AmeriScan: July 18, 2007

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Poll: Global Warming Top Environmental Problem

WASHINGTON, DC, July 18, 2007 (ENS) – A majority of voters in six congressional districts identify global warming as the top environmental problem and favor immediate measures to reduce carbon emissions, according to a new poll by the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC.

The focus on global warming eclipses longstanding environmental problems like air pollution and clean air cited by 40 percent or water pollution and clean water mentioned by 25 percent of respondents, the pollsters found.

"Voters in Blue Dog and moderate districts feel strongly about the urgency of solving global warming," said David Tuft, campaign director for the NRDC's Climate Center. "They support immediate reductions of global warming pollution and strongly favor mandatory pollution limits on power plants, industry and refineries."

Harstad Strategic Research conducted telephone surveys among voters who live in the congressional districts of six members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Interviewers spoke with 402 people in each Congressional District for a total of 2,416 interviews conducted from June 5 to 23, 2007. The margin of error is considered to be plus or minus two percent.

Combined findings from six moderate and conservative Democratic congressional districts found that seven out of 10 voters agree that global warming is serious, and given a choice, 73 percent would start reducing global warming pollution now.

By contrast, only 19 percent of voters said they would wait until cleaner technologies are available.

Sixty-three percent of voters support placing mandatory limits on emissions from power plants through a cap-and-trade market based system that allows trading in carbon pollution permits.

By 50 percent to 25 percent, voters polled say that pollution permits should be sold to U.S. companies with the revenues dedicated to funding new energy saving technologies, and protecting consumers and displaced workers. The greater percentage do not want to see the permits given to U.S. companies for free, in order to protect shareholders, and not punish American industry.

The poll also asked voters about other ways to reduce global warming pollution. At the top of the list in every district was requiring appliance manufacturers to make more energy-efficient products and providing the public with incentives to invest in solar energy and better insulation.

Eighty seven percent of voters in all districts also favor increasing fuel efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon within a decade.

The districts polled were:

The U.S. Representatives of these districts serve on the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, which will be considering legislation to reduce global warming emissions in the fall.

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Florida Hikes Penalties for Environmental Lawbreakers

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, July 18, 2007 (ENS) – Florida is getting tough on people who break environmental laws, with a schedule of stiffer financial penalties for the most serious violations, the state's top environmental official announced today.

During his keynote address at the Florida Chamber's 21st Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, Secretary Michael Sole today set forth the new penalty guidelines.

"I want to change the idea that ‘penalties are a cost of doing business' by emphasizing the agency's tough stance against violators," Sole said.

In 2006, DEP enforcement cases with monetary penalties assessed numbered more than 1,300.

DEP will take a tougher stance by increasing penalties and providing clearer guidance on pursuing enforcement for significant infractions that involve hazardous waste or hazardous substance violations, result in economic benefit to a company or individual, are intentional or habitual, cause significant harm to the environment, or continue over an extended period of time.

For instance, the formula currently used to calculate penalties for violations of the storage, treatment or disposal of hazardous waste ranges from $100 per day for minor violations to $25,000 per day for major violations.

The penalties for hazardous waste violations now will be increased to match the recent increases adopted by the U.S. Environmental Proection Agency, EPA, which range from $500 per day for minor violations to $32,500 per day for major violations. There are even circumstances in which the maximum amount allowed by law, $50,000 per day per violation, may be pursued, said Sole.

Although the current guidelines allow DEP to calculate and factor in the economic benefit for any violation, that option is rarely used.

The new guidelines will require DEP staffers to include economic benefit in all penalty calculations when it can be practically determined, and to establish guidance to help in that determination.

For example, if a developer conducted dredging and filling of a wetland without a permit so that a shopping center could open sooner than it would have had a permit been obtained, the cost savings generated by the early opening of the shopping center would be an economic benefit to the developer.

Without factoring in the economic benefit, the penalty calculated for three days of illegal dredging and filling might be $2,000 per day for a total of $6,000.

If the developer saved $24,000 by opening the shopping center early due to dredging and filling without a permit, a penalty that factored in the economic benefit gained by the developer would be $6,000 for three days of illegal dredging and filling plus $24,000 for the economic benefit, for a total of $30,000.

Click here to see Florida's new penalty guidelines.

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St. Louis Developers Fined $590,000 for Runoff Violations

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, July 18, 2007 (ENS) – Several St. Louis developers responsible for polluting streams and lakes with runoff from three construction sites must adhere to a strict compliance program at future construction projects, clean up past pollution, and pay $590,000, one of the largest environmental penalties in state history under a settlement filed in court today.

The consent decree, filed in federal district court in St. Louis, requires J.H. Berra Construction Co. Inc. and several other defendants to pay a civil penalty of $590,000, the largest penalty for a land disturbance case in Missouri.

The other defendants in the case include JHB Properties Inc., J.H. Berra Holding Co. Inc., JMB No. 2 LLC, and CMB Rhodes LLC.

All are connected to J.H. Berra Construction, one of the largest developers in the St. Louis area.

