States Silent on Great Lakes Withdrawal Regs

A year ago, governors of all eight Great Lakes states endorsed a
multi-state compact to protect the lakes against plans to pump water out of
the basin. Bill Cohen reports… a full year later, not one state legislature
has actually approved the compact:

Transcript

A year ago, governors of all eight Great Lakes states endorsed a multi-state compact
to protect the
lakes against plans to pump water out of the basin. Bill Cohen reports… a full year
later, not one
state legislature has actually approved the compact:


Most states haven’t even gotten one of their legislative chambers to okay the
compact. Most
people think the compact is to protect against shipping millions of gallons of water
to foreign
countries, but the biggest roadblock has been the fear that each state would be
giving up the right
to allow water diversions for its own cities and industries.


Molly Flannagan with the National Wildlife Federation says environmental activists
are not giving
up. She says 2006 has been a year to educate lawmakers:


“We had four states that had legislation introduced this year. We’re expecting to
have more states
introducing legislation next year. I think this is the year really of building
momentum towards
getting the compact done, hopefully in 2007 or 2008.”


Backers of the plan are also seeking approval from Quebec and Ontario.


For the Environment Report, I’m Bill Cohen.

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Cutbacks in Toxic Release Reporting

  • New rules from the EPA thousands of companies will no longer have to publicly disclose when they release toxic chemicals. Some companies were required to report the release of 500 pounds or more of certain chemicals. The new rule raises the reporting requirement to 2000 pounds.

The Environmental Protection Agency lets companies release toxic chemicals
into the environment. But they’re supposed to file detailed reports on the
kinds of chemicals they release. Mark Brush reports – under a new EPA rule,
some of these companies will no
longer have to tell us how much they pollute:

Transcript

The Environmental Protection Agency lets companies release toxic chemicals into the
environment. But they’re supposed to file detailed reports on the kinds of
chemicals they
release. Mark Brush reports – under a new EPA rule, some of these companies will no
longer have to tell us how much they pollute:

If you want to know what kind of pollution is released near your neighborhood – you
can
type in your zip code on the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory website.

In the past, companies had to report if they released more than 500 pounds of a
certain
kind of toxic chemical. But now, some companies won’t have to report unless they
release 2000 pounds or more.

Tom Natan is with the National Environmental Trust. His group analyzed the new
rules.
They found that around 3,600 companies will no longer have to provide their neighbors
with detailed information:

“And if I were living nearby, I would want to know that these chemicals were being
released in these amounts from that facility. If you don’t necessarily know that
you’re
being exposed then there isn’t anything you as a citizen can do about it.”

The EPA says these new rules will ease some regulatory burdens on industry. Congress
is expected to take a closer look at the new rule in its next session.

For the Environment Report, I’m Mark Brush.

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Invasive Screening Program Could Save Bucks

The U.S. economy could save billions of dollars a year if the government
would screen for invasive species. Lester Graham reports that prediction is
based on a recent study on screening out problem plants:

Transcript

The U.S. economy could save billions of dollars a year if the government would
screen for
invasive species. Lester Graham reports, that prediction is based on a recent study
on
screening out problem plants:


The study shows when a country screens for potentially harmful species of plants that
could spread like weeds, the cost of the screening is miniscule compared to the cost
of
the damage the plants cause. The study is published in the Proceedings of the
National
Academy of Sciences. It looked at the costs and benefits of Australia’s invasive
species
screening program.


Phyllis Windle specializes in invasive species. She’s with the environmental group
Union
of Concerned Scientists. Windle says it’s long been assumed that screening out pesky
plants would be worth the cost.


“But what this study does is that it really shows that prevention pays off and it
has good
data to illustrate that.”


Factoring in the scale of the U.S. economy to Australia’s, the Union of Concerned
Scientists estimates for an annual cost of a few million dollars, the U.S. economy
could
be spared a few billion dollars in damage by invasive plants.


For the Environment Report, this is Lester Graham.

