AmeriScan: February 6, 2002


PORTLAND, Oregon, February 6, 2002 (ENS) - The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) has launched another lawsuit challenging the protection of Pacific salmon under the Endangered Species Act.

The law firm, which says it is dedicated to limited government and individual rights, seeks to overturn the federal government's listing of the Southern Oregon/Northern California coho salmon, also known as the Klamath Basin salmon, as threatened.

"We expect that victory in this case will go a long way toward restoring environmental balance to the Klamath Basin," said Russ Brooks of PLF. "The Fisheries Service is guilty of using junk science to advance a political agenda. Our rivers and streams are teeming with salmon, yet farmers have been pushed into bankruptcy, businesses are closing, and a way of life is being destroyed while government officials explain away listing fish that really aren't endangered at all."

Protection of Northern California/Southern Oregon coho living in the Klamath River was a factor in the government's decision to shut down water deliveries to Basin farmers in spring 2001. An interim report by the National Academy of Sciences released this week concluded that federal biologists did not have enough evidence to justify diverting the irrigation water to aid fish.

About 1,400 farms were affected by the diversion, losing crops and selling livestock they could no longer support. An interim National Academy of Sciences report has concluded that federal scientists did not have enough evidence for the opinions that led the authorities to bar the water.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday, Oregon Grange v. National Marine Fisheries Service, marks the second time that PLF has challenged salmon listings brought under the ESA. In September 2001, PLF won a victory in a case challenging the Oregon coast coho listing.

In that case, a federal judge ruled that hatchery spawned salmon are biologically indistinguishable from salmon spawned in the wild, and said called the Oregon coast coho listing "arbitrary." That decision was appealed, and the salmon's protected status has been reinstated pending the outcome of that case.

PLF has asked the same judge, Judge Michael Hogan of Federal District Court, to review the Klamath Basin salmon listing.

Conservation groups criticized the PLF lawsuit, calling it the latest in a series of attempts to capitalize on the drought and water crisis that gripped the Klamath Basin during the summer of 2001.

"What's sad about this situation is that this is a group with an anti-government, anti-Endangered Species agenda trying to inflame passions and exploit the Klamath crisis for their own destructive ends," said Jeff Curtis of Trout Unlimited.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 6, 2002 (ENS) - Drilling for natural gas and oil in Lake Erie could threaten the environment, human health and the region's economy, concludes a report by the Ohio Public Interest Research Group (Ohio PIRG).

New information about the impacts of drilling on the Canadian side of Lake Erie show it to be both polluting and accident prone, says the report, "Dirty Drilling: The Threat of Oil and Gas Drilling in Lake Erie." Ohio PIRG argues that the ill effects of oil and gas drilling would result in just an eight day supply of natural gas for Ohio per year, at current consumption rates.

"This report documents the myriad of potential impacts from natural gas and oil drilling in Lake Erie. Drilling in the lake poses an unacceptable risk to human health, the environment, and the economy," said Bryan Clark, legislative advocate for Ohio PIRG and author of the report. "Despite these facts, oil and gas companies have been relentless in their efforts to open the lake to drilling."

The report finds that 51 natural gas spills associated with gas drilling in Canada's portion of Lake Erie were documented between 1997-2001 - an average of almost a spill per month. Between 1990 and 1995, there were 83 petroleum spills into the Canadian side of Lake Erie. Less than half - 45 percent - of these spills have been cleaned up.

"Canadian drilling has been far from problem free. In fact, drilling has subjected Lake Erie to an average of twelve natural gas spills per year, that's about one spill a month," said Clark.

Oil and gas drilling would have a significant impact on human health and the environment, the report concludes. Drilling wastes can contain a host of toxic chemicals - including lead, mercury and chromium - that are linked to birth defects and are hazardous to wildlife. Many of these toxic chemicals can accumulate in fish that are part of the human diet.

If drilling was permitted on the Ohio side of Lake Erie, tourism would also suffer, the report concludes.

"Oil or gas drilling in Lake Erie would pose a major problem for the future of charter boating and fishing in the lake," said Captain Vitas Kijauskas, the owner of the Wildwood Marina and captain of Discovery Dive Charters and Tours on Lake Erie. "It can be inconvenient and nerve racking to have to navigate around drill wells or pipelines while trolling for walleye."

The report is available online at:

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, February 6, 2002 (ENS) - The Sierra Club plans to sue Tyson Foods over hazardous ammonia releases from its four animal factories.

The suit, which the Sierra Club plans to file in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, stems from Tyson's failure to report the ammonia releases, a violation of the federal Superfund law. When people breathe ammonia, the toxic gas can cause respiratory problems, and in some cases can be fatal.

