AmeriScan: January 2, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - Spencer Abraham, an Arab-American, has been nominated as Secretary of Energy by President-elect George W. Bush, immediately drawing objections from environmental leaders. Abraham was elected to the U.S. Senate to represent Michigan in 1994 and was defeated in his November re-election bid. Regarding energy policy, Abraham said there are vast resources in the United States that are crucial to the nation's security. "We can make good use of them while at the same time, I believe, meeting our responsibilities as good stewards of the land, the air, and the water. This is the duty of the next Secretary of Energy and I am very eager to take up the task," he said.


Spencer Abraham (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
But Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder said the nomination is a disaster for the environment. Abraham's record is entirely composed of anti-environmental votes in the last congress, particularly in the area of energy, Blackwelder said. Abraham voted to increase special subsidies to the oil industry, and took positions against renewable energy and fuel efficiency standards. Consistently siding with the oil and coal industries, Abraham voted to open up the Arctic National Wildlife refuge to oil exploration and to continue mining mountains for coal in ways that Blackwelder said were in violation of the Clean Water Act. "The Bush cabinet is shaping up as a jobs program for recently defeated anti-environmental zealots and recycled Reagan and Bush era industry friendly operatives," Blackwelder said.

"We are stunned by President-elect Bush's appointment of Abraham, a member of LCV's 2000 Dirty Dozen list, and our number one target for defeat last year," said League of Conservation Voters president Deb Callahan. "He even co-sponsored a bill to abolish the very department he's been nominated to lead," she said.

* * *


HELENA, Montana, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - At today's inauguration of Montana Governor Judy Martz, citizens concerned about the new Yellowstone bison management plan made it clear that they do not support slaughter of bison that stray outside Yellowstone National Park, and they do not want their new governor to support the killings either. The rally, organized by members of the Buffalo Field Campaign, was held at the State House in Helena. The approximately 3,000 bison, also called buffalo, are the last wild herd left in the United States.


Montana Governor Judy Martz (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
Martz, a Republican, was Lt. Governor in the outgoing administration of Marc Racicot which encouraged the Montana Department of Livestock to keep the buffalo in the park by whatever means necessary. During the winter of 1997-1998, the state killed roughly 1,100 of the buffalo so that Montana cattle ranchers could maintain their brucellosis free status. Brucellosis, a disease which causes abortions, could conceivably be transmitted from bison to cattle, although a case of transmission from wild buffalo to Montana cattle has yet to be documented.

Under the new plan, says the Buffalo Field Campaign, "buffalo will continue to be needlessly hazed, captured, and shot on public and private lands outside the park. Specifics of the plan include hazing bison within the boundaries of Yellowstone, quarantining members of America's only continuously wild buffalo herd for up to four years, and fitting bison with radio collars and vaginal telemetry devices. The plan calls for culling the herd to maintain a maximum population of 3,000 animals." The group is attempting to influence Governor Martz to work towards changing the new plan.

Darrell Geist, executive director of Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers, a Missoula based environmental and human rights group, said, "Two thousand holy cows will continue to range on public lands at taxpayer expense, while buffalo are denied that range and killed for trying to migrate there." The 15 year management plan, designed to protect 2,019 cow/calf pairs, will cost taxpayers between 39 and 44 million dollars, Geist said.

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - Actor Pierce Brosnan will host the live telecast of a one hour special program, "Heroes for the Planet - A Tribute to National Geographic," to be simulcast on Sunday on CNBC and the new National Geographic Channel. The program will air on Fox News Channel later that night. Presented by Ford Motor Company, the special will broadcast from the Warner Theatre in Washington, and feature talented conservationists including actors Danny Glover, Joe Mantegna, Edward James Olmos, Haley Joel Osment, Martin Sheen, and Titanic director James Cameron. The event will honor the 113 year old National Geographic organization for its commitment to global conservation. Comedian John Cleese will make a special guest appearance. Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo will be the musical performers, as will jazz saxophonist Dave Koz.

During the live telecast, Ford will underwrite conservation of the environment with a $400,000 donation to the National Geographic Society Conservation Trust. The amount represents a one dollar donation for each of the automotive manufacturer's 400,000 employees worldwide.

The gift will help advance the Explorers-in-Residence program. Explorers-in-Residence to be honored during the television special and will include Robert Ballard, who led the mission that discovered the wreckage of the Titanic; Jane Goodall, for her work studying chimpanzees in Tanzania; Paul Sereno, who discovered several new species of dinosaurs; Wade Davis, anthropologist and botanical explorer; Sylvia Earle, marine biologist; Johan Reinhard, high altitude archaeologist; and Stephen Ambrose, historian and teacher. The special will look at some of the Society's current activities, including its affiliation with the Earth Conservation Corps' efforts to clean up the Anacostia River in southwest Washington, DC, and the re-introduction of the bald eagle to the nation's capital.

* * *


NEW YORK, New York, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - The New York City Health Department has published a final scoping document outlining plans to determine the potential impact from the use of pesticides to control mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus or other mosquito borne diseases. The document will be used to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). It outlines proposed actions, potential environmental issues of concern, and proposed analysis methods to address the potential environmental impacts of mosquito control activities.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Neal Cohen said, "For the past two summers, the city has taken state and federal approved actions to limit the spread of West Nile virus by using EPA approved pesticides for mosquito control. The city is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of the potential environmental impact of these pesticides. This review involves public comment as well as a scientific review and analysis of available information."

