AmeriScan: January 8, 2001

LAWSUIT SEEKS BAY AREA CLEAN AIR COMPLIANCE

SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 8, 2001 (ENS) - After 30 years of blown deadlines and inadequate plans, a coalition of San Francisco community and environmental groups filed suit today against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce Clean Air Act requirements needed to meet the national standard for ozone.

The lawsuit was filed this morning by the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of Bayview Community Advocates, Communities for a Better Environment, the Latino Issues Forum, the Sierra Club, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, and the Urban Habitat Program. Our Children's Earth Foundation has also notified EPA of its intent to sue and will be joining this lawsuit.

More than a year ago, area lawmakers and air quality agencies prepared an Attainment Plan intended to reduce regional air pollution to meet the ozone standard by November 15, 2000. The EPA is required under the Clean Air Act to either approve or disapprove this Attainment Plan.

The EPA has not taken action even though the Attainment Plan has proven incapable of meeting the ozone standard, the suit charges. Under the Clean Air Act, if EPA disapproves an Attainment Plan, no new highway projects can be added to existing transportation plans.

"The EPA must act now and disapprove the Attainment Plan," said Deborah Reames, attorney for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "For 30 years local agencies have made half hearted efforts that have failed to clean up our air. Local agencies develop plans that rely on overly optimistic estimates of technical fixes to show that the ozone standard will be met. But violations just continue, deadlines are blown, and a new round of overly optimistic planning begins again."

"Public health demands real and enforceable emissions reductions instead of this endless shell game," said Kathryn Alcantar of the Latino Issues Forum. "Low income and minority communities breathe more dirty air than others in our region. When the EPA fails to do its job, it's minorities and the poor that bear disproportionate health impacts."

More information is available at: http://www.earthjustice.org

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RECORD COLD GRIPS MUCH OF THE NATION

WASHINGTON, DC, January 8, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. national temperature during November through December 2000 was the coldest such period on record, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Friday. The researchers work with data from the world's largest statistical weather database at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Following the second coldest November on record in the U.S., below normal temperatures continued to grip much of the nation in December. With an average temperature of 28.9 F, December 2000 was the seventh coldest December since national records began in 1895.

"Two months in a row of much below average temperatures resulted in the coldest November-December U.S. temperature on record, 33.8 F," said Jay Lawrimore, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at the National Climatic Data Center. The old record of 34.2 F was set in 1898.

This prolonged cold outbreak came at the end of a year that began with the warmest winter on record in the U.S. Above normal temperatures continued through the month of October and made the January through October 2000 period the warmest such ten month period since national temperature records began in 1895. Preliminary data indicates that 2000 was the 13th warmest year on record in the U.S., 1.2 F above the long-term average of 52.8 F.

Forty-three states within the contiguous U.S. recorded below average temperatures during the November-December period. The only states with near normal temperatures were Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

Heavy snow accompanied the cold in many areas. In Buffalo, New York, snowfall records were set during the three month period of October-December, where a total of 95.9 inches broke the previous record of 92.2 inches.

Retired Brigadier General Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's National Weather Service, said 2000 was shaped by variability and extremes, which will continue throughout the winter.

"The eastern and western United States will experience additional cold outbreaks at least through March with periods of moderation in between," Kelly predicted.

More information is available at: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/ol/climate/research/prelim/US/US_prelim.html

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EPA PROPOSES STEPS TO REDUCE SEWER OVERFLOWS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 8, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking action to reduce the sewer overflows that can lead to beach closures by proposing improvements in the operation and maintenance of the nation's sewer systems.

The proposal aims to protect public health and the nation's beaches and waterways from disease causing organisms and contamination linked to 40,000 raw sewage overflows each year. In 1999, almost 1500 of the nation's beach closures and health advisories were due to sewage overflows.

"Each year, too many beaches in America must be closed due to contamination by raw sewage that threatens public health," said EPA assistant administrator J. Charles Fox. "Overflowing sewers are the major contributors to this problem. Today's action is a step toward ensuring that sewer systems across America will be improved to help keep our beaches safe for swimming."

A raw sewer overflow is a release of sewage from a collection system, including pipes, before it reaches a municipal wastewater treatment plant. Many of the nation's urban sewage collection systems are aging; some sewers are 100 years old. Many systems have not received the maintenance and repair needed to keep them working.

