AmeriScan: February 15, 2002


WASHINGTON, DC, February 15, 2002 (ENS) - The new Bush administration plan to limit the effects of global warming plan will increase greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent, researchers at the World Resources Institute warned Thursday.

"I wish the President's plan were a serious effort to deal with global warming. But it is not. The plan will only succeed in confusing the American people, and our allies overseas, with misleading statistics," Dr. Nancy Kete, director of the Climate, Energy, and Pollution Program at the Washington based think tank.

President George W. Bush Thursday committed the United States to cutting greenhouse gas "intensity," defined as how much greenhouse gas the country emits per unit of economic activity - by 18 percent over the next 10 years.

President claim that the amount of greenhouse gases in relation to gross domestic product growth would fall by 18 percent over the next 10 years is misleading, Dr. Kete said.

"Emissions under Bush's plan would actually increase by 14 percent during the time period. And far from being comparable to the efforts by others under the Kyoto Protocol, U.S. emissions would be 33 percent above the Kyoto baseline in 2012, compared with a five percent cut for industrialized countries," Dr. Kete said. She was referring to the international agreement signed in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan which mandates that 38 industrialized countries must reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the five year period 2008 to 2012.

"I reaffirm America's commitment to the United Nations Framework [Climate Change] Convention and its central goal, to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate," Bush said. "Our immediate goal is to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of our economy."

Bush said his plan will prevent more than 500 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere over the next decade. He promised to establish a voluntary cap-and-trade emissions permitting system to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from power plants by 70 percent.

Dr. Kete said some major corporations are already demonstrating that emissions trading is a cost effective means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. WRI experts said that they were disappointed that the President took no steps towards setting up a U.S. wide trading scheme.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) sharply criticized White House plans to deal with climate change and power plant pollution. The White House will use the plan as cover to mask future assaults on clean air laws, FOE said.

"The plan is classic Bush administration policy: take care of the President's rich, polluting friends and damn the environmental consequences," said Friends of the Earth president Dr. Brent Blackwelder. "Nothing they have proposed will reduce climate change or pollution. This is just a cynical attempt to hide Bush's real agenda - his upcoming assault on the Clean Air Act."

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JUNEAU, Alaska, February 15, 2002 (ENS) - Alaska Governor Tony Knowles has signed legislation providing $1 million to Arctic Power, a nonprofit group that lobbies Congress in support of oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Knowles signed the bill Monday in his Juneau office as members of the Alaska Oil Support Industry Alliance looked on.

"These needed funds will allow Arctic Power to continue its national efforts in support of responsible oil and gas exploration and development in ANWR," Knowles said. "This is particularly timely as Congress is currently scheduled to begin debating a national energy bill later this week. It also provides $100,000 to help the village of Kaktovik host members of the media and others as they visit the refuge."

The funds for Arctic Power were originally included in Knowles' fast track supplemental budget bill that also provided marketing assistance to promote tourism and wild Alaska salmon. While signing the Arctic Power bill, Knowles reminded Alaska lawmakers of the need for quick action on the needs of the salmon and tourism industries.

"Both of these industries face challenges in the coming year, ranging from the public's reaction to terrorism and national stock market conditions, to increased competition in the global marketplace," Knowles said.

Knowles' original proposal includes $5 million for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute for domestic and international marketing and quality assurance, and another $5 million for regional salmon marketing grants and an international niche marketing program to promote salmon in developing markets.

For tourism, Knowles proposed $9.8 million for the Alaska Travel Industry Association to market recreational travel to Alaska after the decline in bookings that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11 and $200,000 for the Alaska Marine Highway System to promote travel by ferry to and within Alaska.

"Just as we promote oil and gas development, Alaska's other primary industries need our support," Knowles said. "We need to help the hard working and resourceful entrepreneurs in our fishing industry who face unprecedented competition from foreign fish farmers."

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NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey, February 15, 2002 (ENS) - Research into the impact of the 1991 eruption of a Philippine volcano on the world's climate has strengthened the case for human causes of global warming, a Rutgers University scientist reports in a paper published in the February 14 issue of the international journal, "Science."

Alan Robock of the Rutgers Center for Environmental Prediction in the Department of Environmental Sciences says research on the eruption of Mount Pinatubo has improved scientists' ability to forecast the impact of future volcanoes on weather and climate.

