AmeriScan: August 8, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, August 8, 2001 (ENS) - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman is ready to scale back a Clinton era initiative to reduce emissions from coal fired power plants that add new capacity, "after intense lobbying by the utility and refinery industries," the Washington Post reported today. The Next week, the EPA is expected to present to President George W. Bush its proposal to roll back requirements for expensive new pollution control equipment under the New Source Review (NSR) program.

Now a coalition of industries, led by the National Association of Manufacturers, is seeking a similar easing of enforcement. The industry coalition, which includes the chemical, steel, pulp and paper, and automobile industries, has written to Whitman saying that the "NSR related problems identified by electric utilities and refineries are common to all industry sectors."

In an August 3 letter to Bush administration officials made public by the Washington based non-profit group Clean Air Trust, the industries ask her to "ensure that the Administration's review of the New Source Review (NSR) program addresses the impact on energy production, efficiency and environmental protection at the 22,000 industrial facilities affected by NSR."

"By encouraging outlaw electric power companies to believe they can get a break, Whitman has set off a polluter feeding frenzy," charged Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air Trust, who notes that the nation's capital is suffering under a "code red" smog alert today.

The letter is signed by the National Association of Manufacturers, Air Permit Forum, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Clean Air Implementation Project, American Chemical Council, American Iron and Steel Institute, Flexible Packaging Association, American Forest and Paper Association and the National Environmental Development Association's Clean Air Regulatory Project.

It explains that the manufacturing sector includes petrochemicals, aerospace, consumer products, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, mining, electronics, automobiles, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, food processing, forest products and paper, printing, turbines, flexible packaging, and other industries. "These plants consume significant amounts of energy and, in certain instances, also produce a significant amount of energy for use in manufacturing and by the public. New source review regulations block energy efficiency improvements and have a negative impact on price and supply of natural gas, electricity, coal and oil in regional and national markets."

Without verifying her decision to weaken NSR requirements, Whitman said Tuesday that if there is a way to make the New Source Review program more efficient and effective, she is interested.

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, August 8, 2001 (ENS) - A year long drought is making life tough in Pennsylvania. State Environmental Protection Secretary David Hess today issued a drought watch for 23 counties in Central Pennsylvania. He urged residents with private wells to conserve water.

"We’ve been experiencing below-normal precipitation across the state since August 2000, and well levels are continuing to drop off," Hess said. "We need residents across the state, but especially in Central Pennsylvania, to voluntarily conserve water as we head into the dog days of summer."

"Homeowners on private wells don’t have the same reliability of their water supply as those using a public system," Secretary Hess said. "When their wells run dry, there is no backup supply. So they need to be especially concerned about conserving water."

A drought watch is the first of the three drought stages under the state's drought operating plan. It calls for a voluntary five percent reduction of nonessential water use. A drought warning, the second stage, calls for a 10 to 15 percent voluntary reduction in water consumption, and a drought emergency, the third and most severe stage, imposes mandatory restrictions on water use. The drought emergency requires a declaration by Governor Tom Ridge followed by action by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council.

The state is asking residents not to water lawns, to run appliances with full loads, to take shorter showers and shut off the water when shaving or brushing teeth.

In July, revisions to the state’s drought regulations were finalized, marking the greatest changes in 10 years. Stuart Gansell, director of the state's Bureau of Watershed Management, was named as the drought coordinator. The revisions allow the regulations to be effective all year across the state, rather than only in a declared emergency area. Nonessential water use bans will only be effective during a declared drought emergency as before.

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BOISE, Idaho, August 8, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is warning the public to beware of the deadly poison Compound 1080 in the backcountry of central Idaho. The poison, one of the world's deadliest substances, was spread by people determined to eradicate endangered gray wolves from the wilderness.

On the other side of the wolf battle, volunteers from across the country have traveled to central Idaho to protect gray wolves in the Sawtooth Mountains. The Wolf Guardians, organized and equipped by the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, are camping near herds of sheep in the backcountry. If wolves prey on sheep, they can be legally trapped and killed or gunned down from helicopters by federal animal control officers.

