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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

EPA's Gas Drilling Tipline

EPAAnnounces “Eyes on Drilling” Tipline

PHILADELPHIA (January 26, 2010) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the creation of the “Eyes on Drilling” tipline for citizens to report non-emergency suspicious activity related to oil and natural gas development.

The agency is asking citizens to call 1-877-919-4EPA (toll free) if they observe what appears to be illegal disposal of wastes or other suspicious activity. Anyone may also send reports by email to eyesondrilling@epa.gov. Citizens may provide tips anonymously if they don’t want to identify themselves.

In the event of an emergency, such as a spill or release of hazardous material, including oil, to the environment, citizens are advised to call thelacename National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

Public concern about the environmental impacts of oil and natural gas drilling has increased in recent months, particularly regarding development of the Marcellus Shale formation where a significant amount of activity is occurring. While EPA doesn’t grant permits for oil and gas drilling operations, there are EPA regulations which may apply to the storage of petroleum products and drilling fluids. The agency is also very concerned about the proper disposal of waste products, and protecting air and water resources.

EPA wants to get a better understanding of what people are experiencing and observing as a result of these drilling activities. The information collected may also be useful in investigating industry practices.

The agency works closely with state and local officials, as well as industry and public interest groups, to ensure that oil and natural gas drilling occurs in a manner which is protective of human health and the environment and complies with applicable laws. The agency is also counting on concerned citizens to report unusual or suspicious activity related to drilling operations.

EPA is asking citizens to report the location, time and date of such activity, as well as the materials, equipment and vehicles involved and any observable environmental impacts.

The Marcellus Shale geologic formation contains one of the largest mostly untapped reserves of natural gas in the United States. It underlies significant portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York, and smaller portions of Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky.

Interest in developing Marcellus Shale has increased
because recent improvements in natural gas extraction technology and higher energy prices now make recovering the gas more profitable.

Operators produce this gas through a process called hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fracking requires drilling a well thousands of feet below the land’s surface and pumping down the well under pressure millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals to fracture the shale.

The process allows the gas trapped in the formation to flow to the well bore. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the fluid flows back to the surface. This “flowback” fluid consists of fracking fluid and brines which contain dissolved minerals from the formation.

Operators are urged to recycle their flowback water for reuse in the fracking process, but some of the flowback is taken offsite for disposal. Chemicals used in the process are often stored on-site. Spills can occur when utilizing these chemicals or when transporting or storing wastewater, which can result in the contamination of surface water or ground water, which is used for many purposes including drinking water.

Instructions for the tipline can be found at:

Trout Unlimited Announces Succession Plan

For Immediate Release:

Chris Wood named CEO of nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization
Arlington, Va.--Trout Unlimited (TU), the nation's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, announced that Chris Wood, currently TU's Chief Operating Officer, will become Chief Executive Officer on February 1. He will succeed Charles Gauvin, who has been TU's CEO since 1991.

Trout Unlimited's board of trustees approved the succession plan at its meeting last week in Washington, D.C. The goal of the succession plan is to ensure that TU continues to execute its mission of protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds.

"Charles Gauvin and Chris Wood are two of the nation's finest conservation leaders," said Oakleigh Thorne, chair of TU's board of trustees. "It is a testament to the organization's strength that we can select a new leader from within the staff and not have to look outside," Thorne said.

Gauvin will join TU's board of trustees and will serve as senior counsel.

"TU is the nation's most effective conservation organization," Gauvin said. Its work in securing water flows, organizing sportsmen to protect public lands, and restoring degraded river systems is without peer, and I am proud of the role I played over the past two decades in helping to build it into what it is today."

When Gauvin was named CEO in 1991 at the age of 34, TU's budget was $2.5 million and it had approximately 50,000 members. There was just one staff person who worked on conservation issues. Under Gauvin's leadership, the organization has grown to 140,000 members with an operating budget in excess of $26 million and a professional staff of over 130.

Thorne said, "Charles Gauvin built TU into the conservation powerhouse that it is today. The board, the membership and the staff owe him an extraordinary debt of gratitude for his work and service."

Wood came to TU in 2001 after serving as the senior policy and communications advisor to U.S. Forest Service chief Mike Dombeck during the Clinton administration. Since arriving at TU, Wood has helped form partnerships to clean up abandoned mines with companies such as Tiffany&Co. and worked with various sportsmen organizations to protect iconic landscapes such as the Wyoming Range and Idaho's backcountry roadless areas.

