AmeriScan: October 25, 2006

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U.S. Group Signs Renewables Initiative at Great Wall

WASHINGTON, DC, October 25, 2006 (ENS) – The American Council On Renewable Energy co-signed an agreement today in Beijing to assess the feasibility of increasing the use of renewable energy to 25 percent of global primary energy supply by the year 2025.

The signing took place at the Great Wall World Renewable Energy Forum, a world conference and exposition in China that opened this week with leaders from the U.S., Europe, China and other countries in attendance.

The memorandum of understanding entitled "Joint Assessment of Reaching 25% Renewable Energy by the Year 2025" was negotiated and signed by Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council On Renewable Energy, Li Junfeng, executive director of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, Arthouros Zervos, president of the European Renewable Energy Council, and Wolfgang Palz, chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy..

"The time is right to raise our thinking to the next level," said Eckhart. "We acknowledge Europe’s pledge to increase renewable energies, China’s commitment to 15 percent renewables, and the Renewable Portfolio Standards of many of the U.S. states, and now join together to assess how to take the next step in policy development."

Renewable Portfolio Standards are laws that require a state to generate a percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Each state has a choice of how to fulfill this mandate using a combination of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, or geothermal power.

Today’s memorandum in China calls for the groups to assess the feasibility and policy requirements needed to move the United States, Europe and China to the 25 percent level, and to merge the results together into a joint report one year from now.

s "It is imperative that we do this now," said Palz. "The world cannot wait for such policy thinking."

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Feds Award in $24 Million in Carbon Sequestration Grants

WASHINGTON, DC, October 25, 2006 (ENS) - Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman Monday announced the selection of nine projects totaling nearly $24 million aimed at developing novel and cost-effective technologies to capture the carbon dioxide, CO2, produced in coal-fired power plants so that it can be safely and permanently removed from the atmosphere.

"Carbon sequestration promises to significantly reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions even as our economy grows. This combination helps protect the global climate, while promoting job creation and a high standard of living," Secretary Bodman said.

"The key to successful carbon sequestration is technology development, including technologies to capture greenhouse gases such as CO2 before they are released to the atmosphere."

Bodman said the projects support the President’s Global Climate Change Initiative, which calls for an 18 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas intensity - the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output - by 18 percent by 2012.

The federal Energy Information Administration projects that fossil fuels provide 85 percent of the world’s energy, a proportion the will remain virtually unchanged over the next two and a half decades as world energy consumption doubles.

Even with advances in energy efficiency and the switch to less carbon-intensive fuels, the result is expected to be a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions - from 25,028 million metric tons in 2003 to 43,676 million metric tons in 2030 - and the potential for changes in the global climate, according to the Department of Energy, DOE.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and control global climate change, the DOE Office of Fossil Energy has established a Carbon Sequestration Program. One aspect of the multifaceted program is the development of what the DOE calls "safe, effective, low-cost carbon sequestration technologies," an effort managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Sequestration uses a variety of methods to remove greenhouse gases from power plant emissions or the air itself and store those gases in geologic formations, soils and vegetation, or under the sea. The newly selected projects will focus on three pathways to CO2 capture:

  • Pre-combustion, in which fuel is gasified to form a mixture of hydrogen and CO2, called synthesis gas or syngas, and CO2 is captured from the syngas before it is combusted.

  • Post-combustion, which involves capturing CO2 from flue gas after fuel has been combusted in air. Oxycombustion, in which fuel is combusted in pure or nearly pure oxygen rather than air, producing an exhaust mixture of CO2 and water that can easily be processed to produce pure CO2.

    Investment in the projects totals more than $31 million, including nearly $8 million in cost-sharing from the recipients, which are corporations and universities.

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    Senators Press EPA for Action on Perchlorate

    WASHINGTON, DC, October 25, 2006 (ENS) - California's two senators are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, to issue a perchlorate health advisory that addresses early life exposures.

    Perchlorate is used in the manufacture of rockets, missiles and fireworks and can be found in products as diverse as airbags and fertilizers.

    It can move through soil, leach into water, and concentrate in food. In 2005, the Government Accountability Office found 395 sites in 35 states with perchlorate levels above four parts per billion (ppb), including 106 sites in California.

    A new study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that women in the United States regularly consume sufficient amounts of perchlorate to reduce their production of thyroid hormone.

    This exposure can harm the health of adults and the mental development of infants. The CDC study shows that the perchlorate exposures that the EPA once thought were safe can, in fact, threaten public health.

    Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are asking the EPA to issue a health advisory. They also want the agency to establish a drinking water standard that protects vulnerable pregnant women and children.

    "Given the serious health threat posed by widespread perchlorate exposure, we requested that EPA take immediate steps to incorporate the information from the new CDC study and issue new perchlorate standards," said Boxer.

    In January, the EPA recommended a cleanup goal at toxic waste sites of 24.5 ppb. Two months later, EPA's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee wrote to EPA saying that this goal was "not protective of children's health."

    The Committee found that this goal allows infant exposures that are "approximately five to 10 times higher" than the safety level.

    It is clear that more protective standards are necessary, said Boxer.

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    Hawaii Landowners Cannot Landscape to Extend Shoreline

    HONOLULU, Hawaii, October 25, 2006 (ENS) - The Hawaii Supreme Court today issued a ruling reaffirming that the shoreline in Hawaii, which marks the boundary between public beach and private land, extends to the highest wash of the waves. The Court rejected the use of deliberately planted vegetation in determining the shoreline.