"As part of this review process, Dr. Cohen said, "alternatives to pesticide use will be explored as will measures that could mitigate the adverse impacts of pesticide applications. While we are committed to reducing the possibility of illnesses associated with West Nile virus, our goal is to address public concerns about the use of pesticides used for mosquito control and to minimize the risk of adverse reactions to pesticides."

It is expected that a DEIS will be completed by March 2001. A public response period and hearings in each borough will then take place. A Final Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be published in June 2001. The EIS is an integral component of the Health Department's plans to implement a comprehensive surveillance and control plan for West Nile virus in 2001. The final scoping document includes comments from public hearings held this summer.

To see the final scoping document, log on to:

* * *


VIEQUES, Puerto Rico, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - Residents on the island of Vieques are starting the new year by battling the U.S. Navy once again. The Navy uses the tiny island off the east coast of Puerto Rico as a bombing target. Today and Wednesday, the Navy is carrying out preparations that include open burning and open detonation of bombs and other artifacts from previous maneuvers for exercises announced for the second half of January.

On New Years Eve, members of the community dismantled several hundred of feet of the military fence at Camp García to protest the Navy´s intentions of continued bombing. Protesters took down large extensions of the perimeter fence that separates the military from the civilian area in the Eastern third of the island. "This is an indication of things to come," said Ismael Guadalupe, one of the principal Viequense leaders. "This fence separates us from our patrimony, from the land where our parents and grandparents were born. We want to end the obstacles to our natural and healthy development. We will take back what by Natural Right belongs to us - our land, our right to live in peace."

The protesters say depleted uranium and napalm bombs and other live ordnance are everywhere along the bombing range. Vieques fishermen and tourist services cannot make their living, and a peaceful island way of life has been disrupted. In May 2000, U.S. federal agents removed about 230 demonstrators from restricted lands on Vieques owned by the U.S. Navy. Some had been camping on the Navy lands for over a year to prevent resumption of the bombing. President Bill Clinton has promised the Navy will leave by May 2003 if the island's 9,400 residents vote to expel it in a referendum expected this year. He ordered the Navy to stop using live bombs.

* * *


MOUNT SINAI, New York, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - The Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for burning down four new luxury homes at Island Estates in Mount Sinai, Long Island on December 29, 2000. Damage estimates are close to $2 million to the homes which were unsold.

In a statement obtained by ENS, the group said its motive is environmental. "We will not tolerate the destruction of our Island. Recently, hundreds of houses have been built over much of Mount Sinai's picturesque landscape and developers now plan to build a further 189 luxury houses over the farms and forests adjacent to Island Estates," the group stated. Law enforcement officials are investigating the arson.

The Earth Liberation Front is viewed as a terrorist group by law enforcement officials, but in the statement covering this incident, the group says they "condemn all forms of terrorism" and claims to be non-violent. "Houses were checked for all forms of life and we even moved a propane tank out of the house all the way across the street just in case in worst case scenario, the firefighters could get hurt. We show solidarity with our firefighters and we are sorry to wake you up in the middle of the night. Don't be mad at us, be mad at urban sprawl ... We are just trying to cause the rich sprawl corporations enough money so they stop destroying the planet, and thus the health, well-being, and existence of humankind."

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - Minority communities should not have to bear a larger share of environmental contamination than other communities - it is only fair, and it is the law. To translate the law into reality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is open to receiving proposals for the FY01 Environmental Justice Small Grants Program. The total amount of grant funding available is $1.5 million. Grants will range from $15,000 to $20,000. Cost sharing is not required.

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, culture, education, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, the EPA states. "Fair treatment means that no one group of people, including racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal environmental programs and policies," according to the EPA.

In awarding the grants, preference will be given to community based and grassroots organizations that are working on local solutions to local environmental problems. Funds can be used to develop new activities or substantially improve the quality of existing programs that have a direct impact on affected communities. Applications are due March 9. For more information, contact your Regional EPA Environmental Justice Program Manager. Regional contact information is available online at:

* * *


ORINDA, California, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - A new university campus in California will be the first in the country to be designed entirely on green principles. John F. Kennedy University will achieve, "wherever possible, the integration of sustainable principles in the building of its new Concord campus, as well as its academic curriculum," says president Charles Glasser. The goal is to maximize the use of green building materials throughout all aspects of design and construction, including campus furnishings, and to design the energy and water consumption needs using environmentally sensitive yet highly efficient methods.

The campus will also strive for the highest possible rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy Efficient Design rating system, and will integrate the principles of sustainability into its curriculum. While a number of colleges and universities across the United States have completed sustainability construction practices in individual buildings, Glasser says JFKU will be the first in the country to construct an entire campus implementing Green Principles.

The university will purchase a five acre site in downtown Concord, next to the city’s rapid transit station, and will start construction early next year. Glasser and 30 other university presidents recently met at Oberlin College in Ohio to address the environmental and the challenges facing society. They were responding to a challenge from Thomas Kean of Drew University, a former governor of New Jersey, who challenged his fellow presidents call to have "higher education provide the leadership to move society toward a more just and sustainable future."

The technologies and materials to be used will enhance air quality, conserve energy, provide maximum natural and low impact lighting, and improve the work and study environments through the use of environmentally sensitive materials. There may be a small increase in the overall cost of the project because of the desire to achieve as high a rating as possible, officials concede.