The eruption on Luzon Island in the Philippines on June 15, 1991 produced the largest volcanic cloud of the 20th century and caused changes in worldwide climate and weather that were felt for years.

Most significant, Robock said, Mount Pinatubo helped validate computer generated climate models that demonstrate human caused global warming.

The sulfuric acid cloud released by Mount Pinatubo blocked a large percentage of sunlight from reaching the earth, created cooler summers and warmer winters, an overall net cooling at the earth's surface and altered winds and weather patterns, Robock said.

In the Middle East, it produced a rare snowstorm in Jerusalem and led to the death of coral at the bottom of the Red Sea.

The cloud also caused depletion of the ozone layer over Temperate Zone regions of the Northern Hemisphere where much of the world's population resides, in addition to the regular ozone hole which appears in October over Antarctica.

Using computer modeling, said Robock, scientists have been able to account for natural warming and cooling, as found in Arctic and Antarctic ice core samples and tree rings covering hundreds of years up to the last century.

"If you plug in volcanic eruptions, El Ninos, solar variations and other natural causes and try to simulate past climate changes, you can do a pretty good job of modeling climate change until the end of the 19th Century," the researcher said.

After that period, natural causes alone cannot account for the amount of warming, about 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.1 degrees Fahrenheit), that has taken place in the last century.

"But when you factor in Pinatubo and other eruptions along with anthropogenic emissions," said Robock, "it accounts for the observed record of climate change for the past century, including the overall warming and episodic cooling, and validates the climate models."

In addition to improving understanding of global warming, scientists will be able to develop better seasonal forecasts after the next major eruption occurs, he said.

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 15, 2002 (ENS) - Three laws aimed at conserving international wildlife have been passed by Congress and reauthorized by President George W. Bush, allowing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue federal grant programs for African and Asian elephants, rhinos and tigers through 2007.

Reauthorization of these acts for another five years will provide contributions to rhino, tiger and elephant conservation by assisting cooperative efforts among governments, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector to work together for a common goal.

Beneficiaries of the funding include African elephants, which now number about 300,000, and Asian elephants, which number 35,000 to 45,000, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates. Fives species of rhinos will benefit, their numbers so low that each individual counts - 60 Javan rhinos, 300 Sumatran rhinos, 2,400 Indian rhinos, 2,600 black rhinos and 10,400 white rhinos.

The world's 5,000 to 7,000 tigers in five remaining subspecies will also benefit from the conservation funding.

Each act contains new provisions, one of which allows the Secretary of the Interior to convene an advisory group to assist in carrying out the Act. The creation of advisory groups permits expanded private sector involvement in international conservation efforts. This, in turn, increases the leveraging power of the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) multinational conservation grant programs.

"These grant programs are relatively small, but as a conservation investment, they are extremely effective," said FWS Deputy Director Marshall Jones. "The value of every grant dollar is multiplied by the efforts of our in-country partners."

This advisory group provision is modeled on similar language in the recently enacted Great Apes Conservation Act and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. These five acts are known collectively as the Multinational Species Conservation Acts.

The programs work by forging partnerships with local communities, governments and non-governmental organizations in the countries where the endangered animals are found. In-country partners receive grants to cover labor and equipment. Under the African Elephant Conservation Act, the Service has provided $11 million for 123 projects in 23 African countries since 1990, but the value of the on-the-ground resources directed at African elephant conservation is actually five times that amount.

The actual on-the-ground resources directed at tiger and rhino conservation is nearly twice the $3 million appropriated under the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act since 1996. The Asian elephant conservation grant program, now in its third year, has leveraged a 1:1 financial match for the $1.9 million worth of appropriations.

Elephants, tigers and rhino numbers are declining due to habitat loss and poaching. Tigers have also suffered due to a decrease in available prey, since many of Asia's ungulate species have themselves declined due to habitat loss and hunting.

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 15, 2002 (ENS) - An agreement decree that will result in the elimination of 100 million gallons of raw sewage discharges annually has been signed between federal agencies and Cincinnati area governments.

The Justice Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Ohio have announced a partial settlement with the Board of Commissioners of Hamilton County and the city of Cincinnati that will eliminate the long standing sewage discharges from its sanitary sewer system.

