AmeriScan: June 6, 2007

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California, Connecticut, Vermont Tops in Energy Efficiency

WASHINGTON, DC, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - The states of California, Connecticut, and Vermont led the United States in energy efficiency policies, programs, and technologies in 2006, according to a ranking issued Tuesday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy, ACEEE.

The organization's new report, "The State Energy Efficiency Scorecard for 2006," places the three states in a tie for first place because of their spending on energy efficiency programs, their efforts to set efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, and other energy efficiency programs.

Other energy efficient states are Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.

"States are leading the nation in mining efficiency as the first fuel in the race to solve America’s energy security and global warming challenges," said ACEEE Acting Executive Director Bill Prindle, who co-authored the Scorecard.

"Unless we accelerate the pace of efficiency investment, no clean energy strategy will work," he said.

Past versions of the ACEEE Scorecard have ranked states on utility sector energy efficiency spending. But this report is a new and expanded effort to rank states on a broad array of policy initiatives.

The new Scorecard ranked states on appliance and equipment standards, building energy codes, transportation and land use policies, and other policy innovations that are "increasing U.S. energy security while sustaining economic prosperity and protecting the environment," said the ACEEE.

The new report was issued as Congress takes up pending federal energy legislation this month, which is viewed as "a crucial opportunity to adopt energy efficiency policies proven in these top-ranking states to help address perhaps the preeminent public policy concern of our day," said Maggie Eldridge, ACEEE policy program research assistant and report co-author.

The bottom 26 states "seriously lag behind the rest," Eldridge said. "We hope that highlighting the leaders in our Scorecard will encourage the laggards to catch up with the front runners as if our lives depended on it – because it does."

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EPA, Army Corps Issue Joint Wetlands Guidance

WASHINGTON, DC, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday issued joint guidance for their field offices to ensure America's wetlands and other water bodies are protected under the Clean Water Act.

The guidance is issued in view of the U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down on June 19, 2006 in the case of developer John Rapanos and others that federal agencies have no authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate truly isolated, non-navigable, intrastate water bodies.

The high court ruled that federal agencies have no authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate any area merely because it has a hydrological connection with downstream navigable-in-fact waters.

The court also determined that federal agencies have no authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate remote drains and ditches with insubstantial ?ows.

"The Bush administration is committed to protecting wetlands and streams under the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court decisions," said Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA's assistant administrator for Water.

"We are committed to protecting America's aquatic resources under the Clean Water Act and in accordance with the recent Supreme Court decision," said John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

The interagency guidance will enable the agencies to make clear, consistent, and predictable jurisdictional determinations, said Woodley. "The results, once posted on agency websites, will document how the scope of the Clean Water Act jurisdiction is being determined."

Grumbles said the EPA and Corps staff will use the guidance when taking enforcement actions and issuing permits under the Clean Water Act.

But conservationists say the guidance does little to clarify matters. Christy Leavitt of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said, "While the Bush administration publicized the policy as a clear protection of wetlands and other waters," she said, "the policy actually will remove decades-old Clean Water Act safeguards from streams and wetlands around the country and adds to the confusion of what waters are covered by the Act."

Bob Perciasepe, Audubon chief operating officer says Congress must act because the newly issued guidance only adds to the confusion and suggests that certain waters important to water quality and wildlife, such as swales, ditches, gullies, ephemeral washes, and intermittent streams, may not be protected.

"The administration's so-called guidance has done little to unmuddy the water," he said. "The only real solution is legislation. A perfect storm of government ambivalence, aggressive polluter activism, and a split Supreme Court have subverted the original intent of the Clean Water Act and make it vital that Congress fix the problem."

During the first six months implementing the guidance, the agencies are inviting public comments on case studies and experiences applying the guidance.

Upon publication of the notice of availability in the Federal Register, comments can be submitted to docket EPA-HQ-OW-2007-0282 through www.regulations.gov.

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Animal, Earth Liberation Front Members Sent to Prison

EUGENE, Oregon, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - The final defendant in a conspiracy case involving 20 acts of arson or attempted arson committed by members of the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front was sentenced today in federal court in Eugene.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called it the largest case of environmental extremists ever prosecuted in the United States.

