AmeriScan: November 24, 2006

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Texas Proposes Tougher Clean Air Rules

AUSTIN, Texas, November 24, 2006 (ENS) - Texas is trying to improve air quality in the two most polluted areas of the state - Houston/Galveston/Brazoria, HGB and Dallas/Fort Worth, DFW, but state officials know already that the Houston area will not meet a federally imposed air quality deadline.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality executive director Glenn Shankle this week filed proposed amendments to the State Implementation Plan, SIP, clean air rules that would impose more stringent emissions controls and are expected to clear the air.

But even with the new rules, the Commission says the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area will not meet the new federal 8-hour ozone standard by the end of the 2009 ozone season. The SIP computer model predicts that the HGB area will reach attainment between 2009 and 2018.

Houston/Galveston/Brazoria hosts the largest petrochemical complex in the world and has a large urban population. Several of the area petrochemical plants emit highly reactive volatile organic compounds which under certain circumstances will create ozone faster than anywhere else in the country.

It is also one of the most "comprehensively controlled industrial complexes in the world," the Commission says, calling attainment in the area "especially challenging due to the complex ozone formation chemistry and unique weather patterns."

The TCEQ will continue to implement new and existing control strategies in the HGB area, including controls on VOC emissions from marine and storage tank sources; requiring certain marine fuels to meet Texas Low Emission Diesel standards

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the executive director recommends emission control measures that, combined with existing rules implemented under the 1-hour federal ozone standard, are predicted to bring the area into attainment of the new 8-hour ozone standard by the 2010 deadline.

In both areas, attainment is made difficult due to rapidly growing population, and because mobile sources like cars, pickups, trains, planes and construction equipment are regulated by the federal government, and cannot be controlled by the state.

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, 73 percent of nitrogen oxide, NOx, emissions come from such mobile sources.

In the HGB area, 55 percent of NOx sources are outside of state control, including mobile sources such as large ships and 18-wheelers.

To help control these mobile sources, the legislature has established the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan in nonattainment and near-nonattainment areas. The TERP program provides incentives for owners of heavy duty equipment and vehicles to replace or rebuild old, high polluting engines with cleaner burning ones.

Meanwhile, the Port of Houston Authority was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today for renewing its commitment to implement environmentally beneficial practices that go beyond state and federal regulatory requirements.

As the first and only port in the nation to achieve recognition in EPA’s Performance Track program, the port has committed to reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds by 15 percent and energy use by 10 percent.

The port will cut total water use by five percent and reduce non-hazardous waste by 15 percent. It also will construct about 70 acres of wetlands from recycled construction material.

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Chicago Opens Household Chemicals Recycling Center

CHICAGO, Illinois, November 24, 2006 (ENS) - In an effort to ensure Chicago’s homes are safe and healthy and to preserve and protect the city’s natural resources, Mayor Richard Daley Saturday declared the city’s first permanent Household Chemical and Computer Recycling Center open for business.

The $3.8 million 24,000 square foot facility, located at 1150 N. North Branch St. on Goose Island, will accept computers for recycling and will allow for the safe disposal or recycling of household hazardous chemicals.

“We need to dispose of these household hazardous products responsibly and recycle, where possible, to ensure our city maintains a safe and clean environment,” said Daley. “Rather than putting toxic paints out in the trash where they can burst and endanger our trash collectors and others, we encourage residents to bring these materials to this new facility."

The facility has the capacity to divert up to 500 tons of obsolete and out of date electronics from area landfills, and expects to divert another 500 tons of discarded batteries.

"Rather than tossing a dead battery in the trash where it will go to a landfill and expose toxins to the city’s groundwater," the mayor said, "recycle batteries at this facility or at a neighborhood Walgreen’s or Chicago Public Library branch."

The facility accepts antifreeze, used motor oil, old gasoline, oil-based paints, paint thinners, aerosol paints, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, lawn chemicals, solvents, drain cleaners, cleaning products, pool chemicals, hobby chemicals, mercury, fluorescent lamps and bulbs, computers and cell phones for recycling or safe disposal.

These materials are accepted during the facility’s hours of operation: Tuesdays from 7 am to noon; Thursdays from 2 pm to 7 pm, and the first Saturday of every month from 8am to 3 pm.

Through a partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, IDCEO, and Computers for Schools, the city also developed an 11 week training program that will use the center to train ex-offenders in electronics recycling. The furniture in the training center was made by inmates at the Illinois Department of Corrections.

“This program offers ex-offenders an opportunity to straighten out their lives by giving them hands-on experience in computer repair, with the opportunity to lead to permanent jobs once their training is completed,” said Mayor Daley.

