AmeriScan: January 18, 2000

HAWAII DROPS DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

HONOLULU, Hawaii, January 17, 2000 (ENS) - Research and commercialization of renewable energy technologies in Hawaii may come to a halt due to changes in government policy and a lack of funding. The state’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) will eliminate the Alternate Energy Branch of the Energy Division, claims Dr. David Rezachek, the department’s alternate energy specialist. He says the decision to drop research, demonstration, development and commercialization of renewable energy sources was announced recently by Brad Mossman, deputy director of the State of Hawaii. Although the Energy Division is expected to retain the Energy Conservation Branch, Rezachek says the policy change may have a negative impact on the residential use of solar water heating. "This change in policy is surprising and disconcerting for a number of reasons," says Rezachek in an appeal for support from renewable energy groups in the U.S.

"Hawaii is still the state with the greatest dependence on imported fossil fuels, and petroleum prices have more than doubled in the last year," he writes. "Hawaii is also the state with the greatest potential for cost effective renewable energy development owing to its relatively high utility costs and abundant renewable energy resources." Support for renewable energy has been government policy for more than 20 years, and the state has been recognized as a leader in renewable energy research and development. The technology has "great potential for high technology job creation and export development," he adds. Past support has been so strong that Hawaii codified renewable energy into its statutes, stating that "it shall be the policy of this State to … support research and development as well as promote the use of renewable energy sources."

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BAR ASSOCIATION EXAMINES WTO-ENVIRONMENT LINK

WASHINGTON, DC, January 18, 2000 (ENS) - How consistent is the operation of World Trade Organization agreements with "environmental policy" objectives? How can we rebuild a working consensus on trade in the U.S? With the echoes of the recent, controversial WTO meeting in Seattle still reverberating, more than 150 participants are registered to attend a two day symposium, January 20-21, sponsored by the American Bar Association's Section of International Law and Practice Committee on International Trade, in conjunction with the Georgetown University Law Center. Ambassador Susan Esserman, deputy U.S. trade representative (USTR), is scheduled to kick off Friday's session with a "Post-Seattle Administration Briefing." On Friday, a luncheon session will focus on three issues. First, what steps must be taken to rebuild a working political consensus on trade in the U.S? Second, what challenges U.S. trade policy will face over the next decade? Third, what key issues will be addressed during an anticipated congressional review of WTO agreements in March-June, 2000?

Later in the day, a panel will tackle the question of how consistent the operation of WTO agreements is with "environmental policy objectives," presented by Annie Petsonk of the Environmental Defense Fund. Additional commentators will be Debbie Lamb, Senate Finance Committee; David Schorr, World Wildlife Fund; and Dianne Sullivan, National Association of Manufacturers. The program will conclude with a discussion among the following speakers: Gary Edson, former Chief of Staff and former USTR General Counsel to USTR Carla Hills (under President George Bush); Ambassador Alan Wolff, former deputy USTR to Special Trade Representative Bob Strauss (under President Jimmy Carter); Ambassador Jeff Lang, former deputy USTR to USTR Charlene Barshefsky (under President Bill Clinton); Ambassador Hugo Paeman, Chief European Union negotiator during Uruguay Round and until last October EU Ambassador to the U.S.; and Brad Figel, former Chief Trade Counsel to Senate Finance Committee. Each will be asked to offer a comment on the key issues confronting the U.S. and the WTO in the immediate future.

