AmeriScan: January 11, 2001

NO ARCTIC NATIONAL MONUMENT, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2001 (ENS) - President Bill Clinton will not create a national monument in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, White House Press Secretary Jake Siewert said Wednesday.

"For those of you who asked about the Arctic refuge, the President does not intend to designate that as a national monument," Siewart said at a press briefing. "We're not convinced that giving it a monument status would give it any additional legal protection."

Siewart said the White House has reviewed the legislation that created the monument and protects its North Slope, and determined that an executive order designating a national monument might weaken protections for the area.

"We've taken a close look at it and decided that the wilderness status that's conferred by the legislation that was passed in the '80s, the Alaska Lands Act, actually confers a higher degree of status, according to our analysis of it, than a monument would," said Siewart. "A monument is, after all, an executive action that could potentially be reversed by a new administration; whereas the congressional designation is legislation that has to be reopened and subject to a full congressional debate, subject to filibuster, and it would be very hard to open it up to drilling, given the narrow split between - that exists in Congress today."

"Congress has steadfastly opposed efforts to open ANWR throughout Democratic and Republican control in the Senate," Siewart said. "So we think it's very unlikely that Congress will allow the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be opened for drilling. They defeated it in the '80s and '90s and we think they'll continue to oppose that and we think that's the right course of action."

Over his remaining 10 days in office, Clinton will be considering seven recommendations for new monuments received from Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, Siewart said. "The President will make decisions on those shortly, obviously, in the next 10 days," Siewart told the press.

The president is also considering an additional monument proposal developed independent on Babbitt's recommendations that would protect a World War II era Japanese internment camp in Idaho.

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PADUCAH RADIATION STUDY RELEASED

PADUCAH, Kentucky, January 11, 2001 (ENS) - The Energy Department has released a study of possible past radiation exposures to workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Kentucky. The study was prepared for the department by researchers at the University of Utah and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union.

"This report identifies the type of work which, in the past, posed the greatest risk to Paducah workers," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "It will serve as a basis for further study to ensure that workers made sick at Paducah get the compensation they deserve."

The study concluded that from 1952 to 1991, an estimated 2,500 to 4,000 employees worked in areas which increased their potential radiation exposure beyond that expected for workers elsewhere at the nuclear weapons plant. These highest risk areas included the Feed Plant, the Decontamination Building, the Metals Building and the Cascade Buildings.

The tasks which had the most potential for increased exposure included ash handling, cylinder heels cleaning, derbies processing, pulverizer operation, flange grinding and baghouse filter changing, the report says.

Richardson said the study will help focus future health studies by identifying the job types, locations and time period that could have posed the highest risk. The study did not attempt to estimate doses for individual workers.

While all types of possible radiation exposures were considered in the study, particular attention was given to potential exposures to transuranic elements, including neptunium and plutonium. Current practices at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant keep worker exposures well below historic levels.

A public meeting on the study will be held on February 1, 2001, in Paducah. Representatives of the University of Utah, Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union and DOE will be available to respond to workers and interested citizens.

The study results are available at: http://tis.eh.doe.gov

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LOS ANGELES CITED FOR SEWAGE OVERFLOWS

SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 11, 2001 (ENS) - The City of Los Angeles has been cited in federal court for more than 2,000 sewage spills stemming from problems with the city's wastewater collection system. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) filed a complaint in federal district court against the city on Monday.

The spills have violated the federal Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws. The EPA and the RWQCB seek to join an existing lawsuit filed by Santa Monica Baykeeper in 1998.

"The high number of spills we've seen in the last few years is a serious public health problem," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's regional water division. "While the City of Los Angeles is improving its sewer system, they need to improve their operating performance and commit to a reasonable schedule for doing so."

Los Angeles has had an ongoing problem with sewage spills, reporting 2065 spills between December 1, 1995 and August 31, 2000. Sewage has often ended up on city streets, in rivers and in the Pacific Ocean. The city has taken action in recent years to reduce its spills, but is still averaging over 50 spills per month.

Operation and maintenance of the city's wastewater collection system have also created a severe odor problem in several neighborhoods that the complaint seeks to resolve.

