AmeriScan: July 13, 2007

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Sparked by Lightning, Fires Blaze Across the West

BOISE, Idaho, July 13, 2007 (ENS) - High temperatures are scorching the interior West, from the desert southwest to eastern Washington, Idaho and Montana. Highs this weekend are predicted to range from between 100 and the low 120s in the desert southwest to the 90s and occasional low 100s in Montana.

Thousands of firefighters are battling large fires in Wyoming, Utah, Oregon and California that were sparked by lightning. The National Interagency Fire Center officials say dry thunderstorms across the Intermountain West may spark more fires and these conditions will likely prevail through the summer months.

Three miles north of Milford, Utah, the Milford Flat fire is now on record as the largest blaze in Utah history. Sparked by lightning on July 6, the fire has covered 351,549 acres - about 50 miles in length and 20 miles across - burning in grass, sage and juniper.

Structures, a natural gas pipeline and a geothermal power plant remain threatened.

Working in 95 degree heat, firefighters have conducted successful suppression actions and the fire is currently 40 percent contained, officials say. Their current objective is to protect the Interstate 15 corridor by stopping the fire'ss forward progression south and east.

Despite early morning thunderstorms in the area, good progress was made on the Egley Complex Fire - six fires located 10 miles north of Riley, in southcentral Oregon. Numerous structures are threatened, while evacuations and periodic road closures remain in effect.

The fires have charred 72,000 acres with 30 percent containment reported.

The Balls Canyon Fire 10 miles east of Loyalton, California in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is showing extreme fire behavior with rapid rates of spread.

Located near the California-Nevada border, the fire is threatening power lines supplying the gambling resort city of Reno. Numerous structures are threatened and the 4,746 acre blaze in timber and grass is considered to be 15 percent contained.

The Tongue Complex of fires 45 miles south of Silver City in the Bureau of Land Management Boise District is burning across 30,300 acres and is considered to be 30 percent contained. Structures remain threatened and active fire behavior is ongoing.

Road closures and evacuations are still in effect for parts of Wyoming,Utah, Washington, California, Montana and Nevada.

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Democratic Hopefuls Woo the Green Collar Job Vote

DES MOINES, Iowa, July 13, 2007 (ENS) – Democratic presidential contender and former U.S. Senator John Edwards today announced his "green collar jobs" training and placement plan for up to 150,000 workers a year.

"We can turn the crisis of climate change into an opportunity for a new energy economy, right here in America," Edwards said. "Now is the time to make sure that the economy of tomorrow is an all-aboard economy where nobody is left behind."

Green collar jobs involve the design, manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance of clean, energy-efficient technologies.

A study last year by the National Renewable Energy Lab found shortage of training is "a leading non-technical barrier to renewable energy and energy efficiency growth."

Edwards would provide Green Collar Jobs Training Grants to train and certify workers. He plans to create 50,000 government-subsidized green collar "stepping stone jobs" for job seekers with few skills or little work experience.

On Wednesday, MoveOn.org Political Action announced that Edwards won their poll asking which candidate has the best position to halt global warming. The poll was taken at 1,300 virtual town halls across the country last Saturday held in connection with the Live Earth concerts.

Edwards’ climate plan would limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2010 with a cap-and-trade system and reduce U.S. greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050, as the latest science says is needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

He would create a New Energy Economy Fund by auctioning off $10 billion in greenhouse gas pollution permits and repealing subsidies for big oil companies.

He would bring the United States into an international treaty to curb greenhouse gases that would include developing countries such as China and India.

Not one of Edwards' proposals is new but they would create jobs.

The cap-and-trade proposal is already a functioning market in the European Union. A similar system has been proposed by the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of 29 large corporations and environmental organizations.

Legislation providing support for green collar jobs is moving through both houses of Congress, and others have floated green collar jobs training proposals.

At the United Steel Workers' conference in Cleveland July 6, Democratic hopeful Senator Hilary Clinton said, "We need to create green collar jobs to ensure our essential manufacturing base can grow."

To achieve that, she would create a Strategic Energy Fund with $50 billion coming from a tax on the oil companies.

Last month, the Senate adopted the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Workforce Development Amendment, co-sponsored by Clinton. The amendment allots $100 million to train workers in green collar jobs.

On the House side, the Education and Labor Committee passed legislation June 27 to help train workers for jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama has made no specific proposals on green collar jobs.

Obama would raise automotive fuel economy standards four percent each year and establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard similar to California's.

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Northeast Family Farmers Squeezed By Climate Change

ITHACA, New York, July 13, 2007 (ENS) - While a warmer climate will trigger a longer growing season and the opportunity to experiment with new crops in the Northeast, "it will also open the door to invasion by new and aggressive crop pests, damaging summer heat stress and serious challenges with water management," warns David Wolfe, a Cornell University expert on the effects of climate change on agriculture.

Choices made today could have "profound impacts on tomorrow's agriculture and natural landscapes," Wolfe said.

