AmeriScan: February 12, 2002

SOME LAKES RECOVERING FROM ACID RAIN

LAKE GEORGE, New York, February 12, 2002 (ENS) - Some of the lakes in the Adirondacks that have been poisoned by acid rain are now recovering, say researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Acid deposition, often called acid rain, has rendered dozens of lakes in the Adirondacks uninhabitable for fish and other wildlife. RPI researchers at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI) have indicated that some of the most severely affected lakes in the region are showing signs of recovery.

"In about half of the 30 lakes under study, an increase in the pH has been observed, a sign that acidic levels are decreasing," said DFWI director Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer.

Levels of nitrogen influenced by nitric oxide, a primary source of acid rain, have decreased in 18 of the 30 lakes that the DFWI has monitored since 1994 through its Adirondack Effects Assessment Program. There has also been an overall reduction of sulfuric acid, another main contributor of acid rain that comes from industry pollutants.

The reductions may be a result of the 1990 Clean Air Act, a federal mandate to reduce emissions that cause acidification, said Nierzwicki-Bauer.

More research is needed to pinpoint the exact reasons for the apparent changes seen in the lakes in the southwestern part of the Adirondack Park, the area hardest hit by acid rain.

"Recovery doesn't happen overnight," said Charles Boylen, professor of biology and DFWI associate director. "One of the reasons we need long-term data is that other factors can come into play. More or less rainfall in a year, for instance, can lead to a temporary shift in acid-rain levels. You need to track specific data over 10 to 15 years."

The DFWI's long term strategy has won a $2.36 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The five year grant will allow the DFWI and its collaborators to study acid rain effects in four more lakes, in addition to monitoring the other 30.

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REID: KEEP SNOWMOBILES OUT OF YELLOWSTONE

WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2002 (ENS) - Senator Harry Reid joined several of his Congressional colleagues at a Capitol Hill news conference today to urge the Bush Administration to protect Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by continuing to phase out the use of snowmobiles.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has been a strong supporter of the current National Park Service rule that limits snowmobile use in those areas. However, the National Park Service is now said to be reconsidering its policy.

"Snowmobiles are a lot of fun, but they are a danger to the fragile and pristine environments of our national parks," said Reid. "Snowmobiles cause noise pollution, and their emissions pollute our air and water. One snowmobile can emit as much as twenty cars."

"Until we started limiting snowmobile use, pollution levels at some national parks reached the unhealthy levels typical of major urban centers like Los Angeles or Denver. That's a disgrace," added Reid. "We have 130,000 miles of snowmobile trails in the U.S. and less than one percent of those trails are in national parks. We can and should protect our national parks."

Reid has also supported a similar ban on jet skis at Lake Tahoe. Jet skis use two stroke engines similar to those used in snowmobiles, and pollution from the jet skis was contributing to the decline of Lake Tahoe's legendary water clarity. The ban was supported by both Nevada and California state governments.

At today's news conference, Reid joined Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, and Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, who have been leading efforts to protect national parks in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Last month, Representative Holt argued in testimony submitted to the House Committee on Small Business that ending snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park would have little or no effect on local small businesses.

"The tranquil natural wonders of Yellowstone are a far greater draw to tourists than the noisy thrill of snowmobiles," said Holt. "Reports from the Park Service give no indication that the elimination of snowmobiles from Yellowstone would have a negative effect on the park's visitation numbers or on local economies."

Other speakers at today's press conference included Bill Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society, which has been a strong advocate for phasing out snowmobile use in national parks.

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RHODE ISLAND WINS ROUND ONE IN LEAD PAINT LAWSUIT

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, February 12, 2002 (ENS) - A Rhode Island judge has ruled that the state's attorney general may proceed with a lawsuit against lead paint manufacturers.

Associate Justice Michael Silverstein approved the first phase of Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse's four phase lead paint lawsuit trial plan last week. The ruling sets in motion the first phase of the trial, whether or not lead paint in public and private buildings in Rhode Island is a public nuisance.

The trial is expected to begin within four to six months.