Under the settlement, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) could spend upwards of $450 million toward eliminating these discharges.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said, "We are pleased the State of Ohio joined us as plaintiffs in this settlement, as it will go a long way toward improving the health of the Ohio River and its tributaries in the Cincinnati area."

For years, the city and county have discharged untreated sewage when it rains through overflow pipes, or sanitary sewer outfalls, including some that were constructed long ago in MSD's aging sanitary sewer system. Discharges from these outfalls are illegal under the Clean Water Act.

The settlement does not address the city and county's other extensive problems with overflows from sewers that carry both sewage and stormwater, known as combined sewer overflows. Nor does it resolve the United States' and the State of Ohio's claims for civil penalties due to all the city and county's Clean Water Act violations. The parties will continue negotiations to resolve these issues as soon as the partial settlement is approved by the court.

The settlement puts the city and county on an enforceable schedule to construct major capital improvement projects, estimated to cost $43 million, to eliminate the worst problems. Most of these projects will be completed in the next three to five years. But Cincinnati's worst sanitary sewer overflow (SSO), SSO 700, will require more time and money to fix.

Currently, MSD is evaluating building a large, deep tunnel with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control. The tunnel under consideration would be more than 16 miles long, 30 feet in diameter, and 300 feet deep and would end the area's chronic flooding problems.

MSD's share of the costs of building the tunnel and related sewer pipes to eliminate this one problem could mount up to $410 million.

Because the tunnel and other fixes being contemplated for SSO 700 could take until 2016 or longer to build, the settlement requires the defendants to build a $10 to 15 million interim treatment facility at this outfall to reduce the environmental impact from SSO 700 while the final measures are being planned and built.

The agreement requires the city and county to assess their sewer system, using sophisticated models to determine the current and future capacity. Once the assessment is completed, at a cost of over $14 million, the city and county must develop a comprehensive plan for projects to eliminate all the rest of their SSOs and provide adequate capacity for the future. There is currently no estimate as to how much more the city and county will have to spend on these additional projects.

The EPA says that there are at least 40,000 sanitary sewer overflows nationally each year. The untreated sewage from these overflows can contaminate waters with bacteria, pathogens and other harmful pollutants, causing serious water quality problems. It can also back up into basements, damage property and threaten public health.

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TAMPA, Florida, February 15, 2002 (ENS) - Gilbert Thurston of Naples, Florida, former chief mate of the S.S. Trinity, was indicted on a charge of misconduct, stemming from an incident in which a crew member died after exposure to the toxic chemical methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).

If convicted, Thurston faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

Thurston allegedly allowed one of the ship's crew, Frederic A. Cambra, Jr., to enter the ship's cargo tank to clean out puddles of MTBE and sea water. The puddles had remained in the ship's tank after it had delivered a load of MTBE to New York.

Thurston, who was supervising cargo tank cleaning activities that day, was allegedly aware that the air in the tank had previously tested unsafe and that the ship did not have a confined space entry permit to enter the tank.

Despite this, Cambra was allegedly allowed to enter the tank without an air purification respirator and collapsed. Efforts to resuscitate him were not successful. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was toxic fume intoxication secondary to MTBE exposure.

MTBE is a fuel oxygenate that is used in gasoline to reduce the atmospheric pollution associated with automobile emissions.

The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa.

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 15, 2002 (ENS) - Trails and greenways are crucial to land conservation - linking open space, serving as alternative transportation routes, preserving valuable corridors of land, and building coalitions across jurisdictional boundaries. In a new report, "Green Infrastructure: Smart Conservation for the 21st Century," the Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse calls for states and communities to make green infrastructure an integral part of local, regional and state plans and policies.

The report says that one of every three weekday trail users on major metropolitan trail systems in Washington, DC, Seattle, Washington, and Tampa, Florida, are commuters. Report co-author Mark Benedict, director of the Conservation Fund's Leadership Network, said trails and greenways "are the links that tie the open space together and allow it to function."

The Capital Crescent Trail between Georgetown, DC, and Silver Spring, Maryland accommodates 325,000 user trips a year, and the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park trail in Northern Virginia gets 1,500,000 user trips a year.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy president Keith Laughlin said, "Trails and greenways improve quality of life in our communities by providing safe places to walk or bike, while preserving precious open space." Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with 110,000 members and donors, has created a nationwide network of public trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors.

