Los Angeles Mayor Orders Water Use Halved in 10 Years … Conservationists Go to Court to Protect Wolverine … Sagebrush Wildlife Losing Habitat to Fire … Tribal Sellers of Eagle, Hawk Feathers Imprisoned … EPA Okays Billion Dollar Gas-to-Gasoline Plant … Poll: Eight in 10 New Yorkers Back Fracking Moratorium … Scale Violations Cost American Seafoods $1.75 Million
Los Angeles Mayor Orders Water Use Halved in 10 Years
LOS ANGELES, California, October 14, 2014 (ENS) – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti today issued an executive directive to reduce the city’s use of imported water by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
Coping with a record multi-year drought, Mayor Garcetti’s directive requires a reduction in fresh water use by 20 percent by 2017 and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s purchase of imported water by 50 percent by 2024. The directive represents a comprehensive approach that addresses supply, use and recycling in this city of 3.9 million people.
“Our relationship with water must evolve. We cannot afford the water policies of the past,” said Mayor Garcetti. “We must conserve, recycle and rethink how we use our water to save money and make sure that we have enough water to keep L.A. growing.”
Under the directive, city departments must cut water use by reducing watering and replacing lawns or other water-intensive landscaping at city facilities, street medians and sidewalk parkways.
The city will increase incentives to help Los Angeles residents do the same, including an increase in the DWP’s turf replacement incentive to $3.75 per square foot. Outdoor water use is a key area to address as it represents 50 percent of residential consumption.
Angelenos are asked to voluntarily reduce watering to two days a week; to use DWP rebates to install low water landscaping and more efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances; and to ensure pools are covered to reduce water lost to evaporation.
If targets are not met through the combination of mandatory city actions and voluntary resident actions, residential mandates will be implemented, including new watering, swimming pool and car washing restrictions.
Mayor Garcetti urges residents to visit www.lamayor.org/drought for information on how to access incentives and lower their water bills through conservation.
“Keep in mind that reducing water use is not just good for the environment, it lowers water bills,” the mayor said. “Right now, we’re paying up to $1,032 per acre foot of water. Conserving that same amount of water through DWP rebate programs costs up to 30 percent less. Reaching our target and reducing per capita water use by 20 percent would save our ratepayers up to $120 million annually.”
Los Angeles’ three principal sources of imported water supply have been reduced:
• Owens Valley diversions have been reduced since 1992 due to order of the State Water Board to save Mono Lake
• Bay-Delta diversions have been reduced to protect endangered salmon and other native fish
• Colorado River diversions are threatened by long-term water supply forecasts and over-allotment of the river’s available supply
Conservationists Go to Court to Protect Wolverine
MISSOULA, Montana, October 14, 2014 (ENS) – In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the wolverine as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. But the Service withdrew its proposal in August after state wildlife managers in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming objected.
On Monday, eight conservation groups mounted a legal challenge of the Service’s decision to abandon its proposed protections for the wolverine.
Represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, the groups bringing the lawsuit are the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Friends of the Clearwater, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Rocky Mountain Wild.
Today another group, Defenders of Wildlife, announced that it too is challenging the Service’s decision to withdraw its proposal to protect the wolverine.
Both legal challenges were filed in the U.S. District Court, District of Montana, Missoula Division.
Although the Service proposed to list wolverines in the lower 48 states as “threatened” in 2013 citing a primary threat of reduced habitat and range from climate change, the agency’s August 12, 2014 rule said wolverines do not warrant a listing due to uncertainty about the effects of climate change on the animals, a claim disputed by the conservationists.
The wolverine, the largest land-dwelling member of the weasel family, once roamed across the northern tier of the United States and as far south as New Mexico in the Rockies and Southern California in the Sierra Nevada range.
After more than a century of trapping and habitat loss, wolverines in the lower 48 have been reduced to just 300 animals scattered in small, fragmented populations in Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming and northeast Oregon.
Wolverines depend on areas that maintain deep snow through late spring, when pregnant females dig their dens into the snowpack to birth and raise their young. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists have concluded that climate change is reducing the deep spring snowpack pregnant females require for denning, threatening the survival of the species.
Snowpack is already in decline in the western mountains, a trend that is predicted to worsen. Wolverine populations also are threatened by trapping, human disturbance, extremely low population numbers resulting in low genetic diversity, and fragmentation of habitat.
Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, blames politics for the Service’s withdrawal of its proposal.
“The denial of protection for the wolverine is yet another unfortunate example of politics entering into what should be a purely scientific decision,” he said. “All of the science and the agency’s own scientists say the wolverine is severely endangered by loss of spring snowpack caused by climate change, yet the agency denied protection anyway.”
Michael Senatore, attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, said, “With only an estimated 300 animals left in the lower-48 states, and substantial scientific evidence indicating that the species’ habitat will diminish due to the effects of climate change, the wolverine clearly warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.”
