U.S. Department of Energy is prepared to support their efforts related to all elements of the energy sector here in Iraq, in whatever capacity they see fit."

Secretary Gutierrez and Iraqi Minister of Trade al-Sudani signed a joint statement outlining a cooperative action plan between the Department of Commerce and Ministry of Trade and appointed co-chairs to a working group charged with implementing the plan. The cooperative plan covers enhancing commercial relations, capacity building, trade development and promotion, and World Trade Organization accession.

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Science Is Solid on Climate Change, Congress Told

WASHINGTON, DC, July 21, 2006 (ENS) - U.S. government scientists testified before a Congressional committee Thursday, trying to dispel any remaining doubts that climate change and the human role in it is a real phenomenon documented by abundant scientific research.

"Some greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere because of human activities and increasingly trapping more heat," said Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, presented the panel with details on the $29 billion investment in climate change programs the Bush administration has advocated since 2001.

"There’s a lot of agreement … on warming," said Connaughton. Lot of agreement on human contribution to the problem. We begin to get into issues [of disagreement] about the extent to which humans are a problem."

Scientists use climate models to project what the different outcomes might result from fluctuations of the many variables in the climate system. "Climate models have become the primary means to predict climate," said Karl.

Scientists have to use some approximations in their data about climate conditions in constructing the models. Critics of climate-change science argue those models are inaccurate and provide insufficient basis upon which to make major changes in the use of fossil fuels, which create the greenhouse gases believed to contribute to global warming.

Questioned about such criticism, Karl stood by the models, saying, "They’re reliable enough to be a very useful guide into the future."

Connaughton said that during the Bush presidency, the United States has invested heavily in programs to address climate change, and to research, construct and promote alternate energy sources that will not emit greenhouse gases.

The U.S. government is currently sponsoring 60 programs that promote energy research and innovation.

Connaughton said the United States is moving with other major nations in its efforts to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. "We’re pulling in the same direction at the same rate," he said.

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Energy Department Plans to Merge Office of Environment, Safety and Health

WASHINGTON, DC, July 21, 2006 (ENS) - The Department of Energy has proposed dissolving the Office of Environment, Safety and Health (ESH) and eliminating the position of Assistant Secretary.

The DOE plans to merge part of ESH with another DOE Office that oversees security, while dispersing the rest of the ESH functions over five other offices.

Although DOE has not released a detailed plan to Congress or the public, a May 19 copy of the plan was obtained by the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit organization.

Senators Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, calling on the Department of Energy (DOE) to refrain from taking any action to implement a proposed dismantlement of the DOE Office of Environment, Safety and Health, until Congress has an opportunity to fully review and consider the proposal.

Senators Kennedy and Bunning have been leaders in the effort to secure greater health and safety protections for DOE employees, including cosponsoring legislation to establish enforceable worker safety and health standards at DOE facilities and to compensate them for occupational illnesses. The letter can be viewed on GAP’s Web site at: http://www.whistleblower.org/doc/EH7.18.06.pdf

"DOE self regulates nuclear and worker safety for its 130,000 contractor employees and this plan will, contrary to DOE statements, significantly weaken oversight and diminish leadership in an area where DOE has historically failed," said GAP Communications Director Dylan Blaylock. "We urge Secretary Bodman to follow the bipartisan counsel offered by Senators Bunning and Kennedy and cease any dismantlement until the DOE plan is made public and Congress can study it, and if necessary, hold hearings."

Numerous other letters from unions, organizations and politicians have been sent to the DOE, urging a halt to the ESH dismantlement. Many of these letters appear on GAP’s Web site, www.whistleblower.org.

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First Report Details Climate Change Impact on California Water

SACRAMENTO, California, July 21, 2006 (ENS) - Climate change could greatly impact California’s water picture, according to a new technical report issued by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) that offers a first look at changes that may affect California’s water resources in the future.

The report, "Progress on Incorporating Climate Change into Management of California’s Water Resources" is an adjunct to an executive order issued by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on June 1, 2005 that sets greenhouse gas reduction goals for California.

"Given the complexity of California’s water system and uncertainties about the impact of climate change, our work is at an early stage," said DWR Deputy Director Jerry Johns. "But this report will contribute to an ongoing dialogue on how our systems may need to change in the future as more information becomes available."

Prepared for the governor and the State Legislature, the DWR paper describes the mathematical modeling of four climate change scenarios and the corresponding results.

The report's purpose is to demonstrate how various analysis tools currently used by DWR could be used to address issues related to climate change. The methods and results presented in this report could be used to guide future climate change analysis and to identify areas where more information is needed.

All results presented in this report are preliminary, incorporate several assumptions, reflect a limited number of climate change scenarios, and do not address the likelihood of each scenario, so these results are not sufficient by themselves to make policy decisions.

Federal, state and academic experts contributed to the 339 page report, including scientists from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the University of California - Davis, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the California Energy Commission, and the DWR.

The report shows that climate change is expected to result in loss of the Sierra snow pack and the seasonal water storage it provides.

There will be more rain and less snow as the climate warms, impacting both water supply reliability and hydropower generation.

More variable precipitation and extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts are expected. Droughts will result in more energy-intensive groundwater pumping for irrigation.

Rising sea levels would increase pressure on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levees. As the sea rises greater saltwater intrusion into Delta water supplies and coastal aquifers can be expected. Higher water temperatures, may possibly affect fish species listed as threatened or endangered.

Changes in annual average State Water Project and Central Valley Project south-of-Delta deliveries are also expected.

More than 20 million Californians rely on the two massive water projects. These complex water storage and conveyance systems are operated by the DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for water supply, flood management, environmental protection and recreation.

This report is the first product of the Climate Change Work Team formed by DWR and Reclamation to provide qualitative and quantitative information to managers on potential effects and risks of climate change to California’s water resources.

The Climate Change Report is found online at: http://baydeltaoffice.water.ca.gov/

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IRS Certifies Hybrid Cars and Trucks for Tax Credit

WASHINGTON, DC, July 21, 2006 (ENS) - Buyers of hybrid cars and trucks can receive a sizeable tax credit. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has just announced new vehicle certifications for the Alternative Vehicle Tax Credit.

The vehicles eligible for the tax credit include hybrid pickups from General Motors and GM's 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line, a new hybrid SUV that hasn't hit dealerships yet.

But the IRS warns buyers to be careful if employers offer a cash incentive for buying a hybrid, since the IRS considers that taxable income.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 replaced the clean-fuel burning deduction with a tax credit. A tax credit is subtracted directly from the total amount of federal tax owed, thus reducing or even eliminating the taxpayer’s tax obligation.

The tax credit for hybrid vehicles applies to vehicles purchased or placed in service on or after January 1, 2006.

The credit is only available to the original purchaser of a new, qualifying vehicle. If a qualifying vehicle is leased to a consumer, the leasing company may claim the credit.

Hybrid vehicles have drive trains powered by both an internal combustion engine and a rechargeable battery. Many currently available hybrid vehicles may qualify for the tax credit.

These models have been certified for the credit in the following amounts:

Model Year 2007

Other models are eligible in the 2006 Model Year. A list is posted on the IRS website: www.irs.gov

Consumers seeking the credit may want to buy early since the full credit is only available for a limited time.

According to the IRS, taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records its sale of the 60,000th hybrid or advance lean burn technology.

For the second and third calendar quarters after the quarter in which the 60,000th vehicle is sold, taxpayers may claim 50 percent of the credit.

For the fourth and fifth calendar quarters, taxpayers may claim 25 percent of the credit. No credit is allowed after the fifth quarter.

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University of Hawaii Law School Honored for Environmental Program

HONOLULU, Hawaii, July 21, 2006 (ENS) - The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Environmental Law and Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources has announced that the Environmental Law Program of the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii at Manoa is the 2006 recipient of the American Bar Association Award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy.

The American Bar Association (ABA) citation says, "Since 1988, the ELP has provided leadership in development of sound environmental law and policy for Hawai`i through classroom and clinical education as well as through serious encouragement of and support to its student body. Its nationally and internationally recognized faculty have contributed tremendously to the thoughtful management and regulation of the natural resources that make Hawaii unique."

Law School Dean Avi Soifer said, "We are extremely pleased that our marvelous Environmental Law Program is beginning to receive the recognition it deserves with this prestigious national award. The award results from the extraordinary leadership and dedication of Professor Casey Jarman, the founding director, and Associate Professor and current director Denise Antolini, who have together created a unique oasis in legal education that has broad appeal to faculty, students and alumni."

Antolini will accept the award at the American Bar Association annual meeting in Honolulu in the first week of August.

"Since its founding nearly twenty years ago, our Environmental Law Program has become a dynamic and diverse academic center at the Law School. We seek to serve Hawaii’s communities by training excellent new lawyers who will appreciate and protect our islands’ unique environment, whether in the corporate world, or as legislators, public interest advocates or government attorneys," Antolini said.

"Since 1991, more than 100 students have graduated with their specialty Certificate in Environmental Law to form a new generation of leaders contributing to the vibrancy of the bar in Honolulu and nationally. This ABA award is a wonderful tribute to our dedicated students, outstanding faculty and distinguished alumni."

The award was established in 2000 by the ABA Standing Committee on Environmental Law with co-sponsorship by the ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, to recognize individuals, organizations and programs that have distinguished themselves in environmental law and policy, and have demonstrated significant leadership in improving the substance, process or understanding of environmental protection.

The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world, with some 400,000 members, and serves as the national voice of the legal profession.

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Memphis Funded for Household Hazwaste Collection Site

NASHVILLE, Tennessee, July 21, 2006 (ENS) - The City of Memphis, in cooperation with Shelby County, will receive a $500,000 grant to fund the construction and start-up of a permanent household hazardous waste collection site.

"I’m pleased we’re able to award this grant for a facility that will have such a direct benefit to the community," said Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. "Providing a permanent location for the safe disposal of potentially hazardous materials keeps homes safer and helps prevent pollution to protect our environment."

Shelby County, through an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Memphis, will construct and operate the facility. It will give the community a year-round location to take household hazardous waste such as cleaning chemicals and pesticides for safe disposal. Shelby County will break ground on the facility July 31.

"This facility should be a real benefit for the people of Memphis and Shelby County," said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke. "I’m glad this community will now have a permanent site for proper disposal of household hazardous wastes like unused paint, used motor oil or antifreeze, unwanted pesticides and other unusable household chemicals."

The average home in Tennessee produces 20 pounds of household hazardous waste each year. Other examples of items that are accepted at household hazardous waste collection sites include cleaning fluids, batteries, mercury thermometers and swimming pool chemicals.

The Tennessee General Assembly provided for household hazardous waste assistance through the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991. Grants are supported from the Tennessee Solid Waste Management Fund administered by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

The Fund receives its revenues from a tipping fee surcharge on each ton of solid waste disposed of in Class I landfills and from a pre-disposal fee on new tires sold in the state. Shelby County’s 21-member legislative delegation supports the grant program and the services it helps provide to Memphis/Shelby County residents and other Tennesseans.

The permanent site in Memphis/Shelby County is the fourth such facility in Tennessee. Davidson, Hamilton and Knox Counties also have permanent household hazardous waste collection sites. After the initial grant for construction and start-up, the permanent sites may apply each year for grants to cover a portion of their ongoing operational costs. This year, each of the three existing facilities will receive an $85,000 grant toward those costs.

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