AmeriScan: December 23, 2002

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Ruling Could Help Clean Up Washington DC Air

WASHINGTON, DC, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to decide by next month whether to reclassify the Washington region to "severe" for ozone pollution, a step that would trigger stronger pollution controls for industries and motor vehicles.

The court also ordered EPA to decide by next April whether to formally disapprove the region's previous clean air plans, a move that would trigger legal requirements to redirect transportation spending from new roads to better mass transit. The orders came late last week in a suit by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club.

"This is a great victory for clean air in the Washington area," said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. "The court decision means that EPA must get on with the job of protecting the public health without delay. Just by being outside, Washington area residents are exposed to ozone at levels that can cause serious health problems, especially for children, senior citizens, and asthmatics."

Last summer the Washington region suffered from the worst ozone pollution in more than a decade. There were nine "code red" days, and another 19 "code orange" days when children were warned to limit outdoor play.

The situation was even worse when measured against EPA's new, more protective eight hour ozone standard, which was exceeded on 36 days in 2002 - including two "code purple" days when the air was deemed "very unhealthy." Planners at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments have learned that air pollution from vehicles in 2005 would be 30 percent higher than previously assumed, because of all the additional sport utility vehicles on the roads.

"Healthy air is a necessity, not a luxury," said Dr. Ronald Karpick, a Falls Church pulmonary physician. "I've treated hundreds of local residents suffering from asthma and other respiratory diseases who are unable to go outside in the summertime due to high ozone levels. This is unacceptable."

Ozone is a lung irritant that damages lung tissue and reduces lung function, causing symptoms such as chest pain, nausea and pulmonary congestion. Ozone at levels often experienced in the capital region is particularly harmful to at risk individuals like the elderly, children and people with respiratory problems.

During a typical smoggy summer in metro DC, breathing difficulties send more than 2,400 people to the emergency room and cause 130,000 asthma attacks.

"Taking a walk across the Mall should not pose a health risk," said Baron. "Living in the nation's capital should not come with an increased risk of lung damage and respiratory illness, but for decades it has."

DC's non-attainment areas include the District of Columbia, Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties in Maryland; and Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Loudoun, Manassas, Manassas Park, Prince William, and Stafford counties in Virginia.

To bring these areas back into compliance with the law, the Sierra Club urges the EPA to adopt a comprehensive clean air plan that makes public transit affordable, convenient and dependable, and that promotes smart growth rather than suburban sprawl.

"The residents of Metropolitan Washington have waited too long to breathe healthy air," said Sierra Club spokesperson Melanie Mayock. "It's time for our state and local officials to put in place stronger clean air measures to protect public health."

The Court orders were issued by U.S. District Judge James Robertson in Washington DC. In a previous Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal appeals court last July ruled that state and local plans to address the ozone problem were inadequate.

When the EPA failed to require corrective action, Earthjustice filed the suit that led to last week's ruling.

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EPA Plans to Discard Runoff Rule

WASHINGTON, DC, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday that it is proposing to withdraw a July 2000 rule that revised the agency's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program under the Clean Water Act.

The 2000 final rule was determined to be unworkable based on reasons described by thousands of comments and was challenged in court by some two dozen parties. Congress has also passed a law prohibiting the EPA from implementing the rule.

The Clean Water Act requires states to identify waters not meeting water quality standards and to develop plans for cleaning them up. The TMDL program provides a process for determining pollution budgets for the nation's waters that, once implemented, will assure that Clean Water Act goals will be met.

TMDLs are pollution limits set for a waterway, and are used to mandate pollution controls among all sources, both point sources such as industrial and municipal dischargers, and non-point sources such as agriculture and urban runoff.

In June 2001, the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council (NRC) issued a report with numerous recommendations for improving the rule and program, which were not reflected in the July 2000 rule. One key finding of the NRC report was that many states lack sufficient data to develop TMDLs for all of their impaired waters.

"In order to ensure that this nation's bodies of water are cleaned up, we need an effective national program that involves the active participation and support of all levels of government and local communities," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Unfortunately, the 2000 rule designed to implement the TMDL program fell short of that goal and others."