"Developers must realize the importance of keeping harmful sediment from reaching the waters of the state," said John B. Askew, EPA Regional Administrator. "The strict erosion controls required of Berra by this settlement and the size of this penalty reflect the seriousness of the violations."

Half of the penalty will go to the United States and the other half will go to the state of Missouri.

In addition, the defendants will implement remedial plans for the pollution caused by the runoff and reimburse more than $52,000 to the state of Missouri and the City of Wildwood for their costs of investigation and enforcement.

The consent decree resolves the concerns of EPA, the state of Missouri, and the city of Wildwood about sediment pollution from three developments - the Enclaves at Cherry Hills, a 130 acre residential development located in Wildwood; the Countryshire Development, a 150 acre residential development in O'Fallon; and Seckman Lake Estates, a 120 acre construction site in Jefferson County.

Berra's clearing and grading at all three of these sites caused substantial problems with sediment.

Inspections by the EPA and Missouri Department of Natural Resources were prompted by complaints from neighbors about heavy discharges into the surrounding waterways. The inspectors found multiple violations.

Ronald Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said, "This consent decree contains both strong requirements for future construction sites that will reduce pollution as well as a hefty penalty, and also demonstrates the important role that the federal, state and local government each play in reducing the pollution of our lakes and waters."

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Cherokee Nation Joins Federal Environmental Health Program

DALLAS, Texas, July 18, 2007 (ENS) - The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma will take part in a new community health protection and education initiative sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and CDC Director Julie Gerberding signed a formal memorandum of understanding today that will enable both agencies to better support efforts by local governments.

"EPA and CDC are joining forces to help local communities advance their environmental and public health protection efforts," said EPA Regional Administrator Richard Greene. "By capitalizing on the strengths of our agencies, we will assist the Cherokee Nation and our other partners in addressing their local environmental challenges by providing resources, tools and expertise."

Various communities within the 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma that make up the Cherokee Nation are collaborating to identify sources of toxic exposure and improve the environment.

Preliminary discussions have led one group to focus on addressing the problem of polluted runoff from the poultry farms in Delaware County; and another group is already focused on addressing the problem of methamphetamine pollution and particulate matter in Sequoyah County.

In addition, the Cherokee Nation works in collaboration with the Cherokee Nation Clinics and Indian Health Service Hospitals to provide screening and early detection in breast and cervical cancer.

In addition to the Cherokee Nation, the two federal agencies are working with three other communities in Boston, Massachusetts; Cerro Gordo, Iowa; and Savannah, Georgia.

All four pilot communities are part of EPA's Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program, a $4 million competitive grant and technical assistance program to support community-based education and public health protection projects across the country.

More on the CARE program and its community projects is online at:

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California Desert Resort Rejected in Favor of Habitat Plan

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, California, July 18, 2007 (ENS) - A Riverside county commission has blocked a proposal to build a luxury golf course and resort at the expense of wildlife and regional habitat planning.

At its July 12 meeting, the Riverside Local Agency Formation Commission, a regional agency charged with discouraging urban sprawl, reconsidered and turned down a proposal to annex the the land for the development to the City of Desert Hot Springs.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club had filed a lawsuit in May to challenge the Palmwood annexation.

"Palmwood is an ecological and financial disaster," said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity. "It would have driven a stake through the heart of more than a decade of regional planning."

The Palmwood development is planned for the southern edge of the Little San Bernardino mountains. It is surrounded by public land near Joshua Tree National Park and the Big Morongo Canyon preserve directly to the north.

Close to 2,700 homes, over one million square feet of commercial space, a 400 room hotel, and two golf courses are proposed.

Most of the Palmwood site lies within designated conservation areas in the proposed Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

This sensitive ecological area is inhabited by protected and rare species including bighorn sheep, burrowing owls, the Palm Springs pocket mouse, Palm Springs round-tailed ground squirrel, Le Conte's thrasher, and loggerhead shrike.

Representatives from the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission said that the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan could not move forward with the Palmwood development in place.

This habitat plan, in development for more than 10 years, has been supported by local governments, public agencies, developers and environmentalists. It attempts to balance development and wildlife protection in one of the fastest growing areas in the United States.

"This is a wonderful outcome for a difficult situation, and hopefully it will be sustained," said Jeff Morgan from the Sierra Club. "Wildlife in the area will be fully protected under the Multi-Species Habitat Plan."

Speakers at the commission meeting questioned the truth of the city of Desert Hot Springs' speculations about the development.

Independent financial analysis demonstrated it would be a net drain on money and public services, contrary to the city's claims.

Analysis conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club showed that the city has "repeatedly rushed projects through a shoddy environmental review process in order to fast-track development." The groups have provided comments and filed lawsuits on several other annexations proposed by the city.

"Desert Hot Springs has a pattern and practice of limiting public review and failing to comply with environmental laws," said Evans. "What the city is doing is illegal. It must be held accountable."

The scrutiny may have persuaded the city to join the Habitat Plan it has resisted in the past. On July 10, 2007 the city voted to enter negotiations with regional planning agencies and Riverside County to become a part of the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

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For Companies, Committed Green is Gold

BOSTON, Massachusetts, July 18, 2007 (ENS) – More than two-thirds of American adults surveyed online say they consider a company's business practices when deciding what to buy.