Sagebrush Wildlife Losing Habitat to Fire
TWIN FALLS, Idaho, October 14, 2014 (ENS) – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Steve Ellis, U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch, local stakeholders and ranchers to view efforts to conserve the sagebrush habitat that supports wildlife, outdoor recreation and other economic activity throughout the West.
The support of landowners is key to a joint effort by the U.S. government and Western states to develop and implement a broad conservation plan for the Greater Sage-grouse before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to decide whether or not to propose the bird for Endangered Species Act protection in 2015.
Known for its flamboyant mating ritual, the Greater Sage-grouse is an umbrella species, sharing the sagebrush with more than 350 other kinds of wildlife, including elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and golden eagles.
While roughly 64 percent of the Sage-grouse’s 165 million acres of occupied range is on federally managed lands, private lands are critical for the species, often including limited and vitally important riparian and wet-meadow habitat.
Jewell, Ellis and Crapo toured the Browns Bench/China Mountain region of southern Idaho and some areas that were devastated by the 2007 Murphy Complex Fire. Burning more than 600,000 acres, much of it sagebrush habitat, the fire was the largest rangeland fire since 1910.
Federal, state and local partners are restoring the area by reseeding sagebrush from the air and with machines on the ground, combatting cheatgrass and other invasive species, altering fire regimes and creating fire breaks to limit the damage from future fires.
“Fires are burning longer, hotter and faster, and it’s one of the reasons that we’ve seen the range of sagebrush habitat cut by more than half,” said Jewell. “The partnerships in Idaho to bring this key American landscape back are models of what we need to conserve and restore sagebrush habitat that is so important to wildlife and the Western economy.”
The restoration effort is one of a number of partnerships in Idaho and across the West to conserve and restore the sagebrush steppe ecosystem.
“Our goal is to work with natural resource managers across boundaries to ensure the success of this critical work,” BLM Deputy Director Steve Ellis said. “Ultimately, we want healthy, functioning sagebrush plant communities that support all sagebrush wildlife species. Areas affected by wildfire, like what we see here, are of key importance.”
Earlier this year, Jewell visited the Bord Gulch Ranch in Craig, Colorado, where the Sage-Grouse Initiative, funded by the National Resources Conservation Service, has enrolled nearly 1,000 ranchers in programs that have protected more than 3.8 million acres of sagebrush habitat.
In June, BLM Director Neil Kornze hosted a conference on rangeland fire restoration, including a forthcoming multi-agency seed strategy to align and integrate rangeland restoration efforts at the federal, state and local levels.
Greater sage-grouse once occupied more than 290 million acres of sagebrush in the West, but the bird has lost more than half of its habitat. Settlers reported that millions of birds filled the skies; now between 200,000 and 500,000 birds live in 11 states and two Canadian provinces.
Tribal Sellers of Eagle, Hawk Feathers Imprisoned
PHOENIX, Arizona, October 14, 2014 (ENS) – Leo Begay, a tribal member of the Navajo Nation from Tuba City, Arizona, last week became the last defendant to be sentenced following a nationwide investigation, Operation Silent Wilderness, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife into the illegal killing and commercialization of protected eagles and other migratory birds.
Begay was sentenced to four months in prison, two years of supervised release and a fine of $1,000. He earlier pleaded guilty to charges that he sold six fans made of feathers from bald and golden eagles and federally-protected hawks.
The investigation began after the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife received a complaint that a Navajo tribal member in Arizona was selling eagle and other migratory bird feathers online.
Seven residential search warrants and multiple interviews related to the investigation were conducted, uncovering an illicit trade in migratory bird feathers over the Internet using online services such as MySpace and Yahoo! Mail.
Gloria Tom, director of the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife, said “a tremendous amount” of illegal wildlife trading continues to occur as criminals kill the protected birds and make their parts available on the black market.
“The Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife entered into a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address illegal trafficking of eagle feathers and other bird parts on the Navajo Nation because this activity is impacting the long term viability and sustainability of the golden eagle and other migratory bird populations on our reservation,” said Tom.
“We are obligated to protect these sacred birds for our people who use eagles and other migratory birds and their parts legally for religious and ceremonial purposes,” Tom said. “The individuals who are participating in this illegal activity are not concerned with protecting Native American religious rights; they are only concerned with the personal financial benefit they receive from the illegal activity.”
Sam Hirsch, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said, “The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing our nation’s wildlife laws that protect these species for future generations to enjoy, and we are committed to honoring the traditions and cultures of American Indian tribes with whom we share a government-to-government relationship.”
In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder signed a new policy on tribal possession of all federally-protected birds, bird feathers and bird parts after extensive department consultation with tribal leaders and tribal groups. It allows members of federally-recognized American Indian tribes to possess feathers and parts for religious and ceremonial purposes.
Federal law otherwise prohibits the possession and/or sale of eagles and migratory birds and their parts under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act.
Previous prosecutions resulting from Operation Silent Wilderness resulted in the conviction and sentencing of four men, including three who are Tribal members.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, performed more than 8,000 forensic identifications for Operation Silent Wilderness, concluding that 600 individual birds were involved.
