AmeriScan: August 1, 2002

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Most Fish Stock Assessments Incomplete

WASHINGTON, DC, August 1, 2002 (ENS) - Existing data and life history information are too sparse to provide useful assessments for more than 60 percent of the regulated fish populations, concludes a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A panel of senior scientists from NOAA has mapped out a new path for gathering most sophisticated and comprehensive knowledge about U.S. marine fish stocks to date. The findings are in the Marine Fisheries Stock Assessment Improvement Plan released by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) this week.

The plan includes an evaluation of the resources scientists need to better assess the status of U.S. fish populations.

"This is the most detailed review of stock assessment capabilities and needs the agency has ever undertaken," said NMFS director Bill Hogarth. "It identifies resources we need to do a better job now, builds the scientific basis for next generation, ecosystem based management and outlines how our colleagues in the fishing industry and in other research institutions can help."

The panel identifies five critical components for sound management of fisheries: fish catch information; estimates of abundance; species' life history facts; analyses of human and environmental impacts on fish populations; and timeliness and frequency of assessments.

NOAA evaluated the more than 900 fish populations the agency manages, then ranked those populations for the amount of information available for each of the five sound management components. The evaluation shows that populations with the longest history of commercial use or value rank high for having the best data collection programs and the most comprehensive assessments.

However, the panel concluded that existing data are insufficient for more than 60 percent of the regulated populations. The panel recommended a three tiered method for making better assessments, including better use of existing fishery data; moving to advanced data collection and analyses; and creating more sophisticated assessments using the interrelationships between species and their environment.

Achieving these goals will require at least 600 additional staff positions, the report concludes.

"The agency is asked almost daily for more precise, real time information on fish stocks and fishing operations," said Hogarth. "This ambitious plan provides rationale for the agency's initiatives and will set a high standard for the future of fishery stock assessments."

The agency's workforce now includes about 2,500 in house employees, with 450 supporting population assessments. About 250 contract staff - mostly observers - and 200 partners from regional and state agencies and universities contribute to the effort.

"Implementation of this plan will greatly improve our knowledge of marine species and provide a better basis for risk averse management decisions," said Dr. Pamela Mace, chair of the scientific panel. "Along with responsible policy development, there will be fewer depleted or overfished stocks and greater stability and profitability in fishing activities."

The plan is designed to complement other important agency initiatives, such as modernization of the research vessel fleet and advanced technology. NOAA is assessing a number of new technologies that could improve the accuracy and precision of fish population assessments, including multi-frequency acoustics, multi-beam sonar, laser line scan systems and electronic satellite tags.

The Marine Fisheries Stock Assessment Improvement Plan is available at: http://www.st.nmfs.gov/st2/index.html

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Automakers Blamed for Global Warming Emissions

NEW YORK, New York, August 1, 2002 (ENS) - A new report from Environmental Defense appraises for the first time the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by new vehicles from major auto manufacturers.

General Motors' (GM) fleet imposes the largest carbon burden, the report finds, producing 6.7 million metric tons per year. GM is followed by Ford Motor Company, whose fleet produces 5.6 million tons a year.

Carbon burden is defined as the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by a group of vehicles each year and represents their lifetime average global warming impact. U.S. car and light truck emissions account for 20 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and about five percent of the world total.

"The U.S. emits more CO2 than any other country in the world. Transportation is America's largest source of global warming pollution, and cars and trucks are the largest part of that equation," said Environmental Defense executive director Fred Krupp. "As the top producer of CO2 spewing vehicles, GM is 'global warmer' number one. Market success brings with it a proportionate responsibility to apply clean and efficient technology as part of auto industry corporate strategy."

The report, "Automakers' Corporate Carbon Burdens," uses government data to project the oil consumption and CO2 emissions from each firm's new vehicle sales and analyzes how these figures evolved between 1990 and 2000.

The carbon burden of third place DaimlerChrysler, now at 4.1 million tons per year, is growing faster than either GM or Ford, Environmental Defense learned.

"Each year automakers roll out fleets of cars and trucks that add increasing amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere," said Environmental Defense senior fellow John DeCicco, the report's lead author. "Over the past decade, they have put their design and marketing talents into anything but addressing their products' harm to the planet and liability for oil dependence."