    The case on appeal, Diamond v. State, involved a challenge by North Shore Kauai residents Caren Diamond and her attorney, Harold Bronstein, of the decision of the Chairperson of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, DLNR, to certify the shoreline of a lot on Kauai's North Shore based on vegetation the landowner planted and propagated to create a false shoreline further seaward.

    Earthjustice, on behalf of citizen groups Public Access Shoreline Hawaii and Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter, filed an amicus brief in support of Diamond and Bronstein's appeal.

    The court, in a unanimous decision, reversed the state's shoreline certification and held that the shoreline should be established "at the highest reach of the highest wash of the waves."

    The court also clarified the role of the "vegetation line" and "debris line" as indicators of the shoreline. Contrary to the state's and landowner's interpretation of legal precedent, the court ruled that the vegetation line trumps the debris line only when the vegetation line lies more inland than the debris line.

    This decision furthers the public policy of extending to public ownership and use "as much of Hawaii's shoreline as is reasonably possible."

    The court also ruled that the state erred in using artificially planted and propagated vegetation to determine the vegetation line based on the reasoning that the vegetation survived more than a year.

    The court cited the public policy of protecting and extending public shoreline resources and uses and emphatically "reject[ed] attempts by landowners to evade this policy by artificial extensions of the vegetation lines on their properties."

    "I am pleased that the Court acknowledged the principles we have been articulating all these years," said Caren Diamond, who, together with Bronstein and other community members, have resisted attempts by landowners to extend their lots onto public beach with artificially planted vegetation. "Now, our government officials need to start enforcing the law and stop vegetative encroachments that are causing the loss of our sandy beaches."

    The court's decision follows on the heels of the state's recent amendment of agency rules, effective June 2006, to remove any preference for the vegetation line over the debris line in the determination of shorelines, an issue first raised years ago by Diamond and Bronstein in their challenges to the location of certified shorelines.

    That amendment was the product of a settlement of a lawsuit brought in 2005 by Earthjustice on behalf of citizen groups Public Access Shoreline Hawaii and Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter. The state rendered its decision in the Diamond case in 2004.

    "We appreciated the opportunity to work with Chair Peter Young and DLNR to fix the problem of the agency's shoreline definition," said Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake. "However, landowners still persist in planting vegetation and calling it the shoreline. This ruling sends a clear message that this game is over."

    "The Supreme Court's ruling vindicates the public's rights to shoreline access and use," said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter. "But we still need our state and county officials to get serious about protecting these rights from getting buried under walls of vegetation and concrete."

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    New York to Reopen Bobcat Trapping After 20 Years

    ALBANY, New York, October 25, 2006 (ENS) – A 20 year moratorium on bobcat trapping in parts of New York State is about to end. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC, Commissioner Denise Sheehan announced that a three year experimental research trapping season for bobcat and fisher will be implemented, beginning next Wednesday through special permits issued to trappers.

    There will be an extended trapping season for fisher in northern parts of Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Franklin counties. The fisher is a large member of the weasel family. Its name does not fit its natural habits - unlike the closely related river otter, fishers seldom eat fish.

    Under New York's new program, trappers who obtain a special permit for bobcat trapping season will be able to trap bobcats in parts of Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Broome and Chenango counties.

    The bobcat season has been closed for more than 20 years in the three areas that the department is proposing to open for trapping. During the last decade, the department says it has received numerous reports of bobcat sightings, road fatalities and incidental captures from the public.

    DEC staff biologists have concluded that bobcats are now dispersed throughout the area proposed for experimental trapping.

    Bobcat trapping season will run until February 15, 2007. The following two years the season will begin on October 25th and run until February 15th. Trappers who wish to participate in the experimental bobcat trapping seasons must obtain a free special permit from DEC, agree to keep a daily trapping log of their activities and, if successful, provide the entire skinned carcass to DEC. Trappers may keep the animal pelt.

    Sheehan said the experimental season is a part of a research project to collect biological harvest data and measure trapper effort to evaluate furbearer management in New York State.

    DEC biologists believe that a limited harvest season will provide vital clues to better estimate the population of bobcats in the area and enable Department biologists to better manage fishers in the future.

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    Ohio Seeks Public Comment on Ethanol Plant Pollution

    LEIPSIC, Ohio, October 25, 2006 (ENS) – Ohio residents will get their say on a proposed ethanol plant which, if built, would discharge up to hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater per day to a nearby water source, Hickey Ditch.

    Summit Ethanol, LLC wants to build a 69 million gallon per year ethanol production facility near the town of Leipsic, in Putnam County, in northwest Ohio. Summit would produce the fuel from corn.

    The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting November 8 to hear comments on applications for permits to build the proposed Summit ethanol plant. Two permits are being considered by Ohio EPA – an air pollution control permit and a wastewater discharge permit.

    The federal Clean Air Act and its amendments regulate the type and quantity of materials that can be discharged to the air. The maximum allowable emission levels are designed to protect human health and the environment. These levels are set in permits issued by Ohio EPA.

    The draft air pollution control permit-to-install for Summit Ethanol sets air emission limits for nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter.

    The draft wastewater permit would allow up to 305,000 gallons of wastewater to be discharged to Hickey Ditch per day.

    The Ohio EPA admits that while the discharge could not exceed chemical-specific water quality standards that protect aquatic life and human health, the additional discharge would result in a change from current water quality conditions in Hickey Ditch.

    "Therefore, Ohio EPA is required to consider technical, economic, social and environmental aspects of the proposed project," the agency said in a statement today.

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