AmeriScan: May 13, 2005

* * *

Clean Air Interstate Rule Takes Effect

WASHINGTON, DC, May 13, 2005 (ENS) - The Clean Air Interstate Rule begins to take effect today with its publication in the Federal Register on Thursday. Publication of the rule starts a timeline for coal-fired power plants in the eastern United States to make air pollution cuts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the rule "will result in the largest pollution reductions and health benefits of any air rule in more than a decade."

CAIR will permanently cap emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the eastern United States. When fully implemented, CAIR will reduce SO2 emissions in 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia by more than 70 percent and NOx emissions by more than 60 percent from 2003 levels.

Under CAIR, states will achieve the required emissions reductions using one of two options for compliance: 1) require power plants to participate in an EPA-administered interstate cap and trade system that caps emissions in two stages, or 2) meet an individual state air emission limits through measures of the state's choosing.

On March 10, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson signed the CAIR rule that took effect today. He says it will ensure that Americans continue to breathe cleaner air by reducing air pollution that moves across state boundaries in 28 eastern states.

Johnson estimates this will result in more than $100 billion in health and visibility benefits per year by 2015 - health and enviromental benefits valued at over 25 times the cost of compliance - and will reduce premature mortality in the eastern United States.

This rule was adopted independent of President George W. Bush's "Clear Skies" legislation that is still stalled in Congress.

"The President's Clear Skies legislation would give more certainty and nationwide emission reduction," said EPA Administrator Steve Johnson. "We remain committed to working with Congress to pass the legislation. But we need regulations in place now to help over 450 counties in the eastern United States protect people's health by meeting stringent new air quality standards."

"Everyone who loves the Adirondacks should be cheering today," said Brian Houseal on March 10 when CAIR was signed. The executive director of the Adirondack Council, a Northeastern regional environmental organization that has been a national leader on acid rain, Houseal says the rule meets four 1998 recommendations the Council made to curb acid rain.

  1. Reduce the cap on sulfur dioxide emissions by 50 percent.CAIR reduces sulfur dioxide emissions in 28 eastern states plus the District of Columbia by 73 percent by 2015. "This will remove another seven million tons of sulfur annually that will never reach the Adirondacks!" wrote Houseal.

  2. Create a similar cap and trade program to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 70 percent. The CAIR rule establishes the first year-round cap and trade program for nitrogen oxide emissions and will cut nitrogen emissions by 61 percent from current levels by 2015, resulting in an overall 70 percent reduction since 2000.

  3. Continue biological and chemical monitoring through 2020 to ensure that emissions cuts have the anticipated effects. The Council will also be advocating for enhanced monitoring funds including the ecological impacts of mercury.

  4. Establish the authority of the U.S. EPA Administrator to order new emissions cuts without further Congressional action.
But at the state level, the Ozone Transport Commission, called the rule only "a modest first step in the right direction." The organization of 13 states focused on regional solutions to the ground-level ozone problem in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, determined "the rule is insufficient to address this sector's contribution to non-attainment" of federal clean air standards.

"Unfortunately, EPA's rule is just another example of the Federal government's failure to adequately protect air quality and public health," said New Jersey's Bradley Campbell, who heads the state Department of Environmental Protection. "The reductions in the rule come too late and the measures do not go far enough to limit emissions from power plants and factories in other states. EPA is offering weak proposals that give the states too little help, too late."

CAIR is supposed to keep air pollution from upwind states in the Midwest out of Northeastern states, but the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) says it falls short.

"The Northeast states have taken big steps to address emissions sources within our borders, but without reducing transport of emissions from upwind states we will not be able to meet those standards, and we will continue to suffer unfairly from disproportionate health impacts and additional costs to businesses in the Northeast," said OTC Vice–Chair Bob Golledge, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

* * *

Roadless Areas Overturned in Final Rule Published Today

WASHINGTON, DC, May 13, 2005 (ENS) - Today the Bush administration's final rule governing 58.5 million roadless acres of national forests was published in the Federal Register. Following last week's announcement by the Forest Service, this change in policy repeals the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule and represents one of the administration's most sweeping environmental policy changes.

The plan has drawn criticism from conservationists, governors and members of Congress who say it will lead to logging, mining and oil drilling in an ever-shrinking portion of National Forests that remain untouched.

The administration's new approach gives ultimate decision-making power to political appointees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), after allowing governors 18 months to petition the U.S. Forest Service with their recommendations.

The petitions are not binding, and the administration is free to accept or reject them. During a public comment period held last year on the proposal, 1.7 million Americans asked the Forest Service to abandon this new plan.

