AmeriScan: July 6, 2007

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Judge Rejects Utah Counties' Road Claims in Monument

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 6, 2007 (ENS) - Two southern Utah counties cannot undo protections limiting off-road vehicle use on the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument by claiming without proof that they have historic rights-of-way, a federal court judge ruled Friday.

In a ruling with broad application to other federal public lands, U.S. District Court Judge Bruce Jenkins threw out claims by Kane and Garfield counties that monument managers disregarded the repealed statute R.S. 2477 that once established "highway rights-of-way" when the West was being settled.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation intervened in the case, joining federal attorneys in asking the court to dismiss the suit.

Deer Spring Point in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (Photo courtesy Utah BLM)

The counties sued to stop implementation of the Monument's 1999 management plan, which protects the natural resources of the area by limiting travel to a 1,000 mile network of roads.

The plaintiff counties claimed rights-of-way under R.S. 2477 which defines dirt trails, dry stream beds and faint tracks as highways.

Judge Jenkins ruled that the counties could not require the Bureau of Land Management, BLM, to base its management plan on R.S. 2477 claims until the counties establish the validity of those claims in federal court.

Because the counties have not yet done so, the judge reasoned that the suit was premature. He also ruled that the counties could not require the BLM to decide whether their R.S. 2477 claims are valid before the BLM completes its management plans.

Heidi McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said, "The court's ruling reaffirms that counties may not undermine the protection of unique and scenic public lands like national monuments by simply uttering the 'magical' phrase R.S. 2477. And it should put some steel in the spine of the BLM, which has too often allowed the counties who do so to get away with it."

The court's ruling applies to lands managed by the BLM across the west, and affirms that counties have to prove valid rights-of-way first, before bulldozing or staking road signs.

"It's a great day for the Grand Staircase," said Ted Zukoski, an Earthjustice attorney who represented the intervening groups. "The monument plan protects wildlife, water quality, wilderness, and archeological wonders while providing nearly 1,000 miles of roads and off-road trails."

"The counties wanted to eliminate all protections limiting dirt-bikes, ATVs and other off-road vehicles based on the counties' word that somewhere out there were a bunch of roads," he said. "The court ruled that you can't just take a scattershot approach to the management plan in making claims. You have to prove them case by case."

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New Jersey to Require Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts

TRENTON, New Jersey, July 6, 2007 (ENS) - Governor Jon Corzine is expected to sign the Global Warming Response Act today, making New Jersey the third state in the nation to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions. California passed such a law last September, and Hawaii's global warming law took effect July 1.

The New Jersey legislation requires a mandatory reduction of the state's greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels by 2020 - the same as California and Hawaii.

New Jersey also requires that emissions levels drop to 80 percent below current levels by 2050, the first state in the nation to set such a limit.

These are the limits scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

The act follows Governor Corzine's Executive Order, signed in February, establishing parallel goals. The Governor has stated he will sign the bill.

"Global warming is the most urgent environmental issue in our lifetime," said State Senator Barbara Buono, a Democrat. "This legislation sets up a comprehensive solution to global warming. It will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and increase energy efficiency, resulting in significant cost savings for both families and businesses."

"In the absence of a federal policy to address climate change on a national level, states must take the lead to reduce global warming causing emissions before it is too late, "said Assemblywoman Linda Stender, a Democrat.

"Considering New Jersey's high energy demand, implementation of the Global Warming Response Act will make a significant difference on a global scale and I am confident our success will serve as a valuable example for others states and this nation to follow," she said.

The bill's implementation is in the hands of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, DEP. The department, in conjunction with other state agencies, must develop a pollution monitoring and reporting program by January 2009, a plan to achieve the 2020 limit by no later than June 2008, and a plan to achieve the 2050 limit no later than June 2010.

Solutions to cut pollution levels are expected to focus on reducing the state's energy consumption and shifting to clean, renewable sources of energy in the transportation and electricity sectors – the two largest sources of global warming pollution in the state.

New Jersey is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming. Without decisive action to cut pollution levels, global warming is expected to affect every corner of the state in the next century.

New Jersey could be irrevocably altered by rising seas, severe flooding, health-threatening temperatures and air pollution, pest infestation, species decline and challenges to critical public infrastructure, says the nonprofit Environment New Jersey.

"By cutting pollution levels here at home, the New Jersey Legislature is setting the stage for urgently needed action in other states and the nation," said Suzanne Leta Liou, global warming and clean energy advocate at Environment New Jersey. "New Jersey will also receive the tremendous economic growth benefits of spurred investment in our growing renewable energy industry and protection from rising energy prices."

Eight additional states – Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin, - are debating similar legislation.

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Florida Utility Puts Planned Coal-Fired Power Plant on Hold

PERRY, Florida, July 6, 2007 (ENS) - Climate concerns have put a damper on Taylor Energy Center's plans to build a large new coal-fired power plant in Perry, Florida. The plant would be located in the northwestern part of the state, about 40 miles south of the capital, Tallahassee.

On Wednesday, the company said it will suspend permitting activities and participate in a state dialogue on Florida's energy future.

