AmeriScan: June 27, 2007

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Summer Thunderstorms Leave New Yorkers in the Dark

NEW YORK, New York, June 27, 2007 (ENS) - Thunderstorms and heavy rains swept across the New York metropolitan area today, causing paralyzing power outages and disrupting air and ground transportation.

At JFK International Airport planes are being delayed more than two hours as thunderstorms crash overhead. Officials say the delays are increasing. The other two major airports in the area - Newark and LaGuardia - are experiencing delays of 15 minutes or less.

Con Edison has restored electrical power to 136,700 customers affected by a transmission disturbance today. Power was out to customers in the West Bronx and the Upper East Side of Manhattan for about 50 minutes this afternoon between 3:42 and 4:30 pm. The cause of the outage is being investigated.

In the West Bronx, approximately 57,900 customers between the Harlem River, 174th Street and 144th Street and Park Avenue were affected.

In Manhattan, at least 78,800 customers between Fifth Avenue and the East River, from 77th to 110th Streets were without power this afternoon. Randall’s Island also was affected.

Now, Con Edison crews are responding to power outages caused by thunderstorms and tree damage to power lines as severe weather continues to move across Westchester County.

The utility is assessing damage and estimates that up to 10,000 customers are currently without power. Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, White Plains, Larchmont, Harrison, Rye, Rye Brook, Scarsdale and Greenburgh are among the communities most affected.

Several homes were struck by lightning in New Rochelle, Rye and Mamaroneck.

Some Long Island Railroad service was suspended due to the severe weather, and Penn Station was temporarily closed to prevent crowding, according to New York MTA officials.

If you see downed electrical wires, do not go near them, Con Edison warns. Treat all downed wires as if they are live. Never attempt to move or touch them with any object. Be mindful that downed wires can be hidden from view by tree limbs, leaves or water.

Report all downed wires to Con Edison and police immediately. If a power line falls on your car while you’re in it, stay inside the vehicle and wait for emergency personnel, the utility cautions.

If power goes out, turn off all lights and appliances to prevent overloaded circuits when power is restored. Leave at least one light switch in the on position to alert you when power has been restored.

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Texas Floods Strand Residents on Rooftops

AUSTIN, Texas, June 27, 2007 (ENS) - Governor Rick Perry has activated Texas Military Forces and deployed state resources to respond to major storms and torrential rainfall across the state, from the Oklahoma border to the Rio Grande Valley.

Storms dropped up to 18 inches of rain on Central Texas last night. Floodwaters rushed through Hill Country towns today, and dozens of people were stranded on roofs, in their cars and in trees.

Eight swift water rescue teams and five helicopters have also been activated to assist where needed, but early this morning rains were so heavy that helicopters had to leave off efforts to rescue people from rooftops.

Rains were heaviest in Marble Falls, 40 miles northwest of Austin. No deaths were reported, but heavy rainfall and severe storms during the past month have claimed 11 lives and left much of central, north and east Texas vulnerable to sustained flooding.

Threatening storms are expected to produce additional rain during the next several days in already saturated areas, posing continued danger of flash flooding.

"I urge Texans to heed the warnings of their local leaders, and take all possible precautions to stay out of dangerous situations as this severe weather continues,” Perry said.

In anticipation of these storms, The governor gave approval for pre-positioning of state resources last week at the Alliance Airport, Austin, Denton, Eastland, Gainesville, San Antonio, Sherman, Waco and Weslaco.

At least 150 Texas Military Forces soldiers and 54 high-profile vehicles were deployed to assist with response efforts due to heavy flooding and other emergencies.

"The state stands ready to help these communities respond to emergencies and recover from the heavy storms and rains that have saturated the area,” said Perry. "We will continue to work with local officials to ensure the safety of all central Texas residents.”

Regional Incident Management Teams from the Texas Forest Service, highway patrol units and air assets from the Texas Department of Public Safety, game wardens from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, response teams from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and 50 additional high-profile vehicles are standing ready for deployment.

The rains have made up for a two year drought across much of Texas, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Lenz.

Storm runoff is flowing into Central Texas lakes, causing major flooding in some areas, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority, LCRA. Following torrential rains last night and early this morning, LCRA closed Inks Lake and lakes Travis, Marble Falls and LBJ temporarily to recreational boating because debris makes boating unsafe.

