AmeriScan: January 4, 2001

COAST GUARD VIOLATED OIL POLLUTION ACT, JUDGE RULES

SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled last month that the U.S. Coast Guard is violating the 1990 Oil Pollution Act by failing for more than a decade to require oil tankers to install leak detection equipment to notify tanker crews of a leak in an oil cargo tank.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the national environmental organizations Bluewater Network and Ocean Advocates. The Court also found the Coast Guard must consider future petitions seeking regulations which would require tankers to employ two tug escorts in sensitive or risky areas where such escorts are not already required.

Chief Judge Edwards criticized the agency's "continuing recalcitrance" and "blatant disregard" in failing to comply with the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, passed after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska in 1990, spilling 10.7 million gallons of oil. Judge Edwards blasted the Coast Guard for trying to turn the Oil Pollution Act's "clear and long passed deadlines" on their head.

"Protecting our nation's waters from oil spills is supposed to be a top priority for the U.S. Coast Guard. Frankly, it's outrageous that they've spent nine years fighting the environmental community when all we wanted was for them to do their job," said Dr. Russell Long, director of Bluewater Network.

"There's absolutely no excuse for the U.S. Coast Guard to have ignored the will of the U.S. Congress for so long. The U.S. coastlines are simply too valuable and important to be subjected to more oil spills," said Sally Lentz, director of Ocean Advocates. "We call upon the Coast Guard to immediately comply with the Court's decision by requiring leak detection equipment, and designating sensitive ports areas where tankers should be required to use two tug escorts."

The court decision is available at: http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/common/opinions/200012/99-1502a.txt

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CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CALLS SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION ON ENERGY

SACRAMENTO, California, January 4, 2001 (ENS) Governor Gray Davis has ordered the state legislature to convene a special session to pass legislation addressing California's energy crisis.

"In response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) failure to meet its obligations, I am taking the extraordinary step of calling the California Legislature into a concurrent Extraordinary Session to immediately address the energy situation in our state," said Davis.

"I will call them to do at least the following," Davis continued. "Replace the so-called stakeholders on the ISO Board with Californians who are more concerned about affordable prices and reliability of power and; reestablish the authority for the state to inspect private power plants to assure the coordination of maintenance and operating schedules; and provide low-interest financing for new peaking facilities or re-powering old ones to make them cleaner and more efficient in return for committing their power to Californians at guaranteed low rates."

The session will focus on legislation that:

Governor Davis used his constitutional power to call for the special session. The session began on Wednesday. Each house of the legislature will be responsible for the scheduling of hearings and the calendar for the session.

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SOLAR ENERGY TO BE STANDARD FEATURE IN NEW HOMES

NEWARK, Delaware, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - A house builder in California will make solar power a standard feature in its new homes. Shea Homes Inc. of San Diego will install solar systems from AstroPower Inc. in 100 new homes to be built this year. The companies want to build a total of 200 solar homes in the next 18 months, as new development phases roll out.

"It's been a long-term goal of our industry in the U.S. to have solar electric home power systems become a standard feature in new home construction," said Howard Wenger of AstroPower. "That's what makes our partnership with Shea Homes so significant. Shea Homes has recognized the value of solar technology as a standard feature."

The San Diego division of Shea Homes will feature solar technology in its newest community located in Scripps Highlands, 15 miles north of San Diego. The technology will let homeowners reduce their utility bills by 50 percent over a conventional home.

"We're doing this to enable our customers to take control of their energy bills," said Ryan Green of Shea Homes. "We want to build a more efficient home, allow our customers to generate their own electricity, and deliver it for an affordable price. The homes in Scripps Highlands are 40 percent more efficient than the strict California energy efficiency standards."

AstroPower's SunChoice(TM) is a national program designed to make solar power affordable and easy to obtain.

"San Diego is the epicenter of California's power crisis, where electric rates and bills have doubled and threats of power outages have become common," said Wenger. "Our SunChoice solar home power systems produce pollution free electricity, spin the utility meter backward to lower bills, and can also provide power to the home during power outages. It's a perfect match."

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4000+ COMMUNITIES TARGETED FOR ENHANCED FIRE PROTECTION

WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt today released a proposed list of communities eligible for enhanced federal wildfire prevention assistance. The preliminary list of more than 4000 communities includes many that are near public lands managed by the federal government.

"This list will help better focus our aggressive federal fire prevention efforts and our limited resources," said Glickman.

Specific actions to reduce the threats of wildfires will vary. In some areas, for example, contracts may be offered to thin dense stands of trees or prescribed burns used to reduce excessive undergrowth. In other areas, actions may be taken to remove non-native plant species that increase fire danger.

Communities included on the list were proposed by states, tribes and local governments. The list was compiled by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The Western Governors Association, the National Association of State Foresters and others helped develop draft criteria to identify communities that may benefit from special attention to reduce wildland fire hazards.

The list, as well as the draft criteria, will be refined as additional information and public comments are submitted to the federal agencies. The draft list, available at http://www.nifc.gov, includes communities where hazardous fuels reduction treatments are already underway and those where treatments are slated for later this fiscal year.

The need to reduce wildfire fuels, particularly in areas where homes lie next to forested tracts, was identified in the report "Managing Impacts of Wildfires on Communities and Environment," which Secretaries Babbitt and Glickman submitted to President Bill Clinton last year.

