New York's Acid Rain Rule Struck DownUTICA, New York,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - A federal judge has struck down a New York law aimed at reducing acid rain pollution in the Adirondack Mountains and other sensitive ecosystems.
The law, passed in 2000, penalized New York utilities that traded emissions credits for sulfur dioxide, a major component of acid rain, with utilities in Midwestern states. Pollution from Midwestern coal fired power plants blows across state borders, and has been blamed for about 70 percent of the acid rain pollution across the Northeast.
Utilities and other companies earn emissions credits if they release less pollution than permitted under federal clear air rules. They can then sell those credits to other companies that are not meeting their emissions limits.
New York is one of the nation's biggest exporters of sulfur dioxide credits, accounting for almost a quarter of the credits traded between 1993 and 1998, according to a 2000 General Accounting Office report. However, about 10 percent of those credits were traded to upwind states, where they allow polluters to continue emitting sulfur dioxide, which then blows into New York's air.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd ruled that the law is unconstitutional. The 2000 Air Pollution Mitigation Law also conflicts with the federal Clean Air Act, Hurd said, because it alters the emissions trading system that allows pollution credits to be traded between states.
The Clean Air Markets Group, a coalition of electric utilities and emissions traders, challenged the law in November 2000, claiming the measure reduced the market value of their New York emissions credits, giving out of state utilities an unfair economic advantage.
Hurd's ruling prevents New York from enforcing the 2000 law, rendering it void.
Researchers Look to Mop Carbon Dioxide from AirORLANDO, Florida,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - A process under development at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) could extract carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air to help reduce the impact of fossil fuels.
The researchers at the Energy Department lab say the simple, inexpensive technique they are studying could allow for the sustained use of fossil fuels without causing global warming.
The method would allow researchers to harvest CO2 from the air, reducing buildup of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and allowing it to be converted into fuel. A Los Alamos led research team presented the research on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando.
"Fossil fuel supplies are plentiful, and what will limit the usage of fossil fuels is the potential climatic and ecosystem changes you may see as a result of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere," said Los Alamos researcher Manvendra Dubey. "If you can capture atmospheric carbon dioxide, then you limit the environmental impact of fossil fuels and you can continue to use them."
"We have come up with a way to capture and sequester the carbon dioxide that we are putting in the atmosphere," Dubey continued. "Our approach is particularly well suited to capturing CO2 from numerous small sources such as automobiles that are largely being ignored."
The LANL method works on ordinary air, with an average CO2 concentration of about 370 parts per million, rather than capturing the more concentrated emissions found in power plant exhausts. It is believed to be the only available means of capturing the CO2 generated by vehicles, ships and other small sources that account for almost half of all CO2 emissions.
The air is passed over an extraction agent, such as a solution of quicklime, the active agent in some cement. The CO2 in the air reacts with the quicklime and becomes converted to calcium carbonate, or limestone.
Heating the calcium carbonate produces pure carbon dioxide and quicklime, which is recycled back into the extractor. The purified carbon dioxide can be stored or used in industrial applications such as the petrochemical industry, which uses large quantities of it to extract fossil fuels.
"The carbon dioxide comes to the facility on its own," Dubey said. "And because treated air is discharged, the overall concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gradually decreases over time. Using this method on a large enough scale, it may be possible to return atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to pre-Industrial Age concentrations. Given the possibility our climate system can change abruptly, this possibility is very exciting."
Oil Spill Flows Into Detroit RiverDETROIT, Michigan,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - Personnel from federal and state agencies are working to contain an oil spill that has reached the Detroit River.
About 500 gallons of what U.S. Coast Guard Commander Brian Hall describes as "weathered oil" spilled from a storm drain catch basin into the Rouge River Tuesday and has now reached the Detroit River. Officials do not yet know the source of the oil spill, nor its exact size, but as their investigation continues this rough estimate - of 200 gallons in the Rouge River and 300 gallons in the Detroit River - is expected to increase.
Coast Guard Chief Adam Wine says his agency is working with personnel from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Michigan State Department of Environmental Quality to contain the spill and minimize its impact on sensitive environmental areas. Local communities and response contractors bring the number of people working to clean up the mess to about 50.
The company Marine Pollution Control has been hired to start cleanup on the Rouge River in concert with state and federal agencies.
Chief Wine explained, "On the Rouge River, we have several booms set up for collection sites to divert oil in so it can be collected. We also have the mouth of the Rouge River boomed off."
Vessel traffic is being allowed through now, although the Rouge River was closed to traffic earlier in the day.
Containment booms have also been set up along the Detroit River, and some protective booming is being installed near the Humbug Marsh and Pointe Mouillee right at the edge of Lake Erie near the Huron River.
Chief Wine says the sensitive areas being protected from the spill, "are like a wetland where waterbirds and other birds go in for nesting. There are those type of places along the Detroit River and down into Lake Erie."