To move floodwaters downstream, the LCRA has opened floodgates at all of the dams it operates that have floodgates. Four floodgates are open at Mansfield Dam, which forms Lake Travis and is designed specifically to contain floodwaters. Lake Travis is capturing and holding floodwaters until they can be released safely downstream.

One Hill Country tributary remained at flood stage late this afternoon: the Llano River at Llano. Downstream of Austin, the Colorado River is forecast to remain below flood stage at all locations.

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CITGO Guilty of Criminal Clean Air Act Violations

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, June 27, 2007 (ENS) - A federal jury in Corpus Christi has found CITGO Petroleum Corp., and its subsidiary, CITGO Refining and Chemicals Co., guilty of two felony criminal violations of the Clean Air Act.

CITGO was convicted on two counts of operating two huge open top tanks, 116 and 117, without installing the proper emission controls required by state and federal regulations at its Corpus Christi East Plant Refinery.

Virtually no oil should have been found in the two tanks that were part of the refinery wastewater treatment system if the tanks were being operated as designed.

CITGO learned after the two tanks were built, that large volumes of oil were accumulating in the two tanks in violation of state and federal regulations. Modifications to the up-stream operations were not successful at keeping oil out of the two tanks.

For nearly 10 years, CITGO skimmed oil continuously from the surface of tanks and did not install proper emission control equipment to prevent or limit the emission of volatile organic compounds from the tanks. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil were skimmed from the two tanks over the years. More than 4.5 million gallons of oil were discovered in the tanks during an unannounced inspection by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, TCEQ, in March 2002.

Odor complaint investigations by TCEQ determined tanks 116 and 117 were an ongoing source of emissions into the surrounding community.

"Our investigators found serious violations that put the environment and citizens at risk,” said Stephanie Bergeron Purdue, deputy director of TCEQ’s Office of Legal Services.

CITGO and environmental manager Philip Vrazel were indicted by a federal grand jury in Corpus Christi on August 9, 2006. The indictment charged them with a total of 10 counts of violations of the Clean Air Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Vrazel and the company will be tried in July for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act counts.

Sentencing on the Clean Air Act charges is scheduled for October 18, 2007. CITGO faces fines of up to $500,000 or twice the gross economic gain, whichever is greater, and five years of probation.

The case is the result of an investigation by the Texas Environmental Crimes Task Force made up of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the U.S. EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

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Automakers Join Call for National Greenhouse Gas Limits

WASHINGTON, DC, June 27, 2007 (ENS) – The United States Climate Action Partnership, USCAP, announced today that Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Group have joined the coalition in lobbying for national legislation to impose legally binding limits on global warming pollution.

The group now includes 23 of the world’s largest corporations and six of the nation’s most respected nongovernmental organizations.

"We are pleased to join USCAP at a critical stage in the conversation on climate change, energy consumption and environmental protection," said Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

"We all recognize it is time for action. Ford has long supported the six major principles of USCAP, including recognizing the importance of technology and the need to be environmentally effective. We have been actively developing a range of advanced technology vehicles to address the climate change issue."

"Now is the time for advancing a national approach to climate change where all of us – individuals, industry and government – take action toward reducing emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Tom LaSorda, president and CEO, Chrysler Group.

"We look forward to working with the USCAP members in formulating a system to control greenhouse gas emissions in a way that not just addresses the supply of energy-efficient products and commodities, but also spurs demand for them,” LaSorda said.

Frances Beinecke, president of Natural Resources Defense Council, a partnership founding member, said, "Detroit is starting to send a message that it is finally ready to be part of the solution addressing global warming pollution. That Ford and Chrysler have joined General Motors in USCAP is a clear signal that times have changed and there is indeed real hope for swift and decisive action."

"This announcement comes just one week after the U.S. Senate voted to raise fuel economy standards for cars and trucks for the first time in decades, an important and historic step forward," Beinecke pointed out.

She said, "We are hopeful that the tide is turning now that the political leadership vacuum on global warming solutions has been filled by leaders not only from the environmental community, but also leaders from every sector of the American economy.”