"This new policy is the evil twin of the original," said Robert Vandermark, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign, an alliance of conservationists, wildlife advocates, clergy, educators, and scientists. "It immediately opens millions of acres to logging, drilling and mining while claiming to protect those very same places."

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who has oversight of the U.S. Forest Service, said the rule "helps to ensure that the needs of local communities are considered in roadless area conservation."

"Our actions today advance President [George W.] Bush's commitment to cooperatively conserve inventoried roadless areas within our national forests," Johanns said. "USDA is committed to working closely with the nation's governors to meet the needs of our local communities while protecting and restoring the health and natural beauty of our national forests."

USDA will accept state petitions from governors for 18 months after the effective date of the final rule. During the state-petitioning process, the Forest Service will continue to maintain interim measures to conserve inventoried roadless areas.

While 38 states and Puerto Rico have inventoried roadless areas on National Forest System lands within their boundaries, 56.6 million acres, or 97 percent, of all inventoried roadless areas in the country are contained within 12 states. Those states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders responded to the Administration's plan by pledging to introduce legislation that would permanently protect these last wild areas from roadbuilding and resource extraction. In a letter seeking support from other Members of Congress, they criticized the administration's plan, saying, "by requiring state action to effectuate federal resource protection, this policy change sets a dangerous precedent. National forests are an asset of all United States citizens."

The Bush administration's rule can be viewed here.

The Congressional letter is available here.

* * *

Roasting Gold-Bearing Ore Releases Mercury Over Three States

BOISE, Idaho, May 13, 2005 (ENS) - Gold mines as the largest source of mercury air emission in the tri-state region of Utah, Idaho and Nevada, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2003 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) released Wednesday.

The Idaho Conservation League has extracted regional information from the TRI database that shows The Cortez Gold Mine, owned by the Canadian company Placer Dome, is the largest source of mercury in the area, reporting a releasing 1,378 pounds into the air in 2003. Barrick’s Goldstrike mine reports a release of 1,057 pounds.

"Citizens should be concerned by Placer Dome and Barrick’s air pollution," says Justin Hayes, program director of the Idaho Conservation League. "Mercury from Nevada mining operations is traveling by air to Idaho and Utah. Clean air and water is disappearing into the Mercury Triangle."

These mercury emissions are released by mines that use ore roasters to process the gold. Under this process, the mercury residing in the ore is released into the air when the ore is heated to extract the gold. Although these ore roasters are located in Nevada, where most of the nation's gold is mined, air emissions from these mines can travel great distances, affecting a broad geographic area, including neighboring states Idaho and Utah.

Mercury in the air ends up in rivers and lakes where it travels up the food chain and becomes concentrated in the fish. According to EPA data, fish advisories for mercury in the United States cover more than 750,000 miles of rivers and streams and 13 million acres of freshwater lakes.

Exposure to mercury can cause neurological and developmental problems, attention and language deficits, impaired memory and impaired vision and motor function.

For the first time this year, the TRI gives the results of the Voluntary Mercury Reduction Program that was implemented by the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection in 2002, with EPA approval.

The National Mining Association said in a statement Wednesday that under the program, air emissions of mercury from Nevada's gold mining operations were cut by 33 percent by the end of 2003 to 2.2 tons, and are on target to achieve a 50 percent reduction from 2002 levels by the end of 2005.

Overall since 1998, mercury air emissions at Nevada gold operations have been reduced by 75 percent.

"All parties participating in the program agree emissions reductions have occurred faster than would have been possible under the traditional regulatory approach," the National Mining Association said. "The reductions in air emissions of mercury were achieved at a time of increased production at some mines and higher levels of naturally occurring mercury-bearing trace minerals in the ore mined at some Nevada mines."

But the region's environmentalists are not persuaded. "These mining operations remain the single largest source of mercury emissions in Nevada," says Elyssa Rosen, executive director of Great Basin Mine Watch. "The mining companies need to significantly reduce their mercury emissions to ensure that our children have the best chance for a healthy and productive life."

The environmental groups are asking the EPA to develop "clear and enforceable mercury emissions limitations for gold mining and processing facilities that better protect communities, water, and wildlife."

The 2003 TRI shows the hardrock mining industry as the nation’s largest toxic polluter for the eighth year in a row - it released 1.25 billion pounds or 28 percent of all toxics emitted by U.S. industry.

* * *

$70 Million Earmarked for Hudson River Park

NEW YORK, New York, May 13, 2005 (ENS) - Governor George Pataki announced Thursday that that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) will allocate $70 million of the funding it controls to build the Tribeca section of Hudson River Park.