At the same time, there is a substantial increase in the number of American workers who want their employers to support a social cause such as environmental conservation, a separate survey found.

"Cause marketing efforts have a proven impact on sales and remain effective ways for a company to express its heart and humanity," says Julia Hobbs Kivistik, executive vice president of Cause Branding, Cone, LLC, the company that commissioned both surveys.

The 2007 Cone Cause Evolution Survey presents the findings of an online poll conducted March 29 by Opinion Research Corporation of 1,066 adults 18 years of age and older.

Information about the causes Americans find important was gathered in an online survey on May 7 by Opinion Research Corporation of 1,097 adults 18 years of age and older. The margin of error in both surveys is plus or minus three percent.

"There has been a radical change once again in the value equation involving consumers, companies, and society," said Kivistik. "Good business primarily used to be about providing fair value, decent service, and high quality."

"Today's informed consumers are now asking, 'Is this a good company?' and 'What does it stand for?'"

An overwhelming majority of respondents, 85 percent, say they would switch to another company's products or services if a problem with business practices was uncovered.

Eighty-seven percent are likely to switch from one brand to another, price and quality being equal, if the other brand is associated with a good cause, up from 66 percent who said they would switch in a 1993 Cone survey.

A majority said they consider a company's commitment to social issues when deciding which companies they want doing business in their communities, where to work and which investments to make.

"Cause marketing has come of age," says Carol Cone, chairman and founder, Cone, LLC. "Consumers expect companies to support social issues, and companies have responded in a variety of ways, from multi-year, multimillion dollar commitments, to something as simple as adding a ribbon to a package or ad and donating funds to a nonprofit."

Employees' expectations also have increased. Now 72 percent said they wish their employers would do more to support a cause. Cone's last survey in 2004 found that 52 percent of employees wished their employers would do more.

Advertising and the Internet are the two ways Americans prefer companies to communicate their social and environmental practices - 45 percent and 41 percent respectively.

Eighty percent of respondents say health is the leading issue companies should address. Education, environment, and economic development tie for second place at 77 percent.

"Americans are attuned to the larger societal issues brought forth by globalization," says Kivistik. "They recognize that often the greatest impact a company can have is to support an issue that is aligned with its business - supporting health or economic issues that affect the workforce or environmental conservation."

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Fueling Jets with Animal Fat

WASHINGTON, DC, July 18, 2007 (ENS) - Both the U.S. Department of Defense, DOD, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, are currently funding efforts to explore the use of biofuels for jet airplanes.

Syntroleum is providing the DOD with 500 gallons of a new renewable jet fuel derived from entirely from animal fats supplied by Tyson Foods, Inc. The fuel will be used for research, development, and performance testing in military jet turbines.

Syntroleum recently formed Dynamic Fuels LLC, a joint venture with Tyson Foods, to produce synthetic fuels from animal fats, greases, and vegetable oils.

"Tyson's venture with Syntroleum represents another significant step forward in our strategy of leveraging Tyson's access to animal by-products, our trading skills, and industry relationships to become a premier player in renewable energy," said Richard Bond, Tyson president and CEO.

As the world's largest producer and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, Tyson produces large by-product volumes of various grades of animal fats, such as beef tallow, pork lard, chicken fat, and greases which can be utilized as renewable feedstock for this venture.

"We believe this venture will add value to our business, give animal agriculture another opportunity to participate in the production of renewable fuels and is also an environmentally sound way to contribute to America's energy security," he said.

The companies plan to build a plant in the Southwest that will begin production in 2010 with the capacity to produce 75 million gallons of fuel per year.

According to Syntroleum, the U.S. Air Force plans to certify all its aircraft to run on alternative fuels by 2010 and wants 50 percent of its fuel to come from domestic alternative sources by 2016.

The most likely sources for such domestic alternative fuels are either biomass or coal. See the Syntroleum press releases on the joint venture and the DOD project.

While Syntroleum is focused on animal fat, a Honeywell subsidiary called UOP LLC intends to produce jet fuel using oils extracted from plants or algae.

UOP develops process technology for the refining industry, and the company's technology is geared toward producing feedstocks that can be used in existing refineries.

In late June, UOP was awarded $6.7 million by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop and commercialize a process to produce military jet fuel, known as JP-8, from biomass oils.

UOP will work with DOE's Sandia National Laboratories and others to develop the process by the end of next year. UOP has already developed a new process to convert vegetable oils into diesel fuel and plans to build a facility in Italy by 2009.

As DOD works to develop the biofuels, NASA's efforts are directed more toward their use. Reaction Design was selected by NASA in late June to develop software models that simulate the operation of jet engines when fueled with a range of alternative fuels, including biofuels.

The company has expertise in modeling combustion and will work with experimental data to create detailed chemical kinetics models for the fuels, which is a critical step in tweaking the chemical components of the fuels to enhance their performance.

The models could also be employed to develop new jet engines that can burn the fuels cleanly and efficiently.

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