The 10 defendants acted in an underground cell of what they called "The Family," the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.

In their previously entered guilty pleas, the defendants acknowledged that they, and their group, sought to influence and affect the conduct of government, private business, and the civilian population through force, violence, sabotage, mass destruction, intimidation and coercion, and to retaliate against government and private businesses by similar means.

Their activities in five states caused caused more than $40 million in property damage, according to the Justice Department.

The investigation of their activities involved multiple federal, state and local law enforcement and spanned nine years.

One defendant may have his sentenced reduced. Judge Ann Aiken's pronouncement of a 51 month sentence for Jonathan Paul was challenged by his defense attorney, who argued that the judge had miscalculated the guidelines.

Based on that, Judge Aiken withdrew her pronouncement of sentence and gave the parties additional time to brief the issue raised by defense counsel.

Paul was convicted of arson at Cavel West, Inc., a horse-rendering facility in Redmond, Oregon, on July 21, 1997.

No new date has been set for Paul's sentencing. The other nine defendants have already been sentenced.

The longest prison sentence of 13 years was imposed on Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff who was convicted of 10 counts of arson and attempted arson, including the burning of the Vail Ski Facility in Eagle County, Colorado on October 19, 1998.

Meyerhoff also torched Bureau of Land Management wild horse holding facilities, lumber company facilities, SUVs at a car dealership, and a police station in Eugene. He was convicted of destroying a Bonneville Power Administration energy facility high-voltage tower near Bend, Oregon.

Chelsea Dawn Gerlach was also convicted in the Vail arson and the high-voltage tower incident as well as other crimes. She was sentenced to 108 months in prison.

Three other charged defendants are international fugitives - Joseph Dibee, Rebecca Rubin, and Josephine Sunshine Overaker.

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Spanish Wind Energy Companies Enter U.S. Market

HELENA, Montana, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - ACCIONA Windpower of Spain announced this week that the company will supply wind turbines to Naturener for windparks in the United States under a contract worth over 300 million euros (US$405.6 million).

Naturener develops, owns and operates wind energy farms. Since 1999, Naturener has developed 14 wind farms in Spain. With the acquisition of Great Plains Wind & Energy and Energy Logics, Naturener is now developing more than 1000 megawatts of wind power in the United States and Canada.

The deal is for 200 model AW 77/ 1500 class II turbines with overall capacity of 300 megawatts.

The turbines will be installed in the McCormick Ranch windpark that Naturener USA, a subsidiary of Naturener, will construct in Montana in 2008.

Naturener is proposing to construct the $500,000 million wind farm on the Toole-Glacier county border.

The Naturener wind farm would be more than double the size of the 135 megawatt Judith Gap facility 125 miles southeast of Great Falls, currently the state's sole large commercial facility.

Montana is rich in wind. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory rates the wind east of the Rocky Mountains in northern Montana as "excellent" to "superb."

ACCIONA Windpower is a 100 percent owned subsidiary of ACCIONA Energia based in Spain. The company currently has two wind turbine assembly plants in operation in Spain and one in China.

It is now building another wind turbine assembly plant in Iowa, which means that it will have an overall production capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts a year.

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Pesticides Block Crops' Natural Nitrogen Production

EUGENE, Oregon, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - Farmers applying pesticides intended to boost crop yields may instead be contributing to plant growth problems, University of Oregon scientists report in a new study.

The research revealed that artificial chemicals in pesticides disrupt natural nitrogen-fixing communications between crops and soil bacteria.

The disruption results in lower yields or in delayed growth whether the pesticides are applied deliberately or reach the crops through runoff.

In a paper appearing online this week ahead of the regular publication by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the five-member team reports that pesticides bind to and block connections to specific receptors inside rhizobia bacteria living in root nodules in the soil.

Rotation legume crops such as alfalfa and soybeans require such interaction to naturally replace nitrogen levels that, in turn, benefit primary market crops like corn grown after legume rotations.

Alfalfa roots secrete chemical signals into soil to attract and recruit bacteria. These bacteria live in a plant's roots and provide a natural fertilizer source.

