Archive | Regional

U.S. Park Service: Mount Rushmore lacks Adequate Security Systems & Ranger Staff

SIOUX FALLS, S.D., Oct. 22 (UPI) — People are accessing areas normally off-limits to tourists at South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore, which also lacks an adequate security system, a memo indicates.

The memo on security threats to the national monument also said the ranger force is inadequate to protect visitors and the sculpture, USA Today reported Thursday.

The security review by the U.S. Park Service’s Midwest staff began after environmental activists hung a protest banner July 8 on the monument that features 60-foot-tall sculptures of past presidents. The activists breached security and accessed anchors normally used by the National Park Service for periodic cleaning.

“It concerns me that information about secure areas of Mount Rushmore was inadvertently put out in the public sphere and used by Greenpeace,” U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., said in a statement. “Going forward, it’s critical for the safety of the monument that anyone who accesses these secure areas of the park understands the sensitive nature of the area.”

Hundreds of people have been allowed in the secured areas for activities such as taking in views from the presidential pates, said Hugh Dougher, regional chief ranger in the National Park Service’s Midwest office in Omaha.

The report said the Park Service and the Justice Department will look into beefing up criminal penalties for climbing Mount Rushmore.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Justice, Nature & Ecosystems, Office, Regional0 Comments

Prime Minister Says Cambodia is 'Victim' of Climate Change from Developed Countries

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Oct. 20 (UPI) — Cambodia is a “victim” of climate change, and developed countries should shoulder more responsibility in reversing the effects of global warming, said Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Developing countries like Cambodia have been severely affected by climate change and lack the resources to tackle the problem on their own, Hun Sen said at the opening ceremony Monday at the country’s first National Forum on Climate Change.

“The rich countries should be more responsible, as they have more resources to settle this matter. Cambodia is not the country responsible for climate change but is the victim. … The huge countries should not blame less-developed countries,” he said.

Hun Sen said rising temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns and surging sea levels would only continue to hit developing countries like Cambodia the hardest.

“Developed countries certainly must accept most of the blame for causing the problem,” Geoffrey Blate, climate change coordinator for the Greater Mekong program of the conservation group WWF, told the Phnom Penh Post. “At the same time, Cambodia can and should take immediate steps to address climate change. The problem is global in scope.”

Hun Sen noted that in 2006 Cambodia implemented a program of climate change adaptation, which includes 39 projects to respond to the immediate needs of its communities. The premier said he was encouraged that the European Union is considering a budget of $2 billion to $15 billion annually to help poor countries implement their climate change adaption measures.

Hun Sen’s comments come ahead of December’s climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, in which world leaders will attempt to strike a new global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Observers at the Cambodia forum said they hoped it would help bolster the country’s bargaining position ahead of the Copenhagen talks. Ministry of Environment officials are expected to present Cambodia’s draft position on climate change at the forum’s conclusion on Wednesday.

“Cambodia needs to have a strong voice in international negotiations and demand that developed countries meet their historical responsibility and provide financing for adaptation,” said Brian Lund, regional director of Oxfam’s East Asia office, the Post reports.

Cambodia’s Environment Minister Mok Mareth linked climate change to devastating weather events over the past two decades.

From 1987 to 2007 the country experienced 12 floods that claimed the lives of 1,125 people and caused $300 million in damages, Mareth said. The country also faced five severe droughts, causing $140 million in damages, he said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Conservation, Effects Of Air Pollution, Global Warming & Climate Change, Office, Regional1 Comment

4.9 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Seabed off East Russia's Coast of Kamchatka

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, Russia, Oct. 17 (UPI) — An earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale struck off the eastern coast of Kamchatka, Russia, Saturday morning, seismologists said.

No casualties or destruction were reported by the Russian Academy of Sciences, ITAR-TASS reported.

The epicenter of the quake was in the Kamchatka Gulf just over 62 miles from the regional center Ust-Kamchatsky at a depth of a little more than 12 miles, the local branch of the Geophysical Service reported.

The tremor was registered at 7:47 a.m. Moscow time (3:47 p.m. EDT).

The Main Department of the Ministry for Emergencies in the Kamchatka Territory said no underground jolts were felt in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky or in any other settlements on the peninsula.

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is a little more than 221 miles from the epicenter.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, Other, Regional0 Comments

Caribbean Clean Energy Projects Get Funding Boost

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct. 14 (UPI) — Caribbean clean energy development received a boost with new funding made available for innovative projects that are designed to ease the burden of fuel costs for the region’s poor countries and help them switch over to sustainable sources for domestic and industrial use.