As part of a longer announcement about the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the governor gave what he called a "sneak preview" of a comprehensive allocation plan for the LMDC's remaining federal funds that he and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have developed.

Pataki said, "$220 million will be provided to transform Lower Manhattan’s waterfronts into great public spaces. With $70 million of this allocation, we will turn the Tribeca section of Hudson River Park into a vibrant community resource."

The $70 million will allow the Hudson River Park Trust to rebuild a one-mile long segment of the waterfront south of Houston Street and turn it into a new park, complete with two large new public park piers.

The Hudson River Park Alliance, a coalition of 16 major environmental and civic organizations led by Friends of Hudson River Park, cheered this deveopment.

"This is a fabulous day," said Albert Butzel, president of Friends of Hudson River. "We have been advocating for this funding for more than two years, and it is wonderful to see the effort pay off. We are extremely grateful to Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg for supporting this funding, and we look forward to the emergence of an extraordinary park in Tribeca as a result."

"This link will complete the city’s most important park project in decades. And extending the park from the Village to Chambers Street guarantees Lower Manhattan residents a place for respite and recreation while the World Trade Center site is rebuilt," said Katherine Kennedy, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Opening the banks of a beautiful river to thousands of walkers, runners and cyclists will be an enduring legacy for the governor."

The groups say Pataki has played the critical role in making the 550 acre Hudson River Park, which stretches from the Battery to 59th street, a reality.

The other members of the Alliance are: Audubon New York, Citizens Union, the Municipal Art Society, New York City Audubon, New Yorkers for Parks, the New York League of Conservation Voters, Open Space Institute, Regional Plan Association, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, The Nature Conservancy of New York State, the Trust for Public Land, and the Waterfront Park Coalition.

* * *

Chesapeake Bay Menhaden Harvest Cap Proposed

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, May 13, 2005 (ENS) - The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has decided to limit the number of menhaden harvested by an industrial fishery from the Chesapeake Bay.

Menhaden have been called the "most important fish in the sea." They are prime food for striped bass and other popular sport fish. They are also the prime filter feeder for the Chesapeake Bay, next to oysters that are grossly depleted.

But recent studies have shown that the overall number of menhaden is at near historic lows and predators that depend on the fish as a food source, such as striped bass, are suffering malnutrition and are in poor body condition.

As part of this decision, ASMFC will seek public comment and conduct public hearings in Maryland, Virginia and other East Coast states on a management plan that would cap the annual harvest 110,400 metric tons. This harvest cap is based on the average annual harvest over the past five years.

"This is a very important fish to the ecosystem. That is why anyone who cares about the future of the Chesapeake and the Atlantic Coast fishery should go to these public hearings," said Ken Hinman, president of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation. "Through their comments and letters, they are going to help their commissioners make the right decision for the fish and the future of fishing."

Both Governor Robert Ehrlich and the state's congressional delegation have urged the commission to place a limit on the industrial harvest at this level until more research can be done.

Menhaden Matter, a cooperative effort of conservation and environmental groups, endorsed the Commission's decision Wednesday. The Menhaden Matter coalition includes the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, Environmental Defense and the National Coalition for Marine Conservation.

"This is an important step forward toward proactive conservation measures to ensure a healthy menhaden population in the bay," said Bill Goldsborough, senior fisheries scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"It just makes common sense to cap the industrial purse seine harvest of menhaden while we try to learn more about its impact," said Sherman Baynard, fisheries committee chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland. "After all, as recreational anglers know, almost every fish caught in the bay has a catch limit. Menhaden should also."

The ASMFC rejected an initiative offered by Omega Protein, the Houston based company that takes 90 percent of the entire East Coast menhaden catch. In their proposal the industry would voluntarily cap their harvest, but at an increased level of 135,000 metric tons annually for the next four years.

Omega, which recently opened up a newly enhanced processing plant in Reedville, Virginia, also wants to reopen state waters, such as those of Maryland and New Jersey, which are currently closed to industrial purse seine operations.

"While recreational anglers and conservationists are calling for maintaining the catch at current levels, Omega Protein is advocating a dramatic increase in their harvest," said David Festa, oceans program director at Environmental Defense. "Obviously, such a plan would only exacerbate the current situation - not remedy it."

* * *

Port of Los Angeles Funds Cleaner Engines for Catalina Ferry

SAN PEDRO, California, May 13, 2005 (ENS) - One of the most popular passenger vessels at the Port of Los Angeles is getting a $1 million clean air makeover.