The proposed rule would require improved management of capacity and maintenance programs by strengthening current Clean Water Act permit conditions for more than 19,000 sewage treatment plants around the country. The proposal would require 4,800 "satellite" sewage collection systems to get permits for the first time.

Cities would be required to develop and implement plans to improve plant performance, encourage new investments in infrastructure, as well as perform a number of technical upgrades. EPA would clarify that communities have limited protection from enforcement in very rare circumstances.

EPA estimates that this rule would impose an additional total cost for all municipalities of $93.5 million to $126.5 million each year, including costs associated with both planning and permitting. A collection system serving 7,500 people may need to spend an average of $6,000 each year to comply with this rule.

EPA will take public comment for 120 days on the proposal. More information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/water under "What's New."

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AUTO SHOW CIRCLES BY CLEAN CAR RALLY

DETROIT, Michigan, January 8, 2001 (ENS) - A coalition of 18 environmental organizations and consumers rallied outside the North American International Auto Show on Sunday to send automakers a message - build cleaner, greener vehicles.

Honda Insight and Toyota Prius owners drove their hybrid gasoline-electric cars in a loop around the Auto Show headquarters. Meanwhile, representatives from the GreenCar.org coalition including Michigan Environmental Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists and Environmental Defense called for automakers to step up to the challenge.

"Today's hybrids demonstrate that Detroit runs the risk of falling behind in the race to meet consumer demand for more environmentally friendly vehicles," said Lana Pollack, president of the Michigan Environmental Council.

About 150,000 signature/pledges were brought to the rally, almost 100,000 of which were generated through the website, GreenCar.org. Pledgemakers said they would be interested in purchasing greener cars if Detroit automakers would build them.

The website GreenCar.org was created to allow consumers to send an email to the "Big Three" automakers - Ford, Chrysler and General Motors - asking that they produce more fuel efficient vehicles. The pledges call for automobiles that deliver 50 percent better fuel efficiency when compared to other vehicles in the same class, meet California's super-ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) standard for smog forming pollution and are manufactured using non-toxic, recyclable materials.

"These 'pledgers' want automakers to offer appealing vehicles that meet the standard in every market segment now. They represent the tip of the iceberg of consumer demand for cleaner vehicle choices," said Kevin Mills, a senior attorney with Environmental Defense.

"The automotive industry is clearly in the midst of a major transition," said Jason Mark, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles Program. "Ultimately, we will move beyond pistons, beyond petroleum and beyond pollution."

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METAL INDUSTRIES FACE NEW DISCHARGE LIMITS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 8, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed effluent limitation guidelines for wastewater discharges into waterways from the metal products and machinery industry. The agency is also proposing to revise guidelines and standards for wastewater discharges into waterways from the iron and steel manufacturing industry.

EPA's proposals would establish technology based effluent limitations and pretreatment standards for wastewater discharges in a number of industries, including aerospace, electronic equipment, hardware, railroad, ship and stationary industrial equipment, as well as new and existing iron and steel mills.

When implemented, the metal products and machinery proposals are expected to reduce the discharge of 20 pollutants by 170 million pounds per year, improving water quality in more than 1,100 streams. The new iron and steel manufacturing guidelines have the potential to reduce annual discharges of toxic and nonconventional pollutants by 210 million pounds.

The guidelines would apply to both new and existing facilities that manufacture, rebuild or maintain finished metal products, parts or machines. Under the Clean Water Act, EPA develops effluent guidelines specific to individual industries in order to control discharge of pollutants into surface waters and public treatment facilities.

The EPA's actions reflect advances in water conservation practices, waste management and wastewater treatment.

The effluent guidelines program has reduced the public health and environmental impacts of pollutant discharges from over 50 industrial categories since the program's inception in 1974. Additional information on the proposed new guidelines are available at: http://www.epa.gov/ost/guide/

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GET HOOKED ON HEALTHY FISH

NEW YORK, New York, January 8, 2001 (ENS) - Environmental Defense (ED) has joined with Chefs Collaborative to produce the first hands on guide for chefs who want to steer clear of overfished species. Peter Hoffman, a member of the nationwide network of chefs that promotes sustainable cuisine, approached ED biologist Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, and a partnership between the two organizations was born.