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Fish Virus Spreads Across Great Lakes States

SCHAUMBURG, Illinois, June 27, 2007 (ENS) - Veterinarians and biologists are alerting anglers, aquaculture operators, fish dealers and boaters to a deadly virus that has killed thousands of freshwater fish in and around the Great Lakes this year.

Known as viral hemorrhagic septicemia, VHS, the virus has been detected in eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces, and affects 39 different species of fish.

Several of the species affected are favorites of freshwater fishing and are important in the aquaculture industry, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill and perch.

The virus poses no threat to humans or seafood, but it is easily spread among fish and could have a devastating impact on fish populations.

There is no known cure for the virus, which causes bleeding of the fish's tissues, including internal organs.

A federal order issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in November 2006 prohibits the movement of affected species from state to state unless the fish are tested for and documented as being free of the virus.

"This federal order has put a stop on the movement of fish worth many millions of dollars," said Dr. David Scarfe, assistant director of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Scientific Activities Division.

"Aquatic veterinarians are rallying to help aquaculture producers in testing and issuing certificates of veterinary inspection to demonstrate that their fish are free of VHS."

In the meantime, anglers and boaters are urged to prevent the spread of the virus by following these instructions:

People interested in locating aquatic veterinarians can go to http://www.AquaVets.com.

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New Hampshire Bans Monitors in Landfills, Incinerators

CONCORD, New Hampshire, June 27, 2007 (ENS) - In order to remove a major source of lead from the environment, the state of New Hampshire has imposed a ban on the disposal of televisions and computer monitors in the state's landfills and incinerators that takes effect July 1.

Most towns and cities in the state have electronics recycling programs in place and, recently, Staples has announced that they will recycle some types of electronic waste at their stores.

Recently, Texas, Oregon, and Connecticut have passed legislation requiring recycling of electronics, joining Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California, Maryland, Florida and other states with recycling or disposal ban laws.

Cathode ray tubes widely used in televisions and computer monitors are estimated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to be the largest source of lead in Florida’s municipal solid waste stream, surpassing lead acid batteries.

The Electronic Industries Alliance, with nearly 1,300 member companies, has proposed a national legislation model which includes an industry sponsored organization for the recycling of televisions and a take back program for computers and other electronics.

State residents should contact their disposal facility or the manufacturer of the equipment to determine the best option for recycling their monitors and televisions.

There are a number of commercial recycling centers available to state residents which are listed on the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services website at: http://des.nh.gov/SWTAS/comp_recyclers.htm.

For more information about New Hampshire's disposal ban, call Donald Maurer, Supervisor, Solid Waste Technical Assistance Section, at 603-271-3713.

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Map Solar Potential of Any San Francisco Address Online

SAN FRANCISCO, California, June 27, 2007 (ENS) - The City and County of San Francisco's Department of the Environment together with CH2M HILL Enterprise Management Solutions have launched the first solar mapping Web portal of its kind.

The portal estimates the solar energy potential for commercial and residential structures in San Francisco.

The portal, available at www.sf.solarmap.org, allows building owners to visualize the potential environmental benefits and monetary savings that would result from installing solar energy panels on their property.

"San Francisco is committed to clean energy, and to making sure resources are available to make it easier for San Franciscans to go solar," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

"By using our solar mapping program, residents and businesses can quickly determine whether specific photovoltaic projects will pencil out, which is the first step to getting more renewable energy in the city," he said.

With Google Maps as a visualization platform, users enter an address to see a map view of that location. With a click, users are then provided with the estimated amount of solar photovoltaic, PV, energy that could be installed on the roof.

They can see the estimated amount of solar PV energy that could be generated at that site, and the potential electricity cost reduction resulting from the solar PV installation.

Users can find the potential reduction in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as a result of installing a solar PV system.

They can read case studies of other San Francisco businesses and homeowners who have already installed solar PV systems, and they can get information on installing a solar PV system, including contact information for local solar installers.

"CH2M HILL's commitment to environmental sustainability continues to be a primary objective of our company," said Mike Underwood, senior vice president with CH2M HILL Enterprise Management Solutions.

"This Web-based solution can be replicated in every city in the world," he said, "and through the use of solar technology, could result in widespread environmental benefits."

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