The volunteers shout, sing, and bang pots and pans to chase the wolves away. An electronic device activated by signals from radio collars on the wolves makes noise and flashes strobe lights across meadows where sheep are gathered for protection. Blasting over loudspeakers are the sounds of gangland gunfire, horses running, shotguns blasting, glass breaking, dogs barking and horns honking. The wolves flee for their lives.

Defenders of Wildlife says wolves are flourishing in central Idaho six years after 35 were relocated from Canada. At last official count, 191 were roaming the mountains.

But with their rising numbers, wolves are confronting new threats. Political opposition in Boise is strong. This year, the Idaho Legislature adopted a resolution calling for the removal of all wolves from Idaho "by whatever means necessary."

At least four wolves have been killed by the banned poison Compound 1080, for which there is no antidote. The Environmental Protection Agency has warned that it can also kill hikers or family dogs. Defenders of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have posted a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Carter Niemeyer, who coordinates the Idaho wolf recovery program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, credits the Wolf Guardians with helping ease some of the traditional hatred of wolves and other predators in Idaho. Defenders of Wildlife also compensates ranchers at market value for the loss of livestock to wolves.

"I think this situation demonstrates cooperation between the New West and the Old West," Niemeyer says. "The owner of the sheep has put some trust in the volunteers and given them latitude to help protect his sheep. The volunteers support wolf recovery and are giving their time and energy for a worthwhile cause. Maybe the solution is labor intensive, but let's try something new. Engaging in cooperation is better than engaging in conflict."

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 8, 2001 (ENS) - San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has appointed a new head for the city's Department of the Environment who has worked with some of the nation's top conservation organizations.

Attorney Jared Blumenfeld comes to the post from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), where he was director of the Habitat Preservation program. He led IFAW's successful campaign to stop Mitsubishi Corporation from building a salt factory in Baja's San Ignacio Lagoon, the winter calving grounds for the gray whale.

Prior to his work at IFAW, Blumenfeld was executive director for Earth Summit Watch, a project of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and worked with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now EarthJustice) to document links between human rights and the environment.

"The city's Environment Department is responsible for making sure that we leave a better Bay Area for future generations, so it's vital that its director is willing to fight for what's right," said Mayor Brown. "Our legacy depends on our continued commitment to environmental conservation, protection and restoration, and I'm confident that Jared will take us in the right direction."

The San Francisco Department of the Environment was created through the charter reform measures adopted by voters in 1995, and started operation in late 1996 with sustainable development activist Beryl Magilavy at the helm.

In 1999 Environment Commission President Francesca Vietor, who traces her environmental roots to Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network, was appointed to succeed Magilavy who resigned. The Department has subsequently claimed a series of environmental wins for the city including reducing overall pesticide use by over 50 percent, increasing the number of alternative fuel vehicles used by the City, launching a first of its kind municipal green building program, and a program for improving small business energy efficiency.

"I am excited to be returning home to San Francisco, one of the world's true natural treasures," said Blumenfeld, who takes up his new responsibilities on September 3. "The city has been at the vanguard of the environmental movement for generations, and nowhere else on earth will you find a more environmentally aware and active public than in San Francisco. But there is still much to be done."

"I am certain that together we can help to resolve serious environmental justice issues in the City's southeast neighborhoods, erosion problems at Ocean Beach, and potentially catastrophic loss of natural habitat," he said. "Together we can make San Francisco the greenest city on the planet!"

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KING GEORGE, Virginia, August 8, 2001 (ENS) - Marking only the second time that private land in Virginia has been dedicated for preservation, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley, Jr. announced that along the Potomac River, 1,431 acres of shoreline will be preserved as the result of efforts by nonprofit and agency partners.

The land contains hardwood forests, eagle habitat, farm fields, creeks and marshes. Conservation easements that prohibit future subdivision of a privately owned farm, limit development of buildings and allow continued agricultural usage have been acquired by the state.

In addition, 1,107 acres have been dedicated as a Virginia Natural Area Preserve and 35 acres of pasture will be restored to wetlands. The land remains in private ownership and is not open to the public.

The agreement with the landowner, James Nash, was negotiated by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, which orchestrated a partnership of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and the Army Corps of Engineers.