The new publication is called "Seafood Solutions: A Chef's Guide to Ecologically Responsible Fish Procurement." It offers tips for selecting seafood and lists suppliers of sustainably harvested fish.

Hoffman

Restaurant owner Peter Hoffman wanted to help conserve depleted seafood stocks (Photo courtesy Environmental Defense)
About two-thirds of all seafood sold in the U.S. is bought by chefs for use in restaurants, and chefs' choices may influence at home cooks, who try making dishes they've enjoyed while eating out.

ED says the guide is also useful for amateur cooks. A list of "Fish Pick" questions lets shoppers know what to ask for in both farmed and wild caught seafood.

The guide also recommends tasty substitutes for dwindling species, such as striped bass or farmed catfish in place of disappearing orange roughy and Chilean sea bass.

By one estimate, 70 percent of the world's commercially fished species are being harvested so intensively that their populations can no longer be sustained. Choosing fish species that are abundant and well managed supports sustainable fishing and responsible aquaculture. It also takes pressure off depleted fish stocks that Environmental Defense and others are trying to conserve through fishing limits and the creation of marine reserves.

For the complete Seafood Solutions guide and additional information on fisheries and aquaculture, visit: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/more/10533

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MONITORING PLAN UNDERWAY FOR SHORT-TAIL ALBATROSS

JUNEAU, Alaska, January 8, 2001 (ENS) - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released a report today intended to identify the best and most practical options for monitoring the incidental catch of the endangered short-tailed albatross in the Pacific halibut fishery in federally managed waters off Alaska. The agency will use the report to prepare and implement a monitoring plan for these seabirds.

"We're pleased with the longline groundfish fleet's efforts to reduce seabird bycatch," said Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for NMFS. "And we anticipate similar positive results as we work with the halibut fleet to protect this endangered seabird population."

The presence of "free" food in the form of offal and bait attract many birds to fishing operations. In the process of feeding, birds sometimes come into contact with fishing gear and are killed. Most birds taken during hook and line operations are attracted to the baited hooks when the gear is being set. These birds become hooked at the surface, and are then dragged underwater and drown.

The endangered short-tailed albatross occurs in commercial fishing areas off Alaska, and seven have been reported killed since 1983.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a Biological Opinion in 1998 that concluded that the Pacific halibut fishery off Alaska is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the short-tailed albatross, but identified several measures to minimize the impacts that may occur.

The NMFS Fisheries will begin developing a monitoring plan this year and will seek the input of halibut fishers, who may be affected by such a plan. More information on this developing plan is available at: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seabirds.html. The report released today is located at: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seabirds/IPHCrpt.pdf, and the USFWS Biological Opinion is available at: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seabirds/pachalibut.pdf

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AMERICAN WEBSITE TO FEATURE INTERNATIONAL JAGUAR STUDY

CLINTON, Washington, January 8, 2001 (ENS) - The Internet expeditions team of OneWorldJourneys.com (http://www.oneworldjourneys.com) will track the elusive jaguar with Mexican wildlife photographer Patricio Robles Gil to assess and protect the wild cat's jungle habitat on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. The webcast expedition, co-sponsored by Seiko Epson Corporation, will include daily updates from the field as well as special reports on the region of Mexico being studied.

"Jaguar: Lord of the Mayan Jungle," a 10 day webcast expedition beginning January 15, will highlight the research team responsible for capturing and placing radio collars on jaguars as part of a research program to study the range of the jaguar. The team will pursue the jaguar by running through the jungle in the middle of the night following hounds on the trail of the wild cat.

Considered the "umbrella species" for the jungle, the protection of the jaguar is considered essential to the protection of many other species of plant and animal life in the Mexican jungles.

The Internet production will be led by Denise Rocco, executive producer for OneWorldJourneys.com. The expedition will take place in Mexico's 1.8 million acre Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, one of the largest surviving rainforest outside of the Amazon. The jaguar study is the largest in the Americas and is a cooperative effort between Unidos para la Conservacion and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

The webcast at OneWorldJourneys.com will include daily updates including digital photos, written dispatches and audio and video feeds. "Jaguar" will include feature stories on Mayan culture and development pressures that threaten the wild cat's jungle habitat.