Japanese automaker Toyota, whose product line produces two million metric tons of carbon each year, posted the most rapid growth in global warming pollution. Toyota's carbon burden has grown 72 percent since 1990, compared to 33 percent growth for the market as a whole.

"The 'carbon burden' concept provides a new way for automakers and policy makers to assess the bottom line of corporate responsibility for protecting Earth's climate," DeCicco said. "Unless there is a change in stance, automotive carbon burdens will continue to rise and so will the risks of unchecked oil demand. It's high time for U.S. automakers to take a more constructive approach on this issue."

The full report is available at: http://www.environmentaldefense.org

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Judge Orders 14 New Manatee Refuges

WASHINGTON, DC, August 1, 2002 (ENS) - A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to designate new refuges for Florida manatees by November 1.

Federal District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan called on Interior Secretary Gale Norton to demonstrate why she should not be held in contempt of court for her department's refusal to comply with a settlement agreement intended to protect manatees in Florida. The judge also ordered the department to designate sanctuaries and refuges for manatee protection throughout Florida by November 1, 2002, one month earlier than the government had proposed.

In January 2001, conservation groups including the Save the Manatee Club, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Sierra Club, won a landmark settlement agreement compelling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to institute measures to protect manatees.

But last week, the USFWS called the settlement illegal, saying it "unlawfully" constrains the discretion of the federal government to take no action to protect manatees, and asked Judge Sullivan to overturn the agreement.

On Wednesday, the judge rejected the government's arguments, calling them "ludicrous" and "disingenuous," and noting that "The government can't pick and choose when it complies with court orders... [The government] is not above the law."

"If you undercut a deal, if you violate a court order, you can't do that without any consequences," said Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer & Glitzenstein, lead attorney for the coalition. "While we certainly agree with Judge Sullivan's strong words to the administration, the most important thing is that he has ordered them to finally complete the long overdue measures they promised to protect manatees, instead of the bureaucratic, legalistic run around they've been pursuing."

"Our objective isn't just to win in court," Glitzenstein added. "Instead, it is and will always remain putting in place concrete steps to protect this endangered species."

The settlement agreement required the USFWS to designate 16 new manatee refuges and sanctuaries to reduce mortalities due to boat strikes. The agency has created two, but delayed the creation of the other 14, after a request by Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Florida state records show at least 71 manatees have died this year from boat collisions as of July 26, on pace to exceed last year's total of 81 boat related deaths.

Chuck Underwood, a spokesperson for the USFWS, said the agency will announce a new plan for the additional refuges by November 1, but noted that it could take another six months for the refuges to be designated and posted.

Secretary Norton has until the end of August to respond to Judge Sullivan's order that she demonstrate why she should not be held in contempt of court.

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Fuel Cell Added to Coal Gasification Plant

WASHINGTON, DC, August 1, 2002 (ENS) - A fuel cell power plant will be installed at at the Wabash River Energy Ltd., coal gasification combined cycle power plant in West Terre Haute, Indiana.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has approved a request to shift the site of the project - the world's first fuel cell to be linked to a clean coal technology power plant - from the Kentucky Pioneer Energy Ltd. gasification plant in Kentucky to the Wabash River Energy Ltd. plan in Indiana.

The move is expected to give the power industry an earlier than expected preview of the high efficiency coal fueled generating system. The Kentucky project is still in the design and permitting phase, while the Wabash River Energy plant has been operating since 1995.

"Relocating the fuel cell to an operating clean coal plant will give us a two year jump start on demonstrating a high-tech power system that virtually eliminates air pollutants and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

FuelCell Energy Inc. will install the two megawatt fuel cell power plant at the Wabash River Energy Ltd., coal gasification combined cycle power plant, owned by Global Energy Inc.

FuelCell Energy's Direct FuelCell® generates electricity with no combustion, using an electrochemical reaction between fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electric power. Since no fuel is burned, there are none of the pollutants associated with the combustion of fossil fuels.

Most fuel cells entering commercial markets today are designed to use natural gas or methane gas produced from municipal waste treatment plants. The fuel cell planned for the Wabash River plant will be the largest ever to be fueled by gas made from coal.

