AmeriScan: May 8, 2007

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States Form Climate Registry to Track Greenhouse Gas Emissions

WASHINGTON, DC, May 8, 2007 (ENS) - Thirty-one states, representing over 70 percent of the U.S. population, today announced that they are charter members of The Climate Registry, marking the largest national effort to take action on climate change.

The list of founding member states and tribes includes the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Campo Kumeyaay Nation.

Two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Manitoba, have also committed to participate in the Climate Registry.

"States cannot wait any longer for leadership on global warming from the federal government,” said Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. "States are creating a system that gives businesses and organizations an opportunity to step up to the plate and take responsibility for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

The newly formed climate registry is a tool to measure, track, verify and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions accurately, transparently and consistently across borders and industry sectors. This is a critical first step in developing robust programs to reduce GHG emissions. The Registry will support voluntary, market-based and regulatory GHG emissions reporting programs.

"You have to be able to count carbon pollution in order to cut carbon pollution," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Registry gives business and policymakers an essential accounting tool for tracking the success of the many emerging global warming emission reduction initiatives that are blossoming across the country."

Participants range from states that have been moving forward with mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs, to those that are taking initial steps to address the challenge. Both Republican and Democratic governors are represented and the states are geographically diverse.

The Climate Registry is building with existing internationally recognized measurement standards and will allow global companies to consistently measure greenhouse gas emissions from facilities located any where in the world.

Currently, greenhouse gas emissions are not required to be reported in the United States. The lack of leadership at the federal level - combined with the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring - has compelled more than half of the states throughout the U.S. to create The Climate Registry.

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Energy Department Sued for Wasting America's Energy

NEW YORK, New York, May 8, 2007 (ENS) - The Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, and the state of Massachusetts filed parallel lawsuits Monday against the U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, for failing to strengthen weak and outdated energy efficiency standards for commercial heating and cooling equipment.

Massachusetts filed its case in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which is based in New York, filed a parallel challenge in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

On March 7, the DOE adopted the standards for new air conditioners, heat pumps, and similar products commonly used in offices, schools and other commercial facilities. The standards are far weaker than recommended by experts at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, ASHRAE, a professional group recognized by Congress as an authority on energy efficiency.

The suits challenge DOE's standards that allow these products to continue to waste both energy and money, and generate thousands of needless tons of air pollution, including greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said, "We intend to continue to press the federal government to live up to its statutory responsibilities to address excess emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. If the federal government focused on problem solving rather than trying to avoid doing its job, we would be much closer to solving many of our environmental problems."

"Instead of requiring less energy waste as the law requires, the Department of Energy came up with a tortured reading of the law to avoid adopting stronger minimum standards," said Earthjustice attorney Tim Ballo, who represents the NRDC.

"The energy savings that could be had through better standards for these products are substantial; enough to eliminate the need for several major new power plants, said Ballo. "Stronger standards would curb air pollution and harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. It's a win-win situation that, unfortunately, DOE has chosen to ignore."

"Strong efficiency performance standards are the antidote to America's ailing energy system," said David Goldstein, air andenergy director for NRDC.

"Energy efficiency - a technology we have available to us right now - will help curb global warming, maximize energy savings, and protect consumers and the environment," Goldstein said. "Technology, science and the law demand that we act now to move cleaner and greener products into the marketplace. The DOE needs take its blinders off and step out of the way of America's progress."

The final March 2007 rules represent an about-face from a 2006 DOE proposal to adopt the substantially stronger ASHRAE standards. The DOE claims the sudden reversal is justified by provisions of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, but Massachusetts, Earthjustice and NRDC say the law was designed to promote more conservation, not less.

There are currently more than 100 coal-fired power plants proposed for construction across the United States. Improvements in energy efficiency can reduce the need for such power plants.

