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Policy News Update

May 12, 2006

In this issue: [Contract All : Expand All]

Correction: In the May 12, 2006 Policy News, DDT was incorrectly stated to be a defoliant and destructive to mosquitos' habitat. In fact, DDT directly kills insects by interfering with their nervous systems.

HOUSE APPROPRIATORS SUPPORT CAP ON CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS

The influential House Appropriations Committee went on record in support of addressing global warming through a mandatory cap on U.S. emissions.

The Republican-led panel accepted a nonbinding climate change amendment that endorses capping greenhouse gas emissions as long as the program does not harm the U.S. economy. The amendment also requires participation from international trading partners.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) sponsored the amendment as part of the Fiscal Year 2007 spending bill for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.

The resolution mirrors a Sense of the Senate resolution adopted last summer. Both summarize the scientific view that human activity is raising greenhouse gas concentrations, concluding that those emissions could lead to dangerous changes in the Earth's climate. The resolutions also endorse the concept of an emissions cap as long as such a program does not harm the U.S. economy and also requires participation from international trading partners.

The language brings symbolic value to the issue of climate change, marking the first time both houses of Congress has gone on record in acknowledgement of climate change.

HOUSE BILL WOULD LIFT BAN ON OFFSHORE GAS EXPLORATION

The House Appropriations Committee voted to strip a longstanding congressional prohibition against offshore natural gas exploration.

By a 37-25 vote, the panel approved the amendment from Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) that would eliminate the ban in the Fiscal Year 2007 Interior and Environment spending bill.

The offshore bans covering both U.S. coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico have been renewed annually since 1982 through the Interior appropriations bill. But amid elevated natural gas prices and other energy concerns, lawmakers are under growing pressure to allow wider offshore leasing.

"This moratorium has been in place for more than two decades and for many years it really didn't matter," Peterson said, but high natural gas prices makes removing the language necessary. "Natural gas is the mother's milk of industry left in our country."

Peterson's language would leave the bans on offshore oil exploration in place.

GROUPS PROTEST BLM DRILLING PLANS IN UTAH

Federal plans for oil and gas drilling in and around protected Utah park areas would spoil local scenery and bring machinery noise, dust and lights to an otherwise remote location, the National Park Service and a coalition of environmental groups told the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The groups hope to stop the BLM's plans to put 134 drilling parcels across 440,000 acres up for lease next week in the largest government auction ever held in Utah for oil and gas drilling.

Among the other groups that have filed comments with BLM complaining about the proposed plans are the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Meanwhile, two oil and gas groups and two Utah counties filed complaints asking BLM to offer more drilling parcels than those already authorized.

The fact that the protests are taking place means that the bureau did its job to "protect the places that need protection," Adrienne Babbitt, a BLM spokeswoman, said.

Lee Peacock, the president of the Utah Petroleum Association, said that the nation is "in desperate need of energy." "Everyone wishes we could find oil and gas in nice, easy places, but those places are gone, used up. The oil and gas potential is evolving into more sensitive areas. We have to make a decision as a society to allow the responsible development of oil and gas leases on public lands," he said.

DROUGHT MONITORING BILL MOVES TO HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE

A bill that would establish a national network to forecast and monitor drought conditions is headed to the House Science Committee after the Environment, Technology and Standards Subcommittee approved it in early May.

Sponsored by Reps. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Mark Udall (D-CO), H.R. 5136 would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish and oversee the National Integrated Drought Information System (NDIS). The bill would fund the program through 2012 at a total cost of $104 million.

NIDIS would help U.S. water managers and policymakers "move from a reactive to a more proactive approach to the drought problem," said Chester Koblinsky, who heads NOAA’s Climate Program Office.

The program would draw on information from several agencies, including NOAA, the National Science Foundation, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Agriculture Department. NOAA estimates it would take five or six years to fully implement.

First outlined in a 2004 report written by the Western Governors' Association with NOAA's cooperation, NIDIS would focus on developing an Internet portal for water managers and creating an early warning system to reduce the economic effects of water shortages.

"The strength of our weather information system is the very high accuracy of its short-term predictions," said Kenneth Dierschke, president of the Texas Farm Bureau. "The weakness is that these highly accurate forecasts do little to prepare farmers and ranchers for the impact of extended periods of drought."

U.S. WILL FUND DDT USE IN AFRICAS

The United States will fund the spraying of DDT in Africa's sub-Saharan region, officials said.

Michael Miller, the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau of Global Health for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said that the federal government is "really pretty aggressive" about supporting DDT use against mosquitoes that spread malaria in Africa.

Richard Green, director of the Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition in USAID's global health bureau, added that "we think DDT is an excellent insecticide and that ... it has some advantages over some other insecticides that are available."

DDT is an organochlorine that concentrates in biological systems and is a toxin across a certain range of species of animal. As a pesticide, it is used to defoliate trees and other plants. It has been found to bioaccumulate up the food chain, reaching its greatest concentrations in higher animals such as humans. The United States banned the use of DDT in 1972. It is effective against malaria because it destroys the habitats in which mosquitoes carrying the disease breed.

The pesticide is also one of the "dirty dozen" chemicals banned by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Still, Green said "we think DDT is safe when used correctly and are not aware of any human health risks".

Tanzania announced it will lift its 2004 ban on the use of DDT in order to combat malaria, while Uganda announced in April it will soon begin the controlled spraying of DDT indoors.

Source: Greenwire; National Pesticide Telecommunications Network: DDT Fact Sheet npic.orst.edu/factsheets/ddttech.pdf


Sources: Environment and Energy Daily; Greenwire; The New York Times; Reuters; Washington Post

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