AmeriScan: August 20, 2001

ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY CITED FOR NUCLEAR SAFETY VIOLATIONS

WASHINGTON, DC, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - The Department of Energy (DOE) has cited the University of Chicago, operator of the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois, for violations of rules and procedures designed to assure nuclear safety.

The laboratory is exempted from fines required under federal nuclear safety laws. If it were not exempt, the civil penalty associated with the violations would have been $165,000.

The violations took place in October 2000 when there was an uncontrolled release of radon as workers were doing decontamination and decommissioning work at a former nuclear facility. As a result, seven workers received unplanned exposures to radioactive material.

While the radiation doses were well below regulatory limits and do not portend current or future health impacts, the DOE seeks to minimize any radiological exposure to workers.

A Preliminary Notice of Violation issued by the DOE focuses on activities that could serve as precursors to more serious incidents. The laboratory was cited for:

The DOE also cited the University of Chicago's failure to resolve repeated concerns affecting nuclear work and ensuring effective management assessments of its nuclear activities.

In response, Argonne has developed a comprehensive plan which addresses the deficiencies and has implemented 63 corrective actions in areas ranging from hazards identification, training and workplace planning to enhancing the practice of maintaining radiation exposure to "as low as reasonably achievable."

The laboratory is also implementing a program of management assessments expected to be complete by October 31.

The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 requires DOE to undertake regulatory enforcement actions against contractors for violations of DOE's nuclear safety requirements. This enforcement program is designed to impose substantial penalties for minor events, in order to prevent more serious problems.

More information is available at: http://www.eh.doe.gov/enforce

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EMERGENCY FUNDS COMING TO KLAMATH BASIN LANDOWNERS

WASHINGTON, DC, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - Eligible landowners and producers in the Klamath Basin will share in a $20 million emergency payment program to help them cope with ongoing drought and the diversion of irrigation water to aid rare fish.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Friday that payments will begin soon under the $20 million Klamath Basin Water Conservation Program, passed last month as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations bill. The payments by USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation are estimated to range from $90 to $110 per eligible acre.

"In my past experience as a farmer, I understand what it's like to not be able to grow a crop because of drought," said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jim Moseley. "While this program will not make producers whole, it is our hope that it signals this administration's awareness of the plight of producers in the Klamath Basin."

This program is limited to certain eligible irrigated landowners and producers in the Klamath Basin, located in parts of Klamath County, Oregon, and Siskiyou and Modoc Counties, California. The payments will be distributed to eligible owners and operators who did not receive their expected deliveries of irrigation water within the Klamath Basin during the past crop year.

Farmers in the Klamath Basin have been deprived of all of the Klamath River water that they traditionally receive from the federal Bureau of Reclamation, due to a decision by the Interior Department that the water must be reserved for threatened and endangered fish. Under the Endangered Species Act, these fish must receive a guaranteed flow of water in the region's lakes and streams, regardless of the effects on other water users.

To be eligible for compensation, landowners must also agree to promote water conservation methods on their lands in the future. Owners and operators may elect the water conservation measures that best fit their operations.

"USDA intends to process these payments as soon as possible," said Moseley. "It is important that we work to ensure these landowners have these resources available soon to deal with the consequences of scarce water resources."

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IOWA WATER QUALITY TARGETED BY FEDERAL-STATE PARTNERSHIP

DES MOINES, Iowa, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the state of Iowa are launching a $40 million program to address water quality issues related to excess nitrogen.

The goal of the program is to slash the amount of nitrogen, sediment and pesticides that enter the streams and rivers of Iowa while improving wildlife habitat. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman was joined by Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and members of the Iowa Congressional delegation in announcing the partnership on Friday.

"Working together with the leadership in Iowa this program encourages farmers to help conserve Iowa's natural resources," said Veneman. "Reducing runoff contaminates will return our investment many times in healthier wildlife, recreation and cleaner water in the State's rivers and streams."

The Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) will target 9,000 acres in north central Iowa. The program will provide financial incentives to producers to restore wetlands and install riparian buffer practices.

