AmeriScan: Apr. 2, 2014

wind farm
These wind turbines at Mid-American's Pomeroy wind farm in Iowa provide power to Google. (Photo by Lucky Toby)


Renewables Power Google, Fees in National Forests, Rhino Horn Traders Indicted, California Salmon Streams Dry Up, Rare Alaskan Wolf, Navajo-Gallup Water Pumping Plant

Apple, Facebook, Google Power Up With Renewables … Judge Allows Concessioners’ Fees in National Forests … Two Indicted for Selling Black Rhino Horns … Dry California Salmon Streams Need Clean Water Act Aid … Who’s Afraid for Rare Alaskan Wolf? … Navajo-Gallup Water Pumping Plant Contract Awarded

Apple, Facebook, Google Power Up With Renewables

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 2, 2014 (ENS) – Apple, Facebook and Google are leading a growing number of technology companies using renewable energy, finds a new Greenpeace report that evaluates the energy choices of 19 Internet companies with over 300 data centers.

Those companies are leaving behind Amazon Web Services, the company which hosts the data for many of the Internet’s most popular services and powers its infrastructure with polluting energy sources that contribute to global warming, the report found.

wind farm
These wind turbines at MidAmerican Energy’s Pomeroy wind farm in Iowa provide power to Google. (Photo by Lucky Toby)

Amazon Web Services, a division of, hosts popular companies such as Pinterest, Netflix, Spotify, Tumblr, AirBnB, Yelp and Vine. The Greenpeace report finds that Amazon sources only 15 percent of its electricity demand with clean energy. Coal powers 28 percent of the company’s cloud, nuclear powers 27 percent, and gas 25 percent.

While companies like Apple, Facebook and eBay lead the sector in transparency about energy sourcing, Amazon refuses to reveal any details about its energy footprint to its customers or the public.

Twitter does not share any details about its energy choices and has made no efforts to procure cleaner electricity, Greenpeace reports.

Greenpeace is urging all major Internet companies to use 100 percent renewable energy.

The report, “Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet,” finds that “if the Internet were a country, its electricity demand would rank sixth in the world.

Estimates from the industry expect Internet data to triple from 2012 to 2017.

“Apple, Facebook and Google are powering our online lives with clean energy, and building a greener offline world for everyone in the process,” said Gary Cook, Greenpeace Senior IT Analyst.

Five Internet companies have committed to a goal of powering their operations with 100 percent renewable energy. “These companies have proven over the past 24 months that wind and solar energy are ready and waiting to power the Internet, and the rest of our economy, with clean electricity,” Cook said.

Apple became the first company to achieve its 100 percent renewable energy goal to power its iCloud, leading the companies evaluated with its Clean Energy Index of 100 percent. Apple is operating the largest privately owned solar installation in the United States at its data center in North Carolina.

Facebook pressured its utility in Iowa, MidAmerican Energy, to power its data center there with wind energy. MidAmerican responded by investing $1.9 billion in wind power generation, placing the world’s largest order of onshore wind turbines in part to meet Facebook’s demands.

Google has pioneered the use of power purchase agreements for wind energy to provide electricity for its services like Gmail and YouTube.

Google, Apple and Facebook all pushed Duke Energy, the country’s largest utility, to offer new renewable energy options for large electricity buyers in North Carolina.

Fast growing business-to-business companies Rackspace and Salesforce  in 2012 announced a goal of powering their operations with 100 percent renewable energy.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


Judge Allows Concessioners’ Fees in National Forests

WASHINGTON, DC, April 2, 2014 (ENS) – Bark, an Oregon non-profit organization, has lost its legal case against the U.S. Forest Service, brought to protect Mt. Hood campgrounds and trailheads from being taken over by private companies.

But the March 28 ruling by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in U.S. District Court in DC, has wide application to National Forest lands across the country.

