AmeriScan: March 23, 2005

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New Greenhouse Gas Reporting Guidance Issued

WASHINGTON, DC, March 23, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Energy Tuesday asked for public comment on its revised guidelines for voluntary reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, sequestration and emission reductions. The program was established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

The revised guidelines emphasize the importance of providing a full accounting of all domestic and international greenhouse gas emissions, sequestration activities and emission reductions.

Under the revised guidelines, utilities, manufacturers and other businesses that emit greenhouse gases will be able to register their emission reductions achieved after 2002 if they also provide entity-wide emissions inventory data.

The revised guidelines also include what Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman called “state-of-the-science” guidance and tools for estimating emissions from agricultural, forestry, and conservation activities important for carbon sequestration efforts.

“With the help of a wide range of stakeholders, we have improved upon our earlier effort to provide a clear and transparent accounting system that will encourage increased participation in voluntary efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective way,” Bodman said.

The revised guidelines will enable the Department of Energy to recognize those participants in the program that provide an accurate and complete accounting of their greenhouse gas emissions and activities to reduce, avoid and sequester their greenhouse gas emissions.

The guidelines reflect consideration of the many comments received from states, industry and environmental groups during the numerous stakeholder reviews and meetings conducted by the interagency group, which included the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Office of Management and Budget.

The guidelines will be published in the March 24 issue of Federal Register for a 60 day public comment period and are expected to become effective 180 days from publication.

Two public workshops are planned to discuss these latest revisions to the guidelines. The first, to be held in late April, will address the full scope of issues raised by the guidelines. The second workshop, scheduled for early May, will focus on those issues raised by the agricultural and forestry sections of the guidelines.

More information on these workshops and on the guidelines being released today will be available at: www.pi.energy.gov/enhancingGHGregistry/.

Those wishing to offer comment on the proposed guidelines can do so by emailing: 1605bguidelines.comments@hq.doe.gov.

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Everglades Restoration Falling Behind

WASHINGTON, DC, March 23, 2005 (ENS) - The 1999 plan to restore the natural water flows to the Florida Everglades is at risk of foundering, according to a memo by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official in charge of the project and released Tuesday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

This frank memo admits ballooning costs, blown deadlines and growing scientific uncertainty as the massive $12 billion project enters “a critical juncture.”

The March 7, 2005 memo was written by Gary Hardesty and was meant for internal use by Headquarters Staff in preparing the Corps’ 5-Year Report to Congress. It cautions against being “overly optimistic” and urges, “We need to be truthful.”

Hardesty admits that in the five years since it was authorized by a different Congress with Bill Clinton as President the Everglades plan has changed. "It’s different from what we told Congress we would do in the Yellow Book," Hardesty wrote, "and its not restoration!!! It is far more important that the 5-Year Report focus more on the strategic direction of the program over the next five years to rebuild Congressional confidence or we may lose support and ultimately program funding."

The memo covers delays, cost overruns, and water quality problems.

“We have missed almost every milestone," wrote Hardesty. "We are experiencing schedule delays…we haven’t built a single project during the first 5-years…”

“We are already approaching a billion dollar increase," he wrote. "There are unexpected cost increases."

"This report will truly be the first report they [Congress] have seen in over 5 years and cost growth will be an issue.”

The state of Florida amended the Everglades Forever Act to weaken water pollution standards. Federal reports about the extent to which Florida has undermined water quality goals in the Everglades have yet to be released.

In the meantime, Hardesty says that the Corps “science is being criticized; we are dealing with modeling issues.”

“This memo calls into question the credibility of Corps planning not just for the Everglades but for all its projects,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the Corps holds up the Everglades Restoration as the standard for its next generation of civil works projects. “For the Corps of Engineers, the truth has historically been the last recourse when all else has failed.”

Read the Hardesty memo online at: www.peer.org

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Court Rejects Wyoming Efforts to Kill Wolves

CHEYENNE, Wyoming, March 23, 2005 (ENS) - Wyoming has experienced a major setback in its efforts to implement a state wolf management plan that would have allowed unregulated killing of wolves throughout most of their range in the state.

Last year, the State of Wyoming and a coalition of groups representing livestock and hunting interests filed suit to compel federal approval of a state management plan to allow the shooting, trapping, baiting, and poisoning of wolves.

On Friday, federal district Judge Alan B. Johnson issued an order dismissing all claims by the state of Wyoming and the livestock industry.

The judge ruled that Wyoming had ignored the delisting process set forth in the Endangered Species Act, and stressed that the Act "strikes a delicate balance between judicial review, agency expertise, and the public's right to a healthy, sustainable eco-system which fosters biological diversity."

