AmeriScan: May 1, 2007

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Outer Continental Shelf Opened Wide for Oil, Gas

WASHINGTON, DC, May 1, 2007 (ENS) - Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne Monday announced a federal program to increase oil and natural gas production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska.

Kempthorne said the energy developments could produce 10 billion barrels of oil and 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over 40 years, generating almost $170 billion, in today’s dollars.

Offshore energy production is one of the largest sources of non-tax revenue for the federal government; the new program will generate billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury.

"The Outer Continental Shelf is a vital source of domestic oil and natural gas for America, especially in light of sharply rising energy prices and increasing demand for these resources," Kempthorne said. "This energy production will create jobs, provide greater economic and energy security for America and can be accomplished in a safe and environmentally sound manner."

Interior’s Minerals Management Service developed the initiative, known as the Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, to guide domestic energy leasing on the OCS from 2007 to 2012.

The program proposes 21 lease sales in eight planning areas. Twelve sales are slated for the Gulf of Mexico, eight off of Alaska and, at the request of the Commonwealth of Virginia, one in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area, about 50 miles off the coast of southern Virginia.

Kempthorne noted that revenues from OCS energy production are shared with coastal states adjacent to OCS energy production.

"This proposal will provide hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue for states to pay for roads, bridges, environmental restoration and other critical needs," he said. "Outer Continental Shelf energy revenues also support historic preservation and environmental conservation projects in all states through the Historic Preservation Fund and Land and Water Conservation Fund."

There is no leasing proposed within 125 miles of the Florida coast or east of the military mission line in the Eastern Gulf. The program includes a Central Gulf sale in 2007 that involves a portion of the Sale 181 area and, as mandated by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, one lease sale in the Eastern Gulf in 2008.

"We consulted extensively with Members of Congress, state, local and tribal officials, industry, environmental organizations and received comment from more than a hundred thousand interested citizens," Kempthorne said. "This program gives great weight to the desires of coastal states regarding oil and gas development near their shores and environmentally sensitive areas were removed from proposed lease sales."

He noted that 75 percent of the comments received from the public supported some level of increased access to the domestic energy resources of the Outer Continental Shelf.

A Notice of Availability for the 5-Year program and its Final Environmental Impact Statement will appear in the Federal Register on May 2, 2007. As required by the OCS Lands Act, the program was submitted to the President and Congress Monday and, after 60 days, the Secretary may approve it to take effect on July 1, 2007.

The complete proposed program is online at: http://www.mms.gov/5-year/

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EPA Climate Award Winners Urge Action on Global Warming

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2007 (ENS) - All five American winners of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 Climate Protection Awards today called on the EPA to act now to control global warming.

The awards, presented today at a ceremony at the International Trade Center in Washington, recognized 31 individuals, organizations and companies from around the world for outstanding efforts to protect the Earth's climate and stratospheric ozone layer.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said, "Environmental protection is everyone's responsibility, and these leaders are making smart choices to hand down a cleaner, healthier future."

The American winners include actor, producer and founder of the Sundance Film Festival Robert Redford, and Episcopal Reverend Sally Bingham of Grace Cathedral San Francisco, who tells here congregants that "it's an insult to the Creator" if they don't take care of the Earth.

Robert Parkhurst, who created Hewlett Packard's climate change program; Auden Schendler, executive director of community and environmental responsibility at Aspen Skiing Company, Aspen, Colorado; and Ron Sims, executive of King County, Washington who wrote an action plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in Seattle, are the other three winners.

In a statement addressed to the EPA, the winners wrote, "We respectfully ask that the EPA grant a waiver to California to allow it and other states to implement the California global warming pollution standards and substantially enlarge the market for low-emission vehicles in the U.S. This waiver is essential if we are going to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals."

The winners are asking the agency to allow California and other states to move forward with greehouse gas emissions standards for new cars and trucks that would reduce heat-trapping emissions by 30 percent by 2016.