The funding was pledged as grants from the Global Village Energy Partnership, an international non-profit organization that seeks to reduce poverty through accelerated access to modern energy services, and Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit, based in Eschborn, Germany.

GTZ is an international cooperation enterprise that promotes complex reforms and change processes in tough conditions in poor countries, to enable people to improve lives on a sustainable basis. GVEP International is based in London.

Caribbean countries were hit hard by the credit crunch brought on by the recession and accompanied by high energy costs.

Petrocaribe and other regional arrangements providing energy on special payment terms have not helped to alleviate conditions in communities that cannot afford crude oil and other conventional fuel imports, but also lack resources to explore or switch to sustainable energy sources.

The region is currently benefiting from biofuel development projects funded by U.N. agencies, but analysts say progress is slow.

The grants were channeled through an “IDEAS” contest for innovative uses of local conditions and materials to produce clean energy.

The contest was launched in March by joint sponsors GVEP, GTZ, the Inter-American Development Bank and the government of South Korea.

The contest received more than 1,000 proposals for improving energy efficiency and expanding access to renewable energies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Winning entrant Ken Aldonza, director of Applied Renewables Caribbean, and two colleagues received $198,000 to develop a plant using excess and waste bananas to produce ethanol for use in transport fuel on the island of St. Lucia. The plant will be self-sufficient in energy, NewNet information service for new energy reported.

Bob Hathaway, a naval architect, will receive $83,000 to build an indirectly charged solar ferry to reduce damage to the island’s ecosystem caused by traditional stroke engines.

GVEP funding will also go into production of bio-ethanol from cheese waste in Chile, turbines for slow-moving rivers serving remote communities in the Amazon and pico-hydro franchises for rural Honduras.

The Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy has also called for entries by Oct. 20 for regional programs. Six winners will receive about $30,000 each and about $60,000 will go to an overall “Energy Champion” selected to send a strong message of sustainability to the Caribbean and Latin American region.

Prince Charles, heir to the British monarchy, who presented the prizes in 2009, said the awards “demonstrate what is possible, not only for small-scale projects, but what is achievable for the whole world. So much of what we need to build cleaner and more efficient communities is already with us.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Efficiency, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Other, People, Regional, Solar0 Comments

Dangerous Levels of Arsenic & Toxins Found in Greek Students' Water Supply

THESSALONIKI, Greece, Oct. 13 (UPI) — Testing the hair of some schoolchildren in northern Greece has found high levels of arsenic, a report released Tuesday said.

The testing was done by a research team from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Ekathimerini reported. They were to announce their results at a conference this week

The researchers found that students at 10 of 32 schools had been drinking water with high levels of dangerous chemicals. They tested the hair of 65 children in the area, detecting high levels of chemicals correlating to high levels in water supplies.

“The statistical analysis revealed a positive correlation between the concentration of traces of toxic chemicals in the schoolchildren’s hair and in local drinking water,” the authors said.

The worst problems were in the area of Halastra, near Thessaloniki. Drinking water there had at least double the recommended safe levels of arsenic.

Halastra Mayor Grigoris Ouzounis said children in regional schools there drink bottled water.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Chemicals, Drinking Water, Regional0 Comments

San Diego Bay Cleanup Project Has No Start Date After Four Years of Planning

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 12 (UPI) — A San Diego Bay cleanup project still has no start date after four years of planning, a spokesman for the coastkeeper said.

It took three years for regional water regulators to prepare relevant documents and negotiations about how to handle contaminated sediment in the bay have been going on for 16 months, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Among the points of contention are defining the cleanup area, determining an acceptable level of pollutants and monitoring progress. The clean up was initially estimated to cost $96 million. The revised cleanup proposal must be made public by Oct. 30, a schedule released by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board said.

“If what is past is prologue, we still have a long road before the toxic sediment is removed,” said Gabriel Solmer, the legal director for San Diego Coastkeeper.

There must be a public hearing and then a full meeting of the water quality board before a final cleanup order is released, David King, bay-sediment czar for the board’s governing panel

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Regional0 Comments

Climate Change in Greater Mekong Region Risks Biodiversity & Ecosystem, Says WWF

BANGKOK, Oct. 6 (UPI) — The World Wildlife Fund called for Asia’s first regional climate change adaptation agreement in the Greater Mekong region.

