AmeriScan: June 4, 2007

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U.S. Leads the World in Wind Power Growth

WASHINGTON, DC, June 4, 2007 (ENS) - U.S. wind power capacity increased by 27 percent in 2006 and the country had the fastest growing wind power capacity in the world in 2005 and 2006, according to Energy Department's first Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost, and Performance Trends, released Friday.

The report provides a detailed and comprehensive overview of development and trends in the U.S. wind power market.

More than 60 percent of the U.S.'s total wind capacity - over 7,300 Megawatts (MW) - has been installed since President George W. Bush took office in 2001, said DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner.

"Wind power is one of the most important, emissions-free sources of energy being deployed to address climate change and improve our energy security," said Karsner.

The Energy Department report says wind power has consistently been priced at, or below, the average price of conventional electricity generated by coal, nuclear, or natural gas, but the cost of turbines has risen since 2002, driving the cost of wind power up.

Wind project performance, has increased sharply over the last several years, the Energy Department said. This has been driven in part by improved project siting, and technological advancements.

In 2006, the U.S. installed 2,454 MW of wind power capacity, enough to power the homes in a city the size of Philadelphia. The U.S. produced roughly 16 percent of the worldwide wind market, followed by Germany, India, Spain, and China.

But the American Wind Energy Association, AWEA, an industry group, warns that a new bill making its way through Congress could derail the wind power industry for years.

The measure introduced by Congressman Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee would "essentially outlaw the generation of electricity from new wind power plants in the United States and even phase out power production from existing wind turbines," said AWEA.

The provision, Subtitle D of H.R. 2337, would bar any new wind power project until new Fish and Wildlife Service, FWS, rules are issued and require FWS certification of every turbine, even small residential units.

The bill would make it a crime, punishable by a $50,000 fine or a year in jail, to construct or generate electricity from an unapproved turbine, even for home use.

AWEA says the certification process is likely to take years, would undermine state and federal efforts to promote renewable electricity generation and create an unworkable bureaucracy that will delay wind energy projects throughout the United States.

AWEA Senior Director of Government and Public Affairs Gregory Wetstone said, "Wind energy requires no mining or drilling for fuel, no fuel transportation, no hazardous waste disposal, and no water use. And wind energy generates electricity without toxic pollutants like mercury, without greenhouse pollution, and of course without the conventional pollutants that cause smog and acid rain. Is this really an energy sector Congress should close down, for environmental reasons?"

The conflict arises just as the largest wind power conference ever held in North America is taking place. WINDPOWER 2007 opened Sunday in Los Angeles.

A major sponsor of the event is the American Corn Growers Foundation, ACGF, and the American Corn Growers Association through their Wealth From The Wind program, supported in part by a W. K. Kellogg Foundation grant to enhance rural economic development.

ACGF Chairman Gale Lush of Wilcox, Nebraska said energy costs are pushing farm-level 2007 corn cost of production over $3 per bushel, and he is one of those who views wind power as a cost efficient technology that uses no water, an important consideration in these dry years.

Wealth From The Wind project director Dan McGuire said, "Wind power grows in importance every day as part of America's future sustainable and renewable electricity generation mix."

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California Oil Spills Cost Kinder Morgan $5.3 Million

SAN FRANCISCO, California, June 4, 2007 (ENS) - Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, and SFPP LP, have agreed to pay nearly $5.3 million to resolve liability for three oil spills in 2004 and 2005.

Kinder Morgan is one of the largest energy transportation, storage and distribution companies in North America, while its operating partner SFPP is an oil pipeline public utility based in California.

The spills, on Kinder Morgan's Pacific Operations Unit pipeline system, discharged a combined 200,976 gallons of diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline into waters and sensitive wetland ecosystems. The spills impacted endangered species, and commercial uses, according to state and federal agencies.

The settlement addresses the 123,770 gallon spill at the Suisun Marsh in Solano County in April 2004, the 76,900 gallon spill at Oakland Inner Harbor in Alameda in February 2005, and the 300 gallon spill into Summit Creek in April 2005 that impacted the pristine Donner Lake watershed in the Sierra Nevada Range.

The federal and California state governments allege that the spills violated three federal laws - the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Endangered Species Act - and two state laws - the California's Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act and the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act.