Instead of burning coal like a conventional power plant, the Wabash River plant breaks coal apart into a gaseous mixture. More than 97 percent of the pollutant forming sulfur impurities are cleaned from the gas before it is sent to a gas turbine to generate electric power.

To boost power generating efficiencies, the turbine's hot exhaust is captured and used to make steam for a conventional steam turbine. With this type of gasification system, there are almost no sulfur, nitrogen, or ash particle emissions.

The 260 megawatt Wabash River plant has been operating since November 1995 and is one of just two commercial scale coal gasification power plants running in the United States.

FuelCell Energy expects to be ready to ship the fuel cell from its Connecticut plant to the Wabash River site in the second half of 2003. By the time it arrives at the site, the fuel cell will have been assembled and tested on natural gas at the Connecticut facility.

A one year test program would begin soon after the fuel cell arrives and is connected to the coal gas system.

The project cost will be $32.3 million, half of which will be provided by the Energy Department.

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Cow Manure Could Power Dairies

BELTSVILLE, Maryland, August 1, 2002 (ENS) - Agriculture and energy research will come together this year in an experimental microgenerator that runs on methane biogas from animal manure.

The microturbine generator will be evaluated as a source of electricity and heat for a research dairy farm in a cooperative project of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Bio-Power and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The microturbine system could generate as much as 26 kilowatts (kw) of electricity and about 400,000 British thermal units (btu) per hour of heat for small dairy operations of less than 250 cows.

"This project is an example of the positive partnership between USDA and DOE to combine resources and capabilities to develop renewable energy for on-farm use, while also addressing an animal waste management issue," said Rodney Brown, DOE deputy under secretary for research, education and economics. "A system that operates efficiently and is cost effective would provide an alternative energy source for dairy farmers and help them to lower their operating costs."

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ARS operates the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) at Beltsville, Maryland, where the project will be conducted.

"This system will help produce renewable energy to restore our nation's energy vitality and protect the environment while enhancing the rural economy," said Richard Moorer, deputy assistant secretary for technology development within DOE's energy efficiency and renewable energy office. "We're illustrating that agriculture and energy interests can work hand in hand."

The Department of Energy is providing the microturbine generator for the project. Acting research leader Louis Gasbarre and his colleagues in the ARS Animal Manure and By-Products Laboratory will oversee operation of the microturbine system's test periods and provide analysis for manure, methane and greenhouse gas emissions.

The technology provides an alternate use of dairy cow manure. Tons of manure are produced by the 1,400 pound dairy cows and pumped from the barn into an anaerobic digester, where the liquid and solids are separated.

The solids go to composting and the liquids are further processed in the digester to produce a biogas that contains methane. The methane gas is captured and used in the microturbine generator, and the remaining liquid - with its odor reduced - is used for fertilizing the crops at BARC.

The ARS research team will also evaluate the technology's environmental and economic impact. The system could help reduce methane emissions that contribute to greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, and could reduce energy costs for dairy farms.

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Tallgrass Prairie Acres Purchased in Minnesota

POLK COUNTY, Minnesota, August 1, 2002 (ENS) - Two conservation groups have teamed up to buy 450 acres of virgin tall grass prairie to protect habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

The parcel is part of a 1,080 acre tract purchased by The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land (TPL). The project is the first phase of a 2,800 acre protection effort involving the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private landowners.

Located in northwest Minnesota in Polk County, the land will create a 3.5 mile long corridor connecting the Conservancy's Pankratz Prairie Preserve to Chicog State Wildlife Management Area.

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A section of the newly purchased tallgrass prairie. (Photo by Tom Evers, courtesy The Nature Conservancy)
Funding for the purchase came from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund which created the Wildlife Corridors program, a statewide program designed to combine the conservation expertise of non-profit and government agencies throughout Minnesota to acquire and protect land critical to wildlife habitat.

The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) prioritized the funding for this project.

"These are the results state leaders envisioned when they created the Wildlife Corridors program," noted Susan Schmidt, Minnesota director of the Trust for Public Land. "So much can be accomplished through partnerships like this. Wildlife Corridors gives flexibility to conservation groups and the state to protect key lands gaining a higher quality habitat network in an economically sound way."

