AmeriScan: May 4, 2007

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State Air Pollution Officials Urge National Climate Law

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, May 4, 2007 (ENS) - The professional association of state and local air pollution control officials this week took aim at global warming.

At its spring membership meeting in Louisville, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies formally adopted a statement calling on Congress to "promptly enact a mandatory economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction program with quantifiable and enforceable limits."

The goal of this legislation should be to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions substantially below current levels "to lessen dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate," the group said.

The legislation should set interim milestones, including short, medium and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and recognize the benefits of significant early reductions.

The program should reduce greenhouse gases in a cost-effective manner, utilizing, among other approaches, market-based strategies, the group said.

Executive Director Bill Becker said the membership supports a mandatory program "but one that is flexible enough to allow for a portfolio of strategies to be adopted in addition to such a program."

The principles also support sector-specific strategies for the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States - electric power and motor vehicles.

The principles recognize that the federal government would have the lead on an economy-wide program but that there should be a strong role for states and localities.

"In particular," Becker said, "federal legislation should not preempt state or local governments from taking more stringent actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The air pollution control officials urged Congress to seriously consider the greenhouse gas recommendations of other state and local organizations, such as the National Governors Association, the Environmental Council of States, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and The Climate Registry.

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New York Governor Wants Nuclear Plant Safety Assessment

ALBANY, New York, May 4, 2007 (ENS) - New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has joined with much of the New York Congressional delegation in calling on Dale Klein, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to order an Independent Safety Assessment at Indian Point Energy Center before the nuclear power plant is re-licensed.

On April 23, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, fined the owners of Indian Point, Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc., $130,000 for failing to meet the deadline for a new emergency siren plan.

On May 2, Entergy formally filed with the NRC its application to renew for 20 years the operating licenses of the Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 nuclear power plants in Buchanan, New York on the Hudson River.

"I continue to be gravely concerned about the safety and security of Indian Point, especially given the recent operational problems at the plant," said Governor Spitzer. "Public safety must be our foremost concern and for that reason it is imperative that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conduct an Independent Safety Assessment to fully review the facility before it is re-licensed."

Entergy Indian Point Energy Center Site Vice President Fred Dacimo defended the beleaguered nuclear power plant. "We are extremely proud of these two great facilities, and look forward to operating them for many years to come for the benefit of all New Yorkers and the regional environment," he said.

The filing kicks off a two year long public assessment and review process.

Congressman John Hall said, "Indian Point is the nation's most problematic power plant in the nation's most densely populated corridor. With eight percent of the population of the United States within a 50 mile radius of the plant, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to give this plant the special attention it requires."

"Entergy's inability to install a functioning alert system and the seemingly weekly string of mishaps at Indian Point make it clearer than ever that the NRC needs to conduct an Independent Safety Assessment before allowing this plant to get re-licensed," Hall said.

New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats, introduced legislation in February that would require an in-depth review of Indian Point's safety and mechanical systems, spent fuel pools, and radiological emergency evacuation plans.

Senator Clinton said, "It's time for the NRC and Entergy to heed the call that is echoing throughout the community and only gets louder as more incidents occur. It is way past time for the NRC to undertake a detailed, independent review of the plant to answer the questions that more and more New Yorkers have about the safety of the plant."

New York Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Michael Balboni said, "The state continues to work with the counties in the emergency planning zones as well as the federal government to ensure that we are doing everything possible to ensure the security of the plant during its operation."

The governor has indicated that he would support the closure of Indian Point at such a time when alternative energy sources are developed and which meet the energy needs of the region. Until then, Balboni said, "we must do all that we can to make sure that the Indian Point facility complies with all federal laws and regulations and is operated as safely as possible."

From its office in Tarrytown, Riverkeeper has been leading efforts to bring an Independent Safety Assessment, ISA, to Indian Point before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission decides on Entergy's relicensing application.

Riverkeeper President Alex Matthiessen said, "Given Indian Point's proximity to the 20 million people who live in and around New York City, and the fact that the beleaguered facility has an emergency shutdown rate six or seven times the national average among nuclear reactors, it's clearly time for a stepped up review."

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New Bill Would Halt Waste Dumping in Lakes, Rivers, Streams

WASHINGTON, DC, May 4, 2007 (ENS) - A bi-partisan bill was introduced in the House Thursday to restore a 25 year old prohibition under the Clean Water Act that prevented mining companies and other industries from dumping masses of solid industrial wastes into the nation's waters.

Representatives Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, and Chris Shays, a Connecticut Republican, introduced the Clean Water Protection Act. Already, more than 60 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives have co-sponsored the bill.