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More Room on the Road for Plug in Cars

A new study says there’s enough power being generated in the United States
to run a lot more plug-in electric vehicles. Dustin Dwyer reports the
environmental benefits of such a switch are harder to pin down:

Transcript

A new study says there’s enough power being generated in the United States to run a
lot
more plug-in electric vehicles. Dustin Dwyer reports the environmental benefits of
such
a switch are harder to pin down:


The study from the U.S. Department of Energy finds that up to 84 percent of the
vehicles
on the road could be powered by today’s electric plants, if plug-in vehicles became
more
available.


But in areas dominated by coal-burning plants, electric cars would just switch one
kind
of pollution for another.


Lead author Michael Kintner-Meyer says the future power grid is likely to be cleaner
than today’s. And he says there’s also a benefit from reducing consumption of foreign
oil.


“Although there was a very conservative, I think a very conservative estimate,
overall, I
think the story of plug-in hybrids is a very good one.”


General Motors has said it’s developing a plug-in gas/electric hybrid vehicle. But
executives have not said when that vehicle will be on the road.


For the Environment Report, I’m Dustin Dwyer.

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Holiday Story – Homemade Gifts Gone Wrong

The holiday season brings with it the stress of finding the
perfect gift. For most it means crowded parking lots, long lines and
hours at a mall, but Environment Report commentator Julia King
decided to avoid some of the mass production and commercialization
of Christmas this year. Instead, she got back to “Holiday Spirit”
by trying her hand at something a bit closer to home:

Transcript

The holiday season brings with it the stress of finding the perfect gift. For most
it means crowded
parking lots, long lines and hours at a mall, but Environment Report commentator
Julia King
decided to avoid some of the mass production and commercialization of Christmas this
year.
Instead, she got back to “Holiday Spirit” by trying her hand at something a bit
closer to home:


Now, I don’t like to brag, but can I just say that I MADE my holiday gifts this
year? Let me tell you
the story of my apple butter.


In the fall, when other people were walking through crunchy leaves and carving
pumpkins and
going on hayrides, I was riding my environmentally friendly bike to the local
farmer’s market
where I bought many pounds of chemical-free Indiana apples and put them in my
backpack and
then rode home with hard, yellow delicious apples digging into my spine and under my
shoulder
blades. I had to do this many times because my family kept eating the apples. Like
snacks, instead
of future gifts. So, I had to make a lot of bike rides with a lot of apples sticking
into my back.


Oh well, holiday spirit.


But I finally stockpile all the apples and the cider – oh yeah, the cider: I had to
drive to the
farmers’ market twice in the rain to get fresh, un-pasteurized cider. Okay, so then
I have
everything I need and I boil the cider until it reduces by half – which takes a
couple of hours, then
I peel the apples (which doesn’t take as long but gives me a cramp in my right hand
and makes me
wonder if I’m developing arthritis because I could be, you know; I’m not getting any
younger).
Then I dump the apples into the reduced cider and boil and then simmer and then stir
and then
boil and then simmer and then add secret, exotic spices (okay, cinnamon), and then
boil and stir
and simmer for about thirty-nine days, during which time I can’t leave the house
because the
stove is on, and fire safety requires that I stay. Finally, when all the moisture is
gone, it’s time to
put the apple butter into jars and “process” it, which is the worst part because if
you do it wrong
you could kill people. And that’s always especially sad at the holidays.


So, you have to wash and boil the jars, but NOT the lids with the rubber — because
if you do, you
could kill people. You have to keep everything warm, and then you have to pour the
apple butter
into the clean jars while it’s still boiling and then wipe the rim with a clean
towel so that it seals
right and you don’t kill people.


Then you have to boil it in the closed jars for about fifteen minutes and then when
it comes out it’s
supposed to make a sound as it cools and that should mean it’s safe.


And when it’s all done, you look around the kitchen and see dirty pots and pans and
globs of
brown stuff all over your stove and yards of apple peels and there, in the midst of
this chaos, sit
three little four-ounce jars of apple butter.