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Honolulu Must Address Problems That Led to Waikiki Sewage Spill

WASHINGTON, DC, May 8, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. EPA, the Hawaii Attorney General's Office, and the Hawaii Department of Health have reached an interim agreement with the City and County of Honolulu that will correct the worst problems in Honolulu's wastewater collection system.

This settlement resolves a civil enforcement action that the United States and the state have filed against the City and County of Honolulu.

"This agreement will result in measures by the city to prevent catastrophic spills from Oahu's most vulnerable sewage pipes," said Wayne Nastri, the EPA's Administrator for the Pacific Southwest region.

On March 24, 2006, a major Waikiki sewage pipe burst, spilling 50 million gallons of sewage. For five days before repairs could be made, the city pumped raw sewage into the Ala Wai canal, which runs into the Pacific Ocean.

Contamination from this event resulted in high levels of bacteria in coastal waters, and led to the closure of beaches in Waikiki for one week. This interim settlement is intended to prevent repeated large sewage spills.

"This settlement is an important step in improving Honolulu's waste water management, and we look forward to further steps by the city," said Laurence Lau, Hawaii Deputy Director for Environmental Health. "Improvements will happen faster when the city, state, and United States agree on the work to be done."

The city's sewage collection system for Oahu contains numerous pressurized pipes, called force mains, which carry sewage from residences, as well as commercial and industrial sources, to wastewater treatment plants.

Because force mains operate under pressure, even a small break can result in a large spill and a lengthy repair job. Unlike gravity flow pipes, force mains cannot carry sewage during the repair process. In the event a break occurs in a large volume force main and no backup is available, there is often no alternative but to release the untreated sewage to nearby waterways.

Personnel from federal, state and city agencies analyzed these force mains and concluded that force mains at six locations are most vulnerable to future failure, both within Waikiki and at other locations on the island of Oahu.

The settlement requires Honolulu to repair the six most vulnerable force mains, provide backup force mains at four of the locations, construct some replacement force mains, assess a pump station, and submit within a year, site-specific spill contingency plans for each of the six vulnerable force mains.

The current agreement is an interim settlement because it addresses only some of the problems in Honolulu's wastewater collection system.

As a next step, the federal and state governments will attempt to reach a comprehensive resolution to Honolulu's remaining wastewater collection and treatment challenges.

The settlement, lodged today in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, is available for a 30-day public comment period before the federal government seeks court approval of the settlement.

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Green Plan for California Nuclear Lab Rejected

WASHINGTON, DC, May 8, 2007 (ENS) – The University of California will take part in a contract to manage Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for at least the next seven years. A consortium that includes the university was chosen over a green management group and defense company Northrop Grumman to operate the nuclear weapons complex in the San Francisco Bay area.

The laboratory has been managed since it was established in 1952 by the University of California, operating alone.

The Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced today that Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLNS, has been selected to be the management and operating contractor for the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

LLNS is a limited liability corporation made up of Bechtel National, Inc., the University of California, BWX Technologies, Inc., and the Washington Group International, Inc. The team also includes Battelle Memorial Institute, four small business subcontractors, and Texas A&M University.

"Livermore National Laboratory is a critical part of our nuclear weapons complex and has been for the last 55 years,” Secretary Bodman said. "For the first time since the beginning of the laboratory a new contractor is coming to Livermore. We look forward to working with LLNS as Livermore continues its vital national security work.”

Livermore is one of the department’s three nuclear weapons laboratories. It helps to ensure that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile is "safe, secure and reliable without underground nuclear testing," said Bodman, and counters "the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Anti-nuclear campaigners proposed a green management plan for the Livermore National Lab that was rejected earlier in the selection process.

The Livermore Lab GREEN (Green Renewable Energy and Environmental Nexus), LLC consisted of two nuclear watchdog organizations, Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, partnered with an academic institution, New College of California, and a green energy company, WindMiller Energy.