The legislation overturns a 2002 rule change by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allows coal mining companies to create enormous valley fills, burying thousands of miles of streams, to make the practice of mountaintop removal mining cheaper.

That rule change also allows other industries to dump waste in waters under the guise of renaming the waste material as "fill."

"I'm proud to have reintroduced this bill, which protects streams and watersheds and addresses a serious environmental justice concern," Congressman Pallone said. "The federal government should protect the environment and the people living around mountaintop mining operations, not give massive mining companies a free pass to dump fill into waterways."

"It is my hope this legislation signals to the EPA that Congress will not sit silently by as our environment is destroyed," says Congressman Shays. "We cannot afford to waste another day, another hour, another minute if we want our children and our children's children to enjoy clean water. We simply won't have a world to live in if we continue our neglectful ways."

More than 1,200 miles of streams already have been destroyed in Appalachia by the coal companies that have been flouting the Clean Water Act for years while the EPA and the Corps looked the other way.

When citizens took state and federal agencies to court to ensure our environmental laws are enforced, coal companies sought and were granted a legal loophole by the Bush administration.

In May 2002, the Army Corps of Engineers repealed the 25 year old ban under their regulations against allowing waste to be treated as "fill" material that is allowed to be placed in waters.

The Clean Water Protection Act is supported by a large coalition of organizations that includes national groups such as Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, and Sierra Club, and regional leaders to stop mountaintop removal coal mining, such as the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

"Burying Appalachia's streams in mining waste is one of the most egregious forms of environmental destruction taking place in America," said Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club's Director of Environment Quality Program. "It is threatening communities, damaging drinking water supplies, causing flooding and ruining habitat for fish and wildlife. Congress should put a stop to it now."

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Thousands of New York, New Jersey Trees Treated for Asian Beetle

NEW YORK, New York, May 4, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is treating about 98,000 trees susceptible to the Asian longhorned beetle with the insecticide imidacloprid in New York and New Jersey this spring.

These treatments, which have yielded positive results in the past, are part of an eradication program to prevent further infestation of this invasive insect pest and reduce beetle populations.

Treatments will take place through May and into June. Imidacloprid is currently used in the lawn care industry to kill lawn grubs and in some domestic pet treatments to kill fleas.

Contracted certified pesticide applicators, will be treating host trees by injecting insecticides in the soil around the base of trees, or by trunk injection using hand-held application devices. Treatment applications will be monitored by the Agriculture Department.

The imidacloprid is dispersed through the tree's vascular system reaching adult beetles feeding on small twigs and leaves and the larvae feeding beneath the bark of host trees.

In the 132 square mile quarantine area in New York, USDA will treat a total of 66,400 trees, including some 10,300 trees in Manhattan, 24,000 trees in Brooklyn and about 32,100 trees in Queens.

In New Jersey's 25 mile quarantine area, treatments are taking place in Middlesex and Union counties for about 31,800 trees. USDA will treat 4,930 trees in Carteret, 6,460 in Woodbridge and 3,650 trees in Rahway. In Linden, 15,880 trees are scheduled for treatment and 880 trees are to be treated in a small portion of Roselle.

USDA is currently determining whether treatments will take place on Staten Island and if so, to what extent.

The larvae of the Asian longhorned beetle bore into healthy hardwood trees and feed on living tree tissue and heartwood. Later, throughout the summer, adult beetles emerge from exit holes and briefly feed on the leaves and small twigs of host trees.

Asian longhorned beetles are one to 1.5 inches long, have a shiny jet black body with distinctive white spots and long antennae that are banded in black and white. The insect was first found in Brooklyn in 1996. Subsequent infestations in New Jersey were discovered in 2002 and 2004.

For more information on the treatment program, call in New York 1-866-265-0301 and in New Jersey 732-815-4700. For more information about the ALB Cooperative Eradication Program visit the APHIS website at www.aphis.usda.gov/alb.

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California Snowpack 71 Percent Below Normal

SACRAMENTO, California, May 7, 2007 (ENS) - California water officials are bracing themselves for a low water summer. After the final snowpack measurements were announced on May 1, Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow said statewide, the percentage of normal snow water equivalent is at 29 percent. This means the snow level is 71 percent below normal.

Electronic sensor readings show Northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 27 percent of normal for this date, Central Sierra at 33 percent, and Southern Sierra at 24 percent.

"There is no question that these snowpack results indicate the need for conservation and more water storage," said DWR Director Lester Snow.

"Now more than ever, we need to support the Governor's Strategic Growth Plan that will allow us to address this critical need for additional surface and groundwater storage, conservation and Delta preservation to cope with California's population growth."