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OREGON REEXAMINES POLICY OF KILLING HATCHERY COHO

SALEM, Oregon, January 18, 2000 (ENS) - In the wake of lawsuits filed by Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) against the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the state Legislature is taking a closer look at the agency's efforts to preserve native coho salmon. On Wednesday, the Joint Interim Committee on Water, Agriculture, and Natural Resources will hold a public hearing into whether ODFW is carrying out the Committee's wild fish policy. On October 28, PLF filed lawsuits in federal and state courts to stop ODFW from killing hatchery coho salmon in the Alsea River basin. Both courts refused to halt the destruction of the fish, which PLF argued should be used to shore up the dwindling species. ODFW then killed all returning hatchery salmon and destroyed millions of eggs, claiming they were a threat to the genetic purity of wild salmon which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Only 108 wild salmon returned to spawn in the Alsea River basin in 1998, and a smaller number returned in 1999. The National Marine Fisheries Service requires the destruction of hatchery fish if they pose a threat to a wild species. PLF claimed in its lawsuits that no valid basis exists for distinguishing between hatchery coho salmon and wild coho salmon. "ODFW has manufactured a crisis," said PLF attorney Russ Brooks. "By slaughtering the hatchery coho, the agency has kept the fish population low to maintain its listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. The listing, in turn, enables state and federal regulators to place severe restrictions on private land use and recreational activities."

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CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO PROMOTE WIND ENERGY IN IOWA

WASHINGTON, DC, January 18, 2000 (ENS) - The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has kicked off a campaign to obtain legislation that facilitates the continued growth of wind power and other renewable energies in the state of Iowa. "Utility restructuring in Iowa is an important opportunity for Iowa to continue its commitment to clean, native and renewable energy," says AWEA executive director Randy Swisher. "Wind power is already delivering substantial benefits to Iowa’s environment and economy." The Iowa legislature introduced legislation to restructure utilities in the state, but the proposal contained few provisions for environmental protection and was blocked by opposition from labor, consumer and environmental groups. Negotiations are underway to revise the bill.

wind farm

Wind farm in Clear Lake, Iowa (Photo courtesy American Wind Energy Assn.)

AWEA has joined the REDI Coalition (Responsible Electric Deregulation for Iowa) to ensure that the new bill protects the environment and the economy. The coalition argues that tapping the bountiful wind resource in Iowa is an important way to benefit the state, by allowing farmers to earn money by leasing their land to windfarms and generating a tax base for rural communities. AWEA estimates that existing wind energy developments in Iowa have created 200 construction jobs and 40 permanent maintenance jobs, and generate $2 million a year in tax payments and $640,000 a year in direct lease payments to landowners. The state’s existing wind turbines have also cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 1.3 billion pounds per year, in addition to 10 million pounds a year of sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain and nitrogen dioxide which causes smog.

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TEXAS PROPOSES TIGHTER WATER QUALITY STANDARDS

AUSTIN, Texas, January 18, 2000 (ENS) - The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) has proposed to strengthen the state's surface water quality standards by adding new standards for the herbicide Atrazine and perchlorate. The proposed standards represent the first attempt to regulate the compounds at either the federal or state level by using new water quality standards. The proposal for Atrazine, a product in widespread agricultural use, would be a drinking water standard to be set at three parts per billion (ppb). The perchlorate standard of 22 ppb would apply to surface waters that receive discharges containing the compound. Percholate is a Cold War and Vietnam-era rocket motor propellant discovered in groundwater at two former military manufacturing sites in Texas. The U.S. Army and Navy are now involved in perchlorate remediation efforts at the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant near Karnack in East Texas, and near McGregor in McLennan County at the former Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant site.

The TNRCC also proposed development of more stringent water standards for 23 existing toxic compounds, including those for many dissolved metals and organic compounds. In addition, the TNRCC proposed new standards for 120 previously unclassified streams statewide. This involved extensive efforts over the past several years by the TNRCC, the Clean Rivers Program, and other stakeholders to assess conditions in Texas streams. The proposal also describes how the TNRCC, under its new Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, will issue permits on construction sites, and to cities and industries, with regard to control of stormwater discharges.

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PORTABLE FUEL CELL POWER GENERATORS IN DEVELOPMENT

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, January 18, 2000 (ENS) - A leading company in fuel cells and a leading company in portable power products have agreed to work together on the development of portable generators powered by fuel cells. Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, BC, and Coleman Powermate Inc., a subsidiary of Sunbeam Corporation, will collaborate on the development of portable and standby power products using Ballard(R) fuel cells. The agreement will involve the production of 50 prototype units for initial product testing. "As a leader in portable power products, Coleman Powermate has a substantial share of the portable power generation market in North America," says Ballard chairman Firoz Rasul. "Their expertise, combined with Ballard's leadership in fuel cells and fuel cell systems, will allow rapid development of products for this growing market."

