AmeriScan: November 6, 2006

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New California Wildfire Follows Firefighters' Memorial

LOS ANGELES, California, November 6, 2006 (ENS) - Another California wildfire broke out this morning near the intersection of two major freeways east of Los Angeles, the day after 10,000 people attended a memorial service for five firefighters killed by the huge Esperanza fire.

A pallet factory in an industrial area caught fire, and about 100 homes and a country club near Rialto, California, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, were threatened by the flames, said Dan Dresselhaus of the San Bernardino unit of the California Forestry and Fire Protection Department.

The Rialto fire is about 30 percent contained, Dresselhaus said. The flames have charred more than 300 acres.

Hot, dry seasonal Santa Ana winds blowing through Cajon Pass fueled the blaze. Firefighters used aircraft to scoop water from a pond on the golf course in an effort to contain the fire.

On Sunday, thousands of firefighters lined roads and about 10,000 people attended a memorial in the open air theater for the five California firefighters who died trying to save a home in a remote area during a fire started by arson last month.

Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, Engine Operators Jess McLean and Jason McKay and seasonal firefighters Daniel Hoover-Najera and Pablo Cerda died after their engine was burned over while they were battling the wind-whipped 40,000 acre Esperanza Fire.

Authorities, who had offered a $500,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case, charged a local man on Thursday with arson and murder.

Raymond Lee Oyler, 37, pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. He is facing five counts of first-degree murder stemming from the deaths of the firemen who were killed by the blaze. He could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.

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Asian Development Bank Joins Methane to Markets

WASHINGTON, DC, November 6, 2006 (ENS) - The Asian Development Bank has joined the international Methane to Markets Partnership, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, announced Thursday.

Based in Manila, the Asian Development Bank, ADB, will provide expertise and knowledge on implementing and financing full-scale projects. ADB has extensive experience with clean energy projects, including methane recovery and use at landfills and coal mines.

The Methane to Markets Partnership launched by President George W. Bush in November 2004, is an international public-private partnership to advance methane recovery and use projects in four sectors: agriculture, coal mines, landfills and oil and gas systems.

Project network members are private firms, development banks, governmental and nongovernmental organizations with an interest in methane recovery and use projects.

"We are eager to leverage ADB's considerable expertise as the Methane to Markets partnership expands," said Bill Wehrum, EPA's acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, who also serves as chair of the partnership's steering committee.

ADB is the second multilateral development bank to join the Methane to Markets Partnership after the World Bank.

Jerry Clifford, EPA's deputy assistant administrator for the Office of International Affairs, said, "The bank's participation will help develop and strengthen partnerships in Asia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deliver clean energy to markets throughout the region."

Most recently, ADB provided a $117 million loan to the Jincheng Anthracite Coal Group in Shanxi Province, China, which will be the world's largest power plant fueled by coal mine methane.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is over 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide at capturing heat in the atmosphere.

Because methane is also the primary component of natural gas, capturing and using methane as a clean fuel also provides immediate economic and energy security benefits.

More than 350 organizations from around the world have made commitments to this partnership. The United States has committed $53 million to this initiative over the next five years.

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Two Largest Ports Strengthen Joint Clean Air Plan

LOS ANGELES, California, November 6, 2006 (ENS) - Acting on recommendations from the public and regulatory agencies, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have revised their Clean Air Action Plan.

The ports have added a commitment to explore the use of pollution based impact fees, increase shore-side electricity and improve bay-wide emission standards to reduce the health risks posed by air pollution from ships, trains, trucks, terminal equipment and harbor craft.

Outlining the most comprehensive clean air strategy ever produced for a U.S. port complex, the draft Final 2006 San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan was released today to allow ample time for public review of the revised Plan before it is formally presented to both port boards for approval.

The plan will be brought to the Los Angeles and Long Beach Boards of Harbor Commissioners for a vote on adoption at a special joint public meeting of the two boards at 1 pm Monday, November 20, at the Long Beach City Council Chambers.