Obsolete electronics will be taken apart and recycled, while newer computers will be refurbished and made available to local schools, churches, non-profit groups and low-income families.

People can use the Paint Exchange Room to swap old paints with one another for free.

With a green roof and the first solar wall in the state of Illinois, the new center is one of the Chicago's most environmentally friendly buildings. It was constructed from existing materials, recycles heat and retains stormwater.

The center was funded by a partnership of the IDCEO, the Illinois Clean Energy Fund, and the City of Chicago. The Illinois EPA provided financial assistance for the ongoing disposal of the chemicals collected at the facility.

For more information call 311 or go to: www.cityofchicago.org

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New York's South Bronx Gets Greenway, Waterfront Access

NEW YORK, New York, November 24, 2006 (ENS) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has introduced a master plan for the South Bronx Greenway that is intended to improve access to the waterfront, provide recreational opportunities, improve transportation safety and enhance the network of bike and pedestrian paths on the South Bronx peninsula of Hunts Point.

State, city and borough officials were on hand Monday at Hunts Point Landing to launch the new Greenway plan for the Bronx, one of New York City's five boroughs.

“The Hunts Point Peninsula is a vibrant commercial and residential area, but its residents have been blocked off from the waterfront for far too long,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “By creating access to the waterfront with bike and pedestrian paths, new open space for recreational opportunities and green streets throughout the peninsula, we can improve the quality of life for today’s residents and future generations."

When complete, the South Bronx Greenway will encompass 1.5 miles of new waterfront greenway, 8.5 miles of new green streets, and nearly 12 acres of new waterfront open space.

"The Department of State is pleased to be a partner in advancing South Bronx Greenway projects," said Secretary of State Christopher Jacobs. Park construction at Hunt’s Point Landing and a pedestrian/bike path to Randall’s Island are both funded through the department's Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

The city will begin the implementation of the Greenway plan with four short-term projects and additional improvements that will create 1.5 acres of publicly accessible open space and 2.3 miles of green streets at a cost of approximately $30 million.

“This community designed Greenway plan is going to make the rest of the city green with envy,” said Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión, Jr. “We have proven that working together we can create a multi-use waterfront that will be beneficial to both residents and businesses. Being both pro-development and pro-environment is possible.”

The South Bronx Greenway is part of the biggest Bronx parks capital program New Yorkers have seen in 70 years. The city is in the midst of a $462 million initiative to improve parks throughout the Bronx over the next five years.

New parks complement developments like the new Yankee Stadium, the Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market and The Hub Retail and Office Center that are bringing thousands of new jobs, retail options, waterfront parks and walkways, and traffic and infrastructure improvements to the rundown area.

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Nation's Biggest Stormwater Violator Fined Again

HONOLULU, Hawaii, November 24, 2006 (ENS) - The wealthy property owner penalized in the largest stormwater settlement in U.S. history for violations at a single site by a single landowner has incurred further penalties for failure to comply with a court order.

Retired Hawaii car dealer James Pflueger was fined $23,500 November 21 for failure to comply with a court order settling Clean Water Act violations associated with unpermitted construction activities on his property at Pila’a on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, reached a settlement of over $7.5 million with Pflueger over violations on the property on Kauai's north shore.

Pflueger agreed to pay $2 million in penalties, plus spend $5.3 million in environmental improvement projects, which will include restoring streams in the areas damaged by the construction activity.

As a supplemental environmental project, Pflueger agreed to spend $200,000 to replace residential cesspools with improved wastewater systems in the vicinity of Kalihiwai stream and bay.

The consent decree, entered by the U.S. District Court in June, required Pflueger to meet specific deadlines to implement the cesspool supplemental environmental proect.

Pflueger chose instead to abandon work on the project by paying an additional fine of $221,000, which is allowed under the settlement. However, the EPA says Pflueger missed two deadlines prior to making the payment.

“The consent decree with Mr. Pflueger contained strict deadlines,” said Alexis Strauss, water division director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Stipulated penalties for missed deadlines are necessary to ensure that Mr. Pflueger will carry out the important work required under the decree."

Pflueger’s property at Pila’a encompasses 378 acres of coastal property on Kauai. Pflueger conducted grading and other land-disturbing construction at the site beginning in 1997 without obtaining permits.

A hillside was cut away to create a 40 foot vertical road cut, a coastal plateau was graded, creating new access roads to the coast, and placing dirt and rock fill into three perennial streams.

As a result, discharges of sediment-laden stormwater flowed into the Pacific Ocean at Pila’a Bay, damaging a beachfront home, the beach and coral reefs.

Kauai County Engineer Donald Fujimoto said the county is looking into whether Pflueger's illegal grading near the Ka Loko Reservoir in 2002 might have had anything to do with the March 14 dam break that released nearly a half-billion gallons of water and killed seven people.