And then you go to the store the next day and see that it only costs a dollar-fifty!
And you curse
capitalism. And now on top of making your friends and family play Russian roulette
with
botulism, they have to sit through the story of how you made their apple butter.


Oh well, holiday spirit.


Julia King lives and writes in Goshen, Indiana. She
comes to us by way of the Environment Report.

Cashing in on Restaurant Food Scraps

  • These loafs of bread were left in a park for wildlife to eat (not recommended by biologists). Most table scraps end up in a landfill. But a program in some cities is using table scraps from restaurants to make rich compost. = -2>(Photo by Lester Graham)

As you sit down to a holiday dinner this season…
here’s something wild to think about…some of the produce on
your plate, or even the wine in your glass may have been
produced using food scraps from restaurants. How? The
leftovers are collected and turned into compost, a natural
fertilizer that’s increasingly popular among wine grape
growers and organic farmers. Tamara Keith
reports:

Transcript

As you sit down to a holiday dinner this season… here’s something wild to think about:
some of the produce on your plate, or even the wine in your glass may have been
produced using food scraps from restaurants. How? The leftovers are collected and
turned into compost, a natural fertilizer that’s increasingly popular among wine grape
growers and organic farmers. Tamara Keith reports:


The food goes from plates in upscale restaurants, to green waste bins picked up by a
recycling company. The leftovers are then trucked out a compost facility.


(sound of the big machines)


Here, at Jepson Prairie Organics, the waste is transformed from discernable food
items,
to dark lush humus. Greg Pryor is general manager of the facility in Northern
California.


“If you look closer it’s you’ll find fish, shellfish, there’s a leek right there,
and onion.”


Yard clippings and a little cardboard are mixed in for balance. It’s all ground up,
and
stuffed in large black bags, 200 feet long and 10 feet wide.


“Really about a week into the bag it starts to break down and it really loses its
identity.”


After 30 days, the compost is removed from the bags, and continues to break down for
another month or so. As bacteria go to work on the food scraps and clippings, they
generate heat, so even on a hot day steam rises up from the rows of compost. Pryor
started in the trash business almost 15 years ago and he says it has come a long way.


“All of this used to go into a landfill and it just wasn’t right. And to me
personally that’s
the biggest benefit is that it’s putting materials back to a beneficial re-use,
there’s just
nothing better.”


The end product is marketed as “four course compost” to vineyards and organic
vegetable farms.


(Mexican music coming from a truck)


Just a few miles away at Eatwell Farm, workers are snipping and tying off bunches of
organic arugula. That peppery green was grown in soil bolstered by four-course
compost. Farmer Nigel Walker says he applies a heavy coat of compost after every
harvest, sometimes as much as three times a year.


“And we just always do that. I don’t even have to. Roberto’s our tractor driver.
I don’t
even say ‘put compost on, Roberto.’ He just knows. We put compost on and then we
cultivate it in.”


In the past, Walker has used compost made from animal manure. It works fine, he says,
but he likes the idea this fertilizer comes from restaurants.


“It’s a great compost, we need a compost and we likes where it comes from, it’s pretty
simple.”


This time of year, the makers of four-course compost make a lot of deliveries to
California wine country, home to some of the nation’s premier wines. Linda Hale is
the
field supervisor for Madrone Vineyard Management in Sonoma County. She and her
employees look after 400 acres of wine grapes for wineries like Ravenswood, Sabastiani
and BR Cohn.


Hale says they use compost between the rows, to prepare the land for winter.


“Right after you harvest, you come in, you prep the ground, you put your compost in,
seed it and let the vines go to sleep for the winter. And that’s just your good night
medicine.”


Hale says the compost improves the vigor of the vines. Healthy soil, makes for
healthy
plants, and healthy plants she says are better able to fend off pests and disease.
And
Hale says, it prices out the same as synthetic liquid fertilizers – the current
industry
standard.


Plus, winemaker Tom Montgomery at the BR Cohn Winery says it’s kind of fun to think
about what might have gone into the compost.