Judge Contreras ruled that the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004, or REA, sets forth requirements governing the recreation fees the U.S. Forest Service may charge. But those requirements do not apply to third-party concessioners, who, he ruled, may charge a fee for doing anything, anywhere.

Bark Executive Director Alex Brown said, “Picnicking along the Clackamas River, snapping photos of Mt. Hood from Hwy 26, or camping at one of the undeveloped sites near Timothy Lake – all could become fee sites.”

It is the first time this issue has come before a court.

“The case at bar presents a novel legal question,” wrote the judge, “whether the REA’s fee restrictions extend beyond the Forest Service to third parties, known as “concessioners” or “concessionaires,” who operate recreation areas within our National Forests.”

Bark and five individual plaintiffs sought a declaration of whether that the Forest Service’s policies of permitting concessioners to charge fees to visitors who do not use any facilities or services other than parking, and issuing special use permits to such concessioners without undergoing the public notice and RRAC processes, violate the Recreation Enhancement Act.

The concessioners intervened as defendants, along with the National Forest Recreation Association, an advocacy group for businesses that offer outdoor recreation opportunities.

The case of one of the five individual plaintiffs illustrates the issue.

“The Big Eddy day-use area in Mount Hood National Forest is operated by California Land Management Services Corporation,” wrote Judge Contreras. “Under its operating plan, CLM is required to maintain a parking lot and roads; plow and maintain roads; provide security; address hazardous materials spills; enforce site capacity limits; clean, repair, and maintain restrooms; clean up litter and empty trash receptacles; monitor the area for safety hazards; provide services in case of an emergency; maintain signs for visitors; and maintain water systems, among many other services.”

In August 2012, Meredith Cocks, a resident of Multnomah County, Oregon and member of Bark, visited the Big Eddy day-use area. She found that the area had been placed under private management and that vehicles parked along the shoulder of Highway 224 had ‘courtesy notices’ on their windshields asking them to pay a $5 fee.

Cocks chose not to pay the fee. While she saw that the area offers a restroom and picnic tables, she testified that she chose not to use those amenities.

Judge Contreras ruled that the private company was within its rights to charge this fee. “The Court finds that the language of section 14(e) clearly exempts the concessioners from the restrictions set forth in the REA,” he wrote.

The REA was written to protect Americans from being charged by federal agencies for recreation access already paid for through tax revenue. Formerly, if sites with amenities were run by a private company, the company could charge a fee but had to honor the same rules as federal agencies, such as honoring Senior and Disabled passholder discounts at campgrounds.

Judge Contreras’ ruling opens the door for private companies to disregard such discounts and impose new fees.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.

 Two Indicted for Selling Black Rhino Horns

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, April 2, 2014 (ENS) – An undercover sting has resulted in the indictment of two California ment for selling the horns of critically endangered black rhinos.

Edward N. Levine, 63, of Mill Valley, California, and Lumsden W. Quan, 46, of San Francisco, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas today for the illegal sale of two horns from an endangered black rhinoceros.

Black rhino in England’s Paignton Zoo (Photo by David Buttle)

Robert Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Daniel Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada made the announcement today.

The indictment is a result of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide effort led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of horns from endangered rhinos.

The indictment alleges that over the course of two months, Quan and Levine negotiated the sale of two black rhinoceros horns by email and phone, ultimately communicating with an undercover law enforcement officer.

The indictment alleges that Quan and Levine offered to sell the two black rhinoceros horns for $55,000 and agreed to meet the buyer in Las Vegas. On March 19, 2014, after directing another person to drive with the horns from California to Las Vegas, Quan and Levine flew from California to Las Vegas, to make the sale.

Quan met the law enforcement officer in a Las Vegas hotel room, where Quan sold two black rhinoceros horns for $55,000. Both men were arrested later that day. Officers from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Nevada Division of Wildlife assisted with the arrests.

The indictment charges Levine and Quan each with one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act and one count of violating the Lacey Act.