Legume plants secrete chemical signals that recruit the friendly bacteria, which work with the plants to convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia that, then, is used as fertilizer by the plants.

"Agrichemicals are blocking the host plant's phytochemical recruitment signal," said the study's lead author, Jennifer Fox, a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Oregon.

"In essence, the agrichemicals are cutting the lines of communication between the host plant and symbiotic bacteria," she said.

"Our research provides another explanation for declining crop yields," Fox said. "We showed that by applying pesticides that interfere with symbiotic signaling, the overall amount of symbiotic nitrogen fixation is reduced."

"We feel that this is a previously unforeseen factor contributing to declining crop yields," she said. The researchers say that field-wide experiments now are needed, in addition to tests to determine the exact elements of pesticides that inhibit natural plant-bacteria interaction.

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Louisiana Barrier Island Restoration Wins Beach Award

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - After years of work to restore the eroded shoreline, Chaland Headland of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, has been named one of America’s Top Restored Beaches by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

The Chaland Headland Restoration Project was honored in a ceremony May 21. The work was completed just in time to protect the Louisiana coast ahead of another Atlantic hurricane season forecast to be more active than normal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Restoration Center, in cooperation with local, state and national authorities, labored to restore more than 400 acres of barrier island habitat.

Over the years, the shoreline along Chaland Headland had eroded away due to human and natural factors.

Recent storms breached the shoreline and segmented the 2.6 mile island into three smaller fragments. Left unaddressed, these breaches would have led to further erosion and would have threatened the integrity of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, interior coastal wetlands, and oil and gas infrastructure.

Then Hurricane Katrina blew in on August 29, 2005. The Chaland Headland Restoration Project was funded just in time. The project was granted funds four days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

"We are proud that NOAA’s efforts at Chaland Headland are being recognized," said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

"Wetlands and barrier islands are our first defense against storms, and provide important habitat for coastal organisms, such as our marine fisheries," Lautenbacher said. "This restoration will help absorb surging water and wind during storms, protecting our national energy assets and Louisiana’s coastal communities."

The Chaland Headland restoration project is one of the largest island restoration projects ever conducted by NOAA.

Workers dredged and performed major earth-moving activities on Chaland Island to create beach and marsh habitat, which will help protect Louisiana’s coastal communities from the devastating effects of wind, waves and flooding.

This is the first of three NOAA-led barrier island projects along the Gulf of Mexico under the Coastal Wetlands Protection, Planning and Restoration Act, which provides funding for coastal protection and restoration in Louisiana.

This year’s other six winners are East Beach, Norfolk, Virginia; Surfside-Sunset Beach, Orange County, California; Collier County Beaches, Florida, Perdido Pass, Alabama; West Hampton Dunes on Long Island in New York; and Folly Beach, South Carolina.

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Memorial Trail Honors Refuge Manager Killed on 9/11

WASHINGTON, DC, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - The country’s 1,000th National Recreation Trail honors one of the heroes of September 11, 2001.

The Rich Guadagno Memorial Trail in Oregon will commemorate the life of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Manager who died aboard Flight 93.

The Guadagno Trail is one of 40 newly designated National Recreation Trails announced by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to coincide with the annual celebration of National Trails Day on June 2. The Rich Guadagno Memorial Trail was formally dedicated in a ceremony on Saturday.

"The National Recreation Trail System connects Americans with the beauty of the great outdoors," said Kempthorne. "It is entirely fitting that the 1000th trail be named after Rich Guadagno, a man who dedicated his life to preserving nature and sharing his passion for the land with others."

The Guadagno Trail is located in the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge where Guadagno once worked.

The 1.75 mile pathway winds through rare Oregon white oak savanna and woodlands, offering views of the Willamette Valley, which contains the world’s largest population of the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly.

The new National Recreation Trails range from the quarter mile Balfour Riverwalk Trail in downtown Attleboro, Massachusetts to the 1,500 mile long Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, considered by some as the water version of the Appalachian Trail for its length and scenic features.

National Recreation Trails are components of the National Trails System and recognize already existing trails that connect people to natural resources.

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