The wetlands portion of the project is designed to take treat surface drain water in artificial wetlands. The wetlands will reduce nitrogen loading of water by 40 percent to 90 percent and improve wildlife habitat in the project area.

The USDA predicts that the wetlands created under this program will reduce the amount of nitrogen loading to streams and rivers by six to 12 million pounds over the next 10 years. This will reduce water treatment costs for the city of Des Moines, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce nitrogen loading to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

The project also calls for the installation of riparian buffers in the Lake Panorama watershed that will reduce sediment by over 80,000 tons per year. The Lake Panorama Watershed Association, a citizen run program, has provided private funds to install the buffers.

The total cost of the program is expected to reach $40 million over 15 years. Of that amount, $31 million will come from the USDA, $7 million from the state of Iowa, and the Lake Panorama Association is providing $2 million.

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$8.2 MILLION BENEFITS YELLOWSTONE REGION LAND CONSERVATION

NEW YORK, New York, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) has pledged $8.2 million towards a comprehensive, multi-year program to promote land conservation in the Greater Yellowstone region.

Seven grants will conserve natural areas and protect working landscapes in southern Montana, eastern Idaho and northwestern Wyoming, strengthen conservation organizations and offer information and assistance on ways to pursue sustainable development.

The Yellowstone region, the largest and most intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states, is threatened by the increasing pace of private land conversion. Family farms and ranches are being bought, sold, logged, roaded and converted into subdivisions.

"We are supporting a number of different organizations to work locally with interested landowners and communities to protect this unique place," said Joan Spero, president of the DDCF. "The economy of this region depends on preserving the quality of the natural environment. We are pleased to invest in community driven projects where there is strong collaboration and that build on the success local communities have already demonstrated in conserving their unique heritage."

The land conservation initiative combines grant money from the DDCF with matching funds in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to enable public and private organizations to acquire private land or conservation easements and help local communities protect natural resources.

The DDCF will commit a total of $6.5 million in matching grants to The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund and the Trust for Public Land to protect at least 60,000 acres in ways that provide economic livelihood while preserving wildlife and habitat. These national organizations will collaborate with regional land trusts that include the Teton Regional Land Trust, Gallatin Valley Land Trust and the Jackson Hole Land Trust, among others.

The Initiative also will provide $1.2 million to three organizations - the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Sonoran Institute and the Institute for Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming - to provide information and promote strategies and tools that help local communities protect natural resources and maintain their rural quality of life.

An additional $500,000 will be provided to the Land Trust Alliance to strengthen land trusts operating in the region.

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PG&E USES BANKED SEEDS TO REFOREST BURNED AREA

EMIGRANT GAP, California, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - Pacific Gas and Electric Company plans to reseed company lands that were burned over in a wildfire, using seeds banked by the company against just such a need.

For the past 15 years, Pacific Gas and Electric Company has been collecting and banking seeds from parent trees on the company's 140,000 acres of forestland.

"Pacific Gas and Electric Company is committed to caring and preserving natural resources throughout our service area for the enjoyment of current and future generations of Californians," said Robert Harris, PG&E's vice president of Environmental Affairs. "Being a good steward of the land and an environmental leader means planning for the future, and ensuring that we have the resources available to protect - and in cases such as this - restore what fire has destroyed."

An estimated 640 acres of Pacific Gas and Electric Company's forestland was burned in the Gap Fire. Some 500 acres of that total was severely burned and the company announced that the devastated area will be reforested with about 200,000 descendent seedlings.

Seeds are collected from conifer species in a given area. In the Gap Fire (Lake Valley) area, seeds have been collected from Jeffrey pine, white fir and incense cedar.

"By using seeds collected from the area being reforested, the trees have a better chance to survive and grow in the environment in which they have been genetically developed by their parent trees," said Allan Newcomb, senior forester for Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

The cones of the parent trees are picked just before they ripen. Then the cones are put into burlap bags and sent to seed banks in Oregon. From there, the seeds are extracted from the cones, categorized according to seed zone and size, weighed, cataloged, and put into a freezer for safe keeping.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company has banked almost four million seeds - enough to reforest about 10,000 acres. When needed for planting, the seeds are sent to a nursery in Loomis, California, where they are germinated and grown for one year.