Project Manager Mike Lawson said, "Our mission is to provide reliable power at an affordable price in an environmentally responsible manner. We believe the state-of-the-art technology we proposed would satisfy those objectives; however, growing concerns about climate change have raised questions that must be addressed thoughtfully."

"Rather than push forward, it's more important that we work with state leaders to craft an energy plan for Florida," Lawson said.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist is hosting a two day global climate change summit that opens June 12 in Miami.

"At Florida's climate change summit, we will begin working on a plan to explore groundbreaking technologies and strategies that will place our state at the forefront of the growing world-wide movement to reduce greenhouse gases," Governor Crist said.

"I believe global climate change is one of the most important issues that we will face this century," the Florida governor said. "With almost 1,200 miles of coastline and the majority of our citizens living near that coastline, Florida is more vulnerable to rising ocean levels and violent weather patterns than any other state."

Keynote speaker at the summit will be California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has implemented a low-carbon fuels policy and greenhouse gas emission caps in his state.

"The power industry is waking up to the fact that old fashioned coal plants simply don't make sense today. Not from an environmental standpoint, and not from a business standpoint," said David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center.

"There are a lot of bright ideas out there for providing electricity and reducing pollution," he said. "Florida power firms have many options to choose from that will cut emissions and ultimately lower costs for their customers."

Lawson emphasized that Florida is a growing state with a growing need for electricity. "We can all agree that those needs must be met with a power source that is reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible," he said.

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Doris Duke Foundation Gives $3.6 Million in Climate Grants

NEW YORK, New York, July 6, 2007 (ENS) - In the first round of grants from its $100 million Climate Change Initiative, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Thursday announced support for six organizations that will evaluate and develop policies that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and address the regulatory frameworks needed to reduce the threat of global warming.

The foundation awarded grants totaling $3.6 million to researchers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as four nonprofit organizations: Environmental Defense, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Resources for the Future, and the World Resources Institute.

"The organizations in this first round of grants will deliver high-quality analysis and recommendations on the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to tackling climate change through government policy," said Andrew Bowman, the director of the Climate Change Initiative.

Putting a price on carbon and developing a new international agreement that encourages nations like the U.S. and China to participate are the primary goals in the first of three climate strategies the Foundation will be supporting.

The second strategy, which will receive most of the funds, will be to identify and promote policies that accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies - energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-emission uses of coal.

The third strategy is to assess the likely effects of climate change and identify adjustments that can be made to lower the impacts on people and the environment.

"In the immediate term, one of the most important things we can do to combat the threat of climate change is to design and implement the best possible pricing policies for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases," said Dr. Joan Spero, president of the Foundation.

Harvard University will receive $750,000 over two years to develop an international policy regime to address global climate change after the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

This three stage project will start with a series of domestic and international policy discussions, including at the 2007 Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, in Bali, Indonesia in December.

Second, researchers will develop the most promising policy design with nongovernmental organizations, the business community, government and academia.

The third stage will feature a strategy for effective communication of the recommended policy design, including participation in the 2008 UNFCCC Conference.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, will receive $500,000 over two years to assess and learn from the European Union's carbon dioxide Emissions Trading Scheme. MIT will study options for limiting the economic burden of a federal regulatory regime and identify ways to harmonize federal climate policies with evolving state and regional laws and policies.

A one-year grant of $500,000 will support Environmental Defense and the National Resources Defense Council to produce a cost-benefit analysis of ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change will receive a one year grant of $395,000 to produce Congressional briefing books on design elements of a cap-and-trade system and policies related to coal use, transportation, carbon taxes, and technology.

The World Resources Institute, WRI, will receive $750,000 over two years to demonstrate the need for a mandatory federal greenhouse gas registry consistent with global greenhouse gas accounting standards as the basis for a federal cap-and-trade program. The nonprofit will produce issue briefs and identify ways to integrate climate impacts and opportunities into the national energy security debate.

"We are grateful for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's investment in our work," said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute. "The time has come for national policies that protect the climate, support innovation, create jobs, and make America more secure."

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Coffeyville Mops Up

COFFEYVILLE, Kansas, July 6, 2007 (ENS) - In Coffeyville, the floodwater is receding, leaving oil and mud behind. The oil is residue from a 42,000 gallon spill from the Coffeyville Resources Refinery that occurred Sunday when rising waters breeched a protective levee.

Damage to the Coffeyville water treatment plant has shut it down and bottled water is being delivered under the supervision of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some 20,000 people across Kansas lack clean drinking water.

The cleanup in Coffeyville has only begun for the people who had the least damage to their homes. The rest of the people are not being allowed back to their homes until the water drops and environmental testing can be done.

In one neighborhood, the water level has dropped at least six feet, but there is still substantial flooding in hundreds of homes.

At the water's edge, there is a band of crude oil left behind and it stains the sides of the houses. There are air quality monitoring crews driving around, and they have also begun checking homes to make sure they're safe.

Now that the water level has dropped, the extent of the damage in the flood areas is becoming clearer. Not many have even attempted to start cleaning up, but there is a lot of work ahead of them.

Coffeyville Resources officials stated that overflow of crude oil from the refinery's main storage tank has stopped.

