Pennsylvania Back to Work Without Renewable Energy Fund
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, July 10, 2007 (ENS) - Late last night Governor Edward Rendell announced that a tentative budget agreement was reached with Republican legislative leaders that brings nearly 25,000 furloughed state employees back on the job after one day off work without pay.
The pact addresses some of Rendell's energy and transportation initiatives but will not impose the surcharge on electricity use the governor had sought, said Senator Vince Fumo, ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.
The governor wanted a legislated $5.40 annual surcharge on residential electric bills to support an $850 million fund for alternative and renewable energy.
"I am pleased to announce that as a result of earnest and sometimes difficult negotiations, we have achieved an important agreement that will allow Pennsylvania's government operations to be restored and all furloughed employees to return to work," Governor Rendell said. "While I regret that we were not able to reach this accord earlier, I am gratified that we have agreed in principle to a spending plan that will continue to move Pennsylvania forward."
State Senate Republicans blocked the governor's Energy Independence Strategy that he promised would "help our families and businesses cut their electricity bills, conserve energy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring new economic development opportunities to the state."
"And all it will cost the average household is the price of about five cups of coffee a year," the governor said July 2.
He cited a recent statewide poll by Susquehanna Polling and Research that found that more than two-thirds of the public is willing to pay 45 cents per month to grow the state's economy while developing clean and renewable energy from home-grown sources.
In February, Rendell announced the Energy Independence Strategy which he said would save consumers $10 billion in energy costs over the next 10 years, increase Pennsylvania's alternative and renewable energy production capacity, reduce the state's dependence on foreign fuels and create more jobs.
Included in the strategy is an $850 million Energy Independence Fund that will be financed by a "systems benefits charge" on electric power consumers. Such a charge is already in place in 15 other states and Washington DC. Pennsylvania's charge would have been lower than all but two of these jurisdictions.
But Republican legislators viewed the systems benefits charge as a tax, and they would not approve it.
State Senator Ted Erickson, a Republican, said Monday the General Assembly needs more time to consider the complex energy plan that covers everything from minimum content standards on ethanol produced in Pennsylvania, to green building requirements for construction involving state funds.
"The Senate has held hearings and work is continuing on refining the proposals, said Erickson, who is also sponsoring legislation providing the framework for a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Rendell said the Legislature would convene a special session on September 17 to address the energy topic.
While the governor did not get the energy legislation he wanted, he was pleased with the negotiated transportation package, calling it "historic."
"With this agreement, there will about $950 million a year for transportation in Harrisburg, Erie, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, Altoona and everywhere else for the next 10 years," Rendell said. "It should put transportation systems in good shape for the next 15 to 20 years.
Members of the legislature are expected to begin considering the budget legislation this week.
The administration had previously said furloughed workers will not be paid for the time off, but Monday night Rendell said "options that we have to lessen the impact" are under consideration and he plans to make an announcement shortly.
Penguins March Towards Protection from a Warming World
WASHINGTON, DC, July 10, 2007 (ENS) - The emperor penguin colony at Pointe Geologie, which was featured in the film "March of the Penguins," has declined by at least 55 percent since 1952 due to global warming, scientists have documented.
To prevent the sea birds from dying out, the Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit group, last November petitioned the Bush administration to place these and other penguin species under federal protection.
Last month, the group threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to respond to the petition.
Today, the Service responded, saying that protection under the Endangered Species Act for emperor penguins and nine other penguin species indeed may be warranted.
The Service will review the 10 species' status and determine whether to propose them for inclusion on the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
The 10 species are the emperor, southern rockhopper, northern rockhopper, Fiordland crested, erect-crested, macaroni, white-flippered, yellow-eyed, African and Humboldt penguins.
The snares crested penguin and the royal penguin were found not to warrant Endangered Species Act protection. Ecuador's Galapagos penguin is the only penguin species currently listed.
The species under review inhabit areas of Antarctica, Argentina, Australian Territory Islands, Chile, French Territory Islands, Namibia, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and United Kingdom Territory Islands.
