AmeriScan: May 2, 2007

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Feds, Idaho, Tribe Settle Snake River Water Rights

WASHINGTON, DC, May 2, 2007 (ENS) - The state of Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the U.S. Department of the Interior finalized a major water rights agreement for the Snake River Tuesday after nine years of negotiation.

The settlement resolves a number of water rights issues as part of the Snake River Basin Adjudication - the legal inventory of about 150,000 water rights in 38 of Idaho’s 44 counties.

The Nez Perce claims had been the largest outstanding issue in the Snake River Basin.

The settlement defines the rights and responsibilities of the parties on issues ranging from quantified tribal water rights to collaborative Endangered Species Act agreements.

It provides federal funding for tribal water and fisheries projects, tribal water supply systems, and mitigation funding for several counties in Idaho.

Rebecca Miles, who chairs the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, said, "This settlement has been a difficult decision for the tribe. For generations to come, however, we think it will provide benefits to the tribe and help rebuild salmon and steelhead runs that are so important to our community."

Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Carl Artman said, "This settlement will provide benefits to the Nez Perce Tribe, help rebuild salmon and steelhead runs, and provide needed certainty about water rights. It is a model for tribes, states, and the federal government working together."

Idaho Governor Butch Otter said, "I want to thank the Idaho Congressional Delegation, members of the Legislature, the Attorney General and his staff, the Idaho water users, and the Nez Perce Tribe for all of their dedication and hard work in finding creative solutions that will provide benefits to the people of Idaho for many years."

Congress passed the Snake River Water Rights Act in 2004 to implement the settlement and authorize Federal funding. The Idaho Legislature and Nez Perce Tribe ratified the settlement in March 2005. The Snake River Basin Adjudication Court Consent Decree process was completed in March 2007. Today’s actions certify that all preconditions for finality of the settlement have been completed.

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U.S. Accepts First Irradiated Fruit Imports

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2007 (ENS) - The United States Tuesday began to accept shipments of irradiated mangoes from India, the first U.S. imports of irradiated fruit.

Irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation to disinfect, sanitize, sterilize, preserve food or to provide insect disinfestation. It serves as an alternative to other pest control methods such as fumigation and cold and heat treatments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says irradiatede food does not become radioactive, and the nutritional value of the food is "essentially unchanged."

Irradiation was approved in 2002 as a treatment for all pests in some fruits and vegetables entering the United States. In 2006, irradiation was approved for a wider range of food products, including Indian mangoes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA.

USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service approved commercial shipments of fresh mangoes from India that are treated with specified doses of irradiation at an APHIS certified facility prior to export to ensure that plant pests do not enter the United States.

"This is a significant milestone that paves the way for the future use of irradiation technology to protect against the introduction of plant pests," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

The nonprofit public interest group Public Citizen objects to irradited food, which it says caused "a myriad of serious health problems in laboratory animals that ate irradiated foods, including premature death, fatal internal bleeding, a rare form of cancer, stillbirths and other reproductive problems, mutations and other genetic damage, organ malfunctions, stunted growth and vitamin deficiencies."

Concerns have been expressed by public health groups that irradiation, by killing all bacteria in food, can serve to disguise poor food-handling practices that could lead to other kinds of contamination.

In the United States, wheat flour, white potatoes, fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, pork and poultry are USDA approved for irradiation.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said import of the irradiated fruit "signals the determination of both India and the United States to forge deeper and stronger trade ties and create significant new economic opportunities for the people of both of our vast countries."

U.S.-India trade has been growing at an average rate of almost 20 percent a year since 2002. The United States and India want to double their bilateral trade to $60 billion by 2008, said Schwab.

Schwab said more Indian organic food products certified according to USDA standards by Indian agents are expected to begin flowing soon into the United States. Irradiation is not permitted on organic foods.

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North Dakota Allows Hemp Farming Without Federal License

BISMARCK, North Dakota, May 2, 2007 (ENS) - North Dakota's legislature wrapped up last week by passing a law that removes the requirement for state-licensed industrial hemp farmers to seek additional licenses from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA.

The law change removes the DEA license as a requirement of state law, but it does not protect farmers from federal prosecution.