The Coast Guard is asking that the public not go down to the shoreline or bring their pets there until the spill is cleaned up. Anyone whose shoreline or vessel was impacted by the oil can call this claims number: 1-800-280-7118
Resources Bills Pass HouseWASHINGTON, DC,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - The House on Tuesday passed three bills from the Resources Committee, including a measure to turn 2,880 acres of public land into a shooting range in Nevada.
The bill, HR 2937, directs the Interior Secretary to transfer parcels of Bureau of Land Management land near the city of Las Vegas, Nevada to Clark County, Nevada, for use as a public shooting range for archery, trap and skeet, rifle, pistol and air pellet shooters. About 1,400 acres will be used as a shooting range, and the other 1,480 acres will be a buffer zone for the west and south sides of the range.
Representative Jim Gibbons, a Nevada Republican, introduced the bill, which was passed by voice vote.
"For twenty years, Clark County, Nevada, has been the fastest growing county, with the majority of that growth taking place in the Second District of Nevada," said Gibbons after the bill passed the House. "Due to this unprecedented residential growth, the residents of Clark County lack the space for adequate recreational facilities. This legislation helps accommodate a long time, recreational favorite in Nevada - target shooting."
On another voice vote, the House passed the Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act (HR 3480), which calls for the development of a coordinated, public private approach to studying nutrient and sediment runoff into the Upper Mississippi River Basin.
Problems in the river basin include soil erosion and sediment deposits in the main channel of the river and in wetlands throughout the basin. Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind sponsored the bill, which also directs the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a water resources assessment of the Basin.
"I am extremely pleased my colleagues in the House recognized that increased sediment and nutrient flow into the Upper Mississippi River Basin poses a very serious danger to the long-term health of the entire Mississippi River," said Kind. "My legislation will help lay the scientific foundation necessary to ensure the future quality and beauty of the Mississippi for generations to come."
By a 396-6 vote, the House passed the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Settlement Act (HR 3958), which authorizes a $15 million payment to the state of Utah for the land, oil, gas and mineral rights to 18,000 acres within the refuge. In return, the state will drop its claim to the disputed portion of the refuge.
Congress created the 74,000 acre Bear River Refuge on the shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah in 1928. For almost 75 years, the state and federal governments have fought over 18,000 acres that each party claimed as its own.
Bush Asked to Oppose Japan WhalingWASHINGTON, DC,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - A coalition of U.S. and international environmental groups called on President George W. Bush today to stand strong against Japan's and Norway's increased whaling and push for international whale trade.
In an advertisement in today's "Washington Post," the groups called for President Bush to, "assert U.S. leadership, including immediate diplomatic pressure, in opposing further commercial and so-called 'scientific research' whaling, before the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets next month in Shimonoseki, Japan.
Sponsors of the ad include the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Greenpeace, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).
Japan created an international furor last week when its fleet returned with 440 minke whales hunted in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. Japan also launched a "Save Them, Eat Them!" campaign to promote whale meat eating among the country's youth - a majority of which have never eaten whale meat according to a recent poll.
Japan Fisheries representative Masayuki Komatsu was quoted in the "London Sunday Times," as asserting that, "in Tokyo kids eat hamburgers all the time and their grades are slipping. In western Japan it's different. Youngsters eat whale meat all the time and their grades are good."
"Japan's whale hunting and eating campaign has reached a new level of audacity," said IFAW president Fred O'Regan. "The disregard for international treaties, world opinion, and conservation must be met with strong action. Now is President Bush's time to make his mark as a world leader in the international environmental arena."
The "Washington Post" ad also cites a poll conducted by Market Strategies, Inc., which showed that more than 80 percent of American voters approve of high level U.S. government officials speaking out against whaling by Japan and Norway. The poll showed that three out four Americans would support diplomatic pressure and a majority support measured trade sanctions against the two countries if they continue commercial whaling.
"The American people are united in their desire for U.S. action to reverse these recent moves by Norway and Japan," said IFAW president Fred O'Regan. "The Bush Administration has said all the right things on this issue up to now. We hope and expect that the U.S. will lead the effort to bring international pressure on Japan and Norway over the next weeks."
The "Washington Post" ad may be viewed at: http://www.ifaw.org/pdf/president.pdf
EPA Research Administrator Sworn InWASHINGTON, DC,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - J. Paul Gilman has been sworn in as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development, the agency's scientific and technological arm.
Gilman will be oversee the EPA's research activities, including three National Laboratories, two National Centers, and two Washington based science support offices. He will be responsible for the agency's research and development intramural and extramural science program, carried out by a staff of 2,000 employees at 13 locations nationwide.
"I am very pleased to have Paul Gilman as part of my senior staff here at EPA," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "His experience with cutting edge scientific issues will be a real asset for EPA. It is important that we continue to make decisions based upon the best available data, and that we remain committed to the best use of science in the regulatory process."
Before assuming this post, Gilman directed research integration and policy planning at Celera Genomics in Rockville, Maryland. Between March 1993 and September 1998, he was executive director of both the Commission on Life Sciences and the Board on Agriculture at the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
Since 1999, Gilman also served on the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the National Research Council. Gilman was the acting chair of the U.S. Department of Energy Laboratory Operations Board.