Threats include commercial fishing, competition for prey, habitat loss, non-native predators, pollution and climate change.
Scientists say that krill, the keystone of the Antarctic marine ecosystem and an essential food of penguins, whales and seals, has declined by as much as 80 percent since the 1970s over large areas of the Southern Ocean.
Even under the most optimistic greenhouse gas emission scenarios, continued warming is expected to affect Antarctica, the sub-Antarctic islands, the Southern Ocean and their penguin inhabitants.
"These penguin species will march right into extinction unless greenhouse gas pollution is controlled," said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center's Climate, Air, and Energy Program. "It is not too late to save them, but we have to seize available solutions to global warming right away."
In addition to global warming, penguins can be harmed by industrial fisheries, either directly, when individual penguins are killed in trawls, nets and longlines, or indirectly, through the depletion of prey species such as anchovy and krill.
Similar fishing fleets figure in the hit movie "Happy Feet," which features two of the petitioned species, the emperor and rockhopper penguins.
Listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act would provide broad protection to the penguins. Federal agencies would have to ensure that any action carried out, authorized, or funded by the U.S. government would not "jeopardize the continued existence" of the species.
A link to the Federal Register notice of the Service's initial finding is at: http://www.fws.gov/international/.
The Service will open a 60 day comment period on July 11, to gather scientific and commercial information from the public. Email comments to DSApenguins@fws.gov, or submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking portal at: www.regulations.gov.
Meat-Sweet Diet Linked to Increased Breast Cancer RiskPHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, July 10, 2007 (ENS) – A new study finds that the more "western" the diet - marked by red meat, starches and sweets - the greater the risk for breast cancer among postmenopausal Chinese women.
According to researchers who conducted the analysis at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Harvard University, Shanghai Cancer Institute, and Vanderbilt University, the findings mark the first time a specific association between a western diet and breast cancer has been identified in Asian women.
The Fox Chase researchers identified dietary habits among women in the study based on their reported eating habits, classifying them as either "meat-sweet" or "vegetable-soy" eaters.
The "meat-sweet" diet is characterized by various meats, primarily pork but also poultry, organ meats, beef and lamb, and shrimp, saltwater fish, and shellfish, as well as candy, dessert, bread, and milk. The "vegetable-soy" pattern is associated with various vegetables, soy-based products, and freshwater fish.
The researchers studied 1,459 women 25 to 64 years of age diagnosed with breast cancer and compared them with 1,724 women of the same age who were not diagnosed.
The study, published in the July issue of "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, is the latest set of findings derived from the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study, conducted in the 1990s by Wei Zheng, MD and colleagues at Vanderbilt University.
"The Shanghai data gave us a unique look at a population of Chinese women who were beginning to adopt more western style eating habits," said Marilyn Tseng, PhD at Fox Chase. "We found an association between a western style diet and breast cancer was pronounced in postmenopausal women, especially heavier women with estrogen receptor positive tumors."
Breast cancers marked by the excessive production of estrogen receptors form the majority of breast cancers and are often associated with obesity.
Tseng said there seems to be a specific interaction between obesity and western cuisine among postmenopausal women that drives breast cancer, although the study did not offer a specific mechanism.
The "meat-sweet" pattern was significantly associated with a greater than two-fold risk of breast cancer among overweight postmenopausal women.
The results showed no overall association of breast cancer risk with the "vegetable-soy" pattern.
"Our study suggests the possibility that the "meat-sweet" pattern interacts with obesity to increase breast cancer risk," Tseng said. "Low consumption of a western dietary pattern plus successful weight control may protect against breast cancer in a traditionally low-risk Asian population that is poised to more broadly adopt foods characteristic of western societies."
This research was funded through grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Nevada Wild Horse Roundups ProtestedELY, Nevada, July 10, 2007 (ENS) - The Bureau of Land Management, BLM, says the agency will resume gathering and removing wild horses and burros from the range in July. In Nevada about 3,100 animals will be removed during the months of July, August and September.