Lawyers for the paint industry had argued that every one of the estimated 300,000 Rhode Island homeowners with houses coated with lead containing paint should be summoned as codefendants in the state's case. The paint manufacturers had argued that it was necessary to have all of Rhode Island's property owners and landlords in the case to argue that they are primarily responsible for the lead poisoning of children.

The court ruled in favor of the state attorney general's motion to separate the defendant's complaint against landlords and property owners from at least the first phase of the case.

The court has not yet ruled on whether the third party defendants should be kept separate in later phases of the case.

The Court today also deferred a motion by the paint industry seeking the identification of every property in Rhode Island containing lead. It is estimated that 330,000 housing units in Rhode Island contain lead paint.

The attorney general argued the moves by the paint industry were stalling tactics aimed at slowing the progress of the lawsuit. The defendants' own statements agreed that naming each property is scientifically impossible.

"Today's ruling is a big win. It breaks the log jam and moves us closer to trial against the lead industry than anyone has ever been before," said Attorney General Whitehouse. "Now the case can move forward quickly, and we'll have the chance to hold the lead paint manufacturers responsible for their actions and to begin to remedy the worst public health crisis facing our children."

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BAKING COMPANIES URGED TO SLASH CFC EMISSIONS

WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is urging baking companies to take voluntary steps to reduce their emissions of ozone depleting substances.

In partnership with the baking industry, the EPA is inviting baking companies to participate in an incentive program intended to reduce environmental and public health threats to the earth's ozone layer. EPA investigations suggest that some large commercial bakeries are leaking ozone depleting substances, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC's) in amounts greater than allowed under the Clean Air Act.

The ozone layer lies in the stratosphere, about 10-25 miles above the Earth. Depletion of this layer by ozone depleting substances leads to higher ultraviolet radiation levels, which can cause increased skin cancers and cataracts, and damage some marine organisms, plants and plastics.

Under the compliance incentive program, bakeries will audit certain appliances and phase out some industrial process refrigeration appliances in exchange for reductions in federal penalties. Bakeries are eligible to participate if they are not already the subject of a national enforcement investigation or action, and if they have industrial process refrigeration appliances containing 50 pounds or more of refrigerants.

Companies must notify the EPA by April 26 of their intent to participate in this voluntary program and identify the number of appliances to be audited thereafter. Participating companies must agree to phase out their use of the more hazardous ozone depleting substances by July 15, 2003.

Bakeries that have installed new, non-polluting systems before April 26 can avoid all penalties under this agreement. Bakeries that install such systems after April 26, 2002, and before July 15, 2004, are subject to penalties not to exceed $10,000 per appliance.

For all other appliances, there will be a per pound penalty for any leaks crossing a high threshold.

Further details are available at: http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2002/February/Day-06/a2837.htm

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GRANTS SUPPORT ENVIRONMENTAL COST-BENEFIT STUDIES

WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2002 (ENS) - More than $1.5 million has been granted to five universities for research into methods of estimating the benefits and costs of environmental programs.

The grants were made through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, in cooperation with the National Science Foundation. STAR funds research grants and graduate fellowships in numerous environmental science and engineering disciplines through a competitive solicitation process and independent peer review.

The grants have been awarded to the University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina and University of Rhode Island.

The University of California at Los Angeles is conducting research to aid policymakers in estimating and managing risks to human life. Carnegie Mellon University will compare facilities using different methodologies to evaluating emissions levels and compliance with environmental regulations.

The Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy at North Carolina State University will develop a model to measure the benefits of improved surface water quality, using changes in local housing values. The information will be collected in Wake County, North Carolina.

The University of North Carolina will evaluate whether there are differences between facilities that adopt Environmental Management Systems. Researchers will also evaluate whether the adoption of an Environmental Management System results in improved environmental performance over time, and the implications of commitments to improve such systems.

The University of Rhode Island will conduct research to identify economic and ecological factors that influence society's ability to maintain a well functioning ecosystem in the face of sprawl or rural residential development.

For more information on these research projects and on EPA's STAR program, go to: http://www.epa.gov/ncerqa

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TRUCK REPAIR FIRM ADMITS ILLEGAL DUMPING

PEARL, Mississippi, February 12, 2002 (ENS) - Truck Trailer and Equipment Inc. (TT&E), a Pearl truck repair firm, its president, J.W. Fielder and manager, Allen Fielder, have pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act.