"This is a tremendously significant piece of property," said Woodley. "When combined with Caledon Natural Area, five miles of Potomac River shoreline and more than 4,000 acres of forest, farmland and marshes have been preserved as prime American Bald Eagle habitat. These preservation actions also move us closer to meeting the land preservation goals set in the new Chesapeake Bay Agreement."

This 4,000 acre area is one of the best summering spots for the American bald eagle on the east coast, with more than 60 eagles spotted at one time. The property has approximately 350 acres of open fields and pasture. The remainder is a mix of upland and bottomland hardwood forests and approximately 250 acres of tidal marshes along Chotank Creek. The farm also has three eagle nests, all active last year.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation and Chesapeake Bay Foundation will monitor and enforce the easements. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will develop and implement a resource management plan for the newly established, 1,107-acre Chotank Creek Natural Area Preserve. The Nature Conservancy, using funds from the Virginia Wetlands Restoration Trust Fund administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will restore approximately 35 acres of pasture into wetlands.

"We are pleased to have been able to bring together many partners to make this important conservation transaction possible and are grateful to Mr. Nash and his family for ensuring the permanent protection of this important property," said Debi Osborne, Chesapeake Field Office director for the Trust for Public Land. "Protecting this important property preserves not only land of local and historical significance, but also protects the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay watershed."

Nash has lived on the property since the early 1940s and has long been interested in preservation efforts. Beginning in the early 1980s, Nash served on the task force appointed by then Governor Charles Robb, to develop a management plan for Caledon Natural Area. He hopes to establish a private foundation to own and manage the land in future generations. "I hope that this may become a living educational example," he said.

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EUGENE, Oregon, August 8, 2001 (ENS) - Conservationists in Oregon and California today filed a lawsuit to ensure that minimal water deliveries to the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges are met to sustain the refuges' 1,100 wintering bald eagles.

The Oregon Natural Resources Council, WaterWatch of Oregon, Northcoast Environmental Center and Golden Gate Audubon Society filed suit in federal court over the Bush administration's failure to begin mandated water deliveries to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge as required by the federal Endangered Species Act.

"We have tried very hard to negotiate a solution to this crisis and avoid a lawsuit," said Wendell Wood, Southern Oregon Field Representative for the Oregon Natural Resources Council. "The eagles need water now, and we will not stand by and watch our country's national symbol be harmed."

In July, water control officials began releasing approximately 75,000 acre feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake for irrigation after desperate farmers cut the gates holding the water back from their lands. Interior Secretary Gale Norton said not enough water is available to go to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.

"This could be a win-win situation. Farmers could receive some water and the eagles and refuges could also get their fair share," said Steve Pedery of WaterWatch of Oregon. "Unfortunately, the Bush administration has chosen an all-or-nothing scenario which could sentence a thousand bald eagles to death."

On April 5, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a formal Biological Opinion requiring that the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge receive 32,255 acre feet of water, concluding that up to 1,100 bald eagles could be adversely affected if the refuge does not receive water.

The Biological Opinion states that if there is extra water in Upper Klamath Lake, the government "shall provide water to the Lower Klamath NWR [National Wildlife Refuge] for use in the maintenance of wetlands and other habitats and associated waterfowl populations necessary to support wintering bald eagles."

The Biological Opinion states that the requirement that extra water go to the refuges and eagles is "nondiscretionary," and must be followed to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Despite the strong "nondiscretionary" language in the Biological Opinion, the federal government is currently ignoring this requirement and letting the wildlife refuge go dry, the conservationists point out.

The 32,255 acre feet of water that was to be provided to the refuge would accommodate 125,000 waterfowl, about six percent of the refuge's 1.8 million birds. Yet even that water is being withheld. A trickle of water has been sent to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge by Pacifcorp, giving birds there a brief reprieve.

Ninety percent of the Klamath Basin's bald eagles feed exclusively on the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, which was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The Klamath Basin, attracts 80 percent of the Pacific Flyway's waterfowl and supports the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states.