The five year plan, which is intended to reduce air pollution by at least 45 percent, was created with the cooperation and participation of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, California Air Resources Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

After the draft Plan was issued in June 2006, dozens of individuals and groups submitted more than 500 pages of written comments and testified at four public meetings.

As a result, the Ports have now fully developed commitments and milestones for achieving air emission reductions.

The Ports will explore the use of pollution-based impact fees, such as gate fees assessed on "dirty" trucks, so that polluters pay their part to improve air quality. Under the plan, the ports propose to eliminate "dirty" diesel trucks from San Pedro Bay cargo terminals within five years by helping to finance a new generation of clean or retrofitted vehicles.

The Ports will develop tariff-based incentives and requirements, such as vessel speed reduction incentives and port-mandated fuel requirements, to curb harmful air emissions.

The Ports will work with the air quality regulatory agencies to establish Bay-wide air quality standards, as well as mechanisms for tracking improvements in air quality.

Within five years, the Port of Long Beach will develop shore-side electricity for ships at berth at 10 to 16 Long Beach berths.

"We listened to the community and made very significant revisions," said Richard Steinke, executive director of the Port of Long Beach. "This plan will help us to make these the world’s greenest, most environmentally friendly seaports."

The Plan proposes hundreds of millions of dollars in investments by the ports, the local air district, the state, and port-related industry. Even as trade grows at the two ports, the Plan aims to cut diesel-related particulate matter pollution by more than 47 percent and smog forming nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 45 percent within the next five years, resulting in emissions that will be below 2001 levels.

The comprehensive San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan Technical Report, a more concise Overview, and the Comment Compendium will be available for review at the websites of the two ports, www.portoflosangeles.org and www.polb.com.

With more than $260 billion a year in trade and more than 40 percent of the nation’s containerized cargo, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the two largest container seaports in the United States. If taken together, the adjacent ports would be the fifth-largest container port in the world.

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Groundwater Cleanup Set for Massachusetts Military Reservation

BOSTON, Massachusetts, November 6, 2006 (ENS) - A comprehensive plan for groundwater cleanup has been completed for the Demolition Area 1 site on Camp Edwards at the Massachusetts Military Reservation.

The site was used from the mid 1970s to late 1980s for demolition and disposal of munitions, explosives and fireworks.

EPA’s final cleanup plan outlines how groundwater will be extracted and then treated to remove contamination from explosives and perchlorate.

The plan addresses contamination found in a groundwater plume that could impact a sole source aquifer for citizens of Upper Cape Cod.

The plume is slowly migrating from a 7.4 acre portion of Camp Edwards, about two miles northeast of Bourne. The plan builds on an interim cleanup action that began in September 2004, in which two extraction wells treat close to a half million gallons of groundwater a day.

"Selecting a final cleanup plan for one of the largest and most contaminated plumes is a major milestone in our cleanup of Camp Edwards," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. "The work called for in this cleanup plan will preserve the sole source aquifer for the citizens of the Upper Cape, and this is a high priority for EPA."

The cleanup plan was finalized and approved by EPA with the review and concurrence of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

The expanded system will treat 1.3 million gallons a day using three new and two existing extraction wells to pump groundwater through containers of granular activated carbon and ion exchange resin housed in a new treatment facility, to be constructed on base, and an existing modular treatment unit at Pew Road.

Treated water will be returned to the aquifer through one new and three existing reinjection wells. This cleanup action is expected to restore the groundwater in approximately 11 years.

The cleanup plan also includes a contingency for an additional extraction well at the leading edge of the plume if contaminants exceeding cleanup levels are found to migrate further than anticipated.

With the signing of the document, the U.S. Army Environmental Center’s Impact Area Groundwater Study Program will move forward to complete construction of the cleanup system. System startup is expected in mid-2007.

The full cleanup plan will be posted at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/mmr

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Tons of Marine Debris Hauled Off NW Hawaiian Islands

HONOLULU, Hawaii, November 6, 2006 (ENS) - More than 13 tons of derelict fishing gear has been removed from the fragile coral reef environment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument during a recent 28 day multi-agency removal effort.