Report co-author Edward McMahon, vice president of The Conservation Fund, said, "Just as growing communities need to upgrade and expand their built infrastructure - roads, sewers, utilities - so too they need to upgrade and expand their green infrastructure, the network of open space, woodlands, wildlife habitat, parks and other natural areas that sustains clean air, water and natural resources and enriches our quality of life."

The report argues that several thousand commuters using these trails could reduce the need for roads and other expensive forms of transportation infrastructure.

For a copy of Green Infrastructure: Smart Conservation for the 21st Century, log on to:

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HONOLULU, Hawaii, Febrary 15, 2002 (ENS) - Many of the world's major estuaries are polluted, but until now there has not been a study that uniformly compares levels of nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus in two separate bodies of water. The presence of these chemicals in estuaries is a result of runoff from industry and agriculture.

Environmental biologists have now made it possible to directly compare, for instance, the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Gdansk in Poland. The methodology they have developed to measure the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the world's waters were presented Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union Ocean Sciences meeting, at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

"There have been many studies around the globe of the world's estuaries and coastal water systems. But to date there has not been a uniform approach to measure the effects of loads of nitrogen and phosphorus in those waters," says Dennis Swaney, an environmental biologist at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research Inc., located on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Swaney conducts watershed modeling with the environmental biology group at the institute. He and colleagues Stephen Smith and Vilma Dupra, both of the University of Hawaii, presented their system - the Land Ocean Interactions in Coastal Zones (LOICZ).

As water flows through any estuary system and mixes with adjacent systems, such as oceans or seas, the flows of water are described by scientists in terms of "water budgets" and the nutrients carried by these flows are described by "nutrient budgets."

By examining differences in nutrient budgets, scientists draw conclusions about biological productivity and other processes in estuaries around the globe.

The data show that the state of the Chesapeake Bay may not be a reason to rejoice, but it is in better shape than many estuaries such as the Gulf of Gdansk. Comparing the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Gdansk could offer clues to how Europe is handling phosphorus and nitrogen runoff.

This data, obtained through the collaboration of hundreds of scientists, has been used to establish at least crude nutrient and water budgets for many sites around the globe. From that, the scientists can determine the relative health of these bodies of water. "In smaller water systems, you're going to have higher impacts, and this is an enormous load," says Swaney.

The estuary project, which started in 1993 and is funded by the United Nations, is located at the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. Part of the goal of the project is to gather and disseminate information, and as of January, data from 195 coastal systems globally had been compiled.

Swaney says the next challenge is to extrapolate these site specific results into more detailed, environmental information. "We can't simply come up with a global average. We are trying to find patterns of estuarine productivity - how it varies with system area, region, and human and environmental factors."

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HAGERSTOWN, Maryland, February 15, 2002 (ENS) - Allegheny Energy companies Allegheny Energy Supply and Allegheny Power have acted to preserve the unique plant and animal species in West Virginia's Canaan Valley by selling 12,000 acres of land to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to expand the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Canaan Valley's elevation makes it the highest valley in the eastern United States. It contains one of the largest and healthiest freshwater stream and marsh ecosystems in the Appalachian Mountains, supporting populations of species not normally found in the region, including the endangered Virginia northern flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain salamander.

Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 11, 1994, and became the 500th refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge's goal is to preserve 24,000 acres of fragile wetlands and unique habitats. To date, more than 3,240 acres have been purchased.

The Allegheny Energy agreement was reached with the assistance of Senator Robert Byrd and Congressman Alan Mollohan, both West Virginia Democrats. The land and water conservation group, The Conservation Fund, facilitated the transaction and played a key intermediary role throughout the acquisition process.

"It is with great pride that we are making this land available to the federal government so that people throughout the region can continue to enjoy this valuable environmental resource," said Alan Noia, chairman, president, and CEO of Allegheny Energy. "With this transaction, we are confident the acreage will be dedicated to helping preserve the largest freshwater wetland area in central and southern Appalachia."

Dr. Steve Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said, "This is one of our largest single refuge acquisitions in the Northeast, a place where land with important wildlife values is at a premium. Allegheny Energy is to be commended for their willingness to conserve the marvelous geological and biological treasure that is Canaan Valley."