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LIMITS PLACED ON CRAB FISHING VESSELS IN BERING SEA

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is implementing a program to limit fishing capacity in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) crab fisheries. The first stage of the program reduces the number of vessels that can participate in the BSAI crab fisheries by requiring that vessels meet historic harvest qualifications.

To qualify, a vessel must meet existing license limitation program criteria, and vessels 60 feet and over in length must have made at least one landing of BSAI crab in 1996, 1997 or before February 7, 1998. The Norton Sound king crab fisheries are exempt from this program.

"Under the capacity reduction program, licenses now can only be used to harvest BSAI crab on qualified vessels," said Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for NMFS. "This is a new requirement for vessels that have a history of participation in this crab fishery."

To implement this new requirement, the NMFS identified all vessels that qualify and sent a Certificate of Eligibility to the owner of each qualifying vessel. The agency prepared an Interim Certificate for LLP license holders that the agency could not identify as the owner of a qualified vessel. The Interim Certificate will expire on August 31, 2001.

Interim Certificates allow the license holder to name the vessel upon which the Certificate may be used. License holders with Interim Certificates have until April 30 to present evidence that they own a vessel that qualifies under the Capacity Reduction program.

"The second stage will be the crab LLP license buyback program," said Balsiger. "We anticipate implementation of that phase of the program by May 2001."

More information is available at: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov

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CALIFORNIA POACHERS BUSTED IN COLORADO

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS, Colorado, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - Thanks to the cooperation of several concerned hunters and the ability to track down hunting licenses by computer, two California poachers have paid $4282 in fines and served seven days in jail.

Ignacio Martinez of Pasadena and John Medina of Diamond Bar, CA, pled guilty to felony willful destruction of wildlife and waste of meat, a misdemeanor, for killing two mule deer and taking just the heads and antlers.

In November 1999, Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) officers were approached by several hunters from Colorado who had found the carcasses of the deer. They thought the hunters doing the killing were from California. The officers located several California hunters who substantiated the claim.

The DOW officers checked local motel registrations as well as ordering a computer search of the deer licenses sold to California hunters for the November 1999 hunting season. After determining the names of two possible suspects, the officers contacted the California Department of Game and Fish (CDGF).

CDGF Officer Steve Ulrich located the suspects and interviewed them. He also located the antlers at a taxidermist and had them returned to Colorado for comparison with the tissue samples from the deer carcasses. DNA testing determined that the antlers and carcasses were from the same animals.

When confronted with the lab results as well as the information from the other hunters, the suspects confessed their crimes. The jail sentences and fines, which included a contribution to the DOW's anti-poaching program, were just for the waste of meat charges. Sentencing on the felony charges was deferred on the condition that the two men do not commit any other wildlife violations anywhere in the U.S. for two years.

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ENERGY SECRETARY NAMES HEAD OF OFFICE OF RIVER PROTECTION

RICHLAND, Washington, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has named Dr. Harry Boston as manager of the Office of River Protection (ORP) in Richland. Dr. Boston has been acting manager of the ORP since August 2, 2000.

"Dr. Boston has brought extensive technical experience and focus to the office, and plans to hire new executives and other federal employees to ensure we have the experience and expertise in place to keep our project on schedule and meet our commitments," said Richardson.

The ORP was created by Congress in 1998 to manage the Department of Energy's largest and most complex environmental cleanup project - underground tank waste at the Hanford Site. The mission of the ORP is to store, retrieve, treat, immobilize and dispose of high level radioactive waste stored in 177 underground tanks at the Hanford site.

Dr. Boston is the former Deputy Manager for Site Transition at the department's Richland Operations Office, where he was responsible for a variety of programs and activities to guide the cleanup mission at Hanford.

In addition to his government service, he has more than 14 years of corporate management experience with Lockheed Martin Hanford Corporation, the cleanup contractor at Hanford, and Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc. at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Site in Tennessee.

Dr. Boston holds a bachelor's degree in natural resources from Cornell University, a master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington, and a doctorate in botany from the University of Wisconsin.

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WASHINGTON STATE SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT ON WATER QUALITY

OLYMPIA, Washington, January 4, 2001 (ENS) - Anyone interested in the quality of water in the state of Washington's lakes, rivers and marine waters is invited to participate in workshops this month to review and comment on draft proposals for changing some of the state's water quality standards. The state Department of Ecology (Ecology) has spent almost a decade working with people around the state to identify potential changes to the standards, many of which have not been changed since about 1980.

The water quality standards place limits on how much pollution is allowed in a waterway, and are based on the federal Clean Water Act and regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Megan White, who manages Ecology's water quality program, says the goal is to do a better job of protecting streams, lakes and marine waters from pollution, high temperatures and overall degradation or harm.

"We have some significant changes proposed, and we want to hear further from citizens about how to improve the health of our state's waters," said White.

Three of the most significant proposals include changes to the state's criteria for temperature, dissolved oxygen and bacteria; revising the classification system for waterways so that it is better aligned with the actual uses in a particular lake or stream; and establishing procedures for determining when degradation or harm would be allowed or prohibited to waterways determined to be of high quality.

Drafts of the proposal and the schedule of workshops are available at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/swqa/index.html