Funds lacking for Great Lakes cleanup plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal government is failing to adequately fund the Great Lakes restoration effort despite growing evidence the ecosystem is in dire straits, state and local officials recently told a House panel.

The officials questioned the Bush administration’s commitment to the Great Lakes restoration plan and criticized Congress for its lack of action to aid the ailing ecosystem.

"It appears so far that our message and the voices of the region’s citizens are not being heard," said Todd Ambs, a Wisconsin state natural resources official who testified on behalf of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

The lakes are besieged by invasive species, and pollution from urban and agricultural runoff, including toxic industrial wastes and billions of gallons of raw sewage.

More than half the original wetlands in the Great Lakes’ watershed have been destroyed along with 60 percent of the forests, contaminated sediment litters harbors on the lakes, and a dead zone forms across 60 percent of Lake Erie every summer.

There is broad consensus in the scientific community that the ecosystem is approaching a tipping point where restoration could no longer be a viable option, said Donald Scavia, a University of Michigan professor of natural resources and environment and director of the Michigan Sea Grant program.

"The problem with ecological tipping points is that you don’t know if you have reached it until it is too late," Scavia told the panel.

State and local officials expressed frustration with the Bush administration’s implementation of its ambitious plan to clean up the lakes.

Announced last December, the restoration plan recommends an overhaul of federal and state programs and for $20.1 billion, including $10.5 billion in new federal funding, to be spent over five years.

But the Bush administration did not propose any new funding to implement the new strategy and has proposed a 9 percent cut for the long list of programs aimed at restoring and aiding the Great Lakes region, leaving the fate of the strategy in the hands of Congress.

State and local officials have increased spending on restoration efforts, Ambs added, but the overall plan will fail absent stable, long-term funding from the federal government.

The federal government currently spends some $500 million annually on a some 140 programs aimed at restoration of the Great Lakes. – J.R. Pegg, Environmental News Service [www.ens-newswire.com]

Five former Soviet Republics swear off nuclear weapons

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Five former Soviet republics committed themselves on September 8 to never acquiring, manufacturing, possessing or testing nuclear weapons by signing a treaty to create a Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone. The non-partisan, independent Arms Control Association welcomed the move as a positive step forward in reinforcing a beleaguered nuclear nonproliferation regime and advancing the goal of nuclear disarmament.

Central Asia used to house part of the sprawling Soviet nuclear weapons complex. But now Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have broken with this nuclear past by signing the free zone pact at a former Soviet nuclear testing site, Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. Negotiations on the agreement started in 1997.

The Central Asian zone will be the fifth such arrangement. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga), Southeast Asia (Treaty of Bangkok), and Africa (Treaty of Pelindaba) have also banded together to create nuclear-weapon-free zones. Mongolia has also outlawed nuclear weapons on its territory, and all countries are prohibited from stationing nuclear weapons in Antarctica, on the seabed and in outer space. – www.goodnewsagency.org

The Peace Alliance Foundation proudly announces the launch of the Peace Registry

The Peace Registry of the Peace Alliance Foundation (PAF) is an interactive, online database of individuals and organizations, large and small, who demonstrate and are working for a culture of peace – a culture characterized by non-violence, compassion, cooperation and inclusion.

The Peace Registry is located at www.peaceregistry.org. Visitors may: learn about and network with peace workers at the local, national and international levels; search by location, area of interest or focus; and nominate their own candidates for inclusion in the Peace Registry.

Currently, there are more than 200 entries in the Peace Registry with listings of organizations based in the United States and abroad. PAF anticipates that by July 2007, there will be at least 1,000 entries identifying organizations around the world. Anyone can nominate a candidate for the Peace Registry just by filling out the online nomination form.

Some organizations already listed in the Peace Registry include the Center for Non-Violent Communication, CodePink, BothAnd, the Dayton International Peace Museum, and Environmentalists Against the War. Each of these organizations takes a different approach to building a culture of peace, ranging from personal communication skills to global environmental awareness. – www.goodnewsagency.org

Clean Energy bill could create half a million jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Alternative energy legislation sponsored by Democrats in the Senate would create 530,000 jobs, according to a new report released by the Apollo Alliance. The alliance represents a coalition of national security, labor, environmental, civil rights and business organizations who are working for independence from foreign energy sources.

The Apollo report finds that half would be high-paying jobs manufacturing wind turbines, solar panels and energy efficient vehicles. Another 10 percent would be high-paying construction jobs as Americans go to work building wind farms, energy efficient homes and businesses, and new transit systems.

The report includes state-specific numbers illustrating that the Clean Energy Development for a Growing Economy Act of 2006 would create jobs in every state. The Clean EDGE Act alone would replace eight percent of the manufacturing jobs lost since 2000 in America, the report shows.