The seeds from the Gap Fire area will be ready for planting in the spring of 2003.

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NEW STATISTICAL ANALYSIS AVAILABLE FOR SACRAMENTO SPLITTAIL

SACRAMENTO, California, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - The fate of the threatened Sacramento splittail may rest on a new review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (UFSWS), released for public comment on Friday.

The public and scientific community will have until October 1 to comment on a new statistical study on the Sacramento splittail developed by the USFWS in the course of reanalyzing available abundance data for the species. The new analysis was required under a June 2000 federal court order.

The Sacramento splittail is found only in California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, streams of the Central Valley, and the Napa and Petaluma rivers. This native fish received protection as a threatened species in February 1999.

But as a result of lawsuits filed by the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority and the State Water Contractors, Federal Judge Oliver Wanger ordered the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office to reevaluate the listing determination by March 22, 2001.

Judge Wanger let the threatened listing stand, however, so that the fish would continue to have Endangered Species Act protection while the USFWS complied with his order. The Court later granted an extension to enable the USFWS to acquire new information on the status, abundance and distribution of splittail in the Central Valley until June 29, 2001.

This deadline has now been further extended to allow for scientific peer review and public comments on the statistical analysis, and to solicit public comments on the status of the species.

The splittail once occurred in the Sacramento River as far north as Redding, as far south in the San Joaquin River as Friant Dam near Fresno, and as far west as the Petaluma River. Splittail populations have declined 33 percent in the last 20 years as dams and diversions blocked the fishes from access to upstream areas of large rivers.

Reclamation and modification of flood basins also have reduced the species' spawning grounds.

The new analysis is available at: http://sacramento.fws.gov. Comments may be sent until October 1 to: fw1splittail@fws.gov

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URBAN AND COMMUNITY FORESTRY GRANTS AWARDED

WASHINGTON, DC, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Dale Bosworth has announced ten recipients of federal grants totaling $997,998 to benefit the nation's urban and community forests.

"Urban forests improve our quality of life, shade our homes, provide wildlife habitats and reduce storm water runoff," Bosworth said in making the awards.

The grants will fund projects that will help the Forest Service understand the effects of urban forests on health, crime and energy use. The agency will work with local organizations on communication, education and problem solving, and to help promote the planting and maintenance of healthy urban forests.

Recipients of the cost share grants were selected from 92 proposals based on criteria developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC). The NUCFAC is a 15 member advisory council established in 1990 legislation, made up of representatives from communities, universities, non-profit forestry and conservation citizen organizations, landscape and design consultants, the forest product or nursery industry, professional renewable natural resource organizations, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The council reviews the proposals and makes recommendations to the Forest Service, which makes the awards.

In 2001, grants will support urban and community projects from Seattle, Washington to Naples, New York.

"The 2001 grants will enable a diversity of organizations and institutions to contribute significantly to our knowledge base regarding how urban forests improve the quality of the environment and the quality of human life," said Deborah Gangloff, chair of NUCFAC and executive director of the conservation group American Forests.

Previous grants resulted in developing community forest plans, methods for identifying the costs and benefits of trees in communities, ways to conserve energy, techniques for communities to care for their forests, and educational programs to promote the importance of urban and community forestry.

Since NUCFAC's inception, the Forest Service has supported 102 proposals that promote urban and community forestry nationwide.

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HOUSTON GETS $2 MILLION TO HELP PREDICT OZONE POLLUTION

WASHINGTON, DC, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded almost $2 million to the University of Houston to determine how air pollutants, coupled with weather conditions, contribute to high concentrations of ground level ozone in the Houston area.

The study is designed to help states develop ozone control strategies by better understanding how ozone and particulate matter, or soot, form. This information will be useful in developing a state plan for reducing ground level ozone in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area, an area that does not meet air quality standards for ozone.

The study is designed to determine a more accurate description of the chemical reactions contributing to the formation of ozone that occur in cities and their surrounding areas. Computer models will be used to analyze and document record high pollution days and to develop tools for predicting potential ozone levels based on pollutant level, weather patterns and specific atmospheric conditions.