"We also call upon EPA to comply with the Supreme Court's landmark global warming decision by promptly setting national standards for the heat-trapping emissions from vehicles and power plants, because they so clearly contribute to global warming," they wrote.

On April 2, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush administration failed to follow the requirements of the Clean Air Act when it refused to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

The 5-4 decision in Massachusetts v EPA orders the administration to reconsider its decision, a move that could result in the first nationwide regulations aimed at tackling emissions linked to global warming.

"Today," the winners wrote, "climate change has emerged as the most pressing issue of our time, environmental or otherwise. As activists in the search for solutions, we all recognize the importance of bold leadership at this critical time. And it’s for this reason that we call on the EPA to act, without further delay, to implement climate solutions that will protect our economy, our coastlines, and our children."

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BLM Employee's Suicide Reveals Problems in the Agency

WASHINGTON, DC, May 1, 2007 (ENS) - "Bureaucratic indifference and official callousness" contributed to a suicide by a Bureau of Land Management national monument manager, according to an internal investigation report released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER.

At the same time, workplace surveys show deepening distrust and plummeting morale within the Bureau of Land Management, BLM, and other agencies within the Interior Department, says PEER, a national association of employees in natural resources agencies.

On May 2, 2005, Marlene Braun, the manager of the Carrizo Plains National Monument in California killed herself, leaving a suicide note citing abuse, humiliation and unprofessional conduct by her chain-of-command.

The Inspector General "Report of Investigation", dated April 19, 2006, found that "BLM did not take action to resolve longstanding differences…or to diffuse inter-office conflict, despite the availability of alternative dispute resolution methods."

As a result, the report concludes, "a breakdown in trust, communication and cooperation…adversely affected management of the Carrizo Plains…"

The report, extracted by PEER nine months after its first Freedom of Information Act request to the Inspector General’s office, leaves lingering questions, PEER said, asking:

  • Why did the Bakersfield Field Office manager not make a 911 call when he was unable to contact Braun after receiving her email?
  • Who delayed "emergency medical personnel" from immediately responding to Braun’s house, requesting that they await "the arrival of law enforcement" because "Braun was known to possess firearms"? Braun was alive as emergency responders arrived but died an hour later;
  • Why did the BLM officials first dispatched to check on Braun seize her computer and other materials from Braun’s house and then "failed to properly inventory the removed property or document their actions as required by BLM policy"?
  • What, if any, changes will Interior consider adopting to prevent future such tragedies? "Interior’s leadership should extract and share the lessons learned from Marlene Braun’s life and death, instead of treating it like a skeleton they want to keep hidden in the closet," said California PEER Director Karen Schambach, who had worked with Braun in the months before her death to resolve the personnel and resource conflicts on Carrizo Plains.

    "Unfortunately, without a change in cultural climate at Interior to one which stresses more kindness and less authoritarianism, this type of tragedy will recur," Shambach said.

    Since Braun’s death, PEER says it has heard from "a number of other women within the BLM" who have reported similar abuse by their male superiors.

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    Congress Plans Catalog of U.S. Capacity to Sequester CO2

    WASHINGTON, DC, May 1, 2007 (ENS) - In testimony before a House Committee today, a representative from the U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, endorsed legislation that would produce a comprehensive inventory of the nation's ability to store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide deep underground - a process known as sequestration.

    "This bill is a critical step in the process to mitigating carbon emissions and addressing global climate change," said House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who introduced the legislation. "I am pleased that the USGS agrees."

    The National Carbon Dioxide Storage Capacity Assessment Act of 2007 was introduced earlier this year by Gordon in the House and Democratic Senators Ken Salazar of Colorado, Jim Webb of Virginia, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, as well as Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning in the Senate.

    The bill authorizes the USGS, in cooperation with the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, to establish an inventory which would provide data on storage locations and estimates for the volume of carbon dioxide storage capabilities.

    The legislation authorizes the federal government to spend up to $20 million on the inventory process.

