AmeriScan: January 12, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, January 12, 2001 (ENS) - U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose 0.9 percent from 1998 to 1999, shows a draft report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Total greenhouse gas emissions of the six main greenhouse gases, rose from 6,689 to 6,748 million metric tons. These gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

The CO2 from fossil fuel combustion at power plants and factories is the largest source of all greenhouse gases, accounting for 80 percent of all emissions in 1999. Fossil fuel combustion was responsible for 88 percent of total greenhouse emission growth from 1990 to 1999.

The study also shows that from 1990 to 1999, greenhouse gas emissions from cars, trucks and buses rose 21 percent, while total highway miles traveled climbed 13 percent. The U.S. is required to produce the report as part of its responsibilities as a party to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was signed in June 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit.

Under the Framework Convention, the U.S. and other developed countries agreed to submit greenhouse gas emission reports each year to the Secretariat of the Convention.

The report, "Draft Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 - 1999," is available at: The EPA will accept public comments on the report until February 18.

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SEATTLE, Washington, January 12, 2001 (ENS) - A peek at the effects of ancient climate changes on small mammals in the western U.S. may provide a snapshot of the future impact of global warming on animal populations.

When the climate of the Great Basin of the western U.S. became more arid between 8,300 and 5,000 years ago, the number of small mammal species plummeted, with some becoming extinct, says University of Washington archaeologist Donald Grayson. In a study published in the current issue of the "Journal of Biogeography," Grayson also reported that the population balance among small mammals was altered, with desert loving kangaroo rats becoming the dominant species.

Grayson's data are based on analysis of more than 184,000 mammal bones and teeth recovered in Utah's Homestead Cave. It is the largest sample of small mammal fossils from the western U.S. ever studied.

The bones and teeth were deposited over a period of about 11,300 years, extending back to the late Pleistocene epoch, by owls that roosted in the cave.

"This research is important because it is the first detailed analysis of what is likely to happen to mammals in this region under conditions of global warming," said Grayson. "It has implications of how we deal with global warming and how we set up and manage wildlife preserves. If we don't intervene the impact on mammals will be tremendous. There will be local extinctions across the valleys of the Great Basin and into the mountains."

Grayson cautioned that there are several caveats in comparing the ancient changes to current global warming. First, scientists do not know how plants will respond to an increase in carbon dioxide levels. In addition, the plant community of the Great Basin has changed in the past 125 years with the introduction of exotic species such as cheat grass.

"Homestead Cave is as close as we can get to an analog to global warming in the fossil record over the past 10,000 years," Grayson said. "It provides a way of predicting which species will become extinct and which will gain with a temperature increase of at least two degrees C."

"Every animal that declines in the Homestead fossil record will be threatened at low elevations throughout the Great Basin in global warming. And there are implications outside the Great Basin in parts of eastern Washington and Oregon where small mammals will be in peril," Grayson concluded. "What happened in the middle Holocene will repeat under global warming conditions. But it may be worse."

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ALBANY, New York, January 12, 2001 (ENS) - New York Governor George Pataki announced Thursday he will propose more than $1.3 billion for environmental and public recreation programs in his 2001-2002 Executive Budget - the highest level of funding in State history to be committed to the environment.

The proposed budget will include a record $150 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), an almost $140 million program to refinance the State's Superfund program, a new tax credit proposal that will reward landowners who donate property or a conservation easement for environmental purposes, and a new forest property tax reimbursement program for localities.

"During the last six years, we have taken unprecedented steps to protect and restore New York's environment and expand opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy our great outdoors," Pataki said. "Now, we are seeing the remarkable results better air quality, an additional 300,000 acres of valuable open space, more recreational opportunities, cleaner lakes and rivers, safer drinking water and an intensified effort to clean up contaminated and abandoned properties."

"By continuing to make sound investments in our environment now, we will ensure a cleaner, safer and more accessible environment for future generations of New Yorkers to enjoy," Pataki concluded.

The Governor's Executive Budget would provide $51 million to continue the restoration and renewal of the Hudson River and surrounding communities, more than $70 million for open space conservation and farmland protection, and $30 million to close the Fresh Kills Landfill.

Pataki will propose almost $220 million in new appropriations from the $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, which was passed by voters in 1996. The Bond Act provides funding to restore brownfields, ensure safe drinking water, clean up air and water resources, and support local solid waste management efforts.

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, January 12, 2001 (ENS) Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge has announced the start of a $1.1 million effort to fend off invasions of nuisance species and human pathogens carried into the Great Lakes in ships that are not subjected to government regulation.

"Our states and our economies share a dependence on the Great Lakes," Ridge said. "We were the first to test practical approaches to preventing biological pollution. This project will help the world create safe ways to transport goods. It is one of the highest leverage investments we can make."

Funded by the Governors' Great Lakes Protection Fund, this is the first project to focus on the aquatic animals, plants and human pathogens entering the Great Lakes in the tanks of vessels declaring "no ballast on board."

Recent studies estimate that more than 90 percent of the vessels entering the St. Lawrence Seaway declare "no ballast on board," and therefore escape regulation under existing federal, state and provincial laws.

The project will determine the threats that these vessels pose to the Great Lakes and examine the effectiveness of ballast water management practices on short circuiting this pathway for biological invasions.

Ballast water stabilizes ships, and is discharged at ports of call and en route. The U.S. receives more than 79 million metric tons of ballast water from overseas each year.

The water can carry invasive species, ranging from microorganisms to plants and animals, into the Great Lakes where they threaten native species. The zebra mussel and the lamprey eel are among the species believed to have arrived in the Great Lakes in ballast water or attached to the hulls of ships.

"We will work toward drafting and implementing new policies - and work with other stakeholders in the region, to decrease the number of aquatic nuisance species in the Great Lakes," Ridge said.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 12, 2001 (ENS) - A shipping company that specializes in moving cargo between the West Coast and Hawaii was charged today with lying to the U.S. Coast Guard about making discharges of wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, the Justice Department announced.

Matson Navigation Company has agreed to plead guilty to a total of six felony counts of making false statements to the Coast Guard, and will pay a total of $3 million in fines - the maximum allowable penalty for the charges. Half of the fines will be used to finance environmental projects and initiatives in California and Washington.

Matson was charged today in federal courts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. All three cases involve false statements the company made to the Coast Guard in connection with a 38,000 gross ton vessel called the Lihue.

Under federal law, large ships such as the Lihue are required to maintain oil record books that document the handling and disposal of oil and oil contaminated waters. On several occasions from 1996 through 1998, crew members on the Lihue made false entries in the oil record book stating that bilge water contaminated with waste oil had been processed through a pollution control device known as an oil water separator.

However, the oil water separator on the Lihue was not operating. Had the Coast Guard known of the problem, the agency would have prevented Matson from operating the vessel.

In Los Angeles, Matson pleaded guilty to four felony counts. The company agreed to pay a $2 million criminal fine, half which will be spent on Channel Islands National Park and Santa Monica National Recreation Area.

In San Francisco, Matson pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements and will pay a $500,000 fine, with half of the money going toward Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore.

In Seattle, Matson has agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements and will pay a $500,000 fine, with $250,000 of that money going to Olympic National Park.

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee, January 12, 2001 (ENS) - The Department of Energy plans to build a new production facility at Tennessee State University that will provide U.S. researchers with a reliable supply of stable, non-radioactive isotopes. Stable isotopes are special materials essential for a wide range of advanced research, including medical science, earth science, and many areas of physics and chemistry.

"This partnership will put Tennessee State at the center of a critical part of the nation's science and technology infrastructure and provide its students access to equipment available at no other university," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "It enables the Energy Department to serve the U.S. research community in smarter, more cost effective ways while also providing students with unique technological opportunities that will help them to become the next generation of scientists."

Use of stable isotopes is on the increase in the U.S. Stable isotopes are invaluable in a wide array of scientific analyses, particularly for high accuracy mass spectrometry. They are used in nutritional studies and also as feed materials to produce vital medical isotopes that are used 600,000 times each year in the U.S. for diagnosing heart ailments, cancer and other illnesses.

The DOE has provided stable isotopes to researchers and industry at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee using Manhattan Project era machines called calutrons. Industrial customers are now being served by overseas suppliers, leaving the existing U.S. capacity too large and too expensive for the needs of researchers.

After a search for an industrial partner to operate the calutrons proved unsuccessful, DOE decided to mothball the calutrons and design a new, more cost effective production facility. The existing machines were too large and inefficient to produce small quantities of the large variety of isotopes needed for research. The new facility could be online in about two years.

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, January 12, 2001 (ENS) - An industrial engineer has developed a computer model to help recyclers process raw materials from the millions of computers and other electronic trash landing in the waste stream every year.

Until now, there has been no analytical tool to help recyclers reprocess bulk materials. Julie Ann Stuart, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue University has created a "discrete reprocessing model" can be used to determine the threshold at which it becomes unprofitable to continue purifying bulk materials.

"Our model allows us to find the pricing threshold for reprocessing," Stuart said. "So, if the price of copper fluctuates, it helps us find how low the value could be to justify reprocessing."

The number of personal computers that become obsolete every year is expected to rise from an estimated 41.9 million this year to 61.3 million by 2007. A May 1999 report by the National Safety Council's Environmental Health Center identified outdated laptop computers as the fastest growing segment.

Certain electronic components contain dangerous pollutants, including mercury, lead and cadmium, making it important to recycle discarded computers so they are not dumped in landfills. Some of the electronic products received by recyclers are still useful and can be repaired, while others are cannibalized for parts. The remaining junk is processed and, in some instances, reprocessed to extract and purify the metal, plastic and glass it contains.

At a certain point it becomes too expensive to continue purifying the bulk materials, because each mechanical reduction and separation run costs money. Recyclers can end up losing money by spending more to reprocess some materials than is justified by current market values.

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BOULDER, Colorado, January 12, 2001 (ENS) - TheEcoISP (, which bills itself as the world's most environmentally friendly Internet service provider (ISP), announced its worldwide debut on Thursday.

"We've been joined by top experts in ecology and education to create a successful ISP, and more important, one that will effect change from the smallest towns and villages to the largest cities in the world," said Paul Gerstenberger, founder and CEO of TheEcoISP.

"It's an ISP with a purpose," said Michael Zimmerman, author of "Contesting Earth's Future: Radical Ecology and Postmodernity." "It empowers children and adults with the resources and services they need to learn more about the environment and actively support the causes they believe in."

Access through TheEcoISP will cost $15.95 a month, about five dollars less than monthly costs for traditional ISPs. Each month, 50 percent of each subscriber's net revenue will be donated to the environmental cause of the subscriber's choice.

TheEcoISP portal features environmental and international news, chat rooms, e-mail accounts, live guests, child safe site filtering, search engine powered by Excite(SM), links to information about environmental issues and direct links to environmental groups. Only environmentally friendly companies and products will be advertised on the site.

Backers of the full service ISP say they are committed to building an online community hub dedicated to protecting the Earth and raising funds for national and global environmental organizations and causes.

"The amount of funds environmental organizations can earn is directly proportional to our membership base - the more members we have, the larger our community grows and the greater the dollar amount of donations flowing to environmental organizations," Gerstenberger said. "The organizations themselves will play a huge role in determining donation levels by encouraging their members to join TheEcoISP."