"We're not talking about a little fertilizer running off Old McDonald's farm," said Aloma Dew, conservation organizer for the Kentucky Sierra Club. "We're talking about a corporate animal factory that is releasing so much toxic gas they're triggering the Superfund law. Tyson is threatening public health by not complying with the federal protections."

The Sierra Club lawsuit targets four factory farms under Tyson's supervision in Kentucky, located in Webster, McClean and Hopkins counties. Animal factories are huge chicken, pig, cattle or dairy farms that house thousands of animals in small areas.

Tyson Foods Inc. is the nation's largest meat producer and processor and has more than 300 facilities and offices in 32 states and 22 countries.

Under both the Superfund law and Community-Right-to-Know laws, polluters that emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia per day must report those releases to the National Response Center and the local community emergency coordinator. The legislation was enacted so that governments and members of the public could learn what hazards they face from potential toxic substance releases.

"These laws were created to protect Americans from hazardous materials," explained Sierra Club attorney Barclay Rogers. "Americans ought to know when factory farms are spewing plumes of toxic gases into their community. Tyson, unfortunately, acts like it is above the law."

Eight states have either instituted moratoriums on their construction or enacted statutes against corporate ownership of animal farms.

"Giant, corporate owned animal factories are polluting our air and water, and are displacing local family farms," said Dew. "Kentuckians will only be able to breathe easy when our state holds corporations responsible for the air and water pollution spewing from their giant factories."

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BOISE, Idaho, February 6, 2002 (ENS) - A new bioremediation process is making the difficult job of removing chlorinated solvents from groundwater much easier

The process, developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), takes advantage of natural processes to break down trichloroethene (TCE) in groundwater.

Scientists were trying to find a cost effective way to clean up the underground aquifer beneath at INEEL's Test Area North (TAN), which was contaminated with organic sludge and wastewater, resulting in a two mile long TCE groundwater plume.

TCE, used for degreasing and one of the most common groundwater contaminants at hazardous waste sites in the U.S., had been injected into the aquifer over a period of 15 years. Scientists found that the INEEL process helps dissolve the TCE, which accelerates its degradation.

The process is much cheaper than conventional methods and because the remediation is done underground, the land remains almost undisturbed.

North Wind Environmental, Inc., a local engineering and consulting firm, has obtained a license to use the INEEL's innovative process called Bioavailability Enhancement TechnologyTM (BET).

"BET is part of a breakthrough in the understanding of bioremediation that has the potential to revolutionize the cleanup of chlorinated solvent source areas, which are one of the biggest environmental challenges facing industry, the government and cleanup professionals today," said Kent Sorenson, North Wind director for applied research and a former INEEL scientist.

Success of the large scale test of BET at INEEL has won the approval of the state of Idaho and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). BET, combined with monitored natural attenuation - the natural contaminant degradation that takes place in the TCE plume - is expected to save $23 million at TAN.

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 6, 2002 (ENS) - Environmental satellites helped save the lives of 166 people last year from U.S. waters, the Alaska wilderness, and downed aircraft in states around the U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says.

The NOAA satellites, which are part of an international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking Program known as Cospas-Sarsat, have saved more than 13,000 lives worldwide since the system became operational in 1982. There are now 35 countries participating in the system.

The system uses a constellation of satellites in geostationary and polar orbits to detect and locate emergency beacons on vessels and aircraft in distress. September 2002 will mark the 20th anniversary of the first Sarsat rescue.

The satellites can instantly detect emergency signals, which are sent to the U.S. Mission Control Center in Suitland, Maryland, and then to rescue forces around the world. Of the 166 rescues last year, 112 people were saved on the seas; 39 in the Alaska wilderness, and 15 on downed aircraft.

A variety of rescues took place on the seas. Engine fires, flooding, rough seas and water spouts all caused emergencies resulting in distress calls and rescues. In Alaska, stranded hunters and lost persons were among those rescued. Downed aircraft incidents included those making emergency landings and those that crashed in bad weather.

"Our business is saving lives," said Ajay Mehta, manager of NOAA's Sarsat program. "We are an international humanitarian program whose goals and rewards are saving lives."

One of the most unusual rescues occurred last year when a helicopter retrieved two people from a downed private plane that was being circled by a bear in Alaska.

"These folks were in a dangerous predicament," said Mehta. "Yet, because there was an emergency locator transmitter on board the aircraft that activated upon impact, rescue authorities were able to respond to the distress quickly. On arrival the search and rescue aircraft saw the situation unfolding and dispatched a helicopter to retrieve the occupants and bring them to safety."