    Associate Director of the USGS Patrick Leahy today told a joint hearing of two subcommittees of the House Natural Resources Committee that the USGS supports the legislation and believes that a national assessment of this kind is needed.

    The House and Senate carbon sequestration bills require the USGS to develop a rigorous methodology for the assessment based on sound science. When finished, the methodology will be reviewed by a panel of experts and the public, to ensure its accuracy.

    The House and Senate versions of the legislation have been endorsed by the National Mining Association, the Edison Electric Institute, and the American Public Power Association.

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    Home Appliance Industry Urges Higher Efficiency Standards

    WASHINGTON, DC, May 1, 2007 (ENS) - Today the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers along with a nationwide coalition of energy and water efficiency supporters said they will lobby for legislation to establish new mandatory federal energy and water efficiency standards.

    They agreement also seeks legislation for new, more efficient EnergyStar levels and manufacturer tax credits for the production of super-efficient clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators and dehumidifiers that increase the efficiency of these products by 11 to 48 percent.

    The agreement spells out the first national minimum water efficiency standards for residential clothes washers and dishwashers.

    In addition, the agreement provides for DOE to update these legislated and current standards by conducting new rulemakings for refrigerators, clothes washers and dishwashers.

    DOE has estimated that the total 30 year energy savings will amount to nearly 15 Quads of energy and 68 million acre feet of water.

    Total cumulative utility bill savings for consumers are estimated to be as high as $68 billion.

    These potential savings equal enough water to meet the needs of about 17 million people for one year and enough energy to meet the needs of about 70 percent of the U.S. population for one year.

    Legislation is already making its way through Congress. In the Senate, Senators Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat and Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican, have introduced legislation to execute the standards provisions in the agreement.

    In the House, Representative Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, is to introduce legislation to implement the agreement's tax credit provisions, and Representatives Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat, and Chip Pickering, a Mississippi Republican, have introduced legislation on the standards provisions.

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    Nellis Air Force Base Harnesses Nevada Sun

    LAS VEGAS, Nevada, May 1, 2007 (ENS) - Construction on the largest solar photovoltaic system ever to be built in North America has begun at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.

    Spearheading the project is a team that includes the U.S. Air Force, Nevada Power Company, MMA Renewable Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity, and PowerLight Corp., a subsidiary of SunPower Corporation.

    The Nellis 15 megawatt solar power system will generate in excess of 25 million kilowatt-hours of clean electricity annually and supply more than 25 percent of the power used at the base during peak summer months.

    Occupying 140 acres of land leased from the Air Force at the western edge of the base, the ground mounted solar system will employ an advanced tracking system, designed and deployed by PowerLight, to follow the Sun.

    Approximately 70,000 solar panels and the patented PowerLight PowerTracker will capture up to 30 percent more energy than an equivalent ground-mounted fixed-tilt system.

    The energy generated will support the more than 12,000 military and civilians at Nellis who are responsible for Air Force advanced combat training, tactics development and operational testing.

    MMA Renewable Ventures will finance, own and operate the landmark system and sell the power to Nellis under the terms of a Power Purchase Agreement.

    The solar system is expected to save Nellis more than $1 million in annual energy costs.

    "I'm proud to say that Nevada and the Air Force are leading the way in utilizing renewable resources," said Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons at the groundbreaking ceremony April 23.

    "The Nellis solar power plant is the start of the way ahead for future DoD and community partnership," said Colonel Michael Bartley, commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis. "The base will benefit from the energy produced, the environment benefits from using clean solar energy, and we may even test state-of-the-art security measures at the site. This is a good thing for everyone."

    "This savings allows the Air Force to apply these funds toward higher priority mission requirements," said Colonel Bartley. "The array provides a semi-secure and independent power source - a capability other military installations will soon move to acquire ... as goes Nellis, so goes the Air Force."

    Nellis Air Force Base is the home of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. With five wings and more than 150 aircraft, the Warfare Center is responsible for advanced combat training, tactics development and operational testing.