Wood graduated from Middlebury College and lives and coaches Little League baseball in Washington D.C. He and his wife, Betsy, have three sons, Wylie, Casey and Henry Trace.

"I will continue to work with Chris by helping raise resources for key elements of the TU strategic plan," said Gauvin. "Chris played a leading role in developing the plan and positioning TU for the growth required to implement the plan. I'm pleased that I will be able to play a supporting role as Chris prepares to take TU to the next level," Gauvin stated.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New York Closes Black Sea Bass Fishery

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Following Federal Action, New York Closes Recreational Black Sea Bass Fishery

Feds Limit Fishing to June, September Only

In response to a federal action, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has immediately closed recreational fishing for black sea bass with the exception of a 2-month window, Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.

The emergency, temporary closure follows actions by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission to strictly limit harvesting of the species and to limit the 2010 season to only two months: June and September. New York State is a participating member state to the Mid-Atlantic Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).

Preliminary data from the 2009 federal recreational fishing survey indicated that Atlantic coastal states harvested well in excess of the black sea bass limit for the year. On Oct. 5, 2009, NOAA closed recreational fishing for black sea bass in federal waters for 180 days, a ban that could be extended an additional 180 days. In December, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and ASMFC voted to require states to shut down the recreational black sea bass fishery in states' waters and impose the two-month season.

"New York has little choice but to severely limit black sea bass fishing in state waters at this time," Commissioner Grannis said. "If we don't, the state could face stiff sanctions, which could include the complete closure of its recreational and commercial black sea bass fisheries for all of 2010."

Commissioner Grannis, however, noted that last week ASMFC recommended increasing the black sea bass quota for 2010, which could result in extending the season beyond the current two-month limit. Should NOAA accept the recommendation, the commissioner said it is likely there will be favorable changes to the fishing season in New York.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Atlantic Sturgeon Could be Listed as Endagered

January 7, 2010
NOAA Considers Listing Atlantic Sturgeon as Endangered or Threatened

Agency accepting public comment
NOAA’s Fisheries Service today announced that it will consider listing Atlantic sturgeon as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The agency received a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council in October 2009, requesting that the species be listed throughout its range.

NOAA has been evaluating the need to list the species since 2007, when a formal status review was completed for the species by a team of biologists from NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The latest status review, which identified five Atlantic sturgeon populations off the U.S. East Coast, found that the most significant threats to the species’ continued survival were unintended catch, vessel strikes, poor water quality, lack of regulatory mechanisms for protecting the fish, and dredging. It also recommended that specific sturgeon populations centered in the New York Bight, Chesapeake Bay and off the Carolinas should be listed, but made no particular recommendation on listing those in the Gulf of Maine and the south Atlantic.

Along with today’s action accepting the petition to list this species, NOAA is soliciting any new information about the status of these populations that may have been developed since the review was concluded in 2007.

Atlantic sturgeon are large, slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived, estuary-dependent fish that are born and spawn in fresh water, and spend the majority of their lives in salt water. Historically, their range included most major estuary and river systems from Labrador to Florida. Atlantic sturgeon populations have been found in 35 U.S. rivers, and spawning is believed to occur in at least 20 of these.

Historic catch records indicate that these fish were once abundant, supporting important colonial fisheries. The first major U.S. commercial fishery for them developed in the late 19th century, when demand grew for sturgeon caviar. This lasted until the 1950s, with landings peaking in 1890. The commercial fishery collapsed in 1901 when landings were about 10 percent of the peak, declining to even less later. Catching the fish was prohibited in 1998 by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and it is currently illegal to fish for, catch or keep Atlantic sturgeon from U.S. waters.

An Endangered Species listing would increase protection for the sturgeon by making it illegal to "take" (harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or attempt to do these things) the species, in addition to the current prohibition on catching it. Similar prohibitions usually extend to threatened species.

You may submit comments, information or data, identified by the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN), 0648-XT28, by any of the following methods:

Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Mail: Assistant Regional Administrator,
Protected Resources Division, NOAA Fisheries, Northeast Regional Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930 (for Atlantic sturgeon populations occurring in the Northeast); or Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (for Atlantic sturgeon populations occurring in the Southeast). Facsimile (fax): 978-281-9394 (for Atlantic sturgeon populations occurring in the Northeast); 727-824-5309 (for Atlantic sturgeon populations occurring in the Southeast).

