AmeriScan: May 2, 2007

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Feds, Idaho, Tribe Settle Snake River Water Rights

Louisiana Lawmakers Approve Historic Hurricane Protection Plan

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, June 1, 2007 (ENS) - The Louisiana Legislature has unanimously approved the state's first comprehensive master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane protection. Passed Wednesday, just ahead of an Atlantic hurricane season forecast to be unusually active, the plan is designed to guide all coastal protection and wetland restoration projects in Louisiana over the next several decades.

Entitled, "Integrated Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection: Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast," the plan is the result of more than 18 months of extensive research, writing, planning and public discussion.

"As we begin the 2007 Hurricane Season, this first master plan stands as a testament to our resolve, incorporating hurricane protection and coastal restoration for the first time in our state's history," said Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, who steered her state through the devastating 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"This comprehensive master plan will have a lasting impact on the safety of our citizens and the welfare of our state," the governor said.

Blanco has requested that the Legislature put at least $200 million of the state's surplus funds in the coastal fund and in addition, allow the state to securitize the Tobacco Settlement, of which 20 percent was constitutionally dedicated to the fund by a statewide referendum.

In addition to adopting the master plan, the Legislature also unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Plan, which identifies projects within the master plan that will be planned or constructed during the next three years and the approximate costs of each project.

"I am pleased the legislature has acted swiftly to put this plan in place," Blanco said. "With the passage of the [funding] resolutions, Louisiana can make immediate use of state dollars and the federal revenue stream to follow."

Federal funding comes to Louisiana in part through the the Coastal Impact Assistance Plan, CIAP. The program provides the seven states that host onshore oil and gas infrastructure with money to mitigate the impacts of petroleum production on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Louisiana's share will be $510 million over the next four years, with the state receiving 65 percent and the coastal parishes 35 percent.

Projects identified by the state in its CIAP plan were submitted by Governor Blanco today to the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service.

The governor said today that CIAP projects are consistent with the new Master Plan and represent the first phase for implementing its larger vision.

More than 30 meetings with civic groups, coastal scientists, concerned citizens and various stakeholders were conducted since the summer of 2006 to gather input and introduce the public to some of the concepts and potential projects in the plan.

Integrating coastal restoration with hurricane protection in a system-wide approach, the Master Plan will be the overarching framework for all ongoing and future coastal restoration and protection efforts in the state, such as the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act and the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration.

It recommends strategies, including rebuilding and sustaining coastal marshes by restoring the natural freshwater flows and sediment deposits that were originally responsible for building the wetlands along Louisiana's coast.

Barrier island restoration, beneficial use of dredged materials to build marsh, shoreline stabilization of coastal lakes and bays, and coastal forest and ridge habitat restoration, are identified in the plan as well.

The plan suggests a multi-faceted approach to hurricane protection.

In addition to the building of new levee systems and strengthening existing levees, the plan addresses the need to build elevated houses and businesses in flood-prone areas, enforcement of stricter building codes, planning for wiser land use and implementing more refined evacuation plans.

"Louisiana finds itself in the unexpected position of leading the Corps of Engineers, instead of following," said Sidney Coffee, chair of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, CPRA, which guided the creation of the master plan.

Created by law in December 2005 after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, CPRA's mandate is to be the single state entity with authority to articulate a clear statement of priorities and develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration master plan.

"Because of the steps we've now taken and the commitments we've made, we also find ourselves with the credibility to ask Congress to do what we're doing; change the way they go about the business of large scale ecosystem restoration efforts by prioritizing projects and streamlining the interminable federal processes that impede urgent efforts like ours," Coffee said.

The state is working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers as it develops its Congressionally-mandated Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Plan, LaCPR, which is due to Congress in December. According to Corps of Engineers' officials, LaCPR will use the state's Master Plan as the vision for its efforts.

Engineer Karen Durham-Aguilera, Director of Task Force Hope, part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley
Division, said a draft of the technical report of the LaCPR should be complete by the end of the summer and will be followed by a public comment period.

The Corps is on schedule to meet the Congressionally-mandated deadline to have a draft of the report complete for Congressional review, Aguilera said. A final report similar to the state plan will be complete by July 2008.

To view the state master plan online, click here.

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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.

    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:

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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, 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: 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.