AmeriScan: November 13, 2006

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Climate Research Focused in Northern Gulf of Mexico

WASHINGTON, DC, November 13, 2006 (ENS) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, along with a consortium of universities and institutions, today announced the creation of a new cooperative research institute.

The new Northern Gulf Institute will collaborate with NOAA scientists to study regional issues associated with coastal hazards, climate change, water quality, ecosystem management, coastal wetlands and pollution.

"This institute begins a new paradigm of long-term collaboration to develop and sustain research, education and outreach capabilities focusing on the needs in the Northern Gulf of Mexico region," said NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

"This will benefit the residents of the region and also support NOAA's participation in the President’s U.S. Ocean Action Plan, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and the Gulf Coastal Ocean Observing System."

"This consortium of universities will work with NOAA to provide expertise in research and to take advantage of the world class scientific capabilities of the Stennis Space Center," said Senator Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican. "The Northern Gulf of Mexico has critical ecosystem needs that will be addressed by this Cooperative Institute."

The consortium includes Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State University, Florida State University and Alabama's Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

The new institute will conduct research under four themes - climate change and climate variability effects on regional ecosystems; coastal hazards; ecosystem management; and geospatial data integration and visualization in environmental science.

Research conducted by the new institute is expected to support the national Integrated Ocean Observing System through the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System.

"The Cooperative Institute will be conducting research that addresses some of the more pressing issues facing our region including coastal ecosystem protection, hurricane forecasting and management practices to protect water quality," said Mississippi State Professor David Shaw, director of the university's GeoResources Institute and director of the new Northern Gulf Institute in Mississippi.

The Northern Gulf Institute joins 20 other NOAA cooperative institutes across the country. Most scientists associated with the institute will be located at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.

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Whistleblowers Nab Korean Ship Dumping Oily Waste

WASHINGTON, DC, November 13, 2006 (ENS) - The Sun Ace Shipping Company, based in Seoul, South Korea, was sentenced today to pay $400,000 for illegal discharges of oily waste, discovered when three crew members blew the whistle on the overboard dumping.

On September 6, Sun Ace Shipping pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, APPS, in relation to the operation of a bulk carrier vessel the M/V Sun New.

Sun Ace was charged with knowingly failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book that fully recorded the disposal of oil residue and bilge into the ocean and then falsifying records to conceal illegal discharges.

Sun Ace must also make a $100,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Program, Delaware Estuary Grants Program, which will be used to protect and restore the natural resources of the Delaware Estuary and its watershed.

The company is sentenced to a three-year term of probation during which its vessels will be banned from U.S. ports and waters.

A trial date for the chief engineer and second engineer, who were charged in a three-count indictment with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and a violation of the APPS, has been set for December 5, 2006, in front of Judge Susan Wigenton in Newark, New Jersey.

In addition, the government has petitioned the court for an award under the APPS to be granted to three crew members of the M/V Sun New who reported the use of bypass hoses and the illegal dumping to the Seamen’s Church Institute of Philadelphia and South New Jersey in January.

This report and the assistance of these three crew men were key to the government's investigation and prosecution of the case.

APPS gives the Court the discretion to award up to half of the criminal penalty to the whistleblowers, and the Justice Department has requested that the court divide the $200,000 equally among the three crew men who reported the dumping. The Department’s petition is still under review by the court.

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Conservationists Challenge Massachusetts Sewage Plan

BOSTON, Massachusetts, November 13, 2006 (ENS) - A plan to tackle Massachusetts’ industrial wastewater program is a step backward, according to comments filed today by a coalition of conservation groups.

The new plan, first announced in September, makes it more difficult to determine which chemicals are entering state waters, cripples anti-pollution enforcement, and passes the buck to ill-equipped local agencies, the critics say.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has for 10 years allowed hundreds of industries to discharge 1.4 million gallons of wastewater per day into municipal sewage plants without state permits through “forbearance letters.”

The issuance of forbearance letters, which waive all permit limits, monitoring requirements, holding tank approvals and state fees on a “temporary” basis, is in apparent violation of the Massachusetts Clean Water Act, that mandates that DEP issue permits to all sewer dischargers unless they are exempted by regulation.

In late September, DEP proposed regulations to replace forbearance letters. The rules would eliminate individual state permits for all but the largest industrial sewage users, allowing streams of harmful chemicals to reach Boston Harbor and other state waters with no warning to municipalities, fishermen or consumers.

A coalition of groups, spearheaded by the Neponset River Watershed Association and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER, have protested the plan and requested an official opinion of its legality.

The groups say the proposed sewage permit streamlining will make it difficult, if not impossible, to trace a pollutant back to its source once it is discovered, and they say the plan puts the major responsibilities on overworked local sewer departments and sewage treatment plants.

Apart from the public health concerns, the groups warn of ill effects on aquatic life and the environment. Currently, only five percent of Massachusetts waters meet minimal standards for fishing and swimming.

The plan was crafted by the administration of Governor Mitt Romney, a one-term Republican governor who did not seeking re-election November 7. Critics say the incoming administration of Deval Patrick should rewrite the plan.

“Proper handling of our industrial wastes is the key step the Commonwealth needs to take to attain clean water goals,” Steve Pearlman of the Neponset River Watershed Association added. “The Romney plan should be withdrawn to allow Governor-elect Deval Patrick to craft an approach that actually works.”

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World's Largest Solar Developer Coming to Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, November 13, 2006 (ENS) - Pennsylvania looks good to the world’s largest solar power integration company, Conergy AG of Germany. The firm has decided to locate the North American headquarters of its financial subsidiary, voltwerk, and the East Coast operations of its solar engineering and installation subsidiary, SunTechnics, in the state.