Ed Grace, deputy assistant director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, said, “Operation Silent Wilderness has been a model of cooperation between the Service and the Navajo Nation’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. Social networking sites are no safe haven for wildlife traffickers to conduct illegal business.”
EPA Okays Billion Dollar Gas-to-Gasoline Plant
DALLAS, Texas, October 14, 2014 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final greenhouse gas Prevention of Significant Deterioration construction permit to Natgasoline to construct a new natural gas-to-gasoline facility in Nederland, Texas.
“The Texas economy continues to grow and add jobs, and energy projects like Natgasoline’s are an important part of that growth,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “EPA will continue to work with businesses to ensure they have to permits they need to operate.”
The company plans to construct two units: a methanol plant, with a capacity of almost 1.75 million metric tons of methanol per year, as well as a methanol-to-gasoline plant, which will produce over eight million barrels of gasoline per year. The facility will use natural gas as a feedstock.
In June 2010, EPA finalized national greenhouse gas regulations, which specify that beginning on January 2, 2011, projects that increase greenhouse gas emissions substantially will require an air permit.
EPA believes states are best equipped to run greenhouse gas air permitting programs. Texas is working to replace the federal implementation plan with its own state program, which will eliminate the need for businesses to seek air permits from EPA.
The EPA says, “This action will increase efficiency and allow industry to continue to grow in Texas.”
EPA has finalized 54 greenhouse gas permits in Texas, proposed an additional seven permits, and currently has 12 additional greenhouse gas permits in development in Texas.
Poll: Eight in 10 New Yorkers Back Fracking Moratorium
NEW YORK, New York, October 14, 2014 (ENS) – A new statewide poll of New Yorkers found that nearly eight in 10 respondents support the state’s moratorium on fracking, underlining concern over the safety of the practice. Instead, the overwhelming majority support more renewable energy development.
The poll was commissioned by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, from independent firm Franklin, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. It was conducted among 802 voters from both major political parties and represented different age groups and ethnicities. The polling took place from September 18 to 22, 2014, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points (equivalent to a 95 percent confidence interval).
“Across party lines – from the city to the country – New Yorkers have made it clear that they want a better future for this state than those that have been ravaged by the oil and gas industry,” said Kate Sinding, director of the NRDC’s Community Defense Project.
“People here know that fracking is a snake oil cure for economic woes, one that comes with steep costs – in the form of water pollution, air contamination, health issues and destroyed communities. Instead, we want to harness clean energy from the sun and the wind to power our homes, create more jobs and revive our economies for years to come,” Sinding said.
The results come while there is already a de facto moratorium on fracking in New York, in order to give the state time to evaluate the environmental and public health risks the practice poses. This polling suggests New Yorkers are supportive of this approach, which has come under attack from the oil and gas industry and its political allies.
Pollsters found that support for the fracking moratorium is overwhelming: 79 percent of respondents support New York’s fracking moratorium.
Support for the fracking moratorium is bipartisan: 84 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Independents and 73 percent of Republicans are behind it.
Moratorium support extends upstate: 77 percent urban upstate residents support it, as do 73 percent of upstate rural residents and 60 percent of residents in the counties most likely to be fracked.
The majority of New Yorkers want more clean energy: 92 percent want more solar in the state, and 89 percent want more wind power.
Respondents choose renewables over natural gas. When asked to choose, 61 percent indicated support for developing clean, renewable energy sources over natural gas, while just 25 percent chose gas.
Scale Violations Cost American Seafoods $1.75 Million
WASHINGTON, DC, October 14, 2014 (ENS) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, and the American Seafoods Company this week agreed to settle three civil enforcement cases involving “flow scales” on board three ASC fishing vessels.
Under the settlement, Seattle-based American Seafoods agreed to pay a combined civil penalty of $1.75 million.
Flow scales are used to ensure accurate catch accounting on catcher-processor ships. The data they collect are essential to effective management of the Alaska pollock fishery, one of the largest, most valuable fisheries in the world.
Pollock processed on these vessels is used for products, including fish fillets, imitation crab, roe, fish oil and fish meal.
The three cases relate to events that occurred during 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012 in the Alaska pollock fishery.
The cases charged that personnel aboard three ASC catcher-processor vessels violated the Magnuson Stevens Act and the American Fisheries Act by causing the flow scales to weigh inaccurately.
The cases resulted from reports from observers assigned to the American Seafoods Company vessels who noticed discrepancies between weights recorded by the flow scale and their own motion-compensated scales.
Observers are responsible for monitoring and documenting the fishing activities on board the vessels. Observer reports are used for scientific, management and compliance purposes in the Alaska pollock fishery.
The violations were investigated by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and prosecuted by the Enforcement Section of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel.
Separate from these enforcement cases, the National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed a change to its flow scale regulations that would tighten daily scale testing standards, require that test results be electronically reported to the agency, improve the agency’s ability to detect accidental or intentional introduction of scale bias and require flow scale video monitoring aboard all catcher-processors using at-sea scales.