"We have an existing TMDL program and this action will not stop ongoing implementation of that program, development of water quality standards, issuance of permits to control discharges, or enforcement against violators," Whitman continued. "EPA and states will continue to cooperate to identify impaired waters and set protective standards for those waters. EPA will continue to work diligently on ways to improve this program to ensure that we meet our goal of purer water."

In 2001 and 2002 combined, more than 5,000 TMDLs were approved or established under the current TMDL rule. The number of TMDLs approved or established each year has climbed in the last four years, jumping from 500 in 1999 to almost 3,000 in 2002.

Whitman said the EPA has been working to identify options to improve the TMDL program, including addressing the problems reported by the National Academy of Sciences. The agency has conducted several public meetings and is reviewing its ongoing implementation of the existing program with a view toward improvement and regulatory changes.

The Bush administration is expected to recommend an approach that would give more authority to the states, and reduce federal oversight of efforts to clean up waterways. Environmental groups have criticized this approach, saying it would slow cleanup efforts and weaken enforcement of clean water rules.

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Oil Exploration At Arches National Park Blocked

WASHINGTON, DC, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - In response to a lawsuit by four environmental organizations, a federal court late last Friday blocked the Interior Department from allowing oil exploration in thousands of acres of public wildlands on the eastern boundary of Utah's Arches National Park.

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must now complete a comprehensive environmental review before authorizing energy companies access to the area.

This is the first time a federal court has had the opportunity to review a Bush administration sponsored oil exploration project. Environmentalists hope it will put a brake on the administration's rush to open up Western public lands to energy development.

"This decision sends a strong message to the Bush administration: You have to obey the law," said Stephen Bloch, an attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), one of the plaintiffs in the case. "The administration now will have to reconsider its cavalier approach to environmental review and public participation."

SUWA, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club filed suit to stop the project in late September in federal court in the District of Columbia. The BLM had approved a request by the world's largest seismic exploration company, WesternGeco, to explore for oil and gas in the Dome Plateau region just outside of Moab, Utah, also known as the Yellow Cat 2-D Swath project area.

The project area encompasses more than 23,000 acres of scenic wildlands popular with hikers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The region also provides habitat for several threatened or endangered species, including the black-footed ferret, the bald eagle and the Mexican spotted owl.

In late October, the court issued a preliminary injunction blocking the WesternGeco project so that it could consider the environmental groups' claims. Last Friday, the court agreed with the environmental groups that the BLM, by approving the exploration activity, violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Attorneys for the conservation groups argued that the BLM relied on an inadequate environmental assessment that failed to demonstrate there would be "no significant impact" on the human environment. They noted that WesternGeco would have used 60,000 pound "thumper trucks" crisscrossing sensitive desert soils, vibrating the ground at regular intervals to record seismic information about oil deposits.

Thumper trucks ravage soil, causing such ecological damage that the desert might need as much as 300 years to recover.

"The Bush administration can't hand over our most sensitive wild lands without properly reviewing the potential environmental consequences and giving the public a say," said Sharon Buccino, an NRDC senior attorney. "In this case, the court ultimately recognized that the Interior Department's action would have caused lasting damage to Utah's canyon lands."

Noting that the BLM has also approved exploration by WesternGeco in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, Pamela Eaton, a regional director of The Wilderness Society, said, "Approving oil exploration and drilling in America's most scenic wilderness landscapes has become a pattern at the Interior Department. These breathtaking public lands should not be cavalierly handed over to the energy industry."

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Post Election Impacts Continue

WASHINGTON, DC, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - The repercussions of the 2002 midterm elections continue to ripple through Congress and across the nation.

Frist Becomes Senate Majority leader

Today, Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, was named as the new Senate majority leader, replacing Mississippi Senator Trent Lott. Frist rose to prominence this year through his role in the Republican Party's success in regaining the majority in the Senate.