The Livermore Lab GREEN, LLC management proposal would have transitioned Livermore Lab from nuclear weapons development to an unclassified World Class Center for Civilian Science within five years. Plutonium and highly enriched uranium would have been removed in four years.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico and one of the partners in the GREEN, LLC bid, said, "Bechtel, whose bottom line is profit, is now in the business of designing at Livermore Lab and producing at Los Alamos Lab the first new U.S. nuclear weapons in 20 years. Apparently Bechtel and its partners expect business to boom, at the expense of the American taxpayer and global security."

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Genetically Engineered Biosensor Sniffs Explosives

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, May 8, 2007 (ENS) - Temple University School of Medicine researchers have developed a new biosensor that sniffs out explosives and could be used to detect landmines and deadly agents, such as sarin gas, according to a paper in the June issue of "Nature Chemical Biology."

To create the biosensor, Danny Dhanasekaran and colleagues genetically engineered a yeast strain with rat olfactory signaling machinery and genetically linked it to the expression of green fluorescent protein.

Into these yeast cells, they cloned individual rat receptors for smells.

When the olfactory receptor "smells" the odor of DNT, an ingredient in the explosive TNT, the biosensor turns fluorescent green. The research team is the first to identify, clone and sequence this novel olfactory receptor.

"We suspected that harnessing the potential of the olfactory system, which can detect innumerable chemical agents with unparalleled sensitivity and selectivity, would be of immense value in the detection of environmental toxins and chemical warfare agents even at sublethal levels," said Dhanasekaran, associate professor of biochemistry at Temple’s Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology.

The research team is now perfecting the biosensor by shortening its response time. The scientists believe that the potential therapeutic applications extend beyond the detection of chemical agents.

"With further genetic fine-tuning of the olfactory receptor pathway, this system could also be used to screen experimental medications, a crucial step in the development of new drugs," said Dhanasekaran.

The Temple team says biosensors, which are made from natural ingredients, are preferable to man-made sensors, which can be expensive, cumbersome and inflexible.

Dhanasekaran envisions that the biosensor will soon be incorporated into a handheld device or a remote device that can be left at a location and monitored from afar.

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Boy, 12, Joins Father on Save the Whale Flight

BOSTON, Massachusetts, May 8, 2007 (ENS) - This month, 12 year old Henry Ramage of Cape Cod, Massachusetts will be flying around the country with his father collecting "save the whale" artwork and messages from American fourth and fifth graders.

Henry's father, Patrick Ramage, heads the International Fund for Animal Welfare's global whale campaign.

"We need to do whatever we can to save whales and stop commercial whaling," said Henry Ramage. "I am very excited to be able to take this trip with my dad and to tell government leaders how much American kids love whales. Whales should be seen and not hurt."

The final destination for the father-son whale conservation team will be Anchorage, Alaska, where they will deliver the artwork to government delegates from 70 nations who will be attending the 2007 meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

The plane will travel across the country from May 10 to 20, carrying 50 children's drawings of humpback whales until it reaches the IWC meeting in Anchorage.

"Saving whales has never been more urgent," said Patrick Ramage. "Whales face more threats than ever before and now Japan - which hunts more than 1,200 whales a year - is trying to revive the international commercial whaling industry that once threatened to wipe out the world's whales. We need to act now to end commercial whaling once and for all."

The Ramage father and son team are flying in a Cape Air owned and operated Cessna 402 with humpback whales painted on it by famed airbrush artist Jurek, renowned for his Grateful Dead artwork.

Henry and Patrick will be departing from Hyannis on Cape Cod and flying into Boston; New York City; Washington, DC; Chicago; Des Moines; Santa Fe; Las Vegas; Santa Monica, San Francisco, and Newport, California; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Juneau and Anchorage, Alaska.

There is widespread support among Americans for saving whales. In an April 2007 nationwide poll carried out by Market Strategies, Inc., more than 75 percent of American voters polled said they were opposed to commercial hunting of whales, and want the U.S. government to take strong action against whaling and whaling nations.