“There’s probably a little filet in there, some veggie dishes, aso bucco…” (laughs)


Montgomery calls it fertilizer with pizzazz.


“I think it makes a difference to us. I’m not so sure that it makes a difference to
the
wine.”


Other cities, even other countries are starting to pick up on the food-to-field
idea. Soon a
group from Toronto will be touring the compost facilities to see if they can
replicate the
program in their city.


For the Environment Report, I’m Tamara Keith.

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Romancing the American Chestnut

  • The smaller American chestnuts on the left were a part of culture for people who lived in hardwood forested areas of the U.S. The Chinese chestnuts on the right are not susceptible to the blight.

Food is always a big part of the holidays. But
one traditional food has – for the most part – disappeared
from American tables. Lester Graham explains:

Transcript

Food is always a big part of the holidays. But one traditional food has – for the
most part – disappeared from American tables. Lester Graham reports:


(Sound of Nat King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”)


That old chestnut of a song romanticizes roasting chestnuts as a part of the
holidays. But a lot of us have never even seen chestnuts, let alone roasted them
on an open fire. Chestnuts used to be a major part of the Eastern hardwood
forest. There were millions of them. In fact, 25 percent of all the mature trees
were chestnuts. But a blight, imported with some Chinese chestnut trees, slowly
wiped out the American chestnuts. Now, they’re gone.


Well… almost. Much of the root stock is still alive. Sprouts grow until the blight
knocks them back again. A blight only hurts the standing tree where it branches
out.


And, in a few isolated pockets in the Midwest, the blight hasn’t reached the trees.
A few American chestnuts are alive and growing and some of them are free of the
blight.


At Nash Nurseries in central Michigan, owner Bill Nash is guiding us through a
rare sight… a grove of American chestnuts.


“These are 20 years old and as you can see, they’re fairly good sized. The
American chestnut is quite a rapid growing tree. It’s well-suited for our climate,
so it doesn’t have any of the problems that some of the hybrids do as far as
growing and cultural care you have to take care of them. The Americans, you get
them started and they’re pretty much on their own.”


In a few places in Michigan and Wisconsin there are small groves of chestnuts.
They’re prized trees. They’re great for shade. The hardwood is rot resistant and
makes great furniture and fence posts. And the chestnuts are eaten by humans
and wildlife alike. Bill Nash says the tree will be popular again if it ever
overcomes the blight that’s hit it so hard.


“The American chestnut will make another big comeback in this country as a yard
tree, as a timber tree, as a wildlife tree.”


That part about a wildlife tree is more important than just worrying about the
squirrels and bunnies. Chestnuts were an important food source for all kinds of
animals.


Andrew Jarosz is a plant biologist at Michigan State University. He says the loss
of chestnuts has been hard on wildlife populations.


“Chestnuts shed nuts in a more regular pattern than oaks, which will have what
are called mast years – where they’ll have major crops, massive crops one year
and very small crops in other years – which means it’s either feast or famine if
you’re depending on oaks.”


Since the blight first began hitting American chestnuts about a century ago,
researchers have been looking into all kinds of ways to stop it. One way is to cross
it with the Chinese chestnut which has a couple of genes that resist the blight. But
it takes a long time to breed out the Chinese characteristics from the American
chestnuts and still keep the resistant genes.


Another approach is genetic manipulation. Genetically modifying the American
chestnut tree to make it disease resistant. Again, work is underway, but it takes a
long time. And even after success, it’s likely some people won’t like the idea of
releasing a genetically modified organism into the wild.


The final approach worked in Europe when the blight hit there. It seems there’s a
naturally occuring virus that kills the blight. It spread naturally in Europe. There
are a few groves in Michigan that have naturally acquired the virus and it’s
working to keep the blight at bay.


Andrew Jarosz is working on the research. He says the trick is figuring out how to
get the virus to spread to other trees short of manually spreading it on cankers
infected by the blight.


“If we’re literally talking about millions of trees across probably, you know, the
eastern third of the country, we obviously can’t treat every canker on every tree.
And we need to be able to figure out a way to deploy the virus in a way that it can
spread.”