The move will create up to 50 engineering, financing and management jobs and up to $100 million in clean energy deals over the next three years, Governor Edward Rendell announced Thursday.

“The international community is taking notice of Pennsylvania’s clean energy efforts,” Governor Rendell said. “Our commonwealth is a leader in helping to build and deploy a diverse array of alternative energy projects, and that leadership is attracting investments in manufacturing and creating jobs for our residents."

“The renewable energy market in the United States is growing rapidly and Pennsylvania is taking a leadership role,” said Mac Moore, regional head for Conergy in North America. “With the state’s forward-thinking policies, we see tremendous potential to develop renewable energy projects and are very pleased to become a part of Pennsylvania’s business community.”

Conergy, through its voltwerk and SunTechnics divisions, develops more renewable energy systems than any other company in the world, principally focusing on solar, wind and bioenergy projects.

The state also is home to the Spanish wind-energy company Gamesa Corp., the second largest wind energy company in the world.

Pennsylvania’s clean energy law mandates 700 megawatts of electricity from solar photovoltaics by 2020, the second largest solar requirement in the country. Within a year, the state also could be the nation’s leading producer of biodiesel with a projected 40 million gallons of annual production.

There are more than 5,000 megawatts of untapped wind power in the state, with the potential to generate 45 billion kilowatt-hours annually, or enough to power more than five million homes.

The relationship between Pennsylvania and Conergy began when officials from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Community and Economic Development visited Germany in May during the WindEnergy 2006 conference. Thousands of companies, individuals, investors and energy associations from 26 countries participated in the event. Pennsylvania was the only U.S. state offered a keynote speaking opportunity.

Conergy officials later traveled to Pennsylvania to meet with Governor Rendell, who provided a showcase of Pennsylvania’s clean energy initiatives and introduced officials to companies working on advanced technologies in the solar, wind and biofuel sectors.

Conergy went public on Germany’s Frankfurt Stock Exchange on March 17, 2005, and has experienced tremendous growth. The Hamburg-based company was established in 1996 by Hans-Martin Rueter and at first run from his living room. It now has more than 1,500 employees worldwide and anticipates revenues of more than $1 billion in 2006.

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Denver First Airport to Hit Performance Track

, November 13, 2006 (ENS) - At a ceremony today attended by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Denver International Airport, DIA, became the first airport in the nation to be awarded membership into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Track. The program recognizes facilities that exceed regulatory requirements and excel in protecting human health and the environment.

Owned and operated by the city of Denver, the airport is the 11th busiest airport in the world and, situated on 53 square miles, one of the largest.

"DIA is not only one of the busiest aviation facilities in the world, it is one of the greenest," said EPA assistant regional administrator, Steve Tuber.

"With a state-of-the-art Environmental Management System that covers everything from alternative fuel vehicles to deicing fluid collection and recycling, the airport is living up to its reputation as an industry leader and a community asset," Tuber said.

To qualify for Performance Track, facilities must adopt and implement an Environmental Management System; demonstrate specific past environmental achievements; record sustained compliance with environmental requirements; and commit to continued environmental improvement, public outreach, and performance reporting.

The airport's management system includes comprehensive solid and hazardous waste reduction and recycling, air emissions management, and stormwater management programs.

One example of the airport's environmental accomplishments is a more than 75 percent reduction in hazardous waste generation from 2003-2005. This large reduction is the result of product substitution, including the elimination of oil-based paints and thinners.

In addition, for the 2005/2006 deicing season, DIA recycled more than 370,000 gallons of aircraft deicing fluid at its onsite glycol recycling facility.

DIA has committed to a one percent annual decrease in gasoline used in its fleet vehicles each year. These reductions will result from the purchase of additional electric/gasoline hybrid or CNG/gasoline vehicles as replacements for older fleet vehicles and employee education regarding the idling of engines.

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Groups Offer $5,000 Reward to Catch Lynx Killers

DENVER, Colorado, November 13, 2006 (ENS) - Two rare radio collared lynx that were re-introduced to Colorado by the state Division of Wildlife were found shot to death in southwest Colorado this month.

One was found north of Silverton on November 1 and the other was found November 2 in the Hermosa Park area about 30 miles north of Durango near the Purgatory ski resort.

The Canada lynx is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and federal law prohibits killing wild lynx.

A coalition of conservation groups is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the persons responsible for illegally killing these two rare wild cats.

Seven conservation groups committed to contribute $4,500 in addition to the $500 currently offered by the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Operation Game Thief program.

"We are grateful to have the help of these conservation groups and their members in raising the ante," said Bob Thompson, assistant chief of law enforcement for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

"The lynx is struggling for survival in Colorado," said Jonathan Proctor, spokesperson for Defenders of Wildlife in Denver. "Every lynx that is killed sets back the recovery of this rare wild cat."

The Division of Wildlife is reintroducing lynx in the mountains of Colorado after trapping and habitat destruction wiped them out in the 20th century. The first lynx were released in 1999. About 200 lynx are believed to be alive in Colorado’s southern and central mountains.

"Our children deserve to inherit a world where lynx and wolves again roam the wild, places where wildlife persist without persecution," said Rob Edward, director of carnivore restoration for the conservation group Sinapu.

"These poachers are stealing Colorado's wildlife legacy from our children. It’s time for those who know who killed these animals to speak up and put an end to this thievery," said Steve Torbit, senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation.

Jacob Smith, executive director of the Center for Native Ecosystems, said, "These secretive cats are imperiled by ski area expansion, logging and road building in their forest homes, and numerous other threats. The last thing they need is to be gunned down by criminals."

Tips on the lynx killings can be offered anonymously through the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-877-265-6648.

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