Boots on the Ground, Birds in the Nest
When you think of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Marine Corps probably isn't the first group that comes to mind. But the Corps has proven to be an excellent caretaker for the native plants and animals on its bases. In Hawaii, it has helped raise the population of endangered Hawaiian stilts from 60 birds 22 years ago to 160 today. In March, Maribeth Oakes, the Sierra Club's Lands Program Director, toured three Marine bases in Hawaii, and you can read the journal of her experiences here.
States Crack Down on Mercury
The main source of the toxic mercury pollution in the nation’s waters is coal-fired power plants. Current technologies are capable of 90 percent reductions in mercury emissions. But the federal EPA’s proposed rule on mercury adopts a target of only a 70 percent reduction in mercury emissions—and not until 2018. States are doing much better than this: Pennsylvania and Georgia plan to cut mercury by 80 percent by 2010 and 90 by 2015. In January, Illinois called for 90 percent cuts in the next three years, and northeastern states like Massachusetts and New Jersey are moving toward major reductions in the next four years. To learn more about mercury, go to sierraclub.org/mercury.
The 2006 Green Car of the Year
The Mercury Mariner, a hybrid SUV, has been named Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year. Last year, the Sierra Club helped Ford launch the vehicle. When the Planet grilled Club global warming and clean car expert Dan Becker in our September/October 2005 issue, he told us, “By helping to make the Mercury Hybrid a success, we will encourage Ford to do even more to produce environmentally sound vehicles and turn around their public policy positions.” Maybe this award will help, too. For more, see sierraclub.org/mercurymariner or greencar.com.
Arctic Drilling Thwarted in House
In late March, bipartisan pressure to keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the budget prevailed in the House of Representatives. But the battle rages on, as the Senate earlier that month did include projected Arctic drilling revenues in its budget bill. Now the House and Senate must conference to reconcile their different budget versions, and drilling advocates could reinsert Arctic drilling as the complicated budget process moves forward. To help keep the Arctic Refuge free from drilling, see sierraclub.org/arctic.
Clean Dishes, Cleaner Water
Washington became the first state in the nation to ban residential dishwashing detergents that contain phosphates. A plant nutrient, phosphates create algae blooms that rob underwater ecosystems of oxygen. The law will first take effect in 2008 in Spokane, Whatcom, and Clark counties. Richard Reed, a local Sierra Club activist, was one of the leaders in pushing for the ban. As Rick Eichstadt, a lawyer at the Center for Justice who is representing the Sierra Club in cleanup talks on the Spokane River, explained to the Seattle Times, ”It's a lot cheaper to get it out of the stores than to try to remove it through wastewater-treatment plants.”
Sunny Days in the Land of Enchantment
With the recent passage of the Solar Market Development Act in the New Mexico legislature, the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, and the approval of an energy buyback incentive for customers of the state’s largest utility, New Mexico homeowners and businesses now have myriad financial incentives to purchase photovoltaic systems. The incentives will decrease the “payback time” for grid-tied systems from 100 years to about 25 years. Buyers of solar thermal systems will likewise have both state and federal incentives to invest in this technology. To learn more about clean energy, go to sierraclub.org/vision/energy.asp.
—Timothy Lesle and Tom Valtin
Marines photo by Maribeth Oakes; Mercury Mariner photo courtesy Ford Motor Company; caribou photo by Ken Whitten; illustration by Timothy Lesle
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