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners last week approved an agreement with Catalina passenger ferry operator Catalina Express to provide over $1 million in air quality mitigation funding for the purchase of four new, low emission engines for the Jet Cat Express.

The Jet Cat Express repower project is the first of 18 proposals selected to receive funding from the Port’s $20 million Air Quality Mitigation Program.

In 2003, as part of the China Shipping settlement that authorizes the Chinese corporation to build a new terminal at the Port, an environmental mitigation program was created which earmarks more than $50 million from Port revenues to address the impacts of Port-related operations.

The new engines will reduce Jet Cat Express nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 230 tons and diesel particulate matter (PM) emissions by 33 tons over the 10 year project life while providing an faster service along the 22 mile trip between San Pedro and Avalon.

“Cleaning our air and improving the quality of life in the harbor area is of great importance to me and to our city,” said Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn. “I am very pleased that the port and Catalina Express found a cleaner, more efficient solution for the tens of thousands of residents and visitors who will travel from L.A. to Catalina each year.

“Since the Mayor committed to no net increase in emissions at the Port, we have plugged the first container ship in the world into our DWP grid to prevent burning bunker fuel while at berth; have implemented alternative fuel on-dock vehicles; and now we are making our passenger vessels cleaner and more fuel efficient,” said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, the mayor's sister.

“Thousands of people visit San Pedro every year to travel to Catalina and these passengers, and our residents, deserve these new cleaner burning vessels. We can have both thriving businesses and clean air at the port and this is the perfect use for the mitigation money.”

“The Jet Cat Express is used frequently, so the air quality benefits to the L.A. Basin are clear,” said Harbor Commission President Nicholas Tonsich. “There is no doubt that this funding will be put to good use.”

“These low-emission engines are fuel efficient, quieter and better for air quality,” said Catalina Express President Greg Bombard. “They will also make the trip to Catalina Island a bit smoother and quicker for our passengers.”

Catalina Express has operated its Berth 95 terminal at the Port of Los Angeles since 1981. The Jet Cat Express can carry nearly 400 passengers and makes daily trips to Catalina Island in under an hour. For more information, visit www.catalinaexpress.com.

The Port of Los Angeles is a proprietary, self-supported department of the City of Los Angeles. The Port places a high priority on responsible growth initiatives combined with high security, environmental stewardship and community outreach, officials said in a statement Tuesday.

Last week, the Port released a Request for Proposals for the next round of air quality mitigation funding, fiscal year 2005-2006, available online at www.portoflosangeles.org.

* * *

Dave Matthews Band Looks for "Lick Global Warming" Ambassador

NEW YORK, New York, May 13, 2005 (ENS) - One lucky 18 to 25 year old person is going to be hired for the ultimate summer job - to be the official "Lick Global Warming" ambassador for the Dave Matthews Band, Ben & Jerry's, and SaveOurEnvironment.org., a coalition of 21 large environmental groups.

Next Tuesday morning, May 17, the band, the ice cream makers and the coalition of environmental groups are going to the Supper Club on 47th St. in New York City announce details of the search for a person to go on tour with the band this summer to "mobilize the public to take action to fight global warming."

The winner of this job search will hit the road with the band to host an interactive exhibit designed to educate people about the issue of global warming and inspire them to take action. The winner will join the band from July 16 to September 7 for 23 tour dates in U.S. cities from New York City to Chula Vista, California.

The Dave Matthews Band is touring this summer in support of its new new studio album, "Stand Up" released Tuesday.

The "Lick Global Warming" ambassador will hand out samples of Ben & Jerry's new flavor - Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies - vanilla ice cream with fudge brownies and raspberry swirls. A portion of every sale goes to support the Dave Matthews Band Bama Works Foundation and then on to help global warming initiatives.

The Bama Works Fund was established by Dave Matthews Band to carry out the band's commitment to charitable works in the United States and worldwide. From the Amazon Rain Forest to community parks to helping tsunami-struck communities in eastern Sri Lanka put their lives back together, Bama Works has given to non-profit organizations, community programs, and charities.

The Dave Matthews Band, Ben & Jerry's, and SaveOurEnvironment.org first joined forces in 2002 to urge people to personally reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide by five percent or one ton per year and voice their concerns about global warming to Congress.

"The whole world is feeling the effects of global warming and it will only get worse in the future, if action is not taken now," the band said in a statement Thursday. "Together we can evoke real change."

"Driving more fuel-efficient cars or taking mass transit more frequently, replacing worn-out appliances with new energy-efficient models, and recycling are just a few of the easy steps we can each take to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and contribute to the solution to global warming," the band said.

* * *