Frist, who is two years into his second Senate term, helped recruit eight new Republican senators, and raised millions in campaign donations as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Frist will replace Lott, who became a liability to the party earlier this month after making remarks interpreted as racist at a 100th birthday party for South Carolina Republican Senator Strom Thurmond. Lott noted that Mississippi voted for Thurmond during his 1948 campaign, in which Thurmond supported continued segregation of Whites and Blacks.

"If the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either," Lott said at the party.

Lott was no friend to the environment, earning a zero percent voting rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) for his consistent votes against pro-environment issues.

Frist is expected to be even less of a champion for environmental issues. He also has a zero percent rating from LCV, and is much friendlier with the White House than Lott has been, giving Bush almost unprecedented power over the Senate.

Today, President George W. Bush praised the selection of Frist as majority leader, saying he has "earned the trust and respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle."

"I look forward to working with him and all members of the Senate and House to advance our agenda for a safer, stronger and better America," Bush said.

Murkowski Sends Daughter to the Senate

Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski has selected his daughter Lisa Murkowski to fill out the last two years of his U.S. Senate term. Frank Murkowski, who has spent the past 22 years representing Alaska in the Senate, stepped down last month after being elected as governor.

A recently passed state law, supported by the state's Republican majority, gave the governor the right to name his successor to the Senate.

"Above all, I felt the person I appoint to the remaining two years of my term should be someone who shares my basic philosophy, my values," Governor Murkowski told reporters on Friday.

Lisa Murkowski has served two terms in the Alaska legislature, and is the current majority leader in the Alaska House. She is considered less conservative and more environmentally friendly than her father, though she does support opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Environmentalist to Guide Massachusetts Development

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) president Douglas Foy has been selected to oversee development, transportation, housing and the environment in Massachusetts. He was chosen by Mitt Romney, the Republican who was elected as the state's governor last month.

Foy has led the CLF since 1977, supporting the group's battles over offshore oil and natural gas drilling on the Georges Bank, reducing pollution from power plants, and keeping off road vehicles away from the dunes and beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Under Foy's leadership, CLF filed the lawsuit that forced cleanup of Boston Harbor and similar lawsuits that cleaned up the harbors in New Bedford, Fall River and Salem, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.

Romney named Foy as chief of Commonwealth development, responsible for coordinating the policies and programs of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the Executive Office of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Community Development. In accepting the nomination, Foy severed all ties with the CLF, which will be headed temporarily by vice president Stephanie Pollack.

"We are thrilled for Doug and excited about what he will accomplish for the Commonwealth," said Charles Cabot, chair of CLF's board of trustees. "Doug has been a great leader for CLF, and we have no doubt that his intelligence, resolve, and limitless energy will serve him - and the people of Massachusetts - very well indeed."

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Court: Sea Lion Protection Must be Increased

SEATTLE, Washington, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has failed to meet its obligations to protect endangered Steller sea lions and their habitat, a federal court ruled last week.

The ruling from Federal District Court in the Western District of Washington, which sends the decision back to NMFS for further analysis, is the most recent decision in a lawsuit filed in 1998 by Earthjustice and Trustees for Alaska, on behalf of Greenpeace, American Oceans Campaign, and the Sierra Club.

"From the beginning, this case has been about improving the management of our oceans, and protection for endangered Steller sea lions and their habitat," said Dr. Charlotte de Fontaubert, Greenpeace oceans campaign coordinator. "This court victory is a major step to insure that federal regulators take the necessary steps required under law to provide for comprehensive ecosystem-based management of our fisheries."

Steller sea lion populations in western Alaska have declined by almost 90 percent in the past few decades, along with similar declines in populations of other marine mammals and seabirds. Many biologists say these declines are indications of serious biological problems in the North Pacific.

The ruling, issued December 18, addresses a biological opinion prepared in 2000, and a more recent biological opinion (BiOp) that now governs the fisheries. The court concluded that the current fishing plan is illegal because NMFS failed to evaluate the effects of fishing on sea lions and their habitat.

Although the court upheld the earlier biological opinion, the court remanded the current opinion to the agency to prepare a proper analysis.