Don Heacock, state Department of Land and Natural Resources marine biologist, said that stream beds had also been altered in the Ka Loko area, going back to 1993.

Heacock said that someone might have filled in the spillway, keeping more water than normal inside the reservoir and contributing to the dam failure.

Pfleuger's attorney William McCorriston denies that his client's activities were responsible for the dam break.

In July, Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett appointed a special deputy attorney general to conduct an extensive investigation with the help of outside experts to determine the cause of the dam breach. That investigation is still in process.

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E! Entertainment Television Goes Green

LOS ANGELES, California, November 24, 2006 (ENS) - The world's largest producer and distributor of entertainment news and lifestyle-related programming, E! Entertainment Television is expanding its "Play A Part" initiative by partnering with the Environmental Media Association, which unites members of the entertainment industry with environmental causes.

E! Networks' Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications Suzanne Kolb said, "There is perhaps no cause that impacts society more universally than the environment."

"This is a wonderful opportunity to expose E! Entertainment's tremendous audience to easy and effective ways to incorporate environmental lifestyle actions into their daily lives," said Debbie Levin, president of the Environmental Media Association.

Levin says that because the public is already looking to E! for pop culture lifestyle cues, the partnership can reach a mass audience "that might not otherwise have the information that has been proven to thwart the progression of global climate change."

First fruit of the partnership is the exclusive E! broadcast of the 16th Annual Environmental Media Awards scheduled to air on E!, Tuesday, November 28 at 6 pm et/pt.

The half-hour E! special features "green carpet" celebrity arrivals, celebrity environmental tips, the EMA Awards show honoring film and television productions that increase public awareness of environmental issues and a glimpse of the post party bash.

The Environmental Media Awards recognize the creative teams behind television, film and music productions that raise public awareness of environmental issues by incorporating positive environmental messages in their work.

The new partners will celebrate on January 15, 2007 at the Golden Globe Awards, given to outstanding film and television productions by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

E! joins EMA and 9900 Wilshire in throwing the most eco-friendly post-Golden Globes party in town. At the first annual "Green" Golden Globes party guests will enjoy the evening in an environmentally responsible way while, E! viewers get "behind the velvet rope" access to one of the evening's hottest parties.

E! will join in an extensive EMA Public Service Announcement campaign -- tapping some of film and television's favorite celebrities, the "Play A Part" PSA campaign features celebrities challenging viewers to "Play A Part" by adopting simple changes to their daily routine that will positively impact the health of the environment. The PSAs will air throughout the year on E! and THE VINE @ E! Online.

Participating celebrities include: Ed Begley Jr., Kristin Davis, Daryl Hannah, Anthony Kiedis, Wendie Malick, Nicole Richie, Jeffrey Tambor, Wilmer Valderrama, and Constance Zimmer.

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Coral Reefs Vary in Vulnerablity to Ocean Forces

SANTA BARBARA, California, November 24, 2006 (ENS) - The increasing violence of storms associated with global climate change, as well as future tsunamis, will have major effects on coral reefs, according to a paper published this week in the international scientific journal "Nature."

Shape and size of the corals are key variables, according to the authors, scientists with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"Coral reef experts have long had a general sense of which coral shapes are more vulnerable during storms than others," said first author Joshua Madin. "However, to really predict how these events impact the dynamics of coral reefs we needed a way to quantify these vulnerabilities."

The authors created the world's first engineering model to predict how much damage a reef is likely to suffer when confronted with the forces of a turbulent sea.

They used mathematical models to calculate the forces such as waves, storm surges, or tsunamis and the probability of coral colonies being ripped from the seabed.

Working with co-author Sean Connolly, Madin developed the model at the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, Australia. Connolly is also a senior lecturer at James Cook University.

How coral assemblages respond to the power of the sea is essential for understanding the natural distribution of coral types on present-day reefs as well as for projecting how they will change in response to more violent or frequent storms, according to the researchers.

"Our study offers a solution to this longstanding problem by factoring in the shape of different coral colonies, the strength of the sea-bed to which they attach, and the change in force of the waves as they move across the reef," said Madin. "This enables us to predict the likely changes in composition of the coral in response to present and future storms or tsunamis."

The study introduces a new concept, "colony shape factor," to translate the myriad shapes and sizes of coral colonies onto a simple scale that measures their vulnerability to being dislodged.

The scientists found that the most vulnerable corals are "table" corals, which have a broad flat top supported by a narrow stalk, making them more susceptible to strong wave forces than bushy or mounded corals.

Vulnerability also depends on whether the coral grows on the front, crest, flat or the back of the reef, where the force of the waves progressively dies away.

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