The first gathers and removals involve herds in the Battle Mountain, Ely and Elko areas. A separate contractor will be working in the Moriah, White River and Jakes Wash herd management areas, HMAs, managed by the Ely field office.
The BLM removed 1,444 animals from the Nevada range earlier this year before foaling season, when the BLM stops its operations.
There are already more horses in government pens than live on the open range. Wild horse advocates with groups such as The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign are outraged at the number of horses that the BLM now plans to remove from their legal herd areas.
In a letter today to William Dunn of the BLM's Ely District Office, Nevada wildlife ecologist Craig Downer says the number of horses that would remain after the helicopter roundup planned by the BLM would not be viable.
Downer says the BLM plans for the Jakes Wash and Moriah herd management areas violate the Wild Horse and Burro Act and two other federal laws.
"Your proposal to jerk out 150 wild horses by helicopter roundup, at the cost of great suffering and social and ecological disruption, and to leave only 30-40 wild horses in this extensive area of 208,000 acres constitutes an abrogation of the above Act," he writes.
"The wild horses in their legal herd areas are to be treated respectfully as the "principal" presences according to the law, but you are proposing all the opposite!" writes Downer.
"The number of wild horses you leave will represent less than one horse per 5,000 acres of legal HMA! This is grossly unfair, unjust, and contrary to the law, including NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act] and the Multiple Use Act! You also fail to consider the place of the horse in the native Western ecosystem as a 'returned native species' who restores and enhances" that ecosystem, Downer writes.
The Jakes Wash herd management area covers 153,659 acres. According to BLM's 2004 figures there were only 21 wild horses in the area, while the the appropriate management level was given as 75 horses.
Downer says the present wild horse population of slightly less than 200 in the Jakes Wash and Moriah HMAs represents about one wild horse per 1,000 acres, a very sparsely distributed population. "From your figures, it appears you are allocating over 30 times more forage to livestock than to wild horses here in the legal domain of the horses," he writes.
Downer says that instead of rounding up the wild horses and putting them up for adoption, which Downer calls "managing for the extinction of this herd," he says the BLM should secure year-round water and unfenced seasonal migratory routes for this wild horse population and allow it to stablize its own numbers over time.
"Wild horses are great fire preventers, seeders and soil builders," Downer reminds the BLM manager.
The current estimated wild horse and burro population in Nevada is 19,000 animals, the BLM says. Appropriate management levels are set on 83 of the 102 HMAs in the state, including Jakes Wash.
San Joaquin Valley Farmers to Get Air Quality FundingFRESNO, California, July 10, 2007 (ENS) - The Bush administration has come up with a new initiative and some funding to help San Joaquin Valley farmers adopt on-farm technologies and practices to improve air quality.
Air in the San Joaquin Valley, California's agricultural heartland, is some of the nation's most polluted. Ringed by mountains and not freshened by prevailing winds, exhaust from vehicles as well as dust and chemicals from agricultural operations form a haze that hangs in the valley's air.
Mark Rey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, deputy under secretary for natural resources and environment, will visit Fresno on Thursday to announce a new three year proposal.
Since the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will soon require growers to reduce on-farm emissions of smog producing volatile organic compounds, VOCs, there is a heightened need to help producers now to meet the mandate, Rey says.
The proposal combines technical and cost share assistance through the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS.
Rey will make some money available immediately to fund a portion of California's backlog of eligible applications to voluntarily improve air quality.
The NRCS would oversee the initiative using both conservation technical assistance as well as its Environmental Quality Incentives Program, EQIP, which shares the cost of structures and practices that farmers undertake to protect natural resources.
Since the Farm Bill governs many programs including EQIP, through which this initiative would be funded, Rey will outline how the Bush administration's proposed 2007 Farm Bill would continue assistance for this air quality initiative as well as other conservation assistance needed by agricultural producers.