Vote Hemp, an industrial hemp advocacy group, will support a lawsuit brought by North Dakota licensed hemp farmers to prevent the DEA from enforcing federal marijuana laws against them.

If the farmers' lawsuit, which will be filed in the coming weeks, is successful, states across the nation will be free to implement hemp farming laws without fear of federal interference.

"With the broad authority that has been granted to them by Congress, the DEA could have easily approved the applications of the farmers in North Dakota," says Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp.

"The DEA could have also easily negotiated industrial hemp farming rules with North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson who has been talking to them about this for a year. Instead, they kept stalling until the time to plant had passed," says Murphy. "North Dakota had nothing left to do but cut the DEA out of the picture."

The lawmakers concluded that the DEA is never to going to acknowledge the practical differences between industrial hemp and marijuana.

Industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified as Cannabis sativa, a species with hundreds of varieties and a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed and oil, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

While industrial hemp and marijuana may look somewhat alike to an untrained eye, a trained eye can easily distinguish the difference, according to the North American Industrial Hemp Council.

Industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and one percent. Marijuana has a THC content of three to 20 percent. "To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to power-smoke 10-12 hemp cigarettes over an extremely short period of time. The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to withstand," the Hemp Council says.

"The legislative action is a direct response to the DEA's refusal to waive registration requirements, including $3,440 per farmer in non-refundable yearly application fees, and the agency's inability to respond to the farmers' federal applications in time for spring planting," says Alexis Baden-Mayer, Vote Hemp's legislative director.

"The North Dakota legislature's bold action gives Vote Hemp the opportunity we've been working towards for nearly a decade," said Baden-Mayer. "Now that there is a state with comprehensive hemp farming regulations that has explicitly eschewed DEA involvement, we can finally make the case that states have the legal ability to regulate industrial hemp farming within their borders without federal interference."

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Landfill Settlement Protects New Jersey Wetlands

LINDEN, New Jersey, May 3, 2007 (ENS) - The city of Linden and the state of New Jersey have reached a $3 million settlement that will result in final closure of the Linden Landfill and sets the stage for stormwater control and preservation of surrounding wetlands along the heavily urbanized Rahway River.

Announcing the agreement April 25, state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson said, "Through this settlement, Linden is making a significant investment in a healthier environment for its residents while creating a destination that will enhance the quality of life in one of New Jersey's most densely populated areas.

"This settlement is in keeping with the spirit of Earth Week by demonstrating the state's commitment to finding creative ways to correct past environmental problems," said Jackson.

The Linden Landfill, encompassing 55 acres on Lower Road, began accepting municipal waste more than 50 years ago, prior to state oversight of landfills as authorized by the Solid Waste Management Act. It was one of the last of the old municipal landfills to close when it ceased operations on January 1, 2000.

Over the years, the city made progress toward closing the landfill by installing the containment wall and systems to control leachate and stormwater.

The closure plan approved by the DEP allowed the city to use material dredged from the Arthur Kill watersay for grading in preparation for final capping. The city began placing the material on the landfill in December 2002.

But the city and its contractor did not follow conditions for acceptance of the material and other requirements of the closure plan. DEP issued a series of violation notices and civil penalty assessments.

The settlement requires the city to verify that contaminated soil and processed dredged material that migrated off the landfill and into surrounding wetlands have been cleaned up. The city must complete all closure activities by June 1, 2007 and provide long-term post-closure monitoring.

The Administrative Consent Order between Linden and the DEP requires the city to finish properly closing the landfill and to enhance 50 acres of surrounding forest areas and wetlands that will be the core of a Linden City Greenway. The future greenway is intended to enhance public appreciation and enjoyment of the Rahway watershed.

The Administrative Consent Order requires:

  • Payment by the city of a $1 million penalty for DEP violations, including improper closure of the landfill and disturbance of wetlands caused by installation of a clay containment wall
  • Linden's commitment of an additional $1 million for greenway access projects and establishment of education and interpretive programs in conjunction with a non-profit environmental group
  • DEP commitment of $1 million in matching money for greenway projects that comes from a separate settlement with Merck & Co. for natural resource damages associated with contamination of ground water in the area. Ten additional acres of wetlands preserved as part of this settlement will be made part of the greenway.