Earthjustice, representing the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, intervened to defend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has rejected the Wyoming plan as a death sentence for the many wolf packs that travel outside of Yellowstone National Park.

The Service is considering whether to remove wolves in the Northern Rockies from the Endangered Species list because of increasing numbers of wolves in Yellowstone and central Idaho, but the environmental groups say that recovery is not strong enough to sustain the level of wolf kills the state would have approved.

"Wolves are restoring the natural balance in the Northern Rockies," said Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen. "But it's a delicate balance. Wyoming's so-called management plan is a throw-back to the 19th century killing program that wiped wolves out of the West."

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Businesses, Fishermen Ask Oregon Court to Protect Salmon

PORTLAND, Oregon, March 23, 2005 (ENS) - A coalition of businesses, fishermen, conservationists and Columbia River tribes Monday asked a federal judge in Portland to put in place specific protections for salmon and steelhead and the people and communities that depend on them for a living.

The coalition asked U.S. District Judge James Redden to rule that the Bush administration's $6 billion salmon recovery plan violates the Endangered Species Act.

In 2003, Judge Redden rejected the government's previous plan for restoring the fish and ordered that it be rewritten, and it is the revised plan that is being challenged.

The court filing asks for two things to reduce the risks facing salmon survival and recovery in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

First, that the federal agencies take steps to move the baby salmon down the river and to the ocean more quickly.

Second, that they change the way water gets past some of the dams so that more of it goes over the dam spillways, the safest way for the young salmon to get downstream and avoid the hydroelectric turbines.

These two steps will also allow more young salmon to migrate to the sea in the river rather than be captured and trucked or barged downstream.

Scientists say that in-river migration is generally a much safer and more reliable way for salmon to reach the ocean. Federal, state and tribal scientists say following these measures is the best way to reduce the risks to salmon this year when water supplies are at a record low.

This year will be one of the lowest water years on record, the coalition said. Runoff in the Snake River is now expected to be at 44 percent of normal.

In 2001, a similarly dry year, federal agencies abandoned many salmon protections, and the result was the deadliest migration for salmon and steelhead since being placed on the Endangered Species list in the early 1990s.

The tribes and fishing and conservation groups estimate the measures they have asked the court to order will boost salmon survival in this very difficult year by 50 percent.

The government's latest plan for managing the huge hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers abandons the goal of recovering native salmon and steelhead, said the coalition.

The governent's plan will cost ratepayers and taxpayers $6 billion over the next 10 years, the coalition said. Meanwhile, a recent economic study shows that salmon and steelhead fisheries could actually net the region almost $6 billion each year if salmon and steelhead were given the chance to survive and recover.

"Supporters of the current plan are raising the specter of skyrocketing utility bills and power shortages for the Northwest," said Sara Patton, NW Energy Coalition. "In fact, most electric customers will see little impact on their monthly bills. More importantly in both the short and long runs, ratepayers will benefit because their dollars will be spent on practical recovery efforts, rather than adding to the millions being endlessly wasted on actions with virtually no chance of success."

"Today, we took a step in the right direction for the people of the Northwest," said Charles Hudson, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "Billions of dollars come into this region every year from tribal, commercial and sport fishing, yet we continue to treat this as an afterthought. We must stop flushing money away and take the necessary steps to ensure economic stability for the region."

"Spending $6 billion on a 'pray for rain' plan, which doesn't actually try to reduce the risk of extinction that salmon face, is not cost effective or responsive to the 36,500 family wage jobs in the sportfishing industry," said Liz Hamilton, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

"Four years from now," she said, "none of us will care that we didn't water our lawns or that we paid a few cents more per month on our electric bills to provide more water for spill and flow for salmon and steelhead. But four years from now when there aren't any fish returning because we didn't do those things, the bottom will drop out of this region’s fishing economy."

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Land Owner Fined $2 Million for Damaging Palisades Park

TRENTON, New Jersey, March 23, 2005 (ENS) - Settling violations stemming from the destruction of public parkland, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission today announced that private land owner Andrew Krieger has agreed to pay $2 million.

In 2002, Krieger bulldozed more than an acre of Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, which is owned by the state of New Jersey and leased to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

"This settlement reflects DEP's commitment to protect parkland for future generations of New Jersey residents to enjoy," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "Krieger's expensive mistake should deter others from demonstrating similar disrespect for public property and the law."

"We will continue to work with DEP to address violations of our environmental laws and to ensure that New Jersey receives just compensation from those who damage our natural resources," said New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey.

In February 2002, Krieger proposed to DEP a land exchange that would have enabled him to develop the parkland that he later bulldozed.

