AmeriScan: August 10, 2001

EAST COAST TRAFFIC TO EASE WITH POTOMAC BRIDGE UPGRADE

WASHINGTON, DC, August 10, 2001 (ENS) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today announced that the Department has approved an agreement between Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia to rebuild and expand the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge spanning the Potomac River.

"Iím very pleased to see that our Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia colleagues have submitted an ownership and financial plan that we can approve. This project represents a major milestone in our ongoing attack on highway congestion," Mineta said. "The Wilson Bridge is not only a vital interstate link for the Capital Region, but its efficiency has an impact on highway traffic up and down the entire East Coast Corridor."

Easing traffic congestion will reduce air pollution that is causing smog alerts in the nation's capital and most large East Coast cities.

The Wilson Bridge is currently owned by the federal government and after several years of debating, Congress provided $1.586 billion in federal funds to rebuild the bridge with the understanding that Virginia and Maryland would have to agree to own and maintain the bridge.

In the financial plan, the states have agreed to a joint ownership and maintenance plan, and to provide all additional funding to support the total bridge project, which is expected to cost $2.4 billion. The bridge project is expected to be completed by 2011.

The U.S. Department of Transportationís Inspector General has also reviewed the financial plan and believes the agreement reached is fair and reasonable and provides a sound basis for approving construction of the bridge.

"Everyone has acted in the best interests of the taxpayers, demonstrating good stewardship in these complicated negotiations," Secretary Mineta also said. "At a time when megaprojects are deserving of increased scrutiny, I believe the finance plan for the Wilson Bridge project meets the standards of any responsible oversight."

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RHODE ISLAND PHOTO SUPPLY PLANT FINED FOR AIR POLLUTION

BOSTON, Massachusetts, August 10, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today it will seek $376,483 in penalties against Arkwright, a photographic film and paper manufacturer in Rhode Island for violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The decision was made by officials at the EPA's Region 1 office in Boston.

Arkwright is owned by OCE-USA Holding, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois. The plant where the violations occurred is located in Fiskeville, southwest of Providence, Rhode Island.

Wastes resulting from Arkwright's manufacturing process contained volatile organic compounds, (VOCs), which evaporate into the air. The emission of VOCs into the air results in the formation of ground level ozone, or smog.

High concentrations of ozone are known to cause difficulties in breathing, especially for children, asthmatics and people with lung ailments, the EPA said.

Although total emissions have not been established, the emitted chemicals are also known to have various forms of toxic effects at certain levels of exposure, including toxicity to the nervous system, liver, kidneys, reproductive systems, and aquatic life.

During a September 2000 visit to the plant, EPA inspectors discovered the company had not taken the necessary steps to control the emissions of VOCs from tanks and other equipment that contained or contacted these hazardous wastes.

The regulations governing the control of air emissions from hazardous wastes took effect in 1996. At the time of the inspection, EPA officials found no records or other evidence that the company had made the required efforts to control the emissions from that time.

Hazardous waste storage tanks that were supposed to be closed had visible openings, and inspectors using organic vapor monitors recorded VOC emissions at these openings and in their vicinity.

The EPA inspections resulted from a referral by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which had inspected the Arkwright plant and found other RCRA violations. In March, 2000, the company agreed to pay the state $23,000 for these violations.

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ALGAE EATING SEA URCHINS MAY REVERSE CORAL REEF DECLINE

WILMINGTON, North Carolina, August 10, 2001 (ENS) - The first ever laboratory raised sea urchins have been released on an experimental site at Little Grecian Reef in a Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, in one of the first attempts at restoring the health of Atlantic coral reefs.

The sea urchins are critical to coral reef renewal because they eat coral smothering algae. The project is the first phase of an innovative research effort on the part of scientists from two universities and a federal agency who will next attempt to re-seed the reef with lab cultured coral larvae.

Coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and Florida have undergone major degradation over the past two decades.

Among the causes of decline are the loss in 1983 of a once abundant grazing sea urchin. The black long spined sea urchin was almost wiped out over a one year period by an epidemic disease that killed 95 percent of the population throughout the entire region.

This problem was followed a few years later by increasing losses of live coral cover due to elevated seawater temperatures that cause corals to turn stark white before dying. This phenomenon, known as coral bleaching, is thought by some to be one of the first warning signs of global warming.

Without the large numbers of sea urchins to graze the algae down, the reef substrate has become overgrown by fleshy seaweeds instead of the short turfs and crustose coralline algae that characterize healthy coral reefs. The thick cover of seaweeds has prevented tiny coral larvae from recolonizing the reef.

Tom Capo, director of the Experimental Fish Hatchery at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, has worked out the life cycle of the sea urchin and is now working on mass culturing them for restoration. The first batch of laboratory-raised juvenile sea urchins was released last month at an experimental site on Little Grecian Reef.

A major concern is that fish and invertebrate predators will try to eat the spiny youngsters, and the scientists need to learn the best way to reintroduce them to ensure their survival.

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INTENSIVE MONITORING PLANNED FOR PEREGRINE FALCONS

WASHINGTON, DC, August , 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has released a proposed monitoring plan for the American peregrine falcon, which was removed from the endangered species list in 1999.

Once a species is taken off the list, the Endangered Species Act requires that the species be monitored for a minimum of five years.

The proposed monitoring plan recommends that about 20 percent of the known breeding population be monitored once every three years for at least five generations. American peregrine falcons mature at about three years of age, so the monitoring plan proposes to conduct five surveys, once every three years, to detect changes in the population.

"This monitoring program for the peregrine falcon is similar to an annual checkup," said Marshall Jones, acting USFWS director. "We want to make sure that our patients, once released from the intensive care provided by the Endangered Species Act, remain healthy and vital."