His assessment is part of a report by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, NECIA, Synthesis Team, presented Wednesday at a press conference at the New York Botanical Garden.

In simultaneous press conferences in seven northeastern cities, the team of independent experts, in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists, presented analyses of the impact of climate change on key sectors in the northeastern United States.

By providing the best available science on the issue, they hope to persuade opinion leaders, policymakers and the public to make informed choices about climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Northeast can expect more frequent summer heat waves that could compromise the health of crops, livestock and humans, said Wolfe. What will happen in the future, he said, depends "on whether we as a society follow the business as usual [higher] emissions scenario or begin taking action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

"Today's energy and emissions choices lead to starkly different pictures of what the future holds for our farms, gardens and natural landscapes in terms of climate change impacts," said Wolfe, Cornell professor of horticulture and lead author of the NECIA agriculture chapter.

"Our analysis found that under the higher emissions scenario, parts of New York are projected to reach temperatures by late century that would reduce milk production up to 15 percent during summer months."

Although farmers can better cool dairy barns, the extra costs involved could squeeze out small family farmers.

The apple industry could be threatened as winters become so warm that the "winter chilling" period required for maximum flowering and yield is no longer met. "With a lower emissions scenario, apple and other affected tree fruit crop industries would have several more decades to adapt, possibly switching to different varieties or crops," he said.

Of perhaps greatest concern in the next few decades, he stressed, is increased pressure from aggressive, invasive insect, disease and weed pests. Many of the most aggressive weeds, research shows, grow faster with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

"On top of this, our study found that, at the higher emissions scenario, weed species currently constrained to southern states by our cold winter temperatures could encroach throughout the southern half of New York by mid-century," said Wolfe.

The full reports are available at http://www.climatechoices.org. Wolfe's specific study also will be published in a forthcoming issue of "Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change."

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Salmon Advocates Call For Congressional Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC, July 13, 2007 (ENS) - More than 25 regional and national conservation and fishing organizations, are asking Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Congressman John Dingell of Michigan to investigate the Bonneville Power Administration's failure to protect endangered fish and wildlife.

The groups, representing millions of members nationwide, say endangered salmon in the Columbia River Basin are struggling to survive while the federal utility is using water needed by the fish for power generation, in violation of the 1980 Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act.

This law gives fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin equal status with all other users of the federal Columbia River hydrosystem, including electricity generation.

"On a regular basis, the Bonneville Power Administration makes energy decisions that fail to treat fish and wildlife concerns on par with power considerations, violating the spirit and intent of this law so carefully crafted by Congressman Dingell two decades ago," said Chris Salp, Eastern Regional Representative of Save Our Wild Salmon, which spearheaded the group sign-on letter.

"The agency continually sidesteps or ignores salmon protection laws. Its shortsighted dam operations have been the largest cause of recent declines for many of the Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead populations," said Salp.

The numbers of Columbia-Snake salmon and steelhead have declined dramatically since the 1980s. Many runs are at or below the levels that initially led to their listing under the Endangered Species Act.

"Americans deserve to know why our federal agencies have failed to restore Columbia-Snake basin salmon, revitalize coastal and river communities from California to Alaska and inland to Idaho, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being invested wisely," said James Schroeder, senior environmental policy specialist for National Wildlife Federation.

"Without such a rigorous examination of Bonneville Power Administration's actions and compliance record relative to the law, we fear that our nation will lose the fabled salmon and steelhead populations of the Columbia and Snake rivers forever."

The participating groups, including seven from Michigan, are urging Dingell to conduct an oversight hearing on the issue.

Meanwhile, a five state public outreach tour to raise awareness for endangered wild salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, rolls into Arizona this weekend, with stops in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff and a 25 foot long, two ton salmon in tow.

Organized by Save Our Wild Salmon, a coalition of environmental groups, fishermen and other salmon advocates, the road show, called Extinction Stops Here, is touring Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona and Nevada this summer to build support for removing the four lower Snake River dams in Washington State.

The huge salmon, nicknamed Fin, has been making appearances at fairs, festivals, farmer's markets, zoos, aquariums, marinas and various waterfront locales.

Children can climb inside and explore hands-on exhibits about salmon, their lifecycle and critical watershed habitat, while adults can learn about what it will take to recover endangered Northwest salmon to healthy, abundant and sustainable populations and restore declining West Coast fisheries.

Fin will make her initial Phoenix appearance on Sunday, July 15 from 1-5 pm outside Chase Field as the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the San Diego Padres.

Follow Fin's progress online at http://saveourwildsalmon.blogspot.com, which is capturing the tour through photos, videos and commentary.

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Asian Silver Carp Imports, Transport Banned

WASHINGTON, DC, July 13, 2007 (ENS) - The importation and interstate transport of live silver and largescale silver carp will be banned under a final rule issued Monday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A petition to the Service signed by 25 Members of Congress outlined the impacts of silver carp to humans and native aquatic species in waters of the United States.