The company Thursday established a toll-free number to help local residents file claims related to flooding and the oil overflow.

Call center operators will schedule appointments for insurance adjusters to visit area homes and assess damages. Operators also will be able to direct callers to local, state and federal disaster response agencies for additional assistance.

The toll-free number, which will be answered 24 hours a day, is 1-800-958-5380. In addition, a claims office has been opened at 900 Hall Street in Coffeyville.

"We are committed to helping our neighbors in the community recover from this disaster as quickly as possible, even as we work to restore operations at our facilities," said Jack Lipinski, chief executive officer of Coffeyville Resources. "We're all in this together."

Company officials have been invited to meet with U.S. Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, Congressman Todd Tiahrt and civic and community leaders in Coffeyville as a part of a tour of the area, which includes the Coffeyville Resources facilities.

Coffeyville Resources says it will make a $25,000 contribution, as well as a dollar-for-dollar match of employee donations, to the local chapter of the American Red Cross to assist local families who have been displaced by flooding and the company will cover all expenses of the area's animal rescue operation.

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Nevada Governor Proposes Lake Tahoe Forest Management Review

CARSON CITY, Nevada, July 6, 2007 (ENS) – Now that Lake Tahoe’s Angora fire is 100 percent contained, Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons has called upon his California counterpart to join him in the creation of a joint Nevada and California Blue Ribbon Fire Commission. The panel would conduct a comprehensive overview of forest management in the Lake Tahoe Basin on the border that divides the two states.

In a letter sent Thursday to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Nevada governor says the review would include the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, TRPA, a bi-state land use agency made up of both Nevadans and Californians.

"The unfortunate tragedy of the Angora Fire requires us to revisit the original goals and principles of the TRPA to ensure that they continue to protect the resources of the Lake Tahoe Basin against the many threats they face today," wrote Governor Gibbons.

The Angora Fire, started June 24 by an illegal campfire on public land on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, was declared contained on Monday.

It cost $12.1 million to fight the blaze which scarred 3,100 acres, forced thousands to flee, and destroyed more than 220 homes.

For resource protection, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is restricting entry onto the National Forest System lands within the fire's perimeter. This area will remain closed to the public through November 30, 2007.

Due to the very dry conditions, fire restrictions have gone into effect throughout the state of California. A National Prevention Team is now in place to assist local agencies with their fire prevention needs.

Within the Tahoe Basin area, campfires are only allowed within hosted fee campgrounds. No open fires or charcoal barbecues are allowed on public lands, only propane is allowed with a 2007 fire permit. No fireworks are allowed in any area.

Governor Gibson explained in his letter that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency was introduced in the 1960s by then Nevada Governor Paul Laxalt and California Governor Ronald Reagan to preserve the unique natural resources and pristine beauty of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Legislation creating the TRPA was passed in Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon in 1969.

Since then, the scope and authority of the TRPA has grown, and many residents of the Tahoe area have expressed concern that TRPA regulations are now so complex that homeowners are unsure what actions they can take to ensure adequate fire safety.

"When people need to consult a 171-page landscaping guide before knowing whether they can rake up pine needles," wrote Governor Gibson, "the bureaucracy leads to deadly and dangerous results."

Governor Schwarzenegger has not directly responded to the joint fire commission proposal.

On Monday he directed state agencies to coordinate with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the U.S. Forest Service to "simplify and accelerate the compliance process to expedite fuel load reduction on public and private lands in the Lake Tahoe basin to protect public health and safety and the environment from future fires."

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Michigan's New Surface Water Information Management System

LANSING, Michigan, July 6, 2007 (ENS) - The state of Michigan has developed a new online tool for water managers and the general public to track the water quality of the state's rivers, lakes, and streams.

The Michigan Surface Water Information Management, MiSWIM, system was introduced in late June by the Department of Environmental Quality, in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Information Technology.

The MiSWIM system is a new, state-of-the-art Internet mapping application designed to provide the public easy access to biological, chemical, and physical data and other information that has been obtained for Michigan's waterbodies.

"MiSWIM will provide a great tool for natural resource managers and citizens interested in natural resource issues to see how a water resource has been managed," said Department of Natural Resources Director Rebecca Humphries.

"It will also aid recreational enthusiasts and anglers interested in different bodies of water by showing them a wide array of information regarding a lake, stream, or river."

The wide range of water quality information available to MiSWIM system users includes water and sediment chemistry, fish contaminants, E. coli bacteria, fish and aquatic macroinvertebrate communities, river flow, fish stocking, lake bathymetry, and river valley segments.

In addition, people can get data on industrial and municipal wastewater discharge sites, septage land disposal sites, coldwater and natural river classifications, nonpoint source program grants, land use classifications, soil types, and aerial photographs.

"The MiSWIM system will allow the public and water resource managers to obtain water quality data and information for Michigan's rivers, streams, and lakes more easily and more efficiently," said DEQ Director Steven Chester.

"Better access to this information through the MiSWIM system will improve water quality decision making at all levels of government," he said. Online access to the MiSWIM system, including a brief overview and navigation tips, is online at: www.michigan.gov/miswims.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.