Monitoring for a wide ranging species such as the peregrine falcon will be a complex undertaking. The proposed plan designates five geographical regions for surveys.

Each territory would be visited twice, once during late courtship, egg laying, or incubation, and once late in the nesting season. The intent of the first visit would be to verify the presence of a nesting pair; the second visit would be to determine the presence or absence of young.

"We hope that the state wildlife agencies, other federal partners, universities, private ornithological groups, and falcon enthusiasts who played a critical role in the recovery of the peregrine will continue their involvement through the monitoring program," said Jones. "The Service will need the help of its partners and the public in monitoring not only the peregrine falcon, but also other sensitive species."

If at anytime during the monitoring program information indicates that the peregrine needs to be relisted as threatened or endangered, the USFWS can initiate listing procedures.

The proposed monitoring plan is available at: http://endangered.fws.gov/recovery/docs/peregrine_monitoring.pdf

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COFFEE COMPANY PLANTS TREES TO LIMIT GLOBAL WARMING

FORT BRAGG, California, August 10, 2001 (ENS) - How much heat-trapping carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere to bring coffee into the homes and offices of purchaser of Thanksgiving Coffee? Officials of the northern California gourmet coffee company wanted to know, so they asked a non-profit group that measures greenhouse gases to evaluate its operations.

After considering the fuel that goes into the trucks and ships that transport the coffee, the propane that heats the roasters, and the electricity used to run lights and computers, Maryland based Trees for the Future determined that Thanksgiving Coffee was adding 553 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually.

They calculated the amount of carbon dioxide that is released when Thanksgiving's customers brew their coffee - 1,000 tons.

To offset that impact on the climate, Thanksgiving Coffee is partnering with Trees for the Future to plant about 69,000 trees in the East African nation of Ethiopia, where some of the world's best coffee is produced. Trees reduce global warming through photosynthesis, by taking in carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen.

"The partnership with Trees for the Future is just one in a series of initiatives we have embarked upon to make our company more sustainable," says Thanksgiving CEO Paul Katzeff. "We recognize that true sustainability means not causing any harm, so we are continually taking steps to reduce our waste emissions at the source."

"We know that we cannot make up for the full environmental impacts of our operations," Katzeff added, "but we believe that this project will help offset our carbon emissions and have a beneficial effect on the lives of thousands of Ethiopian families."

At a cost of $90 per acre, Thanksgiving Coffee will fund the planting of 21,000 trees the first year. The project will work with a local organization called Beam of Hope, in an area about 80 miles southwest of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. The majority of the money will go to train local leaders in agroforestry techniques.

Since 1970, more than 70 percent of Ethiopia's forests have been lost through burning for fuel and the clearing of land for livestock grazing and agriculture, including coffee production. The newly planted trees will provide fruit, medicines, wildlife habitat, erosion control, shade, and wood.

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PROTECTING HAWAIIAN BIRD WOULD NOT HARM ECONOMY

HONOLULU, Hawaii, August 10, 2001 (ENS) - A draft report analyzing the potential economic impacts that would result from the designation of critical habitat for the endangered Oahu 'elepaio, one of Hawaii's unique forest birds, is now available for public review. The draft report was developed by Decision Analysis, a Hawaii based economic consulting firm.

"The draft economic analysis indicates critical habitat designations for the Oahu 'elepaio would have 'no to modest' economic impact," explained Paul Henson, field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific Islands office.

"Most impacts would be limited to new projects with a federal government connection on critical habitat areas currently unoccupied by 'elepaio or other listed species. No such proposed projects were identified during the analysis," Henson said.

Most of the lands included in the proposed critical habitat units are owned by the state of Hawaii or major private land owners. Most are largely unsuitable for development and occur within mountainous areas of Oahu where existing land use controls already limit development.

Although several areas under military control are included in proposed critical habitat, effects of the designation on military activities are expected to be relatively minor. According to the economic analysis, the designation would likely have "little or no impact on live-fire and maneuver training, helicopter training, storage of munitions or any other military activities or operations," assuming adequate fire controls are in place.

Designation of critical habitat would require the military to consider potential impacts of their activities in critical habitat areas currently unoccupied by 'elepaio.

The report indicates critical habitat designation would have little or no economic impact on game hunting; state parks, botanical gardens, farming operations, communications and tracking facilities, power lines, water systems, hurricane recovery efforts, residential use, and property values.

Small benefits to Hawaii's visitor industry may result from the critical habitat designation as demand increases for bird watching hikes into Oahu's mountains.

A public meeting to discuss the proposed critical habitat designations will be held on August 28, and comments on the draft report will be accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through September 5.

To allow reviewers to comment simultaneously on the draft economic analysis and the proposed rule to designate critical habitat, the deadline for submission of comments on the proposed rule has been extended from August 6 to September 5.

"Since the ins-and-outs of critical habitat can be somewhat confusing, we have scheduled a public meeting during the comment period to answer questions and provide information," Henson said. The meeting will be held at McCoy Pavilion in Ala Moana Park, beginning at 7 pm on August 28.

The Endangered Species Act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider potential economic impacts when determining whether or not to designate critical habitat. If the benefits of excluding an area outweigh the benefits of including it, the Service may exclude an area from critical habitat, unless the exclusion would result in the extinction of the species.

The analysis identifies possible incremental economic impacts and benefits from the proposed critical habitat designation above and beyond the impacts already resulting from the listing of the O'ahu 'elepaio.

The draft economic analysis report and proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the O'ahu 'elepaio are available online at: http://pacificislands.fws.gov/wesa/endspindex.html.

Comments may be submitted to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3-122, Box 50088, Honolulu, Hawaii 96850; or by e-mail to: FW1PIE_OahuElep_crithab@r1.fws.gov