The area — which comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and southwest provinces of China — is already strongly affected by climate change, and a lack of immediate action will come at great cost to the Mekong nations, states a WWF report released Monday in Bangkok, while the U.N. climate change talks were still in progress.

The WWF report, “The Greater Mekong And Climate Change: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Development at Risk,” says the region, covering an area of 600,000 square kilometers, is to undergo major changes caused by climate change.

“Greater regional cooperation and coordination among Mekong nations is necessary to best cope with the impacts of climate change,” said Geoffrey Blate, Climate Change Coordinator for the WWF Greater Mekong Program, Xinhua reports.

Over the last 50 years, average daily temperatures across Southeast Asia have increased between 0.5 and 1.5 centigrade. By the end of this century, the report says, temperatures in the Greater Mekong region are predicted to rise between 2 to 4 centigrade. WWF said that the region’s coastal communities are threatened by a rise in sea levels, and changes to the climate are stressing ecosystems.

The region is home to more than 300 million people. Also known for its rich biodiversity, some 1,000 new species were discovered in Mekong during the last 10 years.

Land is being lost in coastal zones of the Greater Mekong, WWF said, and glacial melting in the Himalayas may impact the region’s major rivers. Wetlands will either dry up or become flooded out, WWF predicts.

The WWF report calls for implementing a regional climate change adaptation agreement and for a reduction in non-climate stresses such as unsustainable infrastructure.

“There is a leadership opportunity here to champion what would be Asia’s first regional climate change adaptation agreement to help Greater Mekong nations prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change,” said Blate.

WWF also called for decisive action on a global scale to avoid the consequences of climate change. It urged world leaders to strike an ambitious and fair agreement on a climate treaty at the U.N.-backed talks in Copenhagen in December.

“Rich and developed nations must make deep emission cuts and commit to significant financial help to assist vulnerable regions such as the Greater Mekong,” said Kim Carstensen, who heads up WWF’s Global Climate Initiative, Xinhua reports.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Biodiversity, Global Warming & Climate Change, Infrastructure, People, Regional0 Comments

Climate Bill May Face Long, Tough Road to Approval

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 (UPI) — New legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gases began a potentially arduous ascent through the Senate this week, even as the Environmental Protection Agency announced its own plans to cap carbon emissions if Congress fails to do so.

Although the House of Representatives’ passage of a climate bill earlier this year aired many of the controversies, the Senate version will likely face challenges and changes in its path to a vote, while the White House looks to affirm its leadership on climate change prior to the U.N. climate conference in December in Copenhagen.

After several months of delays because of the healthcare debate, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., unveiled the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act Tuesday. The bill calls for a stronger cap on emissions than the House version, seeking a 20 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 compared with the House’s 17 percent reduction.

“We don’t need to be sending billions of dollars overseas, some of which finds its way to the support of jihadists, terrorists in various countries,” Kerry said Tuesday. “We can invest that money right here at home and put our future back in our own control.”

Kerry highlighted climate legislation as the new linchpin of U.S. economic and security stability, while Republican senators responded that the proposed cap-and-trade policies would hurt jobs in the natural resource industries and weaken the economy.

“Despite an earnest attempt, including eight months of deliberation and negotiation to refashion the obvious, Senators Boxer and Kerry produced yet another massive energy tax that will destroy jobs, raise electricity and gasoline prices and make America less competitive,” Oklahoma’s Sen. James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said in a statement.

“While I’ve noted that the Democrats have the votes to pass this bill through the … committee, that does not mean Republicans will stand down.”

No Republican senators were on hand to support the bill’s unveiling Tuesday. It has also drawn mixed support from moderate Democrats in areas reliant on natural resources industry.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., opposed the bill because he said it would hurt the coal industry, calling it “a disappointing step in the wrong direction.”

On the same day that Boxer and Kerry presented their bill, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said that the agency is ready to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial facilities under the Clean Air Act.

While Congress has indicated it would rather pass its own legislation, the potential EPA rule could give senators room to step away from the controversial bill.

“The EPA yesterday basically gave a lot of senators a lot of cover to vote against cutting off debate, essentially killing the bill,” said Patrick Michaels, a senior environmental studies fellow at the libertarian think tank Cato Institute.

Michaels, who said he doesn’t think the Senate Democratic leadership can muster the necessary 60 votes to block a filibuster, called the targets laid out by the Kerry-Boxer bill “hardly moderate.”

After facing markup in the Environmental and Public Works Committee that Boxer chairs, the bill must traverse other Senate committees, such as Finance, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources and Foreign Relations, with jurisdiction.