DEP personnel advised Krieger on the land trade process, which the land owner opted not to pursue. In the following three months, Krieger and his employees cleared more than one acre of parkland and illegally stored construction materials on state and county property.

Krieger, who owned property adjacent to Palisades Interstate Park, destroyed trees and other vegetation, excavated about one mile of trails, destroyed an old stone wall and disturbed two small, intermittent streams located in the park.

In a civil lawsuit, the Department of Environmental Protection and Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) sought compensatory and punitive damages from Krieger, and the defendant has agreed to settle charges filed against him by paying $2 million and apologizing for damaging public parkland.

"In my 20 years of public land management I have never seen a case as severe as this, where an adjacent property owner took such a deliberate and willful action in damaging public park property," said PIPC Superintendent Jim Hall. "Time finally ran out for the tycoon tree terminator."

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Pennsylvania Offers $1 Per Mercury Auto Switch Recycled

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, March 23, 2005 (ENS) - The Pennsylvania government and automobile and steel recyclers are partnering in a statewide effort to keep the mercury contained in automobile switches from being emitted into the atmosphere when scrap cars are smelted down. The state is offering a $1 incentive per mercury switch recycled.

The Department of Environmental Protection, AERC Recycling Solutions, Bethlehem Apparatus Co. Inc., Clean Air Council, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Pennsylvania Automotive Recycling Trade Society and Steel Recycling Institute are partnering to invite automobile recyclers to participate in Pennsylvania’s Mercury Switch Removal Program.

Any Pennsylvania automobile recycler or eligible business, such as shredders and auto repair shops, can apply for the program. Registered businesses will receive free informational materials, training and removal guidance, safety equipment, free shipping and mercury-switch recycling, and a $1 incentive per mercury switch recycled.

“Working together to remove mercury switches from salvaged cars will help to protect public health, prevent land contamination and improve air and water quality in Pennsylvania," said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty.

The goal of Pennsylvania’s Mercury Switch Removal Program, launched last November, is to recycle at least 600 pounds of mercury through a voluntary two year effort that encourages retrieving these mercury containing switches from vehicles that have reached the end of their useful lives.

The switches were installed for convenience lighting in the trunk, hood and other interior areas of automobiles, as well as in anti-lock braking systems, prior to phaseout in 2003 models.

If switches containing mercury are not removed before automobiles are recycled, the mercury is emitted into the air during the smelting process and, through deposition, ends up in waterways.

In the environment, mercury is transformed into methylmercury, which accumulates through the food chain. Once mercury enters the environment, it can remain as an active toxin for more than 10,000 years. This endangers pregnant women, children, subsistence fishermen and recreational anglers who are most at risk for health effects that include brain and nervous system damage in children and heart and immune system damage for adults.

DEP and the Clean Air Council are holding six free workshops across the state for recyclers interested in participating in the program. Registration is not necessary. The workshops will be held from 6 pm to 9 pm. The schedule is:

To participate in the Pennsylvania Mercury Automobile Switch Removal Program, or for more information about the program and workshops, visit the department’s Web site at www.dep.state.pa.us, DEP Keyword “Mercury Switch.”

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Monsanto Cleared for Roundup Ready Flex Cotton

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, March 23, 2005 (ENS) - Monsanto has obtained U.S. regulatory clearance for its next generation cotton technology, Roundup Ready Flex cotton from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The company said last week that it intends to launch the genetically modified cotton for the 2006 growing season.

No restrictions on domestic planting or food and feed use of Roundup Ready Flex cottonseed exist now that the USDA and FDA have completed their review processes. Yet, Monsanto remains committed to its stewardship program for key export markets until regulatory clearance is granted in those markets.

Cottonseed is pressed for oil for human use and the residue is processed for animal feed.

“These clearances by USDA and FDA underscore the food, feed and environmental safety of this and other plant biotechnology products which have delivered tremendous value to growers and the environment over the last 10 years,” said Robb Fraley, Ph.D., chief technology officer of Monsanto.

Roundup Ready Flex cotton will provide a wider application window for Roundup agricultural herbicides throughout the growing season, providing growers with increased flexibility and convenience on the farm, the company said.

“Since the introduction of Roundup Ready cotton in 1997, growers have told us that they would like greater flexibility in making herbicide applications. Roundup Ready Flex cotton was developed to provide growers with greater flexibility throughout the season. It will also facilitate the continued adoption and management of reduced-tillage practices, and will help growers be less dependent on selective spray equipment.” Fraley said.

Campaigners against genetically modified crops argue that the modified proteins may cause allergies in sensitive people, and that organic growers cannot keep their crops free of genetic modification.

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