The Lacey Act prohibits the sale of wildlife that was transported in violation of law. The Endangered Species Act prohibits the interstate transportation of endangered species for a commercial purpose and the interstate sale of an endangered species.

Rhinoceros are herbivores of prehistoric origin that have no known predators other than humans. All species of rhinos are protected under U.S. and international law and the black rhinoceros is endangered.

Since 1976, trade in rhino horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, a treaty signed by 180 countries to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled.

Yet, trafficking in rhino horn has soared in recent years due to the demand for horn for ornamental carvings, good luck charms or purported medicinal cures. Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same substance that composes human skin, hair and nails. It has no verified medicinal effects.

But as a result of rising demand for horn, rhino populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1970. For instance, in South Africa the number of live rhinos poached has gone from 13 in 2007 to more than 1,000 in 2013.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.

 Restoration Funds Sought for Dry California Salmon Streams

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 2, 2014 (ENS) – Snow surveyors with the California Department of Water Resources Tuesday conducted the first snowpack reading of spring, finding that the Sierra snowpack is just 32 percent of normal.

February and March storms brought some promise to the state after the record-breaking dry months of December and January, but those rains have not broken the drought’s three-year grip. Reservoirs, rainfall totals and the snowpack remain critically low.

The April 1 reading is considered an indicator of how much water runoff will be available for farms and communities in the coming dry summer months.

“We’re already seeing farmland fallowed and cities scrambling for water supplies,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said after the snow survey results were released. “We can hope that conditions improve, but time is running out, and conservation is the only tool we have against nature’s whim.”

Dry conditions, water diversions and pumping for agricultural and urban uses, could spell disaster for Northern California rivers and streams, some of which are completely devoid of flow during critical salmon spawning seasons.

“The Scott River and other North Coast rivers are literally sucked dry, leaving salmon no place to spawn and robbing the Karuk and other tribal people of a critical cultural resource,” says Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe.

Since 2010, a coalition of tribes, fishing groups and environmental groups have been urging the State Water Resources Control Board to prioritize dry rivers and creeks for funding of restoration and protection under the federal Clean Water Act Section 303(d).

The State and Regional Water Boards have the authority and duty under the Clean Water Act to identify those waterways that are so degraded that they are unsuitable for fishing and swimming.

The Clean Water Act Section 303(d) listing process is typically used to identify waterways impaired by contaminants, and develop pollution clean-up plans. But several states, including Washington, Idaho, Michigan, and Vermont, recognize flow-impaired waterways on their Section 303(d) Lists.

Northern California rivers and creeks “desperately” need this agency action, the coalition says.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s own staff report acknowledges that there is a “near complete dewatering of fisheries habitat” in the Shasta River below Dwinnell Dam, and that summer and fall flows in Mark West Creek were “either dry” or “too low to measure.”

Yet when the North Coast Regional Water Board released its list of impaired waterways in mid-March, the list did not include rivers and creeks impaired by altered flow.

“Like climate change deniers, there are those who seem to dispute clear scientific evidence that California rivers and streams run low or dry, even in years of normal rainfall,” said Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “It is time for the Board to acknowledge and take action to address ‘flow-impaired’ rivers and streams so we can protect economically important salmon runs.”

Coalition members will use North Coast Regional Water Board hearings in Santa Rosa on April 8 and Redding on April 9 to press their case for listing of at least five disappearing rivers and creeks on California’s 303(d) listing.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.

 Who’s Afraid for Rare Alaskan Wolf?

SITKA, Alaska, April 2, 2014 (ENS) – The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Boat Company notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today of their intent to file suit against the agency for delaying Endangered Species Act protection for the Alexander Archipelago wolf.

This rare subspecies of gray wolf is found only in the old-growth forests of southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

Alexander Archipelago wolf (Photo courtesy Center for Biological Diversity)

In August 2011 the groups filed a petition to protect the wolves, which they claim are at risk of extinction because of the U.S. Forest Service’s unsustainable logging and road-building practices.

The Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday made an initial 90-day finding that listing the Alexander Archipelago wolf may be warranted, but the agency is a year and a half overdue on its legally required 12-month decision, which is supposed to determine if protection is in fact warranted.

“The rare Alexander Archipelago wolf is in desperate need of protection for its old-growth forest home,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Irresponsible logging on the Tongass National Forest, combined with unsustainable hunting, is driving the Alexander Archipelago wolf to oblivion.

Heavily reliant on old-growth forests, Alexander Archipelago wolves den in the root systems of very large trees and hunt mostly Sitka black-tailed deer, which are themselves dependent on high-quality, old-growth forests, especially for winter survival.

A long history of clear-cut logging on the Tongass and private and state-owned lands has devastated much of the wolf’s habitat on the islands of southeast Alaska.

“Unless the Fish and Wildlife Service has a change of heart and agrees to reach a listing decision promptly, our organizations will sue,” said Sitka-based Greenpeace forest campaigner Larry Edwards.

“Between the Forest Service, Alaska DNR [Department of Natural Resources] and the University of Alaska, eight significant timber sales are planned in southeast Alaska’s wolf territory, right now.”

Last year the Forest Service, in response to an appeal by the Center, Greenpeace and three allied organizations, temporarily halted its Big Thorne timber sale in the Tongass National Forest. The agency is now reviewing the sale’s impact on Alexander Archipelago wolves.

This was prompted by an expert declaration in the groups’ appeal by Alexander Archipelago wolf biologist and former state of Alaska research biologist Dr. David Person. He concluded that “the Big Thorne timber sale, if implemented, represents the final straw that will break the back of a sustainable wolf-deer predator-prey ecological community on Prince of Wales Island.”

Since the 2011 petition to protect these wolves, the population on Prince of Wales Island has declined from 45 to 50 wolves in the Big Thorne timber sale area in the mid-1990s to only six or seven wolves there in 2013, according to Dr. Person.

Almost all the wolves were killed by people, both legally and illegally, the groups say, and access to the island’s 3,000 miles of logging roads continues to enable these killings.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.

 Navajo-Gallup Water Pumping Plant Contract Awarded

WASHINGTON, DC, April 2, 2014 (ENS) – The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $19.6 million construction contract to build the Tohlakai Pumping Plant, eight miles north of Gallup, New Mexico, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced today.

This will be the first pumping plant for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, the cornerstone of the historic Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement Agreement in New Mexico’s San Juan River Basin, signed by the Department of the Interior, the Navajo Nation, and the State of New Mexico in December 2010.

Moltz Constructors, Inc., a small business located in Cody, Wyoming won the contract.

“The Navajo-Gallup project will deliver clean, safe drinking water to tribal and rural communities, many of which have been hauling water over long distances for far too long,” said Jewell. “This contract is another important step in honoring U.S. commitments to Indian nations while providing lasting benefits for local economies and public health.”

In addition to the Navajo Nation, project participants include the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the City of Gallup, the State of New Mexico, Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Health Service.

President of the Navajo Nation Ben Shelly said, “The overall project is a priority for the Navajo Nation which will provide the necessary water supply for future economic growth for the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. The current pumping plant will help many Navajo families east of Gallup, New Mexico get near-term groundwater for domestic use before the San Juan River water comes.”

President Obama’s proposed FY 2015 budget requests an $80 million investment in the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which, when completed, will have the capacity to deliver clean running water to a potential future population of approximately 250,000.

Construction of the Tohlakai Pumping Plant, to be located in McKinley County, is expected to take approximately 26 months to complete and provide approximately 140 direct and indirect jobs over that time. At the peak of construction, the Navajo-Gallup project will involve more than 600 jobs created at numerous project sites. Construction of the overall Navajo-Gallup project began in June 2012 and is on schedule for completion in 2024.

The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is one of 14 high-priority infrastructure projects identified in October of 2011 by the Obama Administration to be expedited through the permitting and environmental review process.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2014. All rights reserved.


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