Thursday, August 23, 2007

Judge rules Klamath toxin case against energy company can proceed

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A federal judge has denied an energy company's request to dismiss a lawsuit claiming its dams cause pollution lethal to fish in a river along the California-Oregon border that once brimmed with salmon.
The suit was filed against Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp by a group of Klamath River tribal leaders, salmon fishermen, business owners and environmentalists in U.S. District Court in Northern California. The plaintiffs accuse the company of operating two California dams in a way that causes toxic algae blooms.
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Friday that the suit can go forward, though he also wrote that he did not have the authority to require PacifiCorp to immediately alter its dam operations while the case is heard.
In the company's motion to dismiss, lawyers for PacifiCorp argued that the algae in question is common in the Klamath River basin and other watersheds throughout California.
The Klamath was once the West Coast's third-biggest producer of salmon, but last year federal fisheries managers practically shut down commercial salmon fishing after the third straight year of poor returns of wild chinook. Opponents have long pushed for the dams' removal as a remedy to the salmon decline.
© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

San Bernardino County, Calif., will account for greenhouse-gas emissions

One of the largest, fastest-growing, most sprawl-happy counties in the U.S. will have to measure its greenhouse-gas emissions and set targets for reducing them by 2010, according to a legal settlement announced Tuesday.
California's San Bernardino County had been sued by State Attorney General Jerry Brown after county officials updated a 25-year growth plan without accounting for emissions. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the settlement, and enviros crossed their fingers that the ruling will set a precedent for other counties and municipalities to limit sprawl and create denser communities. Because driving a mile to borrow a cup of sugar just seems silly.

World: WHO Warns of Accelerating Spread of Infectious Diseases

August 23, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- In it's annual report, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that new infectious diseases are emerging at an unprecedented rate around the world -- and spreading faster than ever. Thomson Prentice, who edited the WHO report, says it is intended as a wake-up call to governments around the world. "In the last 20 or 30 years there has been an average of one new disease -- often a fatal and very difficult to treat disease -- emerging every year," he says. Some of these illnesses have become household words, like HIV/AIDS and severe acute respiratory syndrome, better-known by its acronym SARS -- both of them unknown three or four decades ago. Other new diseases are more obscure but even more lethal, like Marburg fever.

Population, Climate Trends To Blame

The WHO says there are several reasons why new diseases are emerging so often. The population boom in developing countries means human beings are settling in many previously wild areas, disturbing natural habitats and clearing a path for new viruses to emerge. In addition, warmer weather is carrying some tropical diseases northward to more temperate countries. Also, the improper use of antibiotics means old scourges like tuberculosis are reemerging as public health threats, in strains that are more resistant to treatment.

Globalization Of Disease

But what really concerns scientists at the WHO is the global boom in air travel. More than 2 billion people per year now travel by air. In the words of the WHO report, it means "an outbreak or epidemic in one part of the world is only a few hours away from becoming an imminent threat somewhere else." That was illustrated recently by the case of an American lawyer, diagnosed with a highly resistant strain of tuberculosis, who caused an international health alert after he flew on a trans-Atlantic flight. "That sort of thing, fortunately, is fairly rare. But it makes a good point that there is the potential for even just one individual traveling between countries, carrying an infectious disease, to be a threat to others and to cause an alarm or a potential crisis in another country," Prentice notes. "If we go back three or four years to the outbreak of SARS in Asia, again the outbreak was largely spread by passengers on a particular aircraft [who were] traveling," he says. "Some other passengers on the same plane were infected. And by the time they got off the plane at their destination airport, that disease had become international." Prentice says the WHO report is aimed at government health authorities around the world, to urge them to improve their monitoring of infectious diseases and to report outbreaks as soon as they happen. "The idea that you can control a disease by closing down the borders just won't work anymore," he says. Every country has a global responsibility when it comes to stopping the spread of infectious diseases, as scientists work on cures to eliminate these new threats.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Climate Camp at Heathrow Airport

Ah! It takes me back to the old days when I was a protester at England's Greenham Common peace camp.
The controversial Climate Camp at London's Heathrow Airport kicks off today, with as many as 2,000 people expected to attend at its height. The weeklong protest is aimed at airport officials' plans to build a new runway, and at the role of aviation in climate change. "Aviation emissions aren't even part of our climate budget ... and for that reason the government has just given the aviation industry a green light to expand when the rest of us are being told we have to reduce our emissions," said one Greenpeace campaigner. Organizers are planning trainings, debates, and direct actions. With rumors spreading that the protesters plan to unleash bomb hoaxes, anxious airport officials and as many as 1,800 police are on guard. But the campers -- who surmounted an injunction leveled against them earlier this month -- say their aims are peaceful. "This isn't just about people's freedom to fly," said one, "this is about people's freedom to live on a planet that has a future."

Water's disappearing at an alarming rate

It could be a summer of record lows in two of the world's iconic places: the Great Lakes and the Arctic seas. Water levels in Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior are well below normal, and Superior could soon hit a record low set in 1926. The U.S. and Canada have undertaken a five-year study that could shed sloooow light on the situation, which has been blamed on climate change, rainfall patterns, and human activities like dredging. "I think we found that all of those contributed to some degree," said Robert Nairn, principal of an engineering firm that has studied the issue. "The big question that remains is how much is each contributing." In the Arctic, measurements made last week by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center found sea ice extent nearly 30 percent below the long-term average. With a month of melting season left, scientists say, a new record will likely be set. Says Mark Serreze of NSIDC, "We cannot explain everything that we have seen just through natural processes."

Friday, August 10, 2007

I used to be a cheating bastard

A remarkable British design company has launched a line of recycled products that proudly announce what they used to be. We only wish future boyfriends came so clearly marked. (from the folks at Daily Grist Magazine. Check out their fashion finds, made from recycled materials).

Support Smart Transportation in the Bay Area

Bay Area commuters spend a lot of time stuck in gridlock, ranking behind only Los Angeles in total hours lost in congestion. But local transportation planners have proposed an innovative new transportation program, San Francisco Bay Area Accelerate, designed to reduce gridlock and cut global warming pollution.

This innovative package earned San Francisco a slot as 1 of 9 finalist cities in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Urban Partnership Agreement program. Under this program, the U.S. Transportation Department will award $1.2 billion in federal funds to support projects that cut traffic congestion and pollution by better pricing and managing existing roads, improving transit, and supporting telework. The final awards will be announced any day.

The San Francisco Bay Area Accelerate program calls for congestion pricing to be implemented along Doyle Drive -- the road linking downtown San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The city also plans to adopt additional congestion pricing measures through a regional network of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes focusing primarily on the areas of Silicon Valley and Tri-Valley/Sunol.

To supplement these pricing strategies and provide alternative commutes for drivers, bus rapid transit will be offered along several routes toward downtown and also along I-580. Additionally, bus routes into the city will be able to travel along transit-preferential streets that include traffic signal prioritization for transit, more accessible boarding areas, and transit-only lanes.

The city also seeks to employ a new "Smart" Parking Management program which would include a parking guidance system to direct drivers towards free spaces and dynamically priced parking which would charge higher fees for parking in premium spaces during busy hours.

Finally, San Francisco plans to update their traffic information system to give commuters real time traffic reports and help them avoid congested periods.

This plan is a big step in the right direction and we'd like to ask you to help send a message of thanks to key decision-makers.

Send message today.