"Fuel cell technology is revolutionizing power generation in a number of areas," adds Coleman Powermate president Steve Krawczyk. "Our collaboration with Ballard, the fuel cell industry leader, confirms Coleman Powermate's commitment to providing our customers with the best alternatives in backup power." The two companies will jointly pursue market opportunities and develop co-branded fuel cell powered products that are designed for portable and standby power markets. Products, including the required fuels, will be sold to consumers through Coleman's retail and distribution network. Recent severe weather patterns and periods of intense demand on electric utility grids has created an increasing demand for these products.

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NEW BOOK OFFERS SOLUTIONS TO CALIFORNIA’S WATER PROBLEMS

SANTA CRUZ, California, January 17, 2000 (ENS) - Environmental scientist Brent Haddad has an idea for an innovative water allocation system for California markets. Almost all the fresh water in California is already spoken for by farms, cities and environmental interests. With no new sources on the horizon, the challenge becomes one of reallocation. In his new book, "Rivers of Gold: Designing Markets to Allocate Water in California," Haddad has developed a formula to preserve equity between cities and farms. Agriculture consumes the lion's share of developed water - about 85 percent - and agricultural irrigation districts have direct water rights or contracts with the state and federal government. Without an effective water reallocation system, Haddad predicts that cities will get into the business of "water ranching," or buying up farmland.

"Because water is so critical to the well being of the region in which it is being used, you're bound to hurt somebody if you transfer water," said Haddad. "You have to compensate the losers, in this case farmers and rural communities, which is why the institutional design is so important." Haddad is an assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with experience designing markets for natural resource management and environmental protection. His proposal would create a system of smaller regional markets that would operate under statewide transfer limits set by legislators. Specific review procedures to consider environmental, economic and social impacts would govern transfers, and farmers would be required to demonstrate their ability to put the water back to its original agricultural use. Urban regions would need to develop a long term commitment to the well being of the region from which they are taking water.

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RACE FOR THE RAINFOREST FOR EARTH DAY 2000

MENLO PARK, California, January 18, 2000 (ENS) - Care2.com, an online community for environmentally-conscious consumers, announced today the launch of its Earth Day 2000 "Race for the Rain Forest(TM)" promotion. Care2.com is teaming with The Nature Conservancy's "Adopt An Acre®" program, which provides critical rain forest acquisition and management funds, enabling visitors to take an active role in saving rainforest land with a simple point and click. Care2.com's Race for the Rain Forest promotion spans the 100 days leading up to Earth Day 2000, the global celebration of environmental solidarity held on April 22, 2000. To generate donations from advertising sponsors to adopt rain forest acres, users go to http://rainforest.care2.com and click on the "Save the Rain Forest" button.

Race participants can register to save additional rainforest acres by visiting the site each day, getting friends and family to join, and viewing a real time graphic showing their growing impact. On Earth Day, Care2.com will announce the top 100 participants of the Race on the www.care2.com Web site and donate an additional 1,000 rain forest acres in their names. Initial sponsors of the Race include Shoppinglist.com and EthicalShopper.com. "Eighty-seven percent of U.S. adults report that they are concerned about the environment. In keeping with Care2's mission to make it easy for everyone to help the environment, the Race for the Rain Forest was designed to be a simple, yet powerful way for individuals to make a difference," said Raymond Paynter, president and founder of Care2.com. "Two acres of rain forest, the equivalent of two football fields, are destroyed every second," said Cinthya Pandini of The Nature Conservancy. "Working with Care2.com allows us to immediately convey this message to 800,000 people, with the potential to reach many more through Care2.com's innovative Race for the Rain Forest."