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, February 6, 2002 (ENS) - Copper the Coyote, one of the mascots adopted by the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, might face guns, poison and traps if it ventured outside the Olympic Village.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) calls the coyote, one of three official mascots for the 2002 Games, a representative of the land and culture of Utah and the American West, and a "cute lovable character" that gives children a link to the Games.

Utah and the Olympics stand to generate millions of dollars in revenue by marketing the mascots. However, according to the Animal Protection Institute, the reality is far more grim for the coyote.

Utah counties use taxes to pay out $20 bounties for each pair of coyote ears turned in by hunters and ranchers. State lawmakers have approved $100,000 to match the county payments for this program.

The state also supports "contest hunts" that offer cash prizes for the hunter bringing in the most coyote tails or ears. The slaughter of coyotes is championed by agricultural and sportsmen's groups, which view coyotes as a threat to livestock and competition for hunted game species such as mule deer and elk.

However, experts from Utah's own Division of Wildlife Resources say that indiscriminate killing of coyotes does little to prevent livestock losses or increase mule deer numbers. Some scientific research suggests that hunts and bounties may increase coyote populations.

"This wanton slaughter is unjustified and sets a double standard," said Camilla Fox, national campaign director of the Animal Protection Institute. "When athletes and visitors descend upon Utah, this disregard for an Olympic mascot is not the image of America we want the world to see."

"Utah will be shamed when the world arrives in Salt Lake to find that Utah is paying its citizens to butcher the Olympic mascot and cherished symbol of the American West," added Denise Boggs, executive director of the Utah Environmental Congress.

More information is available at:

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, February 6, 2002 (ENS) - Planned obsolescence and a lack of recycling options are sending more than 7,000 computers to storage shelves and trash bins every day, concludes a study by a business organization presented to California legislators Tuesday.

"The state's overall electronic waste could grow four fold in the next few years," concludes the report prepared by the non-profit Future 500 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The typical lifespan of a computer is now about two years, half its lifespan a decade ago. Yet neither government nor manufacturers have developed sufficient recycling options.

But a recent state ruling is forcing a change. It is now illegal to discard of computer monitors in landfills, because the cathode ray tube monitors contain lead and other hazardous materials.

"The time has come to expand California's best in the nation recycling programs, to cover computer and electronic waste before the problem grows out of control," said a coauthor of the study, William Shireman, who designed California's landmark beverage container deposit program in 1987. "Consumers need a simple, easy way to recycle computers, instead of storing them in their backrooms or illegally throwing them away."

That is essential now that computers are illegal to throw away in landfills, Shireman said. To dispose of a computer, consumers often must now pay a fee of about $25. "That will drive illegal disposal, unless a no-charge recycling alternative is available," he added.

In testimony at a hearing of the California State Senate, Shireman said that computer recycling could both protect the environment and earn a profit, if the program is well designed.

"A well designed program would have three benefits. It would create incentives to improve computer design, drive down manufacturing costs, and increase the sale of used computers, getting them back in the economy before they grow obsolete - and keeping them out of landfills," Shireman explained.

The program could be designed by industry or by government. "If industry doesn't do it, we know government will step in," Shireman said.

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RIO HONDO, Texas, February 6, 2002 (ENS) - A private landowner, environmentalists and Texas agencies are cooperating to restore vital habitat for the endangered ocelot.

A volunteer crew planted 3,000 native brush seedlings in this corner of the lower Rio Grande Valley last weekend to aid the ocelot and other creatures that once thrived throughout south, central and coastal Texas. Rancher Eddy De Los Santos has worked with TPW to conduct controlled burns and take other steps to prepare some of his land for the habitat restoration work, which will plant seedlings along a key corridor linking the last two breeding populations of ocelots in the nation.

The restoration effort is coordinated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPW) and funded by a $10,000 grant from Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit conservation group.

"The cooperation that has gotten us to this point has been simply spectacular," said Scotty Johnson, rural outreach coordinator for Defenders of Wildlife. "We've brought together the landowner, the state agency, and the conservation community on an effort that will make a real difference on the ground for the ocelot and other wildlife."

The ocelot once thrived in the thorny brush that was typical of the lower Rio Grande Valley, but the species has declined due to habitat loss to farming and urban growth in the region. The ocelot was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1972.

De Los Santos' land is an ideal location for such a habitat restoration project, as it is near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, home of the estimated 100 ocelots remaining in the region.

"It's a God send to be able to reforest this land. It is close to the refuge on the north and east," De Los Santos said. "These trees will build wildlife numbers and help secure a corridor for the ocelot. I know I will enjoy this for many, many years and so can my kids."

John Young, a mammologist with the TPW Wildlife Diversity Program, noted the importance of these sorts of cooperative habitat restoration efforts with Texas landowners, who control more than 90 percent of the landscape in the state.