In his State of the State Address in January, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed $5.9 billion in water bonds, which includes $4.5 billion for increased water storage, $1 billion for Delta sustainability, and $450 million for conservation and restoration.

Director Snow noted that the Department of Water Resources is working with local and regional agencies throughout the state to encourage and implement water conservation measures as a precaution against subsequent dry years and noted that the dismal snowpack readings reinforce the importance of the Governor's plan to address water storage and other infrastructure needs.

On March 27, while visiting California's central water control facility, the governor said, "We desperately need above the ground water storage to accommodate future growth and for flood control. California's population is going to increase by approximately 30 percent over the next 20 years. That is an equivalent of adding three cities the size of Los Angeles."

"We also need additional storage because scientists say that global warming will eliminate 25 percent of our snowpack by the half of this century, which will mean less snow stored in the mountains, which will mean more flooding in the winter and less drinking water in the summer."

"That is why, the governor said, "it is important that we don't let that much water run off into the ocean before capturing it. We must plan ahead and build more above the ground water storage to make sure that that does not happen."

"It is my responsibility as the governor to not only think one year ahead, or two years ahead, but to think 10, 20, 30, 40 years ahead. I want to make sure that by 2050 we have enough water, and we protect our people from huge floods," Schwarzenegger said.

Communities throughout the state have begun voluntary rationing. Recently, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission called on their 2.4 million customers to reduce their water use by 10 percent or they could face water rationing this summer.

The East Bay Municipal Utilities District has asked their customers find and fix any plumbing that leaks, to water their lawns only three days a week and never on consecutive days and to do so at night or in the morning.

Santa Cruz residents have been told to not water their lawns between 10 am and 5 pm seven days a week.

"With more precipitation falling as rain we face more flooding and less water in the snowpack to flow to our cities and fields in the summer," Snow said. "Obviously, this increases the need for having more sources to draw from, to ensure that our economy and communities have enough water."

Snow-water content is important in determining the coming year's water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts as well as provide others, such as hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry, with data.

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Washington State Will Rid Beach of Oil-filled Shipwreck

OLYMPIA, Washington, May 4, 2007 (ENS) - Work resumed this week to remove the wreck of the SS Catala from a beach at Ocean Shores. The Washington state Department of Ecology expects that all oil and any other pollutants will be removed by the end of the summer. Then the remains of the rusty, skeletal hull will be taken from the beach and recycled.

The Catala came to rest on a spit at Damon Point during a New Year's storm in 1965.

Beneath her decks a dark, dangerous secret lay undetected for more than 40 years - tens of thousands of gallons of unmonitored diesel oil.

When a beachcomber poked a walking stick into one of the Catala's five oil tanks in April 2006, he discovered an oily, black sludge on the other end.

State and federal natural resources agencies quickly organized a plan to address the pollution threat while protecting sensitive marine wildlife and habitat near the ship.

From August to October 2006, contractors removed 31,000 gallons of heavy oil from the Catala's tanks; 22 cubic yards of asbestos and asbestos-contaminated materials; and 2,800 tons of sand, including 1,358 tons of oil-contaminated soil. All of these hazardous materials were hauled away for proper treatment and disposal.

Workers also removed 356,000 gallons of water that had been contaminated by oil for offsite treatment. The water came from the tanks and upper portions of the ship, and included water from pressure washing and steam cleaning the tanks.

"When we started work on the Catala last year, we thought we could finish by last fall," said Jim Sachet, a spill response manager with the Department of Ecology, "but several factors caused us to continue the project into a second year."

"We needed to complete the fourth wall of the steel enclosure," Sachet explained. "The ship's depth and pitch in the sand meant going carefully to make sure workers could safely get into tanks at the bottom of the hull. And the unexpectedly large volume of oil meant more material to remove. With the discovery of asbestos, additional steps had to be taken to protect workers and the public."

Ecology's partners in overseeing the cleanup include the Washington departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As the new work season moves into warmer months, curiosity will likely draw visitors to the work site. But beachcombers need to do more than watch the work - they need to watch where they walk.

The Damon Point area is home to the snowy plover and streaked horned lark. Both are protected species. Work on the Catala is being done carefully to make sure nesting birds and habitat are unaffected. Beach visitors are advised to take special care if they walk toward the Catala work site. Signs at the Damon Point parking area indicate what visitors should look for and avoid when walking on the sand.

"By the end of this project, we will have removed a major pollution threat from an environmentally sensitive area and restored the beach for the public's full enjoyment," Sachet said.

As work on the Catala progresses, updates will be posted to Ecology's SS Catala webpage.