The 116,000 acre Suisun Marsh is the largest saltwater wetland in the western United States. This sensitive habitat serves as a brooding area for waterfowl and is inhabited by the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.

The discharged diesel fuel spilled into the marsh, caused petroleum tarring along the shorelines, and impacted or killed mammals and birds, including the endangered mouse.

"Our region is blessed with spectacular natural resources, including the Suisun Marsh and Donner Lake," said U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott. "There must be an unyielding commitment by industry and environmental protection agencies to do everything feasible to prevent a repeat of such harmful spills as occurred in this case."

The settlement includes a $3.7 million civil penalty, and $1.3 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game to compensate for natural resource damages.

In addition, Kinder Morgan has agreed to fund restoration projects, implement stringent oil spill prevention policies and re-designate pipelines in the eastern Sierra Mountains for additional precautionary measures that will minimize environmental risks and potential damage if future spills occur.

Kinder Morgan has also agreed to hire 10 additional pipeline inspectors.

In April 2006, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration entered into a Consent Agreement with Kinder Morgan that ensures improved pipeline safety and helps prevent future oil spills.

The EPA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration worked to ensure that the concerns of both agencies were addressed through the 2006 Consent Agreement and the EPA's enforcement efforts resulting in this settlement filed on May 21, 2007.

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City of Gulfport Sued for Destroying Wetlands

GULFPORT, Mississippi, June 4, 2007 (ENS) Two citizens groups have filed a lawsuit against the City of Gulfport alleging violations of the Clean Water Act that threaten wetlands in the North Gulfport community of the Turkey Creek watershed.

In March of 2006, following excavation of a wetland site on Louisiana Avenue, a contractor for the City of Gulfport illegally dumped the excavated soils on a nearby wetland site on Polk Street, according to a Cease and Desist Order issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

By dumping the material in an existing wetland, Gulfport and its contractor destroyed the functionality of the wetland and reduced its ability to absorb flood waters.

Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and the Gulf Restoration Network filed suit May 17 in an effort to prod the city and the Corps into requiring restoration of the wetland after a year of negotiations had failed to accomplish this.

"Our community has had serious flooding problems, and here you have our very own city illegally filling wetlands that help protect the community from flooding," said Derrick Evans, executive director of Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and Turkey Creekkeeper. "Gulfport's actions demonstrate the type of reckless disregard for communities and wetland protection that the City has shown for years."

On April 17, 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers issued the Cease and Desist Order directing Gulfport to halt work in areas on the Louisiana Avenue site and the Polk Street site that fell within the jurisdiction of the Corps.

The Order cited the city for "allowing excessive fill material in Turkey Creek at the project site, construction of the project drainage channel resulting in greater wetland impacts than authorized, the filling of a natural drain, and the placement of fill material on an adjacent wetland property on Polk Street resulting in the unauthorized filling of 1.38 acres of hardwood drain wetlands."

The Corps had previously issued a permit to the city in 2001 for work at the Louisiana Ave. site as part of a stormwater drainage project. But wetland impacts at the Louisiana Ave. site were greater than what the Corps authorized and none of the impacts to the wetland at Polk St. had been authorized.

Despite issuing the Cease and Desist Order, the Corps has failed to require the city to restore the impacted wetlands, the two groups say.

"This case is really part of a larger pattern in coastal Mississippi, where the Army Corps of Engineers has failed to protect wetlands and enforce the Clean Water Act," said Jeff Grimes, assistant director of water resources for the Gulf Restoration Network, a coalition of environmental, social justice, citizens' groups.

Representatives of the two groups have inquired about these violations on numerous occasions, and met with the City of Gulfport and the Corps in October of 2006 to seek a resolution for the violations, yet no actions have been taken.

"We had hoped that the Corps or the City of Gulfport would take corrective action, but neither have shown much interest in fixing this problem," said Holly Gordon, an attorney representing the two groups.

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Albertson's Makes Up for Pesticide Violations with DVD

SAN FRANCISCO, California, June 4, 2007 (ENS) Albertson's is funding an $200,000 outreach project aimed at educating retailers on regulations governing sales of pesticides and will pay a $40,700 fine, as part of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, over federal pesticides violations.