Gilman has also served as associate director for the Office of Management and Budget for natural resources, energy and science, and executive assistant to the Secretary of Energy for technical matters.
He spent 13 years working on the staff of the U.S. Senate, as administrative assistant and chief of staff for U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, and as staff director for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Energy Research and Development, where he was involved in the passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and oversight of energy technology and environmental research.
Solar Cells Improved by NanotechnologyBLACKSBURG, Virginia,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - Flexible solar cells are one step closer to reality with the advent of one nanometer thick films developed by researchers at Virginia Tech.
The thin films can be changed from transparent to deep violet and back as fast as 20 times per second. By building up layers of the films, selected for their ability to self assemble and to convert light to electricity, the researchers are creating flexible photovoltaic devices, or solar cells.
The researchers are using polymers and molecules called fullerenes. The advantages of these carbon based materials over silicon, a traditional solar cell material, are flexibility and light weight.
"You can fabricate a large area all at once, limited only by the size of your vat of solution from which you grow the films," said James Heflin, associate professor of physics at Virginia Tech. "Organic solar cells can be flexible, so you could have deployable sails on a space craft, or fold your solar cell into your briefcase or backpack."
So far, the efficiency of organic solar cells is only about 20 percent of silicon. By using ultra-thin layers of fullerenes that act as electron acceptors, the Virginia Tech researchers have begun to boost the efficiency of the organic solar cells.
"Starting with a conducting polymer, which is a light emitter, we can apply a fullerene layer and produce electrical current from incident light," Heflin said. "We believe we can improve the efficiency by factors of five or 10 through nanoscale control of the composition and thickness. We expect organic solar cells will be at least as efficient as silicon within five years."
Electrochromic films, which change from transparent to dark by applying a small voltage and change back by reversing the voltage, are also being improved with nanotechnology. Possible applications include flat panel displays for computers that can be viewed from any angle.
"An electrochromic display will allow you to view the screen of your lap top computer from an angle," explained Heflin.
The researchers presented their work Tuesday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando, Florida.
Virginia Proposes Toll on TrashRICHMOND, Virginia,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - Virginia Governor Mark Warner wants to impose a $5 per ton fee on trash deposited in Virginia landfills to help fund conservation programs.
Warner said the fee would bring Virginia into line with neighboring states, and generate funds for open space preservation, water quality improvement, recycling, solid waste management, and the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields and other contaminated sites.
Speaking at a news conference in James River Park in Richmond, the governor said his plan, known as the Commonwealth Conservation Initiative, represents "an important conservation proposal that will provide a lasting benefit to all Virginians."
"With the proceeds from these additional fees on trash disposal, we will generate more than $75 million annually for the Commonwealth's critical needs in open space preservation and water quality improvement," said Warner.
The proposal has the support of a group of at least 23 legislators from both parties.
"I am pleased that legislators from both parties are strongly supportive of this proposal to help address our growing concern with trash and at the same time provide much needed resources for open space, water quality, parks and farmland preservation," Warner said. "Virginia has some of the lowest fees for trash in the region, and this increase will properly move us toward parity with other states."
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Virginia's appeal of a lower court ruling that a state law banning out of state trash was unconstitutional. Virginia is the number two importer of out of state trash in the country, behind Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania legislature is on the verge of raising their current $3.25 tipping fee by as much as five dollars.
The Virginia General Assembly approved a similar measure in 1999 to impose a tipping fee on trash, but it was vetoed by then Governor James Gilmore.
Tennessee Celebrates State Natural AreasMEMPHIS, Tennessee,
April 10, 2002 (ENS) - Tennesseans are celebrating 62 environmental gems this week, many of which need additional protection, as part of the state's first ever State Natural Areas Week.
Proclaimed by Governor Don Sundquist for the week of April 8-14, 2002, State Natural Areas Week will feature guided walks and volunteer stewardship activities at many of Tennessee's natural areas. Activities such as guided wildflower walks, cross country hikes and canoe trips will be offered throughout the week.
Among the state's 62 natural areas is the Ghost River, an unaltered river channel that runs through west Tennessee from the Mississippi - Tennessee state line to Memphis. The Ghost River supports bald cypress and bottomland hardwood forest, habitats that have been impacted across the state by river channelization, timber harvesting and conversion to agricultural uses.
First established in 1971 by the Tennessee Natural Areas Preservation Act, there are now 62 state natural areas covering almost 90,000 acres. More than 20,000 of those acres have been added since 1995.
Natural areas are preserved in perpetuity to protect the habitat of many rare plants and animals. They also protect sensitive areas, areas of geological and archaeological interest and areas of great scenic beauty. Development and use of state natural areas is highly restricted.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Division of Natural Heritage administers the Natural Areas program.
More information about Natural Areas Week is available at: http://www.state.tn.us/environment/nh/nap.htm
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