The final rule, advanced under the injurious wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act, addresses these concerns and will become effective on August 9, 2007.

"Slowing the spread of these carp is necessary to protect our native aquatic species," said Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Biologists are concerned that silver carp could spread throughout large rivers and lakes in the United States and compete with native species for food and habitat, having both ecological and economic impacts and threatening, for example, the multimillion dollar Great Lakes fishery.

Largescale silver carp, native to parts of China and Vietnam, are a distinct species related to the silver carp and also warrant prohibition, Hall said.

While not yet known to be in the U.S., largescale silver carp could also directly compete with native aquatic species for food and habitat and may hybridize with silver and bighead carp, both of which are already in U.S. waters.

Silver carp, native to Asia, were introduced in the United States in the early 1970s for use as algae control agents in sewage lagoons and fishery production ponds, but escaped into surrounding waters.

The silver carp have established themselves in the Mississippi River Basin. Silver carp are difficult to handle and transport because of their tendency to jump. Growing up to three feet long and 60 pounds in weight, silver carp have leaped into moving boats injuring people and damaging equipment.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the giant fish can consume 40 percent of their body weight a day in plankton, a food source on which other Great Lakes fish species depend.

"Although silver carp are established in parts of the Mississippi watershed, we will work to keep their impacts minimized and prevent additional populations from taking hold," said Hall.

On June 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a budget of $3.25 million to the Army Corps of Engineers in the Chicago District of Illinois, to support construction of a permanent barrier to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through the Chicago Waterway system.

Previous authorizations for the Asian carp barrier have been tied up in the renewal of the long-delayed Water Resources Development Act, which has stalled in the last several sessions of Congress.

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West Hollywood Considers Mandatory Green Building Law

WEST HOLLYWOOD, California, July 13, 2007 (ENS) - In an effort to develop environmentally friendly land use policies and fight global warming, the West Hollywood City Council Monday will consider final approval of a law to establish a mandatory green building program. Other California communities, such as the city of Sebastapol, have been adopting such programs in recent months.

The West Hollywood Green Building Requirements and Incentives for Private Development Ordinance establishes new development standards that apply to all development, including all new residential and commercial projects as well as remodels and tenant improvements.

All projects must incorporate elements such as drought tolerant landscaping, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and energy efficient appliances.

The law develops a point system for new construction with incentives for projects that achieve "exemplary" status, and it implements green building education and outreach program.

The point system was designed to emphasize locally-available materials, encourage green elements to be incorporated early into project design and provide flexibility to alter green elements as the project evolves.

"The city has been a leading force in enacting policies to promote the environment. Passage of the Green Building Ordinance continues this legacy and represents a truly collaborative effort between the public and private sectors," said West Hollywood Councilmember Abbe Land, who co-sponsored the item.

"Together, we will continue to make West Hollywood a sustainable place to live and work for our future," she said.

The education and outreach component of the ordinance includes the establishment of a Green Building Resource Center at West Hollywood City Hall which will include educational materials and provide information and outreach to the development community, homeowners, renters, and businesses. A manual for the City’s Green Building Ordinance will explain each requirement.

The Green Building Ordinance will be considered at the Council's regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 pm on Monday, July 16, at West Hollywood Park Auditorium, 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard.

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Norman Borlaug to Receive Congressional Gold Medal

WASHINGTON, DC, July 13, 2007 (ENS) - Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug will receive the nation's highest civilian honor at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on July 17.

The Congressional Gold Medal will be presented to Borlaug by President George W. Bush and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. An original gold medal was created by the U.S. Mint to commemorate the honor.

Borlaug, now 93, is known as "the father of the Green Revolution" for his work in reducing world hunger. He is credited for saving more lives than any human in history.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and remains the only person to receive that honor for work in agriculture.

The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress' highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Past recipients include a wide range of people and institutions such as George Washington, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Mandela and the American Red Cross.

In the early 1960s, Borlaug developed high yielding, disease resistant wheat plants and sent his personally trained army of hunger fighters to spread the technology to more than 20 nations.

"Through his improvement of wheat plants," wrote the Nobel committee, "he has created a technological breakthrough which makes it possible to abolish hunger in the developing countries in the course of a few years."

Less than a year after receiving the Nobel Prize he took on the environmental movement, warning that a ban on the pesticide DDT would cause widespread "disease and disaster" in developing countries.

"It would be helpful when you're working on these problems to develop a skin as thick as a rhino's hide, so you don't feel all the darts," Borlaug says. "Oh, there are lots of critics. If you don't do anything you'll never have critics."

Borlaug earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Minnesota.

"Norman Borlaug's work in developing high yield, disease resistant grains improved the lives of billions of people," said Allen Levine, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, who will represent the university at the ceremony.

"We're very proud to have him as an alumnus of our college, and happy that Congress saw fit to recognize him in this way."

For more on Borlaug's career, visit: www.cfans.umn.edu/borlaug.

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