The company's stores or subsidiaries in California, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Utah, Washington and Colorado were found to be selling and distributing hundreds of packages of "Grant's Kills Ants - Ant & Spider Killer" containing chlorpyrifos.

A January 2001 Cancellation Order issued by the EPA made retail sale and/or distribution of certain products containing chlorpyrifos a violation after December 31, 2001. The insecticide is used to control common insects including fleas, ticks, termites and cockroaches.

After finding that chlorpyrifos used in residential settings posed an exposure risk to children, the EPA's order imposed use restrictions and cancellations aimed at reducing exposure.

"Our rules not only regulate the manufacture of pesticides but the retail sale as well," said Katherine Taylor, associate director of the EPA's Communities and Ecosystems Division. "When EPA issues a cancellation order aimed at reducing risks to human health, retailers of the pesticide should be aware that any violation of the order will result in penalties."

The original violation was found based on an inspection conducted by Nevada Department of Agriculture in March 2003 at a Save-On Drug Store in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, which at the time was owned by Albertson's.

Since then, CVS acquired Save-On, and Supervalu and Cerberus acquired Albertson's.

Supervalu, through its subsidiary New Albertson's, assumed responsibility for the penalty and education project in this case.

The outreach and education project includes development of a DVD entitled "Do's and Don'ts of Retailing Pesticides." The video provides an overview of the EPA's pesticide requirements on retail sale of pesticides, emphasizing household products.

The company already has presented the DVD and other outreach materials at food marketing conferences. An additional presentation is planned for the California Grocer's Association Expo in October.

In addition, Albertson's will develop a brochure providing an overview of EPA compliance responsibilities for retailers of pesticides and distribute the brochure to thousands of retailers. The DVD and brochure will be available on the Food Marketing Institute's website, www.fmi.com, later this year.

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Montana Governor Halts Buffalo Slaughter

HELENA, Montana, June 4, 2007 (ENS) - Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and Yellowstone National Park officials announced Friday that they will not slaughter any wild buffalo that remain in Montana after today.

A public outcry against the Montana Board of Livestock decision last Wednesday to capture and slaughter all Yellowstone bison in Montana after today, prompted the about-face.

Montana cattlemen fear that the abortive disease brucellosis might be transmitted to cattle, although there has never been a case of transmission from wild bison to cattle.

On Friday and Saturday, about 250 bison were herded back into Yellowstone National Park, in what Department of Livestock officials called "the most aggressive herding operation this year."

"The agents used horsemen and a helicopter to conduct this operation," volunteers from the conservation organization Buffalo Field Campaign said on Saturday. "Today, the same thing happened, with about 50 buffalo - moms, babies, families - being pushed off of Horse Butte, deep into Yellowstone. Sadly, the buffalo were pushed extremely hard - especially by the helicopter - and they were shot with orange paint balls by the agents on horseback."

Employees of the Department of Livestock worked with personnel from Yellowstone Park, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to conduct the operation, which drove bison from outside the Park's western boundary to the Cougar Meadows area, roughly seven miles inside the Park.

Bill Hedstrom, chairman of the Montana Board of Livestock, said, "It's a real positive and very welcome breakthrough for us to have the ability to herd these bison further into the Park. One of the serious problems we've had lately is that these operations have been required to stop at the Park boundary. Today's operation has a much better chance of making a lasting improvement in the disease risk situation down there."

Numerous herding operations have been conducted over the past few weeks, Hedstrom said, but the bison have consistently and quickly returned to private and public rangelands outside the Park, northwest of West Yellowstone, often to areas where the state-federal interagency bison management agreement allows cattle grazing to have begun by this time of year.

"We're long overdue to have bison out of these areas, grazing inside the Park instead, and we're hopeful that the successful operation today will be the beginning of the end of herding efforts this year," Hedstrom said.

The Buffalo Field Campaign says "wild buffalo should be allowed to roam freely in Montana, especially on our public lands." The group is urging Governor Schweitzer to establish year-round habitat for wild buffalo in Montana.

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Wisconsin Allows Machine Removal of Invasive Plants, Animals

MADISON, Wisconsin, June 4, 2007 (ENS) People who own Great Lakes beach fronts now are able to get a general permit for dredging, including operation of a motorized equipment, to remove invasive plants and animals under an emergency rule adopted by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board for the summer season only.