Apollo Alliance President Jerome Ringo said his group has a 10-step national agenda to create energy independence by the year 2015.

"It’s time to kick American into high-gear with a modern Apollo plan that sets America free from dangerous, foreign oil, while creating millions of new jobs," Ringo said.

According to the study, California would gain the most, about 53,750 jobs. Other states that could expect large jumps in employment are Texas with 37,560 jobs, Michigan with 29,320 jobs and Pennsylvania with 25,965 jobs.

"Americans are looking forward to a future where we buy fuel produced in the Midwest instead of the Middle East," Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said. "We’ve known for a long time that investing in alternative energy would create thousands of good-paying jobs in Michigan, and this report is further confirmation. These jobs would benefit many parts of Michigan’s economy, boosting our manufacturers, farmers, automakers and research centers."

"Investing in new fuel technologies will not only help break our fossil fuel dependence in favor of cleaner, more reliable alternatives, but will also create thousands of new family wage manufacturing jobs," said Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, co-chair of the Apollo Alliance and a member of the Senate Energy Committee. "This report proves that betting on American ingenuity and technological expertise is far better than continuing to gamble on the future good will of unfriendly Middle East regimes for our energy needs."

The Clean EDGE Act mandates that 25 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2010 be flex-fuel capable, rising to 50 percent by 2020. Flexible fuel vehicles can run on higher blends of biofuels, which helps displace petroleum and provide competition at the gas pump.

A major barrier to using flex fuel vehicles to reduce petroleum consumption is the lack of such refueling stations. The Clean EDGE Act sets a national goal of installing alternative fuels at 10 percent of American gas stations by 2015. It requires major integrated oil companies that own refueling stations to install alternative fuel pumps.

The federal government is the single-largest energy consumer in America. The Clean EDGE Act requires the Federal government reduce its petroleum consumption by 20 percent in five years and 40 percent by 2020, increase its renewable electricity use to 10 percent of total consumption by 2013, and employ advanced, efficient, and renewable technology to help drive innovation and jumpstart markets.

To help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and America’s reliance on fossil fuels, the Clean EDGE Act sets a national renewable portfolio standard requiring that 10 percent of all electricity produced in the country come from renewable sources by 2020. Many states have set higher renewable portfolio standards.

View the Apollo Alliance report at www.apolloalliance.org. – Environmental News Service [www.ens-newswire.com]

Arizona unveils climate strategy

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Arizona has joined a growing list of states no longer willing to wait for the federal government to act aggressively on climate change. An executive order recently signed by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano calls on the state to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 2000 levels by 2020 and 50 percent below that level by 2040.

Napolitano’s order also creates a new panel to develop a strategy for Arizona to achieve its climate goals and to implement recommendations of the state’s climate action plan.

The plan is the product of a climate action advisory group, which Napolitano established last year.

The advisory group, which included industry representatives, environmentalists, farmers and academics, issued a report last month with 49 recommendations for addressing and reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The recommendations include incentives for consumers to purchase environmentally friendly appliances and cars, as well as state efforts to boost energy efficiency through better building codes and new energy pricing strategies. The advisory group’s report also suggests the state increase its investment in renewable energy and direct state agencies to purchase low emission vehicles.

"Implementing these recommendations should cut our demand for energy by increasing energy efficiency, and improve air quality, all the while saving Arizonans money through reduced fuel costs and lower electricity bills," Napolitano said. "Developing Arizona’s renewable energy sources, such as solar, biomass, biofuels, wind and geothermal will help us reach those goals, and at the same time, create jobs. It’s a win-win for all of us." – Environmental News Service [www.ens-newswire.com]

Simple Living conference

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. – Legendary Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat in Leavenworth is hosting a national conference on Nov. 3-5, 2006 entitled "Simple Living and the Rekindling of Public Life: Sustainable Business, Local Community and the Common Good."

According to Global Consumer Trends 2006 report, the quest for simplicity and authenticity is a megatrend with significant impact. The conference will explore how we can work for the well-being of people and the planet, limit our use of oil, and address global warming by reducing our consumerism, slowing down, limiting our work hours, supporting local and sustainable businesses, and rekindling local community activism.

The conference launches Simple Living America as the first nationwide non-profit membership organization for the public centered on simplicity. It also initiates the third season of the popular Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska national public television series. In its second season, the series appeared on 64 PBS stations reaching 67% of USTV households, including a special with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

Conference keynoters include actor Ed Begley, Jr. and television host Wanda Urbanska. Other speakers include: John de Graaf, author of Affluenza and Take Back Your Time Handbook; Cecile Andrews, author of The Circle of Simplicity and Slow is Beautiful; Carol Holst of Simple Living America; Dave Wampler of The Simple Living Network; and Stan King of The Simplicity Forum. – World-Wire [www.world-wire.com]

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