Eestablished in June by President George W. Bush, the monument is the world’s largest fully protected marine conservation area. NOAA co-manages the monument's resources in partnership with the Department of the Interior and the state of Hawaii.

Working aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette, the 13 person marine debris team conducted in-water surveys and debris removal operations at Kure, Pearl and Hermes Atolls, covering more than three square miles.

Land debris was collected with assistance from the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the NOAA Fisheries Protected Species Division at both atolls as well as at French Frigate Shoals.

Earlier this year, marine debris removal efforts collected almost two tons of land debris from Laysan and Lisianski islands, and working with the U.S. Coast Guard, an additional two and a half tons of land-based debris was gathered from the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

All debris collected is being recycled to provide electricity to Hawaii residents through a partnership with Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corporation and Covanta Energy.

"The removal of another staggering amount of marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands underscores the urgency of having the President's support for ensuring final enactment of S. 362, the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act," said U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.

"The Senate and the President should make this a priority when Congress reconvenes, Inouye said. "This bipartisan bill will ensure we have a national approach to cleanup and prevention of marine debris. Both the Senate and House have passed the bill, and just one final vote in the Senate will move it to the President."

Since 1996, NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center has been working to remove hazardous marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where it injures marine life, destroys coral reef habitat, and threatens safe navigation.

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Lawsuit Threatened to Save Desert Nesting Bald Eagle

PHOENIX, Arizona, November 6, 2006 (ENS) - The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society filed notice Thursday of their intent to bring a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failure to adequately protect the Southwestern Desert Nesting Bald Eagle.

The groups claim the Service failed to follow proper procedures in their August 30, 2006 rejection of a petition to protect the Southwestern Desert Nesting Bald Eagle as an endangered Distinct Population Segment under the Endangered Species Act. The petition was filed October 6, 2004.

The Desert Nesting Bald Eagle is among the rarest birds on Earth. Fewer than 100 survive, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s July 2006 data.

The Desert Nesting Bald Eagle is an exclusive resident of the Southwest. A few live in Mexico, but most live in Arizona.

Survival of the Southwest’s Bald Eagles is challenged by their isolation from all other Bald Eagles, behaviorally, biologically and ecologically.

The only Bald Eagles to nest in the desert, they breed earlier in the season to avoid intense summer heat, and essentially never interbreed with Bald Eagles that nest elsewhere.

Yet despite the precarious position of the Southwestern Desert Nesting Bald Eagle, the clear and urgent need to keep it protected under the Endangered Species Act has been lost in a rush to remove Bald Eagles nationwide from the endangered species list.

Removing endangered status for Desert Nesting Bald Eagles also removes protection for their habitat, opening more land to development, water diversion and public lands livestock grazing, says Dr. Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity.

"We have already lost more than 90 percent of our riparian habitat in the Southwest. Removal of Endangered Species Act protection for the Desert Nesting Bald Eagle will ensure that we will lose much more," said Silver. "Ultimately, if we fail, we will lose our Desert Nesting Bald Eagles."

"If the Bush administration’s rejection of the petition stands and delisting [removal of Endangered Species Act protection] moves forward, there will be no habitat protection for Arizona’s Bald Eagles," said Dr. Robert Witzeman, Maricopa Audubon Society Conservation Chair.

The Raptor Research Foundation expresses similar concerns in their recent comments regarding proposed Bald Eagle delisting:

"We do not believe that the Southwest Bald Eagle population is secure, and we question whether even current numbers can be sustained without active management and habitat protection."

The Center and Maricopa Audubon Society intend to file suit in Federal District Court in 60 days if the Service refuses to reverse rejection of the petition, refuses to undertake a new Desert Nesting Bald Eagle status review, and refuses to terminate its announced intention of removing Endangered Species Act protection for the population.

The Bald Eagle was afforded Endangered Species Act protection in 1978 owing to the inadequacy of habitat protection by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Act.

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