The Board was reacting to complaints of increased numbers of invasive species such as zebra mussels, quagga mussels, and blooms of the algae Cladophora.

In the last 10 years, low water levels have led to more beach area being exposed and, as a result, mussel shells and large floating mats of algae are winding up along the lakeshore.

Under the emergency rule, mechanical removal can be accomplished with front-end loaders, backhoes or beach grooming equipment.

"Piles of decaying Cladophora may affect tourism, recreation and property values, and have been linked to taste and odor problems in drinking water," says Martin Griffin, statewide waterways policy coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.

"The algae also may exacerbate levels of E. coli and bacteria in beach sand and swimming waters, thus raising questions about beach safety," he said.

But because the state also wants to avoid damaging sensitive beach vegetation and near shore habitat for fish and wildlife, Griffin says it is important that the rule includes standards for how to use machinery to remove invasives.

"Before the emergency rule, lakefront property owners only had two options," said Kristy Rogers, aquatic habitat coordinator for the department. "Property owners either had to remove the material by hand or apply for an individual permit if they needed to use motorized equipment. Now, there is a quicker option."

The general permit has a $50 application fee and is processed in less than 30 days. Previously, individual permits cost $500 with an automatic 30-day public notice. A permanent rule will be developed based on public input about how the emergency rule works in practice.

The Board ruled that the required 30-day comment period for individual permits would unnecessarily delay projects that otherwise could go ahead with prescribed conditions established in a general permit.

Equipment used for the project should be decontaminated following the most current decontamination protocols found on the department's website under the link for viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a deadly fish virus recently confirmed in Lake Michigan. http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/pages/vhs.html

If the removed material will be disposed of by land spreading, the material must incorporated into the soil by plowing or disking within 24 hours.

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Cargill Settles Air Violations with Nature Conservancy Grant

OMAHA, Nebraska, June 4, 2007 (ENS) - The Nature Conservancy has received $80,000 from agri-business giant Cargill to support restoration of wetlands along the Missouri River in Nebraska.

The money will be used to complete an 85 acre restoration in Burt County as part of a larger effort to create a natural corridor along the river from Ponca to Rulo.

The Cargill contribution to the Conservancy is one of four grants planned by Cargill under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to resolve alleged environmental violations. Cargill plants that process corn for ethanol are significant sources of volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide, the EPA says.

Under the settlement agreed in September 2005, Cargill is required to install air pollution control devices at its 27 corn and oilseed processing facilities and is expected to spend an estimated $130 million to meet the requirements of the consent decree. Cargill will also pay a civil penalty of $1.6 million and spend $3.5 million on environmental projects across the country.

Other Cargill grants focus on the preservation of native sand prairie and wetlands in Iowa and air quality enhancements in Memphis.

"Cargill is pleased to support the wetlands restoration, and would be doubly pleased if our contribution spurred interest among others to join in the effort," said Eric Johnson, facility manager for Cargill's Corn Milling plant in nearby Blair. "This project fits perfectly with Cargill's approach to environmental stewardship."

Restoring natural areas along the Missouri River has a number of environmental and economic benefits for Nebraska. The Missouri River Valley's wetlands have the capacity to store floodwater, potentially helping protect lives and property from flooding.

Wetlands serve as habitat for fish and wildlife, improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, recharge groundwater, produce food and fiber and provide education and recreational opportunities.

Many partners are helping the Conservancy create, refine and implement a plan for conservation on the Missouri River to benefit the plants, animals and people who depend upon it.

"This project is a great example of private funding leveraging federal funding for private landowners to restore wetlands on their property," said Mace Hack, the Conservancy's state director in Nebraska.

The Conservancy has committed $1 million to restore wetlands on private lands located along the Missouri River in Nebraska through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program, WREP.

This voluntary program provides technical and financial assistance to landowners and American Indian tribes who restore and protect wetlands. A goal was set of enrolling 18,800 acres in WREP.

Partners include local landowners, Ducks Unlimited, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Lewis and Clark, Lower Platte South, Nemaha and Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources Districts and The Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund are also members of the partnership.

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