"This Regional Board is deeply concerned that the City of Los Angeles sewer system is subject to spills of raw sewage," said RWQCB chair David Nahai. "We call upon the City to take aggressive action to remedy this longstanding problem."

The complaint seeks:

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NEW TECHNOLOGY COULD REDUCE VEHICLE POLLUTION

AUSTIN, Texas, January 11, 2001 (ENS) - Engineers from The University of Texas (UT) at Austin College of Engineering and Ford Motor Company have patented a new technology aimed at reducing vehicle emissions by 50 percent or more. The new technology, called the on board distillation system, not only reduces hydrocarbon pollutants but promises to reduce all toxins emitted from cars by 80 percent.

Gasoline powered vehicles use more fuel when the key turns in the ignition - and as the engine is warming up - than when the vehicle has been running for a few minutes. Only vaporized gasoline burns - the rest forms a puddle in the intake manifold and evaporates when the engine gets warm, causing the engine to emit a higher level of hydrocarbons.

The ideal automobile engine would run on two kinds of fuels: an extra-volatile fuel for starting the engine and for warm up, and a separate type of fuel for ongoing operation.

But it is "difficult enough to get consumers to keep their radiators full of water and their tires full of air, much less ask them to fill with two fuels at the gas station," said Dr. Ronald Matthews, a UT Austin professor of mechanical engineering. The new technology patented by Matthews and three other engineers solves that problem.

The on board distillation system, which adds less than five pounds of weight to the engine, acts something like a miniature oil refinery. Matthews explained that "on board distillation allows you to fill up with one fuel. Then, we make two fuels from it."

"What we're doing is separating the molecules (of gasoline) that are easy to evaporate - the highly volatile ones - from all the other molecules. Then we store those highly volatile molecules separately and use them to start the car," said Matthews.

The system will be implemented on a Ford 2001 Lincoln Navigator in UT Austin's mechanical engineering laboratories, where it will be refined over the next year and a half until ready for mass production.

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WORLD'S LARGEST WIND FARM COMING TO NORTHWEST

PORTLAND, Oregon, January 11, 2001 (ENS) - PacifiCorp and FPL Energy, LLC, have announced an agreement to develop and market power from the world's largest single wind energy development.

FPL Energy will build, own and operate the new wind farm along the Washington-Oregon border southwest of Walla Walla, Washington. PacifiCorp's non-regulated subsidiary PacifiCorp Power Marketing, Inc., will purchase and market the entire output of the project over a 25 year period.

At 300 megawatts, the Stateline Wind Generating Project will provide a boost of renewable electricity to the energy starved West. More than 450 wind turbines will produce electricity to serve the energy needs of some 70,000 homes each year.

"The Stateline project is just the sort of sustainable solution we need for the region's energy shortage," said Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. "The project has the added benefit that it can be brought on quickly to meet our immediate needs."

Throughout the West, severe shortages of electricity have led authorities to call for stepped up construction of new power plants. Even the speediest construction of conventional fossil plants takes years to bring on line. Most of the Stateline Project will be generating this year, helping to ease shortages.

"This is a great example of how alternative energy sources can benefit the Northwest," said Washington Governor Gary Locke. "This facility will help meet the increasing demand for electricity in our region while providing economic development to eastern Washington. Wind powered energy is both cost competitive with gas, and friendlier to the environment."

Spring and fall night bird migration studies will be conducted to determine location of some turbines. Once in operation, the project will monitor impacts on birds and bats though a program approved and reviewed by a technical advisory committee consisting of scientists, representatives of government agencies, local landowners, environmentalists and FPL Energy.

Wednesday's announcement makes PPM the leading supplier of renewable resources in the Pacific Northwest. FPL Energy is the largest developer and operator of wind energy facilities in the nation with more than 1,000 megawatts of wind turbines in operation or construction in seven states.

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NORTHEAST FACES HEIGHTENED FLOOD THREAT

WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2001 (ENS) - Winter 2001 has set the stage for the greatest risk of flooding in the Northeast in three years, according to a special winter flood potential forecast issued by the National Weather Service (NWS).