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    Mayors' New Climate Protection Award for Cities

    WASHINGTON, DC, May 2, 2007 (ENS) - To mark Earth Week, the Mayors Climate Protection Center of the United States Conference of Mayors, announced a joint partnership with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to combat global warming by launching an annual Mayors' Climate Protection Award to honor leading efforts made by mayors in American cities.

    The winning mayors will demonstrate a true commitment and progress toward the goals that the Mayors Climate Protection Center and Wal-Mart say they share - to protect the environment, increase energy efficiency in cities, and make the planet sustainable for the future.

    An independent panel of judges will select the winners of the 2007 Mayors' Climate Protection Awards and final determinations will be made in early June.

    The announcement of the Mayors' Climate Protection Award-winning mayors will be made at the first Annual Mayors' Climate Protection Awards Luncheon during the 75th Annual Conference of Mayors meeting in June in Los Angeles.

    "We are honored to partner with Wal-Mart on this award to mayors because they truly understand the critical need to change human behavior in cities, which is where the rubber meets the road, by increasing the use of energy-efficient products," said Douglas Palmer, conference president and mayor of Trenton, New Jersey.

    The Mayors' Climate Protection Awards program will honor exemplary efforts underway by mayors nationwide in one of five areas:

    1. greening of municipal buildings facilities and operations
    2. improving local air quality
    3. reducing carbon dioxide emissions and combating climate change locally
    4. increasing the use of energy-efficient products and transportation, including mass transit
    5. supporting green housing projects
        To visit the Mayors Climate Protection Center and view a list of environmental best practices currently underway by mayors, go to: http://usmayors.org/climateprotection/

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        World Without Oil, the Alternate Reality Game

        SAN FRANCISCO, California, May 2, 2007 (ENS) - Everyone knows that someday the world may face an oil shortage. What if it started today? How would your life change?

        WORLD WITHOUT OIL, a live interactive month-long alternate reality event to explore this possibility, was launched Monday by Public Broadcasting Service, Independent Lens and its Electric Shadows Web-original programming division.

        Produced by the design team at Writerguy, WORLD WITHOUT OIL is the first alternate reality game to enlist the Internet's collective intelligence and imagination to confront and attempt to solve a real-world problem - what happens when a great economy built entirely on cheap oil begins to run short?

        "Alternate reality gaming is emerging as the way for the world to imagine and engineer a best case scenario future," says WORLD WITHOUT OIL's participation architect, futurist Jane McGonigal.

        "It's been summed up this way: 'If you want to change the future, play with it first," she said.

        As of April 30, the nerve center for the realistic oil crisis is at worldwithoutoil.org, with links to citizen stories in blogs, videos, photos, audio and phone messages posted all over the Internet.

        At the website, people will learn the broad brushstrokes of the crisis, such as the current price of a gallon of gas or how widespread shortages are. Players will fill in the details, by creating Web documents that express their own perspectives from within the crisis.

        People of any age or Web ability can participate in the free event. Individuals are getting involved across the nation, and over 400 people have signed up to play.

        "The alternate reality of WORLD WITHOUT OIL is not fantasy, it's a very real possibility," says Writerguy Creative Director Ken Eklund. "And the game challenge is one of imagination. No one person or small group can hope to figure out the complex rippling effects of an oil shock, but the collective imagination can. And understanding it is a serious, positive step toward preventing it."

        The game will honor outstanding player contributions with WWO None-Ton Awards: offsets of one metric ton (2,204.6 lbs) of carbon dioxide, accomplished through increased energy efficiency implemented by CarbonFund.Org.

        The game will bestow a total of 100 such awards, making WORLD WITHOUT OIL a carbon-neutral effort.

        To assist middle and high school teachers who want to incorporate the game into class activities, the designers have established a web page: http://www.worldwithoutoil.org/teach. Presented by Independent Lens and ITVS Interactive and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Electric Shadows sites aim to explore the arts, culture and society through innovative forms, take creative risks and advance civic participation.