Ground level ozone is formed when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants and other industrial sources react in the presence of sunlight. High smog levels have been linked to increases in the severity of asthma attacks and other respiratory health problems, particularly for children and the elderly.

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CALIFORNIA POWER PLANT PLEDGES TIGHTER POLLUTION CONTROLS

HUNTINGTON BEACH, California, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - An agreement reached Friday clears the way for a refurbished electric power plant to come online in Huntington Beach, including some units with state of the art pollution controls.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) helped negotiate the agreement between the city of Huntington Beach and AES Huntington Beach LLC, both of which had contested the terms of an air pollution control permit for the company's Huntington Beach plant.

"We've been able to carefully balance the state's need for a reliable supply of electricity with the need to further control air pollution," said Orange County supervisor James Silva, who represents Orange County on SCAQMD's governing board. "It's a big win for Huntington Beach residents and we're pleased to have facilitated the agreement."

The agreement adds new air pollution control requirements sought by the city and its residents and soon will allow AES to open its refurbished number three and four generating units in Huntington Beach. Combined, the units will supply 450 megawatts of new electrical generating capacity to the grid.

SCAQMD's executive officer Barry Wallerstein issued an executive order relieving AES of an earlier requirement that the utility sell at least half the electricity from the new units to the state in order to obtain air pollution offset credits needed to begin operation. Since SCAQMD imposed that condition on May 30, the state is no longer entering long term electricity purchase contracts.

However, AES will make it a priority to offer long term electricity contracts to local customers and the city of Huntington Beach.

AES also agreed to operate an old emergency power turbine only during stage three electricity supply emergencies. In a stage three emergency, the excess supply of electricity in the grid falls to less than 1.5 percent of system capacity.

The peaking turbine has been the source of smoke complaints by residents who live near the plant. By October 1, 2002, AES will either install a new emergency turbine, add additional pollution controls, or remove the old turbine from service.

"We've been able to address the community's air quality concerns, while guarding against rolling blackouts," said Newport Beach city councilwoman Norma Glover, who represents the cities of Orange County on SCAQMD's governing board. "Blackouts would degrade air quality as hundreds of dirty diesel backup generators come on to keep essential public services open."

Diesel backup generators emit up to 600 times more pollution per kilowatt hour of electricity produced than a central generating plant.

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ENTERTAINERS HELP LAUNCH FIRE PUBLIC SERVICE CAMPAIGN

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - Interior Secretary Gale Norton has teamed up with Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and 10 prominent public service minded entertainers to launch an intensive public service radio campaign to promote wildland fire safety.

The campaign includes public service announcements from Norton and Veneman, as well as singers Lee Greenwood, Andy Williams and Wayne Newton, game show host Monty Hall, television host and producer Dick Clark, comedians Elayne Boosler and Jackie Mason, actress Adrienne Barbeau of "The Drew Carey Show" and "Maude," weatherman Willard Scott, and Andrea Evans, star of the NBC daytime soap opera "Passions."

The Interior Department produced the campaign, called Firewise, to inform people who live near areas susceptible to wildland fires about what they can do to prevent damage to their homes.

"We want to encourage and empower people to prevent damage to their homes and property during this wildland fire season," Norton said. "Families will greatly reduce their risk to wildland fire with a few easy steps, such as clearing brush and leaves in and around the home, removing firewood stored too close to the house and keeping a wide clearing around the structure for firefighting equipment."

"Given this year's highest alert level for wildfires, it is even more critical that we do everything possible to keep our homes and communities safe," Veneman said. "By taking the proper precautions outlined in the Firewise program, we can make a big difference."

The public service announcements are being sent to 6,000 radio stations around the country. The digital compact disc includes eleven 30 second spots and one 60 second spot. The entertainers volunteered their time and energy for this project.

More than 10,000 homes have been destroyed by wildland fire since 1985. This year alone, more than 200 structures have burned; last year more than 850 structures were destroyed. Already this year, more than 54,000 wildland fires have consumed more than 2.1 million acres.

More information about the Firewise campaign is available at: http://www.FIREWISE.org or http://www5.doi.gov/firewise/