Recent snow storms and below normal temperatures have created an above normal threat for flooding in northern New Jersey, extreme northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York State, including the Catskill area, the Weather Service reports.

"People in these areas should have a heightened awareness for the chance of flooding this season, especially ice jam flooding due to the freezing of many local rivers," said Sol Summer, hydrology division chief for the NWS Eastern Region.

Snow depths in the parts of Susquehanna, Delaware, Raritan and Passaic River Basins are running 20 percent to 60 percent above normal, Summer said. "And below normal temperatures have created extensive river ice which extends well into Virginia - a condition not observed for the past several years," he said. "While not an immediate problem, these atypical river ice conditions will be closely monitored as winter continues."

For the remainder of New York State and New England, the winter flood risk is expected to be normal. Although areas of western New York near Buffalo have received near record snowfall this season, snowmelt that occurred in mid-December has returned the flood potential to normal.

"While the river flood potential conditions are varied across the East, keep in mind that historically, the most devastating winter river floods have been associated with a combination of heavy rainfall, rapid snow melt and/or ice jams," Summer noted.

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GEORGIA PROTECTS SAWNEE MOUNTAIN

ATLANTA, Georgia, January 11, 2001 (ENS) - Forsyth County, Georgia joined the Trust for Public Land (TPL) this week to permanently protect Sawnee Mountain - one of metro Atlanta's largest remaining natural areas.

The agreement completes the protection of the mountain's ridgeline and boosts the land protected to 631 acres - an area more than three times larger than Atlanta's Piedmont Park.

"This is nothing short of a miracle," says Mary Helen McGruder, past chairman of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of the Sawnee Mountain Foundation that The Trust for Public Land is creating to help fund the improvement and maintenance of the new county preserve.

"Thanks to the vision of the Forsyth County Commissioners, the spirit and beauty of this land will be preserved forever," McGruder said. "The Trust for Public Land helped us pass a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and acquired this land so that nothing will happen to the treasure we have in Sawnee Mountain."

"Forsyth County is the fastest growing county in the United States, and it has recognized that greenspace is good business," said TPL state director Rand Wentworth. "Economic benefits come to communities that grow in balance with nature."

Wentworth notes that homes adjoining greenspace are often valued at 15 percent to 20 percent more than houses not near such land.

"There's no question that a community protecting greenspace improves its quality of life and in both personal and economic ways," said Wentworth.

"The preservation of Sawnee Mountain with its natural beauty and local history is important to Forsyth County," said Forsyth County administrator Stevie Mills. "The mountain is more than just a natural landmark; it's a part of our heritage and history of our county - and it is our obligation to preserve it for future generations."

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M'CLINTOCK CHANNEL POLAR BEAR TROPHIES BANNED

NUNAVUT, Canada, January 11, 2001 (ENS) - To protect a small and declining population of polar bears from the M'Clintock Channel in Canada, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will bar the import of sport hunted polar bears taken after May 31, 2000 from that population.

Due to a dramatic decline in the estimated status of this particular polar bear population, the USFWS announced an emergency interim rule revising its regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The agency will not issue permits for bear carcasses taken from the M'Clintock Channel population after the close of the 1999-2000 Canadian hunting season.

"This action is required because the MMPA stipulates that populations must be sustainable in the long term in order for us to issue import permits, and available information suggests this is no longer the case for the M'Clintock Channel population," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "According to new information given to us by the Canadian Wildlife Service, even with remedial steps the M'Clintock polar bears are not expected to recover for a number of years."

The Canadian Wildlife Service sent the USFWS a preliminary report from the territorial government of Nunavut on the estimated status of the polar bear population in M'Clintock Channel, based on a three year mark and recapture study. They advised that "this population is in a severely depleted state and current harvest quotas are unsustainable."

The best information now available estimates there are about 288 polar bears in the M'Clintock Channel population, rather than an earlier estimate of 700. This new figure indicates that, at the current rate of harvest, the population is declining and will be reduced to zero in 10 years. Even with no harvest, the recovery of the population will be slow.

More information is available at: http://international.fws.gov