"The Court concludes that the 2001 BiOp's finding of no adverse modification of critical habitat and no jeopardy to the continued existence of Steller sea lions is arbitrary and capricious because the necessary analysis of the impact of the [fishing plan] on Steller sea lions, their prey, and their critical habitat was not performed," the court stated. "In short, the 2001 BiOp does not contain a viable analysis of cause and effect, which is exactly what the [Endangered Species Act] requires. This failure is fatal to the 2001 BiOp."

De Fontaubert said the groups challenged the 2001 biological opinion "because NMFS approved a plan with weaker protections, sponsored by the industry, without adequately looking at the impact on sea lions. In yesterday's ruling, the Court said this was illegal."

The plaintiffs said they would work to ensure that NMFS completes the work necessary to analyze fishing impacts on Steller sea lions, their habitat, and other marine resources.

"We can continue to have vibrant fisheries and protect our marine mammals like Stellers but we must have better management and NMFS must have the resources to do so," said Jim Ayers, director of the North Pacific office of Oceana. "That's what Americans expect, what the law requires, and what the court has ordered."

"The court gave the agency a blueprint for complying with the Endangered Species Act," added Janis Searles, staff attorney with Earthjustice. "We hope the agency will follow it, and that this long running litigation can come to an end."

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Risk Estimate of World Trade Center Dust Reduced

NEW YORK, New York, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - A new study of dust samples taken from around Manhattan in the days following the fall of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 found a lower health risk than expected.

Although the rubble has been cleared from the World Trade Center site, questions still linger about the long term health effects on people who survived the terrorist attacks. Now, a team of researchers has tested debris from the collapsed towers for toxic organic chemicals and found lower risks than predicted from inhaling such compounds.

The findings are scheduled to appear in the February 1 print edition of "Environmental Science & Technology," a peer reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society. The article was published December 18 on the journal's website.

The scientists were looking for persistent organic pollutants: stable compounds that pose a special problem because they endure in the environment and can be toxic to humans and wildlife. They found no evidence of high levels of two particular POPs: pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls, which were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications until their production was banned in 1977.

The team did, however, estimate that the dust covering lower Manhattan contained between 100-1000 tons of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - a group of compounds including some that are classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as probable human carcinogens. But while the amount of PAHs was high, the dust particles to which the chemicals stuck were large enough to stay out of a person's lungs, according to Dr. Paul Lioy, associate director of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute in Piscataway, New Jersey, and an author of the paper.

"The fact that the particles were primarily above 10 micrometers in diameter would mean that the deposition was in the upper airways of the respiratory system and more readily cleared than fine particles, which would deposit deeper in the lung," Lioy said. "That means, in terms of potential lifetime exposures, we're probably going to be very lucky in that these may not be exposures of significant health risk."

After the attacks, most people focused their concerns on asbestos, Lioy said. But he and his colleagues felt the only way to understand the situation was to determine everything people could have been exposed to.

"In contrast to what we normally do every day in environmental sciences, this was a catastrophic event," Lioy explained. "We had no clue what was in there and what size ranges, so our goal was to do a full characterization of the entire aerosol."

In an earlier paper, Lioy and his colleagues performed a more general analysis on the samples and reported that the dust had a high level of glass fibers and a high pH.

"Most of the acute responses were probably due to the very long fibers which we reported in our first paper and the high pH of the cement dust that was released in the first few days," Lioy said.

The research group plans to use this latest information along with samples taken indoors to study potential health risks regarding the cleaning of people's houses and apartments.

"Although it's a big number - 100 to 1,000 tons of PAHs - it's not the only health concern," said Dr. John Offenberg of Rutgers University, lead author of the current report. "Simply having three inches of concrete dust in one's living room is a very unique experience, in terms of cleaning up. You don't just get out your vacuum cleaner and run it."

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Oak Ridge Buffer Becomes Conservation Area

OAK RIDGE, Tennessee, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - The Department of Energy (DOE) and state of Tennessee have signed an agreement in principle to set aside about 3,000 acres of the Oak Ridge Reservation for conservation.