The company was involved in a scheme that involved the dumping of hazardous waste and pollutants, including spent solvents, grease, oil and other wastes into a wetland and a tributary of the Pearl River that bordered the TT&E facility. Illegal dumping also occurred at an off site wooded area.

Archie Stewart, another TT&E manager, pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act. Carlos Lindsey, a TT&E employee, pleaded guilty to the hazardous waste transportation and dumping conspiracy.

The dumping of hazardous wastes and other pollutants into wetlands, rural waterways and rural areas can create harm aquatic resources and wildlife, and can make surface waters unsafe for human recreation and use as drinking water supplies.

When sentenced, the Fielders and Lindsey each face maximum sentences of up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000. TT&E faces a maximum fine of up to $500,000 when sentenced, and Stewart faces a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000 when sentenced.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and local public safety officials. It is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section Office of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Jackson.

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KEEPING COMMON SPECIES COMMON IN NEW YORK

ALBANY, New York, February 12, 2002 (ENS) - In effort to ensure that New York's common species do not become endangered, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has completed species and habitat profiles for the entire state.

The USGS compiled the profiles under the Gap Analysis Program (GAP). The GAP is a scientific method of gathering broad geographic information on biological diversity that contributes to keeping common species common.

The goal is to identify gaps in the conservation fabric: at risk species and biological communities that occupy areas receiving little or no protection. Protecting species and natural communities before they become threatened or endangered is easier, more efficient and saves taxpayers money in contrast to remedial efforts, the USGS said.

"The key question that GAP asks is: How can we prevent species from becoming endangered before they reach a crisis point?" explained Dr. Dennis Fenn, USGS associate director for biology. "Considering potential problems of biodiversity sooner rather than later not only saves species, it helps conserve public funds."

Habitat loss is the major factor contributing to the decline of biological diversity. Aided by earth observing satellites and geographic information systems, GAP assesses the degree to which native animal species and plant communities are represented in the current network of conservation lands.

The New York data indicate that:

Similar species and habitat data profiles have already been completed in 13 other states. Final reports and data are available at: http://www.gap.uidaho.edu/Projects/Data.asp

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JAGUAR PHOTOGRAPHED IN ARIZONA

BRONX, New York, February 12, 2002 (ENS) - Using a camera trap, scientists have captured an image of a jaguar, a rare visitor to the United States, in southern Arizona.

The picture, taken by an automatic camera placed near the U.S.-Mexican border, is the first image of this largest of New World felines in the U.S. since August 1996.

"This photo is a significant development for the conservation of jaguars in the northern part of their range," said Howard Quigley, director for the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Global Carnivore Program. "The individual in the photo is probably dispersing from the population south of the border. We're initiating some work in the Sonora region of Mexico to see if this population will persist and perhaps repopulate parts of the southwestern United States."

Working in tandem with WCS researchers, scientists from the Arizona Game and Fish Department initiated the monitoring project in response to the jaguar photo from 1996. Since that time, the jaguar has been listed in the U.S. as an endangered species. The listing does not include a critical habitat designation, since habitat in the U.S. is not considered necessary for the jaguar's survival.

Although never plentiful in the southwestern United States, jaguars did inhabit the area before being almost eliminated as a result of human persecution. Fewer than 20 sightings of jaguars have been confirmed since the mid-1800s.

Jaguars have lost more than half of their former habitat, a sprawling range stretching from southern Arizona to northern Argentina, during the past century, according to a recent paper published in the journal "Conservation Biology." The WCS led study identifies 51 key jaguar areas in 30 different ecological types.

The WCS has begun to implement a five year, range wide protection program, funded by the car company Jaguar North America. The program has brought together experts from throughout Latin America and North America to coordinate on the ground efforts to save jaguars.

"The WCS Jaguar Conservation Program is committed to the long term conservation of jaguars in this borderland area," Quigley said. "We intend to work with all stakeholders in America and Mexico to make sure that this wonderful representation of our natural heritage persists."