TPL will sell the northern parcel of the property to The Nature Conservancy for native seed harvest for use at Glacial Ridge, the largest prairie wetland restoration project in U.S. history, and, to date, the Conservancy's largest Minnesota project, covering 24,500 acres. Glacial Ridge lies just to the northeast of the newly acquired prairie.

"The Nature Conservancy will ultimately transfer the parcel to the Minnesota DNR for use as a wildlife management area," said Ron Nargang, state director for the Conservancy. "This acquisition is a classic win/win. It protects a key prairie parcel, boosts our ability to complete restorations at Glacial Ridge, and will preserve the historic public hunting opportunities on the property."

The Wildlife Corridors Project was established by the 2001 Legislature to restore the fragmented landscape corridors that connect habitats for the state's fish, wildlife and plant populations.

Under a broad partnership, the Wildlife Corridors project provides for a statewide coordination of existing federal, state and private land and water conservation programs. The project focuses existing programs and resources towards identified habitat corridors for the benefit of all of Minnesota wildlife.

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Hunting Guides Fined For Killing Too Many Birds

JACKSON, Mississippi, August 1, 2002 (ENS) - Two hunting guides in Mississippi have been fined and placed on probation for taking as many as four times the number of birds allowed per hunt.

The guides, employees of Duck Hole Outfitters in Sledge Mississippi, and one of their clients were sentenced last week in a federal District Court in the Northern District of Mississippi for exceeding the waterfowl and dove hunting limits from 1997 to 2000. A covert investigation, conducted by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife officers of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, exposed the violations.

The guides, Chuck Aldison and Robert Aldison, Jr. and the client, Robert Hess, from Newark, Ohio, pled guilty to violating the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Hess was fined $5,000 and placed on three years probation. Chuck and Robert Aldison were each fined $3,500 and placed on two years probation.

Hess and the Aldisons are prohibited from hunting, guiding, or outfitting any where in the world for their term of probation.

"This conviction should send a clear message to other guides and outfitters that if they aid and abet hunters with violating federal laws, they will be held accountable," said Robert Oliveri, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's resident agent in charge in Jackson, Mississippi.

According to Oliveri, the investigation revealed numerous times when the guides and their clients killed more than the legal daily bag limit for federally protected migratory game birds. During 1997-2000, a hunter was allowed to take fifteen doves as the daily bag limit. But in September 2000, for example, Hess killed more than 60 doves during a morning and an afternoon hunt.

Hess also killed as many as 25 ducks during one hunt. Hess and the Aldisons often took two limits of ducks a day during this time period, a tactic to avoid apprehension known as double tripping.

"We worked very closely, as we have for many years, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect our State's wildlife resources," said Lieutenant-Colonel John Collins of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. "It was a well executed investigation, and the penalties were justified."

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Website Watches Kilauea Lava Make New Land

HONOLULU, Hawaii, August 1, 2002 (ENS) - Lava flows from Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii are entering the sea and are adding new land to the coast - and you can watch it happen.

Flows from the Pu`u `O`o vent on the east rift zone of Kilauea are being monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Detailed descriptions of the lava flow, and videos and photographs of lava breakouts, lava streams, and lava entering the ocean, offer the public as well as scientists an opportunity to observe Kilauea's activity from their computers.

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Lava from Kilauea Volcano cools and hardens when its hits the sea, extending the Hawaiian coastline. (Photo courtesy USGS)
Web site viewers can access the site daily and find out new information and see current photographs of Kilauea's lava flows.

Kilauea Volcano has been erupting since January 3, 1983. The current lava flows are arms of the larger lava flow that erupted earlier this year on Mother's Day, May 12.

Since 1952, there have been 34 eruptions, and since 1983, eruptive activity has been almost continuous. The eruption that began in 1983 continues at the cinder and spatter cone of Pu`u `O`o, which is Hawaiian for high point on skyline.

Kilauea is the youngest and southeastern most volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Hawaiian name Kilauea means "spewing" or "much spreading," perhaps in reference to the lava flows it erupts.

Visit the USGS website at: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/update/ for near real time lava flow updates and photographs.