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

Monday, January 04, 2010

National Saltwater Angler Registry

New program, part of improved data collection system, to help protect nation’s ocean resources

Saltwater recreational fishermen have long expressed concerns about the data used to estimate the effects of recreational fishing on ocean resources and the nation’s economy. The National Saltwater Angler Registry, which launches on Friday, will help address that concern by providing a comprehensive list of the nation’s saltwater anglers that will be used to improve surveys of fishermen. These surveys are used by NOAA scientists to assess the health of fish stocks and to estimate the economic contributions of anglers.

Many saltwater recreational fishermen will be required to register before fishing in 2010. The registry is open for registrations starting Friday, January 1. But if you have a state saltwater fishing license, you may already be part of the registry.

“By registering, recreational anglers will make their catch count," said Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “The National Saltwater Angler Registry is an important tool that will enable us to better estimate the health of marine fisheries so that we’re able to preserve the pastime of recreational saltwater fishing for generations to come."

“Recreational fishers need the registry,” says Capt. Monty Hawkins, a party boat operator and recreational fishing advocate based in Ocean City, Md. “People’s lives depend on the quality of the government’s information. It’s the basis for management decisions on everything from creel limits to whether to shut down whole sections of the coast. I’ve been harshly critical of recreational fishing data in the past, but I welcome the registry as a way to improve upon the current system."

Gordon Colvin, a biologist with NOAA’s Fisheries Service and interim senior policy advisor on recreational fishing to Balsiger, who has spearheaded the registry implementation, said that many anglers will not need to take any action to register, because their coastal states already have agreements in place with NOAA to share state saltwater fishing license information.

Who Needs to Register:

Recreational saltwater fishermen will need to register if they:

• Hold a license from one of 10 coastal states or territories which do not currently have comprehensive saltwater angler license or registration requirements—Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

• Fish for or are likely to catch anadromous species in tidal and salt waters; these are fish like river herring, shad, smelt and striped bass that live in the oceans but spawn in fresh water, OR

• Fish in the federal waters more than three miles from the ocean shore or from the mouths of rivers or bays
Who Doesn’t Need to Register

Some anglers don’t have to register if they:

• Hold a license from one of 15 coastal states with comprehensive licensing or registration — Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Washington;

• Are not required under state law in one of these 15 states to hold a fishing license as is sometimes the case with seniors or active-duty military;

• Are under age 16;

• Pay to fish on licensed charter, party or guide boats;

• Hold a Highly Migratory Species Angling permit or subsistence fishing permit;

• Fish commercially under a valid license.

National Saltwater Angler registration is free in 2010. To register beginning Friday, anglers can visit http://www.countmyfish.noaa.gov and click on the Angler Registry link, or call the toll-free registration line at 1-888-MRIP411 (1-888-674-7411) from 4:00 am to 12 midnight EST daily.

Anglers will need to provide their name, date of birth, address and telephone number, and will receive a registration number that will allow them to begin fishing immediately. They will receive a registration card in the mail in about 30 days.

Steve Medeiros, executive director of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association and a leading advocate for a saltwater fishing license in his state, said the registry is an important step. “While it’s true that some fishermen don’t like the idea of having to register to participate in a sport they’ve taken for granted their whole lives, anyone fishing today knows that increasing pressures on the ocean are having a real effect,” he said. “If we’re going to pass the sport down to our children and grandchildren, we’re going to need sound management based on good data.”

The registry will be used as the basis for conducting surveys of saltwater recreational fishermen to find out how often they fish. It will eventually replace the use of random-digit dialing to coastal households, a system NOAA has had in place since the 1970s. The goal is to improve survey efficiency and reduce bias by making calls only to homes where people fish, and reaching saltwater anglers who live outside coastal counties.

While the registry is among the most visible aspects of NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program, it is only one component of this rigorous multi-year, multi-phased overhaul of the system NOAA uses to collect and report recreational fishing data. Each piece of its design and implementation has been guided by close working relationships among NOAA personnel, fisheries managers, state partners, independent scientists and the recreational fishing community.

Recreational fishermen should also remember that regardless of whether an individual is registered with NOAA, they must obey all state regulations and licensing requirements where they are fishing.
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at http://www.noaa.gov and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/noaa.lubchenco.
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