Even with all that hopeful research, it’ll be ten years at least before some practical
solutions end up in the forests, and Jarosz believes a couple of centuries before
the American chestnut holds the place it once did in the forests.


Bill Nash knows it’ll be a while before there are major changes, but he is
optimistic about the American chestnut.


“Oh, I would think the tree has a bright future. There’s enough people working on
that, enough programs going on now. So, I would suspect that in the not-too-
distant future we should have some of this progress made. You know, Robert
Frost in his poem predicted the comeback of the American chestnut, that
something would arise to offset that blight. And we’re starting to see that.”


Frost put it this way: “Will the blight end the chestnut? The farmers rather guess
not, It keeps smoldering at the roots And sending up new shoots Till another
parasite Shall come to end the blight.”


Seems Frost was an optimist too.


For the Environment Report, this is Lester Graham.

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Coast Guard Scraps Live Fire Plan

The U.S. Coast Guard has abandoned its plan to conduct “live fire” weapons training on the Great Lakes. Steve Carmody has more:

Transcript

The U.S. Coast Guard has abandoned its plan to conduct “live fire” weapons training on the Great Lakes. Steve Carmody has more:


The Coast Guard had wanted to establish 34 “live fire” zones across the Great Lakes. The proposal ran into opposition partly involving concerns over the potential environmental impact.


Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak says thousands of rounds of spent ammunition would have been dumped onto the bottom of the Great Lakes.

“We’re not going to let the Coast Guard dump 7,000 pounds of lead in the Great Lakes. No other industry could do it, so they certainly were not going to be allowed to do it. And, they still really haven’t answered the real basic question, ‘why is it necessary to do it now?'”


In a written statement, the Coast Guard said it would reconsider its “live fire” proposal, including the location of water training areas and the use of “environmentally friendly alternatives to the lead ammunition” currently used.

Congressman Stupak says it will probably be several years before the Coast Guard tries to put forward a new “live fire” proposal.


For the Environment Report, I’m Steve Carmody.

Regs to Force Cleaner Lawn Mower Engines

A leading maker of small engines says it can adjust to a clean-air decision regarding sales in California. Chuck Quirmbach reports:

Transcript

A leading maker of small engines says it can adjust to a clean-air decision regarding sales in California. Chuck Quirmbach reports:


The US EPA is letting California require highly polluting small engines to be sold with catalytic converters that cut smog emissions by roughly 40%.


Wisconsin-based engine maker Briggs and Stratton, and politicians who represent some communities with Briggs factories, had fought California’s regulation. They contended it would be hard to make one set of engines for California and another for the rest of the country.


But company vice-president Tom Savage says Briggs has been anticipating the regulation and can handle it through segregating the firm’s inventory.


“Most of our products are sold through the big boxes. There are systems set up so that we can get inventory to the right spot.”


Savage says they’d already been expecting the EPA to require tougher pollution controls on small engines nationwide over the next one to five years.


For The Environment Report, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.

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Mpg Window Stickers to Change in 2008

There’s going to be a change to the sticker that tells you the estimated gas mileage on a new vehicle. Dustin Dwyer reports that the US Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out the change in an effort to make the estimates more accurate:

Transcript

There’s going to be a change to the sticker that tells you the estimated gas mileage on a new vehicle. Dustin Dwyer reports that the US Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out the change in an effort to make the estimates more accurate:


The US EPA has used the same standard to test for gas mileage since 1984.


Bill Warem is with the Agency. He says the tests were only done at room temperature, they didn’t include using the air conditioner, and they didn’t include fast accelerations.


Warem says that hardly reflects real world driving conditions.


“Our concern with the methods that were previously used is they were not as accurate as they could be in estimating typical mileage that a consumer would expect to get from a new car that you purchase.”


Warem says the new way of testing for mileage will show up on stickers for 2008 vehicles.


He says the estimated miles-per-gallon for the average car is expected to drop by about 12%.


For the Environment Report, I’m Dustin Dwyer.

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