The 3,000 acre area to be protected is located on the northwest portion of the Oak Ridge Reservation near the DOE's East Tennessee Technology Park. DOE will retain ownership of the land and will provide Tennessee with funding to manage the property.

Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist and DOE assistant secretary for environmental management Jessie Roberson signed the agreement at a ceremony held in Oak Ridge on Friday. They were joined by Representative Zach Wamp, a Tennessee Republican, and representatives of the department's Oak Ridge Operations, regional elected officials, community leaders and stakeholders.

"This agreement is a significant down payment on the debt owed by the United States to the people of Tennessee for their role in fighting the Cold War," Governor Sundquist said. "We applaud the Department of Energy for taking this action, and will continue to work with them to ensure Oak Ridge plays a safe and vital role in the development of this region's economy."

The 3,000 acres have served as an undeveloped buffer for the K-25 uranium enrichment facility for more than 50 years. The lands are distinguished by mature forests, wetlands, river bluffs, limestone cliffs and caves, and are home to several rare species including spreading false-glove, white-topped sedge and Tennessee dace, as well as a hemlock and rhododendron forest.

A registered state natural area already exists on a portion of the lands.

The agreement to protect the lands came in response to natural resources damages resulting from past U.S. government nuclear weapons production and research activities on the Oak Ridge Reservation. The state will credit the DOE with the value of the conservation easement and related funding toward any future Natural Resources Damage claims arising from DOE's activities on the Oak Ridge Reservation. The amount of the credit is still to be determined.

"The agreement signed today will enable us to protect an important natural resource while meeting the department's responsibilities to the citizens of the region," said the DOE's Roberson. "We will continue to work with the state of Tennessee to cleanup and redevelop the Oak Ridge Reservation."

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Rhode Island Landfill Must Install Pollution Controls

JOHNSTON, Rhode Island, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - The owner and operator of the Central Landfill in Johnston, Rhode Island will be spending more than $5 million on air pollution control measures as part of a settlement of alleged Clean Air Act violations.

The settlement, which is subject to a 30 day public comment period, was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Providence by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Justice and the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC).

Stemming from an EPA investigation started in the late 1990s, the settlement requires payment of a $321,000 penalty and installation of additional pollution control systems, which will improve collection and control of landfill gas. The 190 acre landfill handles most of the state's household and commercial waste, and noxious odors from the landfill gas have been a longstanding source of complaints among residents living near the landfill.

"Today's settlement represents resolution of one of the first enforcement actions in the nation for violations of New Source Review under the Clean Air Act at a solid waste landfill," said Tom Sansonetti, assistant attorney general at the U.S. Justice Department's environment and natural resources division.

John Peter Suarez, assistant administrator of the EPA office of enforcement and compliance assurance, called the settlement "a major victory for Rhode Islanders living in close proximity to this facility."

The landfill gas control and other compliance measures that RIRRC has already implemented have already decreased the amount of landfill gas being emitted from the landfill. Data from the state Department of Environmental Management suggests these measures also reduced the frequency and severity of odors coming from the landfill.

The new pollution control systems will result in the capture and control of about 30,350 tons of methane - a global warming pollutant - and 215 tons of volatile organic compounds - a contributor to smog air pollution - between now and 2010. The additional equipment is designed to boost the facility's overall capture and control of landfill gas to 90 percent or better.

As part of the settlement, RIRRC has already purchased or surrendered 175 tons of emissions credits - allowances to emit smog causing pollutants - to mitigate excess emissions that resulted from violations.

"This agreement will result in significant reductions in gas emissions from the Central Landfill," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of the EPA's New England Office. "Controlling and capturing landfill gas is a complex challenge and these required changes should lead to significant improvements in air quality."

The settlement requires improvements Central Landfill's numerous areas, consisting of four landfill phases. Phase I of the Central Landfill opened in 1955 under previous ownership and was closed in 1993. This area is being cleaned up under the EPA's Superfund Program.