Rey says the administration's proposal for the EQIP program would broaden the program and simplify paperwork and application processes for farmers but would continue to share the costs of investments made by farmers to protect natural resources such as air, soil, water, and wildlife habitat.
Illinois Company Nabbed for Illegal Emissions Defeat Devices
CHICAGO, Illinois, July 10, 2007 (ENS) - The federal government has cracked down on oxygen sensor simulators, called O2 Sims - devices that allow cars to release excess levels of pollution into the environment in violation of the Clean Air Act
The Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, today announced the first settlement and fine of a company in an O2 Sims case.
Casper's Electronics of Mundelein, Illinois is required to recall the devices, stop selling them, and pay more than $74,000 in civil penalties to the federal government.
An O2 Sim tricks an automobile engine's computer into sensing a properly functioning emission control system, even when the catalytic converter is missing or faulty. These after-market sensors are considered illegal "defeat devices under the Clean Air Act.
Cars and trucks with defeat devices can emit up to 50 times the amount of pollution emitted by vehicles with properly functioning emission controls.
Tailpipe emissions contain the smog precusors non-methane hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen, as well as carbon monoxide, which impairs breathing.
Casper's has sold approximately 44,000 defeat devices through retailers and from its website since 2001.
The EPA estimates that the increased emissions from installation of these devices over the life of the vehicles are 7,400 tons of hydrocarbons, 347,000 tons of carbon monoxide, and 6,000 tons of nitrogen oxides.
This is equivalent to the emissions produced by a half-million cars with fully operational emission control systems over their lifetimes.
"Emission control defeat devices, like those used here, risk harming human health and the environment by allowing huge increases in pollutants from motor vehicles," said Ronald Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Granta Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, said, "Casper's sale of the oxygen sensor simulator defeat devices over a multi-year period is a serious violation because it facilitated the removal or malfunctioning of motor vehicle catalytic converters, which are the primary emission controls devices to prevent excessive pollution from cars and trucks."
Casper's must notify its customers that Casper's will buy back any O2 Sims sold by Casper's or its distributors, and create and implement a reporting system to ensure future compliance.
Now the EPA is investigating other automobile parts manufacturers and sellers that may be making and selling similar products.
Western Shoshone Native Leader Corbin Harney Dies
LAS VEGAS, Nevada, July 10, 2007 (ENS) - A veteran of many environmental, indigenous and political struggles, Western Shoshone spiritual leader Corbin Harney died today of prostate cancer. He was 87.
His immediate family issued a statement which quoted Harney as asking everyone to remember, "We are one people. We cannot separate ourselves now."
"There are many good things to be done for our people and for the world," Harney said. "It is important to let things be good. And it is important to teach the younger generation so that things are not lost."
Harney died in a house "on a sacred mountain near Santa Rosa, California (Turtle Island)," the family said. "He had dedicated his life to fighting the nuclear testing and dumping."
Harney was born in Idaho and raised on the Owyhee Indian reservation.
Since 1985, Harney and other Western Shoshone people have been fighting against nuclear weapons testing in Nevada. The Nevada Test Site occupies land that the federal government seized from the tribe in the 1940s to use for weapons testing.
Western Shoshone elder and spiritual leader Corbin Harney (Photo courtesy Shundahai Network)
"The food that my people survived on is not here no more on account of this nuclear weapon that we have developed," Corbin explained to many audiences. "The pinenuts aren't here no more, the chokecherries aren't here, the antelope aren't here, the deer aren't here, the groundhog aren't here, the sagehand aren't here."
Numerous documentaries have been made about his work and message. He also established Poo Ha Bah, a native healing center located in Tecopa Springs, California.
In 1994, Harney established the Shundahai Network, a Las Vegas-based network of activists for environmental, nuclear, and native issues. Shundahai is a Newe, or Western Shoshone, word meaning "Peace and Harmony with all Creation."
He received numerous national and international awards and spoke before the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Harney authored two books, "The Way It Is: One Water, One Air, One Earth," (Blue Dolphin Publishing, 1995) and a forthcoming book, "The Nature Way."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.