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ATLANTA, Georgia, August 8, 2001 (ENS) - Environmental energy company Sterling Planet has partnered with a Minnesota wind power developer to sell green energy certificates from Minnesota farms to energy buyers across the United States.

The certificates will come first from an existing 320 acre wind farm that produces corn, beans and about 29,000 megawatt hours per year and has been on line since June 1999. The 17 wind turbines generate enough electricity to power 3,700 households.

Dan Juhl, president of DanMar & Associates Inc., developer/operator of Woodstock Windfarms LLC, has joined Sterling Planet, to offer the first nationally available wind energy choice. "This southwest corner of Minnesota is a great area for farming wind power and has commonly been referred to as the Saudi Arabia of wind energy," says Juhl, who has 25 years of experience in wind energy development.

Minnesota family farmers are gaining a new revenue source. Later this year, two farmer owned turbines on two acres will begin producing wind energy at the rate of about 4,400 megawatt hours a year. In 2002, at least five family owned wind projects, each with about two megawatts of capacity, are expected to come on line.

Through Sterling Planet, Juhl and other wind farmers will sell green energy certificates or tickets (1 ticket = 1 megawatthour). These tickets provide financial incentives for the development of new green energy production, create an additional revenue source for green energy producers, and boost demand for green energy in the marketplace.

Juhl has been working with family farmers to diversify their farming operations to produce the new cash crop - wind power. "I always believed that wind would be a great cash crop for farmers, once wind technology advanced and the public became more aware of the environmental impact of producing electricity with coal and other fossil fuels. Now is the right time for wind energy," he said.

Therrell "Sonny" Murphy, Jr., founder, CEO and president of Sterling Planet, said, "These Minnesota wind farm tickets sustain an agrarian lifestyle that has served as the very foundation of our U.S. culture. Environmentally, these farms are producing traditional food crops at ground level and zero-emissions wind energy atop towers in the field. We're excited about this opportunity to benefit these farmers in particular and society overall."

Sterling Planet is the first to offer a 100 percent green energy choice to every household and business in the lower 48 states and the District of Columbia, even in states where electricity markets have not been deregulated. The company's customer base spans 44 states and D.C. By increasing demand for green energy and developing new green energy production, Sterling Planet aims to reduce air pollution and reduce its effects on human health and the environment.

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WASHINGTON, DC, August 8, 2001 (ENS) - All agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use biodiesel and ethanol fuels in their fleet vehicles where practical and cost effective, the USDA announced today. "This new policy shows USDA's support for the National Energy Plan as well as for improving our environmental air quality, the prosperity of the rural economy, and our nation's energy independence," the agency said in a statement.

Biodiesel is a cleaner burning alternative fuel that can be made by refining any natural oils, including vegetable oil, animal fat and spent cooking oil.

"The energy challenges our nation faces today offer tremendous opportunities for agriculture," said Secretary Ann Veneman. "Agriculture can help us solve our energy problems through the production of domestic liquid fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Renewable energy is good for independence, good for farmers, and good for the environment."

All 140 USDA diesel fuel storage tanks nationwide will be filled with blends of 20 percent (B20) or higher biodiesel fuel where practicable and reasonable in costs. The tanks serve about 800 vehicles, including some boats. They also provide fuel for numerous chain saws, generators and other diesel-powered equipment.

Under the new rule, all USDA maintained gasoline fueling facilities will buy and use ethanol blended fuels containing at least 10 percent domestically produced ethanol subject to practicality, availability and price compared with unleaded gasoline.

USDA's over 700 E-85 flex-fuel vehicles will use ethanol fuel where those vehicles operate in geographical areas that offer E-85 fueling stations.

The Henry A. Wallace Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, has demonstrated the feasibility of soy oil based biodiesel as a transportation and heating fuel and has used it in all 150 of its diesel vehicles, from tractors to snowplows, over the past two years.

The Beltsville Center, operated by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), will heat all of its buildings with biodiesel fuel next winter, including the 14 story ARS National Agricultural Library in Beltsville. The decision was made as a result of last winter's successful experiment with heating a dozen buildings.

For the past two years the U.S. Forest Service has used biodiesel in 15 assorted bulldozers, road graders and trucks located at the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota.