AmeriScan: January 21, 2002


WASHINGTON, DC, January 21, 2002 (ENS) - Two Interior Department agencies, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), will receive increased renewable energy funding in the President's FY 2003 budget proposal, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton said Friday.

The preview of a small part of the department's budget proposal, which will be released in full by the White House and the secretary on February 4, came during a tour of a wind energy site on BLM land outside Palm Springs, California. Norton and Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles took the tour as part of the Bush administration's efforts to expand solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy on public lands.

The administration budget will call for increasing BLM funding by $350,000 in FY 2003 to improve access for geothermal energy leasing in California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon and New Mexico. The 2003 budget request also includes an increase of $500,000 for the USGS to produce improved and updated information on geothermal energy.

"These increases are only a few of the features of the department's FY 2003 budget request that will promote renewable energy and conservation," said Norton. "We must explore ways to better capture the sun's light, the sky's winds, the land's bounty, and the earth's heat to provide energy security for America's families."

The Interior Department currently leases, permits and licenses most of the government's renewable energy. The site Norton visited is on land administered by BLM's California Desert District. It has 2,960 wind turbines installed on public lands outside of Palm Springs.

Secretary Norton and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham convened a renewable energy conference in Washington, D.C. in November 2001. Based on information gathered at the conference, "within the next few months" Norton and Abraham will release recommendations to the President on expediting renewable energy projects on public lands.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 21, 2002 (ENS) - America uses a quarter of the world's oil, but has only three percent of known reserves. A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists offers a five-step plan to cut the oil needed for our cars and light trucks in half, saving five million barrels per day by 2020.

"Dangerous Addiction: Ending America's Oil Dependence," says domestic drilling won't solve the problem. "The only way to end the economic and security risks of this imbalance is to cut our import dependence by using better cars and better fuels," the groups say.

That would mean big savings for consumers at the gas pump. The report estimates that a person buying a 40 mpg car in 2012 would save a net of $2,200 over the life of the vehicle. Total consumer savings from all policies suggested would equal nearly $13 billion per year in 2012, and almost $30 billion by 2020.

"Washington has been dragging its feet on energy security. Now we face the risk of finishing another war with Middle East origins without a solution in place," said John Podesta, former White House chief of staff, now a senior fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's time for the president and Congress to reverse course, and tackle this national security priority."

Events since September 11 highlight the danger in turning a blind eye to oil dependence. The challenge is to reduce the amount of oil we use to run our passenger vehicles, using American technology and know-how, the two groups say.

"Detroit has the technology to end our oil addiction," said Jason Mark, director of the Clean Vehicles Program at Union of Concerned Scientists. "If cars and trucks live up to their technological potential, by 2010 we can save more oil annually than we currently import from Saudi Arabia."

The report recommends that Congress should steadily increase standards for the combined fleet of cars and light trucks to 40 mpg by 2012 and 55 mpg by 2020.

Mass production of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, which get double the mileage of today's cars, is recommended. Lawmakers should provide consumer tax credits to support the transition to this new technology. Toyota and Honda already have hybrids on the road.

The report recommends expanding use of renewable, non-petroleum fuels, such as ethanol made from crop wastes, by steadily increasing requirements for "renewable content" in gasoline.

Putting hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles on the road is a recommendation that lines up with a new program announced last week by the Department of Energy. The groups' report suggests that Congress should use incentives and requirements to ramp up production to 100,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2010 and 2.5 million by 2020.

Encouraging "smart growth" instead of suburban sprawl to increase transportation choices and make communities more livable with less driving, is a recommendation consonant with what the National Governors Association supported in a policy paper released adopted at the governors' 1999 annual meeting, and reaffirmed at last year's annual meeting.

"These proposals are the best way to curb our reliance on Middle Eastern oil," said Podesta. "We can regain control over our future by providing American consumers with the safest and best performing passengers vehicles in the world. This is the road to increase our national security, strengthen our economy, and protect our environment."

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida, January 21, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Commerce has approved the plan submitted by Florida Governor Jeb Bush to implement the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) in Florida. Florida's CIAP award totals $17 million.

As the designated lead agency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection developed the plan in collaboration with 67 county governments, regional water management districts, and other state agencies.

The Coastal Impact Assistance Program provideS coastal states with funds to help mitigate the effects of oil and gas exploration and development activities within the outer continental shelf. Florida will allot CIAP funds to cover habitat restoration, stormwater and wastewater management improvements, erosion control, construction of artificial reefs, environmental education, and enhancement of waterbodies of regional or statewide significance.

Inclusion of projects in the approved state plan does not exempt the project from any federal, state or local permitting requirements, nor does it create a presumption that the project will be permitted, the Department of Environmental Protection said.

Cooperation between water management districts, counties, and state agencies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) aims to ensure that the funds are spent to safeguard and enhance Florida's environment.

NOAA officials are now working with Florida county CIAP representatives to disburse county awards, totaling $6 million. The Department of Environmental Protection is administering the $11 million in funds allocated for state projects, including awards to three water management districts, three agencies in Monroe County, and the Manatee County Port Authority.

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TAMPA, Florida, January 21, 2002 (ENS) - Unlike the scores of exotic species that have invaded Florida over the years, the newest environmental threat may be controlled by serving it as an appetizer.

Commercial harvesting may be the best way to control an invasion of green mussels that spreading along the state's southwest coast from Tampa Bay to Charlotte harbor, said Patrick Baker, assistant professor with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

"The mollusks are native to the Indo-Pacific, and this is the first time we've seen them anywhere in the United States," he said. "Most likely, ocean currents will spread the mussel further south along the coast toward the Florida Keys."

"One of our biggest worries is that green mussels will somehow become as troublesome and difficult to control as the zebra mussels that have spread from the Great Lakes down the Mississippi River to New Orleans," said Baker.

While green mussels are a worrisome new problem in Florida's fragile environment, Baker said, they are harvested commercially for human consumption in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Baker, a researcher with the University of Florida's fisheries and aquatic sciences department in Gainesville, said the green mussels probably found their way into Florida on the hulls of vessels or in ballast water of ships from the Caribbean, where the mollusk already is established.

Baker said the green mussel invasion is another example of how Florida is becoming home to a growing number of of what he calls "fouling organisms." These are exotic plants and animals that grow on piers, boats and other manufactured objects. He said the term came from mariners who had to clean their "fouled" ship hulls.

Green mussels can grow longer than three inches, unlike smaller native species that normally occur in the same habitat. Florida has other bivalve mussels of all sizes, including some as large as green mussels, but the state does not have large mollusks that act as fouling organisms.

"It's too early to say how much of a problem the green mussels will become in Florida," said Baker. "However, the mussels are already quite abundant, covering pilings on bridges, fouling water intakes at power plants and interfering with clam production. When they grow on clam bags, they restrict the flow of water, and they eat the same microscopic algae that clams depend on."

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ALBANY, New York, January 21, 2002 (ENS) - Governor George Pataki is expanding the state's Clean Water State Revolving Fund to provide nonprofit organizations with a low cost way to fund land acquisition projects that protect water quality. The fund's low interest rate financing has previously only been available to municipalities, which can save a substantial amount on project costs.

"Over the past seven years New York State has led the nation in protecting crucial land and water resources for future generations," Pataki said. "By expanding opportunities to complete these important projects, we will build on that progress and meet our goal of preserving one million acres of open space over the next decade."

The federal Clean Water Act allows states to finance projects that reduce non-point sources of pollutants and protect water quality through the acquisition of important land parcels.

Under the governor's plan, nonprofit organizations could obtain funding through New York's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) for eligible projects that preserve open space, while protecting and enhancing water quality.

The City of Rye used a $3.1 million CWSRF short term, zero interest loan to acquire and protect crucial land in the Long Island Sound Estuary. This land acquisition, recommended in the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Long Island Sound, will protect water quality and preserve and improve the waterfront, tributaries and wetlands within the City.

The Long Island towns of East Hampton and Southampton have used $20 and $30 million loans from the fund for land acquisition projects to protect crucial drinking water resources.

The revolving fund is administered by the State Environmental Facilities Corporation and the State Department of Environmental Conservation. It was created in 1987 through an amendment to the federal Clean Water Act so that states could establish loan funds to finance traditional wastewater treatment facilities, and programs, such as land acquisition, that reduce non-point sources of pollution.

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee, January 21, 2002 (ENS) - Three in every four Americans have a medium to high interest in wildlife, according to a new poll commissioned by Ducks Unlimited. But 82 percent of respondents said that within the last two years, they were not members of, nor had they donated to, any organization working to protect or conserve wildlife.

And 63 percent of those questioned could not name a single nongovernmental organization that helps conserve wildlife and natural resources. Fifty-seven percent said they could not identify a nongovernmental group that protects the environment.

The study was conducted by Responsive Management, a Harrisonburg, Virginia research firm that specializes in public attitudes toward natural resources and the outdoors. During the past 15 years, Responsive Management has conducted more than 500 studies on public attitudes toward natural resource, environmental, and outdoor recreational issues in the U.S. and worldwide.

More than half of the people questioned in the Ducks Unlimited poll said they had participated in wildlife watching in the past year, and 51 percent said they had visited a state or national park. About one-third of respondents said they went hiking, camping, biking, boating or fishing.

Many Americans consider it important to conserve natural resources like wetlands. For example, 64 percent of respondents said it is very important to protect and conserve wetlands, while 27 percent said it is somewhat important. And 46 percent said they believed there were too few wetlands in North America.

Yet, 33 percent say they do not know enough to rate the health of North America's natural resources like forests, wetlands, and grasslands.

Americans are especially concerned about endangered species, and say that this concern would increase their motivation to protect natural resources if they saw a connection between the vanishing resource and threats to wildlife. For example, 80 percent of those polled said they would be more likely to support waterfowl and wetlands conservation efforts if they knew that some endangered species are dependent on wetlands.

Interest in wetland protection grew when respondents saw a connection between wetlands and their ability to reduce water pollution, with 81 percent saying they would be more likely to support waterfowl and wetland conservation efforts if they knew wetlands help reduce pollution by purifying water.

With more than one million supporters, Memphis based Ducks Unlimited, is the world's largest wetland and waterfowl conservation group.

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LOS ANGELES, California, January 21, 2002 (ENS) - The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will kick off its centennial celebration by hosting a star-studded concert to help promote its Green LA program and message.

Rock band Los Lobos and gospel singer Yolanda Adams are among the talented performers lined up to take the stage at the Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Sunday, February 10. Starting at 5:30 pm, a festival featuring sponsor booths, food and drink and live entertainment will precede the 7 pm concert.

Green LA encompasses a range of environmental programs designed to make Los Angeles a sustainable city - Cool Schools Tree Planting, Electric Transportation, Water Conservation, Recycling, Energy Efficiency, Solar and Green Power.

"This is a worthy local cause we can all relate to," says Los Lobos lead singer David Hidalgo. "LA is our home, it's where our roots are, and it's great to be a part of something that will benefit not just our communities, but our children as well."

"We take great pride in offering the city of Los Angeles a high-quality, socially conscious performing arts program," says The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) general manager David Wiggs. "It's a great way to celebrate our many years of service to the community, convey the Green LA message, and build strong partnerships."

Other artists scheduled to participate in Voices for a Green LA include the all-woman international percussion group, Adaawe; sacred Jewish music Cantorial performances; First African Methodist Episcopal Church Choir, the 180 member Children's Choir and traditional Japanese youth drumming group, Zenshuji Zendeko.

Sponsors include Coca Cola, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center. Other Green LA sponsors include Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles World Airports, Neutrogena Corporation, Loyola Marymount University, Nextel and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Voices for a Green LA is an effort to increase awareness of LADWP's Green LA programs such as its solar incentive or rebate program which now offers the highest per watt financial incentive in California to go solar.

Wiggs said, "By lowering the price of solar electric power systems, we're hoping to encourage even more customers to consider going solar. It's important to remember that any power produced by these solar systems reduces the load on LADWP's power system, which benefits all Californians by reducing the need to build power plants."

The Solar Incentive Program lowers the purchase price of solar electric or photovoltaic systems by half or even more for all participating LADWP customers. It offers a cash incentive based on the wattage or size of a solar system.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary in February, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power serves more than 3.8 million people in Los Angeles.

"Green LA provides LA city residents a unique opportunity to make substantial changes to the way we use and conserve energy as well as take care of our environment," said LADWP Board president Kenneth Lombard. "This concert and festival are great ways to embrace LA's diverse community and to expand the customer base for LADWP's Green LA programs and keep them growing well into the next 100 years."

More information about Green LA programs and the Voices concert can be obtained by logging onto or calling 1-800-GreenLA. Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster or the Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office.