Support for the bill will be more about the effects on regional industries than partisanship, said Tony Kreindler, climate spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund.

“What the House was really successful in doing is coming up with a framework that was fair and equitable for different regions of the country, for different states that have different energy mixes,” he said.

With the climate bill playing second fiddle to the healthcare revamp, it’s unlikely that it will get through Congress to the president by the U.N. Climate Change Conference in December.

“The key there is going (to Copenhagen) with enough so the (United States) has leadership for credentials in the negotiations (and) a big part of that is going to be how far we get in the Senate and, importantly, how much support that effort has from a diverse group of senators,” Kreindler said.

“We’re going to need the White House to show some leadership, just to focus the minds of the people on the Hill.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Effects Of Air Pollution, Electricity, Energy, Global Warming & Climate Change, Other, People, Policies & Solutions, Regional1 Comment

City of West Palm Beach Florida City Hit with 117 EPA Citations for Pollution Violations

The city of West Palm Beach, Fla., was hit with 117 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency citations for pollution violations, regulatory data shows.

The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post said Thursday in addition to citing West Palm Beach, the federal agency earned a state administrative court order in July regarding deficiencies at the city’s sewage treatment plant.

EPA officials said the treatment plant dumped millions of gallons of wastewater into area wetlands without properly treating the sewage. The treated wastewater was dumped in wetlands near wells housing supplemental drinking water supplies for West Palm Beach.

The July court ruling regarding the pollution citations resulted in the city being fined $144,798 for the violations.

The Post said the treated wastewater failed tests regarding the presence of pollutants like nitrogen that can potentially be detrimental to wetlands ecology.

Officials maintain the wastewater dumped at the East Central Regional Water Reclamation Facility posed no risk to city residents because the treated sewage did not enter the West Palm Beach drinking water system.

Posted in Drinking Water, Other, Pollution & Toxins, Regional1 Comment

Caribbean Views Biofuels and Bioenergy Development as The Way Ahead

Cash-strapped Caribbean countries are seeking energy independence through bioenergy development but are hamstrung by poor organization and limited initiatives.

U.N. Development Program sources said recent biofuel advances in the so-called Small Island Developing States promised a greater reliance on regional resources — “south-south cooperation” — to cut dependence on imported fuel and food. But the targets for self-sufficiency were far from being reached because of lack of expertise, cash resources and access to new technologies, reports on recent studies and surveys indicated.

Danielle Evanson, spokesperson for the UNDP and Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, told United Press International in an interview the food, financial and energy crises were compounded by climate change.

The prospects for achieving sustainable development in the impoverished small states of the Caribbean were dwindling with increased reliance on imported fuel and food, studies made available by Evanson showed.

An added problem was that, as economies stagnated and depended more on service industries, they suffered extra costs of importing more fuel for mobility, central to the service sector’s operations.

To get out of that vicious circle, Caribbean states are looking to build capacity for biofuels produced from organic waste. Technologies now exist to convert plants, garden waste and manure into charcoal, biodiesel, ethanol or gaseous fuels but are not yet available to the Caribbean states.

The region is also looking more actively into wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower power. “The decline in the agricultural sectors, particularly with sugar cane and elimination of preferential trade agreements with the European Union, is driving the interest in bioenergy development for the electricity and transport sectors,” UNDP said.

The overarching aim is to build cooperation between the countries of the region so they can make use of sustainable energy services and enhance their energy security.

A Caribbean Community Climate Change Center is coordinating moves by the small islands to increase reliance on cheap energy produced by local resources.

Caribbean countries were jolted into awareness of their fragile state when, earlier in the summer, Venezuela indicated it could review preferential payment terms it offers oil-importing member states of the Petrocaribe alliance.

Venezuela later denied it planned to withdraw its preferential terms for Petrocaribe partners. Petrocaribe sources said the flap brought home to Caribbean states the uncertainty of conditions in which they met their fuel needs through foreign sources.

Added to that uncertainty is the growing burden of debt over fuel imports that diverts scarce cash resources into debt servicing and repayments rather than new investment into manufacturing and food processing industries. The biofuel industry’s development has also been hampered by lack of cash resources.

UNDP said new technologies could greatly influence the region’s capacity to exploit its natural resources to produce energy. After hurricane damage to wind farms, for example, experts are recommending deployment of turbines that can be removed at short notice to save them from being wrecked in stormy weather.

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Geothermal, Other, Regional, Services, Solar, Wind1 Comment

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