Phases II and III began accepting waste in the 1990s and Phase IV began accepting waste in September 2000.

Among the improvements required under the settlement:

The cost of these control measures is estimated at more than $5 million.

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Cave Scientist to Head Research Institute

WASHINGTON, DC, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - An experienced cave scientist, explorer, and educator has been tapped to serve as director of the National Park Service (NPS) led partnership responsible for cave and karst research and education.

Dr. Louise Hose was selected to head the new National Cave and Karst Research Institute, based in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The Institute, authorized by Congress in 1998, brings together partners from federal, state and local government, academia, and private organizations to conduct and facilitate research and education on cave and karst systems in the United States and other nations.

"Development of the Institute provides many exciting opportunities and challenges," Hose said. "I look forward to working with our current and future partners in building the leading organization of its kind in the world."

Among the partners who will work with the NPS to develop and implement the Institute are the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico and the New Mexico Institute of Mining Technology.

Dr. Michael Soukup, associate director for natural resource stewardship and science for the NPS said that Hose "brings extensive experience and credentials in working with cave and karst scientists as well as educators and non-profit organizations devoted to the science, conservation, and recreation associated with caves. We are absolutely thrilled to have a professional of the caliber of Dr. Hose join us to guide this Institution to its full potential."

Hose holds a doctorate in geology from Louisiana State University, a master's degree in geology from California State University at Los Angeles and a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Arizona State University. She has extensive teaching experience at the graduate and undergraduate level and several books and numerous scholarly articles to her credit.

Her professional memberships and associations include serving for six years on the National Speleological Society Board of Governors. Hose's cave exploration and research efforts have been sponsored by several universities, the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation.

Her recent work in the Sultanate of Oman will be featured in the April 2003 issue of "National Geographic" magazine.

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Free Stones Concert Will Highlight Global Warming

LOS ANGELES, California, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - The Rolling Stones will perform a special free concert to raise awareness about global warming on February 6, 2003 at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is partnering with the Rolling Stones to stage the landmark event, hoping to turn up the heat on the Bush administration's inaction regarding global warming. The partners also want to spotlight opportunities that exist right now to start addressing the problem.

"If you're a planet, too hot is bad. (Drought, disease, floods, heat waves.) But when it comes to turning up the heat to solve the urgent problem of global warming, there's no such thing as too hot," states the NRDC on its website. "That's why NRDC and the Rolling Stones are staging a free concert to raise awareness about global warming and spotlight existing opportunities to fix the problem. Then, with the flame of public attention burning, we can all turn up the heat on U.S. leaders (guess which country's the biggest global warming polluter?) to put solutions in place."

A private donor will be absorbing all expenses for the free concert. The NRDC will also have a limited number of tickets as part of their fund raising efforts.

Fans can enter a sweepstakes to win two free tickets by completing an online entry form, or by mailing a 3x5 index card with the entrant's name, address, telephone number and date of birth to NRDC Stones Concert, P.O. Box 15099, North Hollywood, CA 91615-5099. No donation is required to enter or win tickets.

Online entries will be accepted from 9 am on December 23, 2002, until midnight on January 6, 2003. Mail in entries must be postmarked between December 23, 2002, and January 6, 2003, and must be received by January 10, 2003.

The winners will be selected at random and announced the week of January 13, 2003, and notified via email or regular mail. Each winner and each guest must pick up a ticket and a wristband at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles from February 4 through 6. Each winner's guest may not attend the concert without the winner.

The goal of the event is to encourage the public to learn more about global warming. The NRDC says that global warming is the toughest environmental challenge the world ever faced, threatening the health of people, wildlife and economies around the globe.

"The Rolling Stones' commitment will help build unprecedented support for NRDC efforts to fight global warming," said NRDC president John Adams. "The Rolling Stones deserve a standing ovation for putting the environment on center stage."

The Rolling Stones are completing the North American stretch of their sold out 40 Licks World Tour and